Yesteday, I was invited to make an intervention on the topic ”The Arab winter and its implications for the Middle East, Israel and Europe”:
Thank you for the invitation.
It´s a privilege to meet you all and to get a chance to open up the discussion with some personal thoughts and observations
Yesterday, reporting from the appalling terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, the headline on the front page of a prominent Swedish Daily said:
“The attack makes it harder to criticize Israel”.
In an article on the attack that killed a three months old baby, one could read in the very same newspaper that the baby was killed in what the paper described as a “terror attack” – with quotation marks.
These examples are unfortunately, rather telling for the political climate in Sweden.
These examples illustrate how Israel is portrayed. How deep the hostility against Israel goes in my own country.
This is the context in which the Swedish government unconditionally recognized a Palestinian state – an act that has encouraged other parliaments around Europe, the European Parliament included, to raise the issue.
At a time when the free world should unite to push back radical Islamism and extremism, the socialists of Europe are focusing their energy to recognize a state where Hamas is a leading force.
That is indeed worrying.
Winter is coming.
Some of you may know this motto from the house Stark, in the HBO medieval fantasy television series, Game of Thrones.
The meaning behind these words is one of warning and constant vigilance.
The Starks, being the lords of the North, strive to always be prepared for the coming of winter, which hits their lands the hardest.
We are invited here today to share our views on the Arab winter and its implications for the Middle East, Israel and Europe.
And make no mistake; it is a winter. Metaphorically speaking, as well as literarily.
The detached minorities of Syria and Iraq are now facing a cold and rainy winter – living without a ceiling, without beds, without clothes, without heaters. Children are sleeping on mud, contracting diseases every day.
Let´s not forget that for the refugees and IDP:s, the winter is real, and it is coming now, as we speak.
The atrocities of the Islamic State have chocked us all.
It is obvious that their military advances caught western leaders off guard.
The president of the United States admitted he had no plan to defeat IS and was hesitant to intervene.
The European countries have to a varying degree contributed in the coalition against IS.
But, alike the US, they prefer to ignore statements from military experts that boots on the ground is the only way of defeating IS.
My own government, led by the Social Democrats, sends humanitarian aid to the region, while simultaneously doing their utmost to avoid using the word “genocide”.
Under international law that would mean a responsibility to protect the victims of IS.
Let me say; whether western leaders like it or not the fact of the matter is that the international community will have to intervene in order to defeat IS and enable Iraqi minorities to return to their homes in a safe environment.
This conclusion led me to propose for the EPP to push for internationally protected and guaranteed safe havens.
EPP as a group approved the proposal, unfortunately socialists, greens and liberals rejected it since military presence is a precondition for its implementation.
They also criticized the text of EPP for explicitly mentioning Christians in the text.
These discussions where held after the invasion of Mosul – at a time when the magnitude of the pure evil of IS, would be clear to anyone.
Turbulence and war in the Middle East is by no means new. We know from history that among the first victims in times of turmoil are the minorities.
Jews know that. Christians know it. Kurds as well.
Israel was able to defeat their aggressors. Peshmerga has so far been able to halt the IS.
But the Christians (Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs), Turkmens and Yazidis were defenceless.
The founding of the state of Israel allowed for the Jewish people to build one of the most effective defence forces in the world, the IDF.
The no-fly zone in Iraq guaranteed the security for the Kurdish people to establish their regional government – Erbil was saved from falling into the hands of IS.
Only a safe haven, an internationally protected zone, will enable the etno-religious minorities of Iraq to truly feel safe in their ancient homelands.
To establish the structures needed – including the capability of defending themselves.
What unites Jews, Christians, Kurds and other minorities of the Middle East is their historic vulnerability.
What unites them is also the failure of Europe to come to their aid in times of suffering. I make no illusions: it won’t be easy to stop history from repeating itself.
At the same time: the barbarism of IS has forced many Europeans to realize that the most brutal threat to peace in the Middle East is radical Islamism.
I believe the spread of this insight among Europeans actually can serve as an opportunity to make the case for a comprehensive policy for the Middle East.
Based upon support for democracy and fundamental human rights.
In turn, that could make Europe an actor – hopefully ready to respond to the Middle Eastern winter.