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Sympathy for the European Devil

I know that conservatives are supposed to hold high the banner of Western Civilization, but I have an arm cramp at the moment.

by
David P. Goldman

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February 17, 2014 - 9:00 am
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European Parliament Leader Martin Schulz provoked an uproar last week in a speech before Israel’s Knesset, citing in passing a Palestinian claim that Israelis get four times as much water as Arabs in Judea and Samaria. The Israel Home party delegation (led by my favorite Israeli politician Naftali Bennett) walked out on the German politician in protest; Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz called the protest “disproportionate.” In this case I think Steinitz is right: Schulz is not an anti-Semite. He’s the sort of German who loves Israel in a peculiarly German way. By and large, Germans do not hate Israel; on the contrary, they love to love the Israeli left. They really, truly, sincerely want to be philo-Semitic (that brings to mind the old definition of a philo-Semite: an anti-Semite who likes Jews). The Germans are post-Christian and post-nationalist. In more than forty years of traveling in (and occasionally living) in Germany I have not met a single German who can abide religion, except for full-time clergy. Their experience of nationalism, like the experience of most Europeans, has been unrelentingly horrible. They cannot help but identify with the “post-Zionist,” existentially-addled Angst of the Israeli Left.

Zeruya Shalev, the Israeli novelist who dissects the disordered lives of disappointed utopians, is a bestseller and a cultural icon in Germany. Her last book was the subject of a gushing review by Adam Kirsch, book critic for the Jewish webzine Tablet and a stalwart at The New Republic. Every major German news publication has profiled or interviewed Ms. Shalev. In 2011, the popular weekly Stern asked her whether the then-ongoing “social justice” protests portended a “New Israel,” that is, an Israel more to the liking of Stern and Ms. Shalev; the Israeli writer was hopeful. The German interviewer simply took for granted that Stern’s readers would identify with the lefty literati against the Netanyahu government. Shalev writes the sort of introspective fiction that I find less tolerable than gum surgery; the great Israeli novelist in my view was the Nobelist S.Y. Agnon, whose masterwork Only Yesterday is not available in German translation. It is a wrenching, difficult book first published in Hebrew in 1945, and I am not surprised that the German public would avoid it. Today’s Germans have sensibilities hardly distinguishable from those of Adam Kirsch and prefer the Freudian meanderings of Ms. Shalev. (Of course, I’m the wrong person to ask about such things. I don’t like fiction.)

The socialist utopians of the Israeli Left cling to a vision of Israel as a nation-state like any other, liberated from the notion that there is anything special about the Jews. Israel in this view should become a Levantine Belgium or Holland, dissolving into the postmodern cultural muck with its European peers. As Israel becomes more Jewish, and more religious, and its continued success draws an ever-sharper boundary against the failed states that surround it, the utopians go into panic. To salvage their position they propose to ally with the Europeans, the way that Antipater of Idumaea allied with Pompey the Great to establish the Herodian dynasty. For background on Pompey, I recommend Lucan.

Here, for example, is journalist Ben Caspit writing in Al-Monitor:

For 40 years, Israel has entrenched its hold on the West Bank, in a belief that the problem would resolve itself somehow. It hasn’t been resolved. We can’t continue to fool everyone, all of the time. At some point, we will have to make the difficult decision, and undo this Gordian knot, not to be dragged with it into the depths.

It seems that as time passes, our ability to reach this decision is diminishing. As time passes, it turns out that we might need someone, or something, that will force it on us. And so, I don’t think we need to call on the Europeans to boycott us, but if and when they do so, we will be able to understand their position.

Of course (as Caspit observes) Kerry is using the Europeans to threaten Israel with boycotts. Does that mean Kerry is an anti-Semite, a charge that his Jewish brother bitterly disputes? It brings to mind the old Viennese joke: “Anti-Semitism was getting nowhere until the Jews got behind it.” Suffice it to say that the Israeli Left hopes that Kerry and the Europeans will batter Israel into a peace deal. Anti-Semitism is not the issue, unless we want to call the Israeli left anti-Semitic.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Any thorough reply to this is likely to be banned.

"Established religion has been a curse in Europe”
No, it hasn’t.

"came to the Europeans in a perverse form”
Wrong at the source, wrong at the branch.

"It was not Voltaire or Rousseau or Nietzche who ruined Europe”
They ruined something, what was it?

"My European friends are too scarred by their own sorry history”
Which, oddly enough, is better than all other peoples’. Some how the atrocities of European history disgrace Europeans and Christianity, but the atrocities of Japanese, Indian, Arabian, Chinese, Aztec, Incan history are their essential glories.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (20)
All Comments   (20)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Supposed to, but they don't.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
The historical background is fascinating, but I wonder if this analysis simply overthinks the problem. Anti-Semitism is just a particularly virulent and grotesque manifestation of the basic human sins of envy and resentment. People who have failed resent people who have succeeded. People who are lazy resent those who are industrious. People who are dull resent those who are bright. People who are aimless resent those with a purpose. People without faith resent those who believe in something.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
I usually love your work, but this is pretty off base. The US, founded by a Christian Nation, is not anti-Semitic, nor was it at its founding (although the anti-semites are now rampant in the government). The United States Declaration of Independence appealed for independence to the Supreme Judge of the World, the Creator, in its establishment. By founding a nation dedicated to life, liberty, and happiness in God's name, this nation has received blessings from him.We can only hope that he continues to bless this country.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sad thing that nations of the Enlightenment are too stupid to learn from their mistakes.
The words of the Bible itself would straighten out their misperceptions on Jews, Christians and Chosenness.
If they choose to live in their putrid history rather than truth, have no pity. The door is always open. A fool does not knock.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's nothing particularly European, or Christian, or Jewish about Nationalism. Or "choseness" as you put it.

As for the Germans, their current anti-nationalism is not so great a change from their old nationalism as you seem to think. You are aware, I am sure, that hate is not the opposite of love. The German trait that you should be concerned about is extremism, which their current anti-nationalism is only the latest expression of. It is the flip side of, and certainly not the opposite of, their old Ein Volk aspirations.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
I had thought that we were to learn from the mistakes of Europe and, indeed, all of mankind so that we would choose a civil society that had tolerance for the religions of others so that the free and positive exercise of religion would bring about civil conversation leading to better a better society. This has come out of long and bloody history which, if we dare not look at to learn its lessons, we will be doomed to repeat them.

We cannot learn by averting our eyes from this history. In attempting to disavow this past we then lose the support to keep our current society civil and to build a better society as we have refused to learn all lessons, good and bad, from history. The only thing different about Europe as opposed to much else of the world is the level of technology and the written word. When Europeans dared to learn from their barbarous behavior they did not become noble, but somewhat more civilized. When they forget the causes of past conflicts and repeat them, they become less civilized by choice. This is true of all mankind: Europe just kept better records.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't know if you've noticed but the libs consider themselves in a manner similar to that of a chosen people, too.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thomas Sowell refers to liberals as "the anointed" and those opposed to liberals as "the benighted". Of course, he's being sarcastic.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
> today’s Europeans cannot hear the word “Chosenness” without flashbacks of all of Europe’s awful wars.

As I recall, Israel's "Chosenness" led to a lot of the Holy Land's awful wars. Genocide, as a concept, began with the Amalekites, if memory serves. Not that I'm complaining -- the Amalekites were an evil, child-sacrificing bunch, and the Israelites' answer to that was the ancient version of Dresden or Hiroshima. But I'm fairly certain this happened before St. Gregory.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sometimes war is Just War. The original meaning of "Thy shalt not kill" is really, "Thy shalt not murder." God didn't expect the Isrealites to not have to fight. Its only in modern times where its considered bad faith to dresden your opponents. But our inability to do so has led to the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, because they view such behavior as weakness. The Treaty of Westphalia which created rules in war that we try to abide by even now, is only something that civilized countries can develop. The Islamic world is by and large not civilized, or its leaders are not, and we shouldn't be using such rules when we fight them. It would mean quicker, less expensive wars where we can get in and out without loosing our boys, and actually make it more about teaching a lesson - leave us alone or we'll kick your hinies again. Regretfully for the Isrealites, they never became powerful enough to continue to protect themselves from the surrounding empires.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately, the idea that the Thou Shalt Not Kill meaning Thou Shalt Not Murder pretty much is destroyed when you remember that Jesus didn't even bother killing the romans who came to execute him, even though self-defense killing was not forbidden in the Ten Commandments, and since he's the Word Incarnate, that means he would have most certainly massacred the Roman Soldiers who came to arrest him in a way that most certainly was not of human hands had that been the rationale.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment

Or to embark upon the Sisyphean task of creating little British parliamentary democracies in barbaric lands where intervention is necessary for some other reason.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Any thorough reply to this is likely to be banned.

"Established religion has been a curse in Europe”
No, it hasn’t.

"came to the Europeans in a perverse form”
Wrong at the source, wrong at the branch.

"It was not Voltaire or Rousseau or Nietzche who ruined Europe”
They ruined something, what was it?

"My European friends are too scarred by their own sorry history”
Which, oddly enough, is better than all other peoples’. Some how the atrocities of European history disgrace Europeans and Christianity, but the atrocities of Japanese, Indian, Arabian, Chinese, Aztec, Incan history are their essential glories.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agreed... But when you are dealing with barbarians, sometimes barbaric warfare is the only thing they understand. It was with good reason that the Romans salted the earth in Carthage.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, exactly. Christians are guilty of not living up to the principles of Christianity. That's a function of being human, not Christian. I tend to take the same view as Mel Gibson's "Apokalypse". The smaller plot is about the struggles of a particular Mayan hunter-gatherer, but the bigger plot is about the coming and well-deserved destruction of an evil civilization by a Christian one. The Spanish brought their own atrocities to the situation, but one of the advantages Christians offer is you can shame a Christian. How do you shame someone who rips out human hearts because he likes it, and by the way, he is the standard by which things are judged?

Never could figure out why anti-nuke activists who protest Hiroshima every year have never added Nanking to their list.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Y'know, there is an interesting idea in there...a sort of cosmic answer to the question of multiculturalism.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm conservative to quite an extent but have never glossed over the repression and horrors throughout European history not to mention some ugly American warts. And even though I've never agreed, I've grown in understanding and sympathy for our isolationist movement before involvement in WWII. Europe was a basket case of seeming endless tribal, racial and nation-state warfare. So "holding high" Western civilization for me can have serious qualification and/or with comparison to greater evil.

I can appreciate your insight and agree with the other poster as being fascinating, but I think Euro leftist antisemitism also has to do with anti-democracy/capitalism. And I'm not sure how empowering the individual is more identifiable with nationalism than the establishment of a socialist state.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
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