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"It is that Islam is basically oppressed by the West, disrespected and treated unfairly, that the military action we took post-9/11 was against countries because they are Muslim, and that in the Middle East we ignore the injustice done to Palestinians in our desire to support Israel because the Palestinians are Muslims and the Israelis predominantly Jews."

All the well-meaning European leaders who travel back and forth between Israel and the Palestinian territories in the hope of achieving peace and preventing others from taking that honour away from them (not necessarily in that order) subscribe to that mistaken narrative in one way or another.

Ashton, after all, begged the Israelis to receive her, though they were on holiday. The Israelis were happy to help and complied — and what did they get in return? An official reprimand, the day she arrived, about Israel's refusal to extend the moratorium on settlement construction, as if the destiny of the world (not to mention Lady Ashton's prestige) depended on it. 

As if peace required only Israeli concessions — and unless those concessions were forthcoming the rage of the Muslim world was somehow justified. This is, after all, the gist of what Lady Ashton said in her first major foreign policy speech in Cairo last March, when she defined the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict as not only a "vital European interest" but also one that is "central to the solution of other problems in the region".

Here was the top European diplomat telling Arab dictators (she uttered her words at the headquarters of the Arab League) that all their failures combined could somehow be explained by the lack of Israeli-Palestinian peace, which in turn she blamed on Israel's occupation.

It is a sad testament to European history — one that once produced great scholarship and a deep understanding of the faraway regions of the world that Europe ruled for so long — that the Continent's elected (and unelected) leaders' knee-jerk instinct to apologise and feel guilty for the past leads them to endorse a narrative of grievance while disguising their petty ego-quarrels as the lofty business of state.

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