The day after the Brussels terror attack, landmarks in the UK were lit up in the colors of the Belgian flag. Portions of the press in Britain excoriated the country on this. Why, they asked, had the now-traditional, mawkish ceremony occurred the day after the attacks rather than on the evening of the attacks themselves? Why were we a day late with our lights when other cities had managed to do their "solidarity" gesture straightaway? Such are our times. And such are our questions.
If there is a question in all this, it is not why it took more than 24 hours for the UK to find its Belgian-colored lights, but why after 67 years of terror, it still has not found the simple blue and white lights it would need to project the flag of Israel onto any public place.
It is not as though there haven't been plenty of opportunities. Israel's enemies have provided us with even more opportunities for light displays than have now been offered to the light-infatuated by the followers of ISIS.
You could argue that in the last seven decades, public attitudes have changed; that today futile gestures of "solidarity" are all the rage, but in generations past they were not. It might have been unheard of for any British institution to beam the colors of the Israeli flag into buildings in 1948, 1956, 1967 or 1973. But when sentimentalism came to Britain, it came in a big way. If it had not struck us by the time of the first intifada (1987-1993), it certainly had by the time of the second one (2000-2005).
During that period, thousands of Israelis were killed and wounded by Palestinian terrorists. Yet there were no projections of the Israeli flag onto public buildings. Again, during the 2006 Hezbollah War, landmarks went unlit -- the same as after each salvo of rockets launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip, freshly evacuated by Israel to allow the Arabs there to create the Singapore or Côte d'Azure of the Middle East.
When Israel is attacked, the steps of the Israeli embassies in London and other European capitals are not littered with flowers, teddy bears or candles, or scrawled notes of sympathy. Indeed, whenever Israelis are attacked and murdered, there is a response at Israel's embassies. It tends to be less teddy-obsessed; it consists more of crowds roaring in rage against Israel and having to be held back from further antagonism by the local police.
It is possible that there are those who believe Israel is simply on a different continent from Europe and that, despite being an essentially Western society, it is not one to which we feel sufficiently close. Whenever a terrorist outrage occurs in a Western capital these days, there are always those who ask why the mourning for Paris or Brussels, say, is stronger than the mourning for Ankara or Beirut.
But the Paris/Brussels question for Jerusalem rarely, if ever, gets asked. One could take the lowest road and say it is because in Israel the victims are Jews. But there is also an explanation just as true. It is that Israel is seen as different because when Israel is attacked by terrorists, it is seen by a great number of people in the West not to be an innocent victim. It is seen as a country which might have in some way brought the violence upon itself.
Supposed excuses for this view may vary, from objecting to farms on the Golan Heights to Israel's refusal to allow weapons intended to annihilate it to be poured into the Gaza Strip. Others include Israeli "settlements" in the West Bank, while at the same time disregarding that to most Palestinians all of Israel, "from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea," as they put it, is one big "settlement" -- to be exterminated, as openly set forth in both the Hamas and PLO charters. Neither charter has ever been renounced. If you look at any map of "Palestine," it is actually a map of Israel, but with "al-Quds" instead of "Jerusalem" and "Jaffa" instead of "Tel Aviv." For these Palestinians, there is, in fact, just one underlying offense: the existence of the State Israel itself.
This piece of land, however, as Canaan, the Fertile Crescent, and Judea and Samaria, has been home to the Jews for nearly 4000 years -- despite Romans, Saladin, the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate.
What remains are facts. And what the facts show is that all these "excuses" for terrorism are incorrect. Israel is not, for instance, carrying out the "war crimes," "apartheid" or "genocide," which propagandists have persuaded Europeans that Israel is engaged in. Israel is, quite the contrary, fighting an enemy that breaks every rule of armed conflict, and Israel responds in a manner so precise and so moral (as the High Level Military Group concluded in its assessment of the 2014 Gaza conflict) that allied nations are presently concerned that they will not be able to live up to the Israeli military's moral standards the next time they go to war.
Israel, like the rest of the West, is trying to find a legal and decent way to respond to an illegal and indecent set of terrorist tactics. It is also not true that Israel's enemies have some righteous territorial dispute. They already have the whole of the Gaza Strip, and if they wanted most of the West Bank, they could have had it at almost any time since 1948, including at Camp David in 2000. On each occasion, it was the Palestinians who turned down all offers -- without even proposing a counter-offer.
Even so, in the eyes of many Europeans, Israel is seen to have done something for which suicide bombers are thought to be an understandable response. Whether said or unsaid, this is the rationale that makes terror against Israel a lesser offense than terror everywhere else.
Well, what a shock the rest of the world will one day have to undergo. Because if you allow an "excuse" for one false narrative of Islamic extremists, you will then have to allow it for the others. You will, for example, have to accept the word of ISIS that Belgium is a "crusader" nation, deserving to be attacked because it is involved in a "crusade" against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). You will have to accept that for standing up to the Islamic extremists in Mali and Syria, these Islamic extremists have the right to attack the people of Belgium, France, Sierra Leone, Canada, the United States and Australia.
You will have to accept that Europeans can be killed for publishing a cartoon, simply because a foreign terrorist group says so, and then accept that the cartoonists brought it themselves.
The enemies of Israel and the enemies of the rest of the civilized world have some minor differences, but there is far more that they have in common. They are both driven not only by the same jihadist ideologies but by the insistence that their political and religious view of the world is relevant not just for them, but needs to be implemented against all of the rest of us.
It may take a while to realize it, but we are all in the same boat. It also may take a while until European cities reach for the blue and white bulbs; but if we start to question where those bulbs went, we might get closer not only to understanding Israel's predicament, but to understanding the predicament that is also now our own.
Douglas Murray is a current events analyst and commentator based in London.