BONN (Dec. 21)
Arab ambassadors recently urged most of the 12 European Economic Community member states to take stronger diplomatic and political action against Israel for its response to rioting by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
At the same time, as the violence escalated, increased media attention to these events seems to have turned European opinion sharply against Israel. According to commentators here, Israel’s image has not been so badly damaged since the Lebanon war in 1982.
In this atmosphere, some of the Arab envoys seem to be having an impact. The Israeli Embassy protested the description by two ranking officials of the West German Foreign Ministry of the situation in the Israeli-administered territories.
The Bonn government did not temper it criticism. According to an official spokesman, the feeling in the high levels of government is that Israel must consider ending its occupation of the territories. West Germany assumes the rotating chairmanship of the EEC on Jan. 1.
In Bern, the Conference of Arab Ambassadors announced Monday that it has asked the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross to “assume its juridical and humanitarian responsibilities and put pressure on Israel to end its acts of repression.”
Arab envoys went to Copenhagen to protest that the EEC reaction so far was not strong enough. Denmark currently chairs the EEC. The Danes pointed out that the EEC on Friday formally called on Israel “to secure the protection of the inhabitants of the occupied territories in conformity with international law and the standards of the human rights field.” That message followed a resolution to the same effect adopted by the Parliament of Europe in Strasbourg last Thursday.
Meanwhile, the disturbances in the administered territories, and more recently in East Jerusalem, have replaced the Persian Gulf war as the focus of European media attention in the Middle East.
Belgian television, for example, which has no permanent correspondent in Israel, dispatched reporters and camera crews to Jerusalem last Friday. Overall, European coverage has become more detailed and aggressive of late, injuring any image of Israel as a peaceful nation seeking accommodation with its Arab neighbors.