Ed Driscoll

MODERN EUROPE

My wife Nina and I met a friend and his wife for dinner after my jury duty on Tuesday, and somehow, the conversation wandered towards the Middle East. He seemed genuinely surprised when I mentioned the growing anti-semitism in Europe. He emailed me earlier today to discuss whether it was purely anti-Zionism. The guy works very long hours at a real job, unlike myself, who writes, and can thus read lots of Web logs, news articles and essays and justify it as part of my “research”. So I don’t really blame him for not following everything that’s been going on in Europe and the Middle East.

Here’s my reponse, which also shows what a help blogs and Google can be in tracking news articles and essays down:

Dear _____,

Europe has been anti-Semitic in varying degrees for at least several hundred years–Hitler just ratcheted it up a couple of notches and made its institutionalism plain to see, rather than under the surface. All his complaining about “Jewish bankers”? Many Jews entered finance in Europe hundreds of years ago, because various labor and trade guilds prevented them from entering a wide variety of other trades. Austria, where Hitler was born was rife with anti-Semitism–it wasn’t something he invented. Rather, it was in books, pamphlets, speeches, and rallies, where the Jew was described as strange, foreign, different, etc. Hitler, aided immensely by the German people, and eventually, people in numerous European nations, built on that feeling to exterminate the Jews. (Incidentally, David Brooks, the author Bobos in Paradise touches upon 19th and 20th century European anti-Semitism in his brilliant recent essay, “Among the Bourgeoisophobes“, which is subtitled “Why the Europeans and Arabs, each in their own way, hate America and Israel”.)

While the Allies had some success with their denazification programs in the post-war period, lately, it’s become obvious just how impossible it is to wipe out anti-Semitic beliefs that go back hundreds of years. Want some very recent examples of how bad Europe is? Try these:

CBS has an article dated April 23, which begins “World Jewish leaders warned Tuesday that the level of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe is the worst since World War II.” The article mentions a synagogue in Marseille in the south of France was burned to the ground March 31.

AP recently reported that “Right-wing extremists celebrating an anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler have set fire to a synagogue in the east German city of Erfurt, according to German police.”

And then there’s Ingmar Tveitt, whom the Wall Street Journal describes as “a friend of Norwegian Parliament member Jan Simonsen, who was ordered in early April by Parliament security guards to remove his jacket because a Star of David was displayed on the chest pocket. As Tveitt points out, ‘People walk around [in Parliament] with Palestinian scarves and other pro-Palestinian symbols without any reaction.'”

Or, check out this headline, from AP: “Jewish soccer team attacked, one member seriously injured”:

BONDY, France – Amid a spate of recent anti-Semitic attacks in France, a Jewish amateur soccer team was attacked during a training session in a Paris suburb and one of its members seriously hurt, French police said Thursday.

Around 15 hooded attackers wielding sticks and metal bars assaulted the team of teenagers from the Maccabi Bondy association, a Jewish group, late Wednesday after making anti-Semitic remarks.

One member of the team suffered a cut to the head and received hospital treatment but wasn’t thought to be in danger.

French Sports Minister Marie-George Buffet issued a statement condemning the attack as “indescribable.”

That last quote sums up the whole problem: It is describable. It’s just doesn’t appear to be stoppable. It’s institutionalized, it goes back hundