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Israel outrage at 'peace threat' EU poll
( 2003-11-04 09:04) (Agencies)

Israel expressed outrage at a European Commission opinion poll Monday that suggested more European Union citizens see Israel as a threat to world peace than any other country including Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

Commission President Romano Prodi, visiting New York, said he was concerned at the findings and acknowledged they may indicate deeper anti-Semitic prejudice in Europe.

Israel said the survey, in which 59 percent of those polled said the country was a menace, revealed a "hidden agenda" by those asking the question -- the EU executive.

"They have put the Jewish state below the level of the worst pariah states and terror organizations," Israel's mission to the EU said in a statement.

"We are not only sad but outraged. Not at European citizens but at those who are responsible for forming public opinion."

It said the poll reflected the impact of distorted media coverage of the Middle East conflict and served to "promote a hidden agenda of those who draft the questions in a way that will suit their political ends."

Prodi stressed that the Eurobarometer survey did not reflect the views or policy of the European Commission.

"They point to the continued existence of a bias that must be condemned out of hand. To the extent that this may indicate a deeper, more general prejudice against the Jewish world, our repugnance is even more radical," he declared.

A Commission spokesman earlier played down the result as just one finding among many in a survey on Iraq and world peace.

"It is not our role or our policy to interpret each opinion poll or to base our policy on it," spokesman Gerassimos Thomas told the Commission's daily news briefing.

The question did not mention the Palestinians because it only referred to states, he said.

He insisted the questions were set by low-level officials, not the Commission's political leaders or external relations directorate.

It was one of 60 surveys the Commission carries out every year seeking the views of the EU's 375 million citizens on everything from the euro to EU enlargement.


Around 500 people in each EU country were asked whether they considered 14 listed countries as threats to world peace.

Close behind Israel came the United States, Iran and North Korea, each with 53 percent. Respondents were allowed to pick more than one country.

Fifty-two percent said Iraq was a threat, 50 percent said Afghanistan was. The other countries -- Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, China, India, Russia and Somalia -- scored less than 50 percent.

Israel's minister for diaspora affairs and Jerusalem, Natan Sharansky, said the survey showed that "behind the 'political' criticism of Israel lies nothing other than pure anti-Semitism."

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said the poll was "conducted in an irresponsible manner and distorts reality," but rejected assertions it proved European anti-Semitism.

"There's no comparing the amount of media exposure Israel gets in Europe in comparison to Iran or North Korea. The images broadcast from here have an impact but we should not get excited about it," Haaretz daily quoted Shalom as saying.

Italy, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said the findings were due to a "leading question" and did not reflect the EU's position.

"Foreign Minister Franco Frattini...expresses surprise and disappointment at the distorted message that emerges from the EU poll," a statement issued by his ministry said.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a U.S.-based Jewish rights group, said the survey "shows that anti-Semitism is deeply embedded within European society" and Israel should draw the only conclusion possible and exclude the EU and its members from any future Middle East peace process.

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