Jewish Purpose for a Europe in Crisis
Greece on the path to a 3rd painful rescue plan… Over 1,800 migrants dead trying to reach Europe in the first half of 2015 (UNHCR)… Populist Parties on an unprecedented rise, both on the far right and the far left… Over 23 million unemployed people in the EU (Eurostat, May 2015)… Over 6,000 dead since April 2014 in the Ukraine-Russia war over Donbass… “At the European level, (at least) 5,000 to 6,000 individuals have left for Syria,” (EU justice commissioner to Le Figaro, April 2015)…
It sure does take a strong dose of optimism to be a European these days.
Jews killed in Toulouse (2012), Brussels (2014), Paris and Copenhagen (2015) for being Jews… Chants of “Death to the Jews, Jews out of France” on place de la Bastille in Paris in July 2014… Over 7,000 French Jews emigrated to Israel in 2014 (before the 2015 Paris attacks), making France the top country on Israel sources if immigration…
It definitely does take a good dose of resilience to openly be a Jew these days.
Negative views of Israel’s influence in the world outweighed positive ones by more than two to one (BBC poll, 2014)… Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel gain traction in the academic & religious circles in Europe & in the US…
It certainly requires a high level of personal opinion & critical thinking to recall Israel’s legitimate right to exist as a country for the Jews these days.
At which point does the mix of optimism, resilience and personal opinion become intoxicating? Are we, European Jews, on an overdose trip of self-delusion, forcing ourselves to believe, like the person falling from a high-rise and about to crash on the pavement, that “so far, so good”…? Do we need serious medication to come back to our senses, and a wake-up call to detoxification?
Beyond all its the claims for tolerance and diversity, what is Europe ready and willing to do with its Jewish minorities? What are the reasons for Europe to claim it loves its Jews… as long as they do not express too much sympathy for Israel, lest they be named and shamed as Zionists? Why would Jews remain on European soil? Should European Jews express official criticism for Israel policies, in order to join the “consensus” of their domestic societies?
Like in most good Jewish jokes, answers to these questions may come in both bad & good news.
- The bad news: Europe is weak politically, economically and strategically, ridden with historical guilt, uncomfortable with its growing Muslim minorities, desperate to be the “Light of all Nations” when it comes to Human Rights, and happy to have a scapegoat in the name of Israel
- The good news: Jews can, and should hold high their 2,000-year experience as an active minority in Europe and claim their loving, and possibly critical relationship to Israel, to contribute to a long-term purpose for Europe, and in doing so, help pacify relations between European citizens and their Muslim minorities, citizens or in the process of becoming so
This first paper will focus on the bad news, and describe how the past 2 centuries and the recent world developments have translated into double trouble for the Jews of Europe: the rise of Political Extremist Parties and the sanctification of the Palestinian as the new Christ figure, together with the vilification of Israel as the ultimate rogue state.
For the past 2 centuries, Europe has been turning increasingly democratic, with parliamentary rule and a free press spreading from the mid-19th century, and following the totalitarian night over the continent, democratic Europe since 1945 embraced its new mantra of peace & human rights. In parallel, the Catholic Church has undertaken, with Vatican 2 (1962-1965), to revisit its past, to ask for forgiveness for its past prejudices (against Jews, Blacks, Homosexuals, etc) and for its subsequent crimes (Inquisition, Slave trade, European Antisemitism, etc). This has definitely been a major building block in having the Catholic Church fight its historical Antisemitism, reconcile Christians with their Jewish roots, and recognize the theological value of Judaism.
But what was good news for Jewish communities’ acceptability was met with less positive developments.
While post-war Europe was finally making space for Jews & Judaism, little attention was paid to the millions of Muslims immigrants imported to sustain the cycle of economic development & prosperity from the late 50s to early 70s. These Muslims were considered only “visiting”, and were expected to go back to Africa and Turkey once retiring. The inability of Europe to formulate explicitly a social contract and to actively pursue the civic integration of its immigrant workforce that was bringing their families and settling in was to be a negligence of major consequences.
From the late 70s, the oil crisis and the end of the post-war boom, combined with the rise to power of political Islam in Iran and the emergence of a radical Wahhabi Islam, born in Saudi Arabia and expanded with American money to Mujaheedin resistance to Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, were to be critical factors for the balance of European societies. Low growth & mass unemployment in Europe for the past 40 years have limited European states economic means to fund social programs for the have-nots, many of whom are 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants, and the boom of radical Islam benefited from the globalization of ideas with the explosion of cable TVs and the internet.
In the same period, under the influence of the extreme-left intelligentsia, criticism of democratic states has developed into a successful ideology, under the shameful label of “the West”. The West, for all its past and present sins, of which Colonialism, Capitalism and Consumerism are the Dirty Trinity, is an unforgivable stain to Humanity in progress, and all it can do is ask for forgiveness to the victims of its oppression and exploitation, namely the poor immigrants at home and world Muslims abroad.
