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EU distances itself from poll about an `anti-peace’ Israel

Ha'aretz, Israel
Nov. 4, 2003
Aluf Benn • Tuesday November 4, 2003

The European Union condemned lingering anti-Jewish bias it said was reflected in a survey released yesterday, in which more Europeans named Israel as a threat to world peace than any other country.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose country holds the EU presidency, called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Moscow to express his “surprise and indignation” over the survey results, saying the question had been “misleading.” He said that Israel has “many friends in Europe, including Italy,” and that he hopes “the voices of those friends of Israel and opponents of the rise of anti-Semitism overcome the voices that oppose Israel.”

Israel said the poll was more evidence of anti-Israel bias in Europe and considered sending a bombed-out bus to display in European cities to illustrate the impact of terrorism.

“Europeans seem blind to Israeli victims and suffering,” said Haim Assaraf, the spokesman of the Israeli mission to the EU in Brussels.

The EU poll, parts of which were leaked last week, found 59 percent of EU citizens said “yes” when asked if Israel posed “a threat to peace in the world.” More than half – 53 percent – also said “yes” to Iran, North Korea and the United States. Eleven other countries on the list followed. The Palestinian Authority was not included because it is not considered a country, European Commission spokesman Gerassimos Thomas said.

The survey was conducted on behalf of the Commission, the EU’s executive office in Brussels.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom spoke with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Partini to protest the poll. He said the poll “distorts reality and was conducted irresponsibly.” Partini said he agreed with Shalom.

Commission President Romano Prodi, who is visiting New York, said the survey does not reflect the Commission’s thinking and will not affect its Middle East policy.

The results “point to the continued existence of a bias that must be condemned out of hand,” he said in a statement. “To the extent that this may indicate a deeper, more general prejudice against the Jewish world, our repugnance is even more radical.

“There is no place for anti-Semitism and it cannot be tolerated,” he added.

Berlusconi also spoke by phone to Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, expressing regret for “the distorted and misleading signal which emerged from the opinion survey,” the premier’s office said.

Assaraf called the poll results “sad and dangerous” and insisted EU citizens have a lopsided view of the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

“Israel’s desperate struggle for peace and security for its people has been distorted beyond recognition in often one-sided and emotionally charged media coverage,” he said in a statement.

He accused the poll’s authors of asking “biased questions … to promote a hidden agenda,” and said Europe should “do much more to enhance its dialogue with Israel.”

The telephone survey of 7,515 people was carried out Oct. 8-16 by 15 EOS Gallup Europe institutes.

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