Mosaic Magazine

Response to: "You Only Live Twice"August 2013

Too Good to Last

Time to pay our respects to what was, and for European Jews to move elsewhere?

  

Michel Gurfinkiel is in the tradition of the great French essayists who put the issues of the day squarely before the public. It is a bold thing to do, especially when the subject under discussion is the fate of the Jews.

“You Only Live Twice” argues that, in the relatively short term, Jews are likely to have left Europe. The Jewish contribution to European civilization has been “a crowning glory of the human spirit,” but now the majority of European Jews and also those non-Jews who are paying attention to the march of history “insist that catastrophe may lie ahead.” The causes of this coming catastrophe are already evident to Gurfinkiel, and they tend toward an unhappy ending. In any case, the wise will not linger, awaiting certain submission. The time has come to pay our respects to what was once but is no more, and for Jews to move elsewhere as they have done through so many centuries.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Europeans adopted the phrase “Never Again,” implying shame for the perpetrators and at least a shading of guilt for the many who had stood by and taken no notice. For some years, survivors of the Nazi genocide, along with Jewish refugees expelled from the countries of the Middle East, were able to remake their lives everywhere across the continent. This was all too good to last.

Since 2000 in France alone, as Gurfinkiel notes, 7,650 anti-Semitic incidents ranging from petty insults to brutal racist murders have been reported, and this statistic ignores many more incidents that are known to have occurred but were not reported to the authorities. Things have come to the point where the chief rabbi of France advises Jews not to wear a kippah in the street because it makes them recognizable as Jews. “Never” has dropped out of the slogan of solidarity, leaving “Again” to stand on its own.

Several countries have residual fascist political parties, but the far greater danger to Jews stems from Arab nationalism and its Islamist twin. Zionism was one among other national liberation movements struggling after 1945 to be fulfilled. Gurfinkiel recalls the time when many in Europe admired the state of Israel either as an example of practical socialism or as a life-renewing response to genocide. Arab and Muslim leaders, above all the master propagandist Yasir Arafat, have imaginatively persuaded swaths of public opinion that Jews do not, and should not, have a national liberation movement of their own. In this perspective, Israel is made out to be the illegitimate colony of a few empire-building Jews with the United States behind them. The fiction serves to cast a bad light on whatever Israel might or might not do, and holds Jews everywhere answerable.

The crucial turning point came in June 1967, when Egypt’s Gamal Abdul Nasser with the support of the Soviet Union made his move to destroy Israel. The build-up to war had spread fear of an imminent second Holocaust. The atmosphere of insecurity in Israel was so close to panic that officers of the rank of major-general were reported to weep at briefings. And then, in six days, it was suddenly over in a feat of arms very different from what had been expected.

Only hours after the fighting ended, the Soviet media were compensating for the defeat of the Soviets’ Egyptian client by blackening Israel as a Nazi state, in criminal conspiracy with America, imperialist, an occupying power oppressing its Palestinian victims. Taking hold as they did, these ideological assaults were updated versions of ancient stereotypes of Jews as secret masters or corrupt lackeys or both. But from that moment on, people in the West began condemning Israel for having survived the fate that shortly beforehand had seemed so unbearably dreadful. The immediate inversion of opinion had the hallucinatory effect of the Two Minutes Hate that George Orwell describes in 1984.

Whether they know it or not, those today who continue to fit Israelis and Jews into this perverse framework are dupes of Soviet cold-war manipulation. Once such an infection has begun circulating in the world’s bloodstream, it is virtually impossible to cure it. Gurfinkiel recalls how even someone as independent as General Charles de Gaulle could denigrate Israel and Jews in irrational terms akin to those dreamed up by the Soviets for their Arab clients.

The changing demography of Europe has only hardened this vicious caricature. What with illegal immigration and incomplete censuses, the exact number of Muslims in Europe is unknown, but everywhere they are somewhere between five and ten percent of the population. Every European nation is flummoxed by the arrival in its midst of a minority ready to assert values incompatible with those of the majority. Within fifty years, Gurfinkiel predicts, France will become “a half-Islamic and half-Islamized nation.” He cites a statement by Marwan Muhamad, secretary-general of a pressure group called the Committee against Islamophobia, that is a scarcely veiled appeal to violence, and typical of its kind: “No one can decide French national identity for us.” 

In such circumstances, the best that Jews could hope is to be granted the status of dhimmis and so acknowledge their inferiority. Even to analyze such a social upheaval, as Gurfinkiel does, never mind trying to resist it, is to incur the charge of Islamophobia and the loss of reputation. 

 

Is Gurfinkiel right? Since Cassandra, prophecy has served to avert perceived doom. The Jewish future surely depends on the international standing of Israel. The United Nations seems to have few other purposes than expressing and magnifying hostility toward Israel. Year in, year out, the world body has sought to make Jews feel that any attachment to their national liberation movement is contaminated. In this forum, Arab and Muslim nation states accuse Israel of the racism and exclusiveness that they themselves practice. Sub-committees packed by representatives from despotisms granting no human rights to their own citizens regularly single out and condemn Israel for alleged abuses of human rights. The falsification of Israel’s measures of self-protection as aggressions driven by the ambition to colonize Arab territory puts Jews on the defensive and undermines any identification they might feel with their nation-state.

The European Union perceives nationalism itself as the cause of war, and seeks to deconstruct altogether the concept of the nation-state. Israel is the embodiment of the sense of proud nationhood that runs counter to EU ideology. With a logic all their own, EU policy makers oppose Israel while doing whatever they can to build a nation-state of Palestine. Jewish communities are unsettled to observe large-scale EU subsidies ending up in the hands of Palestinian Arab terrorists, or measures like the boycott recently imposed on products, goods, and personnel coming from Jewish settlements beyond the pre-June 1967 borders.

If Jews do indeed abandon Europe, it will be to escape a situation in which their very identity is increasingly treated as a matter of suspicion and political contention. Should an emigration en masse come to be a reality, Gurfinkiel concludes, it would constitute “a profound blow to the collective psyche of the Jewish people” as well as a shattering judgment on the “so-called European idea.” In the absence of living Jews, Europeans will have nothing but Holocaust museums and memorials on which to base the moral reckoning of their past.

David Pryce-Jones, the British novelist and commentator, is the author of, among other books, The Closed Circle and Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews.

Comments

  • zelda harris

    Profound as ever, I am glad that David Pryce-Jones is still around. I found the article to be chilling. I was prepared to react violently and say no! Sadly I think that he is right and I am not. As a people we should not be isolated from the wider world and although I wish to live in Israel it should be natural for Jews to live and contribute positively wherever they feel comfortable—even in Arab lands. I hope that he may be wrong

  • Edward Prince

    In his class on Modern Jewish Thought at Columbia some 35 years ago, Professor Arthur Hertzberg would review some 15 of the great Jewish thinkers from Spinoza to Rosenzweig and ask which had answered the question, “What should be the role of the Jew in Modern Europe?” His answer was none because Hitler didn’t care whether you advocated assimilation or wanted back into the ghetto. I doubt that even he could imagine that so soon after the Shoah, and the pieties that followed it, the question and the answer would be the same.

    The options are equally unappealing. Either Europe becomes Islamified or it rises up in one form or another again against those who are different. If the former, it is the Jew who is in danger. If the latter, it is Judaism that comes under attack.

  • Daniel Remler

    Beautiful essay DPJ. “Beautiful” to the extent that the specter of death can be spoken about beautifully.

  • Paul Marks

    The fate of Jews in the West (including Europe) is tied to the fate of Western civilisation itself. If the West continues to be crippled by “P.C.” doctrine (really Frankfurt School doctrine) then the future of Jews is dark, and so is the future of everyone else.

  • Zapf Rowsdower

    It remains to be seen if some sort of foreseen-by-Steyn situation arises, whereby unsavory hard-right nationalists resist the (even more) unsavory Islamists in their midsts. Sadly, the polite classes have long since been enervated and resigned themselves to Islamification, under the banner of multiculturalism.

  • IDoBeWhatIBe

    Why do Jews persist in living in Europe when time and again, it’s been proven that Europe is toxic for Jews? I think the time has come for Jews to abandon that cursed continent to its fate once and for all (Italy and Holland might be exceptions), and go to the Far East and sub-Saharan Africa, which they may just find to be surprisingly hospitable.

  • Diane Krieger

    You write: “In the absence of living Jews, Europeans will have nothing but Holocaust museums and memorials on which to base the moral reckoning of their past.”

    Two thoughts come to mind.

    1) It’s what Hitler intended when he had his Nazis round up old Torah scrolls, tallitot, prayer books, etc. from the many synagogues they desecrated. The dictator’s plan was to erect, at some future date, a grand museum of Jewish culture—the definitive anthropological archive of a depraved, extinct race.

    2) Some years ago I visited the museum of Jewish culture in Toledo, Spain. It was comical to read the labels next to the everyday objects on display—kiddush cups, kippot, tzitziyot. While respectful, each label (in English) was worded in such a way as to convey to visitors an understanding of the bizarre practices of a strange, foreign people. As if there hadn’t been a Jew in Spain for eons.

  • Victor

    You make the point more succinctly than do other prophets of doom on this and similar websites, when you write:

    “The options are equally unappealing. Either Europe becomes Islamified or it rises up in one form or another again against those who are different. If the former, it is the Jew who is in danger. If the latter, it is Judaism that comes under attack.”

    To this, I would answer that Europe is clearly not going to be Islamified unless its non-Islamic populations give up entirely on having babies.

    Clearly, this consideration does not remove the danger of politicians seeking to curry favour with Islamic minorities in ways that make Jews uncomfortable. Nor does it remove the threat of mushrooming violence against individuals.

    Such threats are, to my mind, particularly serious in the case of France, with its large, impoverished and resentful Islamic population. Even so, I don’t think we’re looking at the total eclipse of French Jewry or anything like it.

    As to the danger of Europe rising up against all those who are different; I think here that you are eliding two separate trends here, albeit that they can certainly buttress each other.

    The first is the inevitable rise of atavistic nationalisms in the countries formerly subject to the Pax Sovietica. These nationalisms are all derived from traditions which had a strong Antisemitic element. I’m actually surprised that this element has not been more forceful, vocal and violent in the years since 1989. But, increasingly, it now seems to be coming to the surface, with Hungary the obvious exemplar of this trend.

    If you were to say to me that there are few safe places for Jews in Eastern and East-Central Europe, I’d probably agree with you. But I’d have agreed with you on this point ten, twenty, thirty and sixty years ago as well.

    The second trend you seem to conflate with this is the rise of militant secularism and of the consequent denial of any special claims to respect for religious sensibilities when these come into conflict with perceived universal secular values.

    I think the point you miss here is that militant secularism rubs up not merely against our own desire to, for example, preserve Shechita or circumcise our male young. It also rubs up against the sensibilities of a large slice (perhaps the majority) of Europeans with a broadly Christian heritage.

    To cite a trivial but telling example, there was a recent furore in the UK over a local authority which refused to allow civil marriage ceremonies to include the phrase “in sickness as in health”, on the grounds that the wording was too religious. Another example from the UK is the pressure on Catholic adoption agencies not to discriminate against gay couples. The list is as endless as it is risible.

    I personally believe that this current, strangely old-fashioned, vogue for militant secularism will pass. But, if it doesn’t, you can bet that it won’t be restricted to Europe and will also be bound to have an impact in the United States.

    In summary, I would agree that Europe is a less safe place for Jews than it was, say, a quarter of a century ago. There are certainly a few places that are currently safer (viz. North America and Australasia) as well many other places that are a lot less safe, for one reason or another.

    And, although I believe that there is still a decent future for Jews in some parts of Europe, I would agree that there other parts that we might be wise to vacate. Paradoxically, Germany (the single most important European country) is not one of them.

  • Martin Lipson

    Based upon what I have seen and read, I no longer believe that Jews have a secure future in Europe. Unfortunately, that may not be of much concern to the average citizen of the EU. What should be of great concern to these people however, given the low native birth rate and the steadily changing demographic, is their own future vis-à-vis “Western Culture” and what has come to be known as modern European civilization.

  • Raymond in DC

    The problem, I fear, won’t be limited to Europe. While, in the past, many Jews found refuge in the Anglo countries of the West, they will soon realize that these countries too, having welcomed increasing numbers of Arabs and Muslims to their shores, are showing early signs of the same problems they sought to escape.

    In Canada, for example, Jewish numbers have increased only modestly over the last decade, but Muslim numbers are growing rapidly both from continuing immigration and from higher fertility rates. Today There are roughly a million Muslims in Canada—about 3% of the population—and fewer than 400,000 Jews. Canada is already experiencing increased crime and terrorism associated with this population, along with growing hostility toward Israel and Jews on their college campuses.

    If anything, the problem is worse in Australia with increasing reports of the evident disdain many of the Muslim immigrants have for “white” Australians. They are not the immigrants of old, seeking to imbibe the values and culture of the host country. Rather, they are colonists intending one day to become the dominant culture. I don’t see room for Jews in that future either.

    And the US? Muslims are currently about 1% of the population, but if their numbers double in the next decade as they did in the last, they’ll out-number Jews.

  • Stephen Paul

    Perhaps it is time to demythologize the term “Islamophobia” and put it on the same level of acceptance and respectability in polite society in Europe today as the Zionophobia endemic in these societies. By “Zionophobia,” I mean the conflation of national and religious identities and the ridicule of accusations of anti-Semitism by delegitimizers of the Jewish national liberation movement and state. The hypocrisy of objecting to being called anti-Semitic for hostility towards Israel while at the same time crying Islamophobia as a tactic to divert criticism of political Islamic incursions into Europe ought to be evident. If Zionophobia is not considered racist then neither should Islamophobia.

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