The Israeli government, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, have been persistently drawing an equivalence between the attacks in Europe and attacks against Israelis by Palestinians.
“The terrorists who attack us have the same murderous intent as those in Paris,” Netanyahu said about the November 2015 Paris attacks. “It is time for states to condemn terrorism against us like they condemn terrorism anywhere else in the world.”
Some European leaders clearly see his point.
Following the Berlin attack, German President Joachim Gauck said as much in a reply he sent to a condolence message from Gauck’s Israeli counterpart, Reuven Rivlin.
“You and your country are in a position to understand fully what being threatened by terrorism means for a people and a nation because in your country it has become almost a daily phenomenon. We know that you can feel with us and commiserate,” Gauck said.
Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Avraham Nir-Feldklein, further drove home the message in a statement following the projection of the Israeli flag on the Brandenburg Gate, a gesture initiated by pro-Israel activists.
“We all find ourselves facing the same terror, from Nice through Berlin to Jerusalem, but together we will stand against evil, and we will prevail,” he wrote.
On Twitter, the German Foreign Ministry shared a picture of the projection, stating it was “in solidarity with Israel.” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, by contrast, described the gesture in her city merely as a “tribute to the victims of the attack” in Jerusalem.
Muna Duzdar, an Austrian state secretary, insisted in an interview Wednesday with JTA that “Europe always understood that Israel has a right to defend itself and have security,” and that greater empathy in Europe for terror victims extends not just to Israel but to victims around the world.
But following the attacks in Europe, “now we’re having the situation that we have daily terrorist attacks. I wake up and there’s an attack in Israel, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Germany. No country is left unaffected. And it might be that someone who was affected himself has a better understanding of this.”
Duzdar, who was born in Austria to Palestinian parents and heads the Palestinian Austrian Society, rejected during the interview claims that the attack was not a terrorist incident because it was directed against soldiers on land that Palestinians consider occupied.
“This attack targeted human beings, and as far as I understand it was a jihadist who did that, whose intention was to attack people,” she said.
In Belgium, the firebrand anti-Israel columnist Dyab Abou Jahjah, who for years justified violence against Israelis and Americans in the pages of the De Standaard daily, was fired Monday for defending Sunday’s Jerusalem attack on social media.
“An attack on occupation soldiers in occupied territory is not terrorism! It is an act of Resistance. #FreePalestine,” Abou Jahjah wrote.
In a statement, De Standaard editor-in-chief Karel Verhoeven wrote that Abou Jahjah “has placed himself beyond the borders of acceptable debate” by endorsing violence.
Yet the gestures of empathy toward Israel will not likely carry over to EU policy, according to Eran, the former ambassador.
“These gestures are heartwarming and indicative of a positive change, but there is a clear distinction between empathy and policy in the corridors of the European Union, which is likely to remain as critical as ever of Israeli settlements and continue to oppose them on every international arena,” he said.