The French philosopher Pascal Bruckner is the son of a fierce anti-Semite who admired Hitler. He has recently written a book about his relationship with his father, entitled Un bon fils (“A Good Son”). The younger Bruckner claims that since his father “was very violent and mean to my mother, I eventually started to identify with the people he hated.” He now fears a very different kind of anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, as David Mikics writes:
France, Bruckner said in our interview, has reached a crisis point because of radical Islam. “Teaching the Shoah is impossible in many schools; teaching about Voltaire or Madame Bovary is impossible,” he remarked. Muslim anti-Semitism is different from his father’s old-fashioned kind, Bruckner explains, though his father late in his life was happy to see that radical Islam had become a vehicle for the hatred of Jews. Now, he remarks, Muslims protest when the Jews claim the position of victim, a position they themselves want.
In addition to Islamist terror France now faces another threat, its own refusal to deal with a refugee crisis unprecedented in European history. Today, “racism is multiplying,” Bruckner writes with alarm, recalling that racism was his father’s religion. Incompatible tribes seem to be replacing the old liberal dream of humanity as unity-in-diversity. Among the exponents of the new tribalism are, increasingly, the nations of Europe, who are both welcoming refugees and nervously imagining ways to keep them out. . . . Bruckner still thinks of Europe as “the planet’s moral compass”—how’s that for old-fashioned?—because it “has acquired a sense of the fragility of human affairs.”