There are few advantages for any country embroiled in a war, but if one can be said to exist, it is that armed conflict provides unmistakable evidence of who your friends are, as well as your enemies.
Israel is at war with Hamas, and the Jewish people globally are at war with a resurgence of violent, crude antisemitism. Over the last fortnight, we have learned much about our friends, especially the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union. That includes a sense, as is suggested by their frequent pleas for more aid to pour into the Gaza Strip, of the potential limits of their support for Israel’s military response to the Hamas terrorist pogrom of Oct. 7.
We have also learned a great deal about our enemies, most of it confirming what we already suspected.
There is no doubt that Hamas and its backers in the Iranian regime are not only seeking a world without Israel, but a world without Jews. And there is no doubt that — at either end of the Mediterranean Sea — Israel is faced with two states determined to constrain it militarily while undermining its legitimacy in the worlds of politics and diplomacy.
Those two countries are Spain in the west and Turkey in the east, both members of the NATO alliance. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a bona fide genocidal dictator who has persecuted and murdered his country’s Muslim Kurdish minority, is lauding the fetid rapists of Hamas as “liberation fighters.” In Spain, the prime minister and the foreign minister have the temerity to lecture Israel about “international humanitarian law” while the extreme left junior ministers in their Socialist coalition are calling for Israel to be sanctioned in the same manner as Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Erdoğan’s speech last week to fellow lawmakers from his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) was truly repellent. Ever the primitive, street-corner conspiracy theorist, he claimed that Israel’s response in Gaza was not “self-defense, but savagery to commit the premeditated [my emphasis] act of crime against humanity.” Hamas, he went on, was “an organization of liberation, of mujahedeen, who fight to protect their land and citizens.”
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No doubting which side Turkey has taken. And there should be no astonishment here either. Erdoğan has always been a vile antisemite.
Some will remember his unsightly tantrum in Davos in 2009, when he stormed off a platform he was sharing with the late prime minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, screaming: “When it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill.”
In the ensuing decade, he frequently deployed words like “Nazis,” “child-killers” and “apartheid” in his verbal salvos against the Jewish state. And no one should forget his response to the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan in September 2017, when he wailed about the creation of a “second Israel” in the Middle East and argued with a straight face that Israel was planning to settle large numbers of former Iraqi Jews there — another asinine conspiracy theory eagerly lapped up by the Islamist masses, giving them another excuse to burn Israeli flags after Friday prayers.
Yet Israel believes that it needs Turkey, diplomatically and in terms of trade, which is why there was such relief in Jerusalem last year when President Isaac Herzog seemingly pulled off a rapprochement during a visit to Ankara.
So, yes, on one level, Erdoğan is an opportunist who bends with the wind, as he did in Syria, with his about-face in demanding the removal of Bashar Assad’s Iranian-backed regime. But on a deeper level, he is a hardened Jew-hater whose antisemitism is ideological. Erdoğan believes that there is a conspiracy of powerful Jewish interests aimed at subverting the Islamic world that is genuine — far more so than his occasional, tactical overtures to Israel, which are utterly disingenuous.
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Spain is a more complicated beast, insofar as the statements of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares are not nearly as enraging as Erdoğan’s rants. Additionally, we can take comfort that, at least for the time being, Spain is an outlier among the countries of the European Union, which have in the main avoided echoing Sanchez’s calls for an immediate ceasefire, stressing instead Israel’s right of self-defense while urging the Israelis to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.
Sanchez wants a ceasefire, and Albares wants the creation of an independent Palestinian state because, as he said in a TV interview last week, without one, “I don’t think we can guarantee the security of the State of Israel.”
One has to ask: If ETA, the Basque terrorist group, had possessed the wherewithal to murder and rape nearly 12,000 Spanish citizens in a single day — the equivalent of the Israeli toll adjusted for population size — would Albares be calling for the recognition of Basque independence?
Spain applies standards to Israel that it would never dream of applying to itself because, fundamentally, it sympathizes with the Arab view of Israel as an alien interloper and therefore ultimately in the wrong, regardless of what international law says about the right of self-defense.
Perched on the shoulders of Sanchez and Albarez are the far-left ministers who have distinguished themselves over the last fortnight with their virulent attacks on Israel. Remember their names: Irene Montero, Alberto Garzon and, especially, Ione Belarra, who compared Israel’s defensive war with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, urging a similar sanctions regime against, and a severing of all diplomatic ties with, the Jewish state.
These three declared enemies of the Jewish people, allies of Hamas, occupy ministerial posts in a member state of the European Union. This is not an illusion. It’s a measure of how bad the situation has become.
In many ways, the problems posed by the Spanish and Turkish positions are yet to make themselves felt. An Israeli ground operation in Gaza, together with the uncertainty over the final outcome (who will rule Gaza when the dust settles, and who will be living there?) may well jog those E.U leaders who have so far been supportive of Israel into similar ceasefire demands. We can be certain that Spain and Turkey will lead those calls and will crow over any successes in that regard.
In many world capitals, Israel has won the sympathy of politicians who understand what the bestial violence of Oct. 7 represented. But Madrid and Ankara are not among them.