As a matter of fact, viewing Muslim immigrants of low social status as the spearhead for a new revolution against the capitalist order, far-left intellectuals and journalists have been promoting the image of the Muslim citizen, immigrant or migrant as the ultimate figure of capitalist exploitation and imperialist oppression. No matter that the vast majority of Muslims in Europe may just be striving to make the most of the opportunities they or their parents came to find, and work hard to become Europeans with just another origin, in the eyes of the far-left, they cannot be anything but victims of a racist and discriminatory society.
This demonization of the West has been formulated and entertained by the far-right and the far-left intellectuals & journalist, who have been forging an odd alliance with minority radical Muslims.
Of course, to hold this “progressive” narrative, one needs to make very selective arrangements with reality on the other side, and turn a blind eye to the current situation of human rights in most of the Muslim world, for example in relation to women, homosexuals and ethnic minorities.
But who cares? All our self-righteous academics, journalists and intellectuals from both extremes of the political spectrum are more than happy to echo the criticism from non-democratic societies, which are smart enough to buy our governments’ silence together with our planes and weaponry. This odd alliance between the “avant-garde of political progress” in Europe and the most conservative, retrograde and authoritarian states serves one main objective: to escape any moral judgment.
Consequently, there cannot be any European request or even expectation for reciprocity from its neighbours for their treatment of minorities, or political dissent, or women’s rights. For all the serious and grave discriminations targeting Muslims in Europe nowadays, it is still much safer and better to be a Muslim in Spain, Sweden or Germany than to be a Christian (lest mention being a Jew) in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Algeria (of which the previous Minister of Religions, notice the plural, declared that “Christian evangelization is terrorism”).
Where European slave trade, for its 11m Africans deported over 4 centuries, is a well-documented & taught crime, for which Europe stands legitimate criticism of its past, Arab-Muslim slave trade, which lasted 11 centuries and deported between 8 and 25m people from Africa, remains a total taboo to mention, lest one be accused of racism and historical revisionism.
Under the same view, it has long been not politically correct to require from European supporters and faithful of fundamentalist Islam to abide by the laws of their countries of residence, when these laws go against their religious beliefs. Despite the notable differences between the British, French & German models of national societies, the tensions are the same, and can be summarized in the inability of European democracies to exercise the legal monopoly the state hold on violence (police), to impose its laws on its citizens and residents.
The readiness of European opinions to bear limitless guilt for anything from global warming to ethnic wars in the Middle East to corrupt and kleptocratic governments in Africa may have be a narcissistic trait: better be considered the source of most historical evils than be relegated to the fringes of world history, like Uruguay, New-Zealand or Mongolia, places which rarely make the news.
What does this all have to do with Jewish communities and Jewish life in Europe, could one ask?
Well, the problem is that any nation, culture or civilisation can take only so much criticism without asking themselves: Are we that bad? How are others doing by the same standards? And on the open market of ideas and opinion, popular opinions in Europe are taking 2 seemingly opposite directions, which are both bad news for the Jews in Europe:
- The rise of Populist Extremist Parties and the call to return to a fantasized past. European citizens feel, rightly or wrongly, that the components of their social contract are being abandoned without them having a say, that their prime belonging, the nation-state, the entity in which one can speak her/his native language and share a common history (and myths) with his/her fellow citizens, is being dissolved in a political Union governed by non-elected technocrats, that they have to compete for jobs with immigrants, and that the state gives priority to helping foreigners before its native citizens . This anxiety translates in votes for Populist Extremist Parties, for a political discourse that promises, when every child in the classroom was white and spoke the country’s language at home.
- The election of Palestinians as the quintessential victim, and of Israel as the quintessential culprit. Europe can only take so much self-hate. At some stage, and to avoid total depression, Europe needs to find scapegoats, that will justify its terrible story, or that will make it feel better. These scapegoats cannot be its past colonial victims, the main suppliers of its energy (Middle East, Russia), or its main customers for technology (China) and weaponry (Middle East), which are all experts at placing blame on the West for its sins. So, under the inspiration and moral impetus of the far-left intelligentsia who holds the best moral judgment there is (as proven when it successively supported or at least justified Stalinism, the Cultural Revolution in China, the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, the Khomeiny revolution in Iran, the Castro regime in Cuba, not to mention the Baader-Meinhof and the Palestinian terrorist groups of the 70s & the 80s), Europe has elected the quintessential victim, its modern Christ figure : the Palestinian, the archetype of the oppressed, colonized, exploited and robbed victim.
For every victim there is a culprit. For the quintessential victim, there is a quintessential culprit. “An elite people, self-confident and domineering”, in the words of De Gaulle (November 1967) criticizing Israel for having attacked first (!) in June 1967.
So for the past 48 years, and increasingly in the mind of Europeans, the matrix of all the problems between Europe and the Muslim world is Israel, an country-state the size of Slovenia, located in the heart of the Arab world.
What are your views on this? Why is Europe undergoing such an identity crisis? What role is there for Jewish leaders and organisations in Europe to help with this situation?
My next paper will argue that the obsession with Israel and the double-standard it suffers reflects on the way life of Jews in Europe is put to physical risk, in order to satisfy Europe’s ambition to be seen as the new paragon of Human Rights, the new Or laGoyim (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 60:3), the Light of all Nations.