Tilting, Reluctantly, toward Israel

Article excerpt

Byline: Suzanne Fields

For better and for worse, the terrorist attacks on the United States have changed public attitudes toward Israel. Certain anti-Semites on the intellectual left have been forced into the open, others have been driven into their closets.

Those who contribute to "for worse" are whining and dining in some of the chic salons of London. "Since September 11, anti-Semitism and its open expression has become respectable at London dinner parties," writes a columnist in the (London) Spectator. The ambassador of a major European Union nation tells Barbara Amiel of London's Daily Telegraph that the problems of the world could be blamed on "that s-- little country Israel." (He was later identified as the French ambassador.)

When the hostess of one little salon was greeted with silence when she expressed her contempt for Jews, she denounced her friends' "hypocrisy."

"Oh, come on," she said. "You all feel like that."

The English, of course, have a tradition of anti-Semitism, but despite these outbursts the terrorists have tilted a lot of others in a different direction. The intifida, Yasser Arafat's weakness and complicity in those attacks, and the mounting toll of Israeli civilians, including many children, have identified the Palestinians as more victimizers than victims.

The rhetoric of moral equivalence is silenced. President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have used strong language to tell Mr. Arafat to end the terrorism; there's a growing awareness that if he really wanted to do something about it he could. The European Union has pledged to speak "with one voice" on the Middle East, and this means focusing international pressure on Mr. Arafat. The editor of a major British newspaper that consistently blames Israel for obstructing the "peace process" was asked the other day how he could expect the Israelis to negotiate when "Mr. Arafat does not believe in the right of the Jewish people to a state"? The eminent editor admitted, with a certain rue: "You have put your finger on the weak point in our argument."

Despite Mr. Arafat's protests, the evidence suggests that he is the same old terrorist he was before Oslo. Last week, at a high-level conference of leading security experts, the Israeli military chief of staff charged that the Palestinian leader was working with the radical terrorist groups known to be responsible for the attacks. …