by Ariel Bolstein
The difference between what people on the street think and what is presented by the media elite as the "right opinion" has never been greater.
The doctors of late singer Meir Ariel recommended, as his song Terminal Lominelt tells, a monthly visit to the airport. By the same token, I would recommend that those complaining about Israel's international isolation visit an English pub from time to time, preferably outside of London. While every pub has a television or two, the patrons' opinions about Israel will, for the most part, be very different from what we've become accustomed to hearing on international media networks.
"Way to go, Jews! Respect! You are succeeding in dealing with all the troubles that Europe is bowing to," said Dale, who sat at the bar at a Manchester pub, immediately after he realized that I am Israeli. His enthusiasm was so great that he gathered the rest of the patrons around us and asked them how to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. And let's just say that the responses were taken from the extreme Right of our political spectrum. After another round of beers, it became clear that there were people of different backgrounds at the bar -- academics, like Dale, manual laborers, Conservatives, Labour Party voters, those who were happy about Britain's exit from the European Union and those who were against it. But everyone supported Israel, without exception. And I asked about the future of Jerusalem -- everyone wanted it to remain in Jewish hands.
Surprisingly, the same consensus repeated itself at dozens of other pubs that I visited during my two weeks in England and Scotland. Many of my conversation partners even apologized for the British media's completely different attitude. "Here, you hear what people really think," one man told me at a small country pub in northern Scotland. "And there," he pointed at the television screen," There, they will only tell you things that someone determined to be political norms."
This distinction between "here" and "there" is not only in Britain, but in all of Europe. The difference between what people on the street think and what is presented by the media elite as the "right opinion" has never been greater. This is the Europe that nobody talks about, and it is growing bigger and stronger each day. On days when there is an Islamist terrorist attack, it grows twice as much. This new Europe has no negative sentiment toward Israel. The opposite is true -- as the preaching in the pages of The Guardian newspaper about the supposed evils of the Israeli military continues, love for Israel grows in Britain's pubs. The pub-goers are beginning to understand: Israel is fighting the same enemy that sets off bombs in Brussels, slits throats in London and rams into crowds in Nice.
A few years ago, Israel was for many Europeans the "bad seed" in the Middle East. Arab propaganda achieved a lot and managed to create a terrible image for Israel in certain European countries. But images are fluid, especially when they clash with reality. The reality of the culture war with extremist Islam is causing many Europeans to look at Israel as a preferred ally.
This trend has not yet found expression in politics, because the political echelon in Europe follows behind the opinion of its voting public. Officials in Brussels were late to identify European voter disappointment in the European Union project, and now they are again late in identifying the public trend from resentment of Israel to admiration of it. Europe is on the verge of a major turning point. The reasons for the rising tides of change are not related to Israel, but Israel must be prepared to ride the waves.
Ariel Bolstein is the founder of the Israel advocacy organization Faces of Israel.
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