A true friend of Israel...
Hurray for Jose Maria Aznar...
Three days before Spain’s 2004 general election, a massive bomb attack on the Madrid subway killed 191 people. When then-Prime Minister José María Aznar and his government initially pointed the finger at Basque terrorists, the public believed his government was covering up the fact that Islamist militants had exacted revenge for Spain’s decision to send troops to fight alongside the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Spanish voted against Aznar’s party—in the apparent hope of appeasing Islamic terror.
Given his first-hand experience with how terrorism can shape political reality, Aznar more than any other European official is capable of deep sympathy with Israel. This partly explains why he is now using his name and reputation to found the Friends of Israel Initiative, which includes includes other world leaders, like Alejandro Toledo, the former president of Peru, and Czech playwright and one-time President Vaclav Havel, as founding members. “My conviction,” Aznar told me in a phone interview this week, “is that the best strategy to defend the West is to defend Israel.”
Israel, Aznar said, is not a Middle Eastern country but a Western country in the Middle East—the West’s first line of defense in the battle with Islamist radicals who seek to destroy Western freedom and terrorize whomever tries to stand in their way. “The harm done to Israel is damage done to the West,” Aznar said. “And delegitimizing Israel is a delegitimization of the West.”
While Aznar’s pro-U.S. sentiment was obvious to Spanish voters, his support of Israel was more muted. “There wasn’t that much opportunity to express this conviction in government,” Aznar told me. “But now I’m involved in a battle of ideas.” To express unequivocal support for the Jewish state is not the soundest political move in a country that historically has not been particularly friendly to Jews, from the Spanish Inquisition to the present day, when it has played host to massive public rallies in support of Hamas and Hezbollah.
Aznar admitted that “the majority of Spanish are extremely critical of Israel.” Radical Muslims, he explained, “help shape public opinion of Israel in Spain. And Europe is a kingdom of relativism. Our work is in convincing both the people of Europe as well as some of its leaders—and this is true even in the U.S. We are aware that there’s a long way to go, we’re at the beginning, but it’s a conviction we share with different people across the world.”
In the last few months, Aznar’s work has taken him to Israel, throughout Europe, and to the United States, where he also teaches at Georgetown University. In this full schedule of travel, he raises support for his international lobbying campaign to combat the global effort to delegitimize Israel.
The point of his organization, Aznar explained, is that it rallies the support, and solicits the membership, of non-Jews. His members are those who care deeply for both the living Israel and the biblical nation on which Western civilization was built. Unless one understands the history of the Jews and Judeo-Christian values, he said, “it’s impossible to understand the history of the Western world and Europe and where we come from.”
If many European (and American) elites believe that the world has moved beyond nationalism and toward a post-modern, multicultural utopia in which Jewish nationalism is a dangerous anachronism, Aznar will have nothing of it. For him, the evil that befalls Israel will eventually happen to the rest of us. Failure to defend Israel will only make all Western democracies more vulnerable.