The Sensitive Frequent Travelers
A shocked Indian prime minister, Behari Vajpayee, condemning the terrorist brutality perpetrated in the Indonesian resort island of Bali, urged the international community to end the practice of “conflicting views on terrorism.” Speaking in London, on Monday, October 13, the Indian leader denounced Western double standards. “The problem,” he said, “is that Western countries see their own terror better and do not see our terrorism as quite so serious.”
He pointed out that the free, fair elections he promised Kashmir and Jammu, had taken place, despite “militants trained, readied and armed by a neighboring country”. Obliquely sniping at Western leaders like US secretary of state Colin Powell, who want India to give up its demand that Pakistan stop aiding Muslim extremist bands in Kashmir, Vajpayee said bitterly, “They call it a freedom struggle,” but who is fighting for freedom, for whom?’
The attack on Bali, he said, “hurt deeply” because the beautiful coast was attacked by those who sought to destroy it by terrorism.
Most of Bali’s 3 million inhabitants are Hindu, unlike the rest of Indonesia’s 207 million people who are predominantly Muslim. Hundreds of Hindu temples are part of its scenic beauty. Unlike other parts of Indonesia, Bali has maintained a relaxed, tolerant lifestyle, immune from the strife wracking the country in recent years. If the hundreds of thousands of annual vacationers flocking for decades to Balinese luxury resorts and black beaches are scared away, not only will the island economy suffer but Indonesia as a whole.
The double standard Vajpayee picked up on his European tour is old hat for Israeli visitors. At the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, October 13, Israel science and sports minister Matan Vilnai complained that during his recent visit to Paris he had encountered an anti-Israel tide prompted by its fight against Palestinian terror. Minister without portfolio Dan Meridor suffered a similar experience in London. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres defended his department’s information strategy. Israel’s unpopularity, he explained was the result of its counter-terror campaign in Palestinian areas. Is it necessary, he asked, for us blow up Palestinian houses every day? Couldn’t we do them all at once?
The foreign minister seemed to be saying that if Israel demolished, say, 100 terrorist homes all in one day, his colleagues’ visits to Europe would be a lot pleasanter.
Monday, October 14, defense minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer set off regardless for the French capital. He described his mission as being: to prevent the almost daily Hizballah cross-border attacks on northern Israel flaring out of hand. He intends asking the French government to restrain Syria and Lebanon and trusts the Chirac government to oblige with this favor.
The day Ben Eliezer landed in Paris, the French government announced a boycott on farm products produced by Israeli Jordan Rift Valley farmers – unless they are labeled Made in Palestine.
An observer might be forgiven for deducing that the more unpopular Israel is in European capitals and the more they sympathize with the Palestinians, the more eager are Israeli ministers to frequent them. Paris is a special favorite. The ministers then return home and complain about their cold welcome.
debkafile suggests a change of course. Instead of bidding for sympathy and support where it is denied – the views of French president Jacques Chirac on Israel vis a vis the Palestinians will not change in the near future – why don’t they go east, to New Delhi, for instance. Behari Vajpayee leads a not inconsiderable nation with whom Israel as much in common. He might even give them some constructive advice on how to deal with the Hizballah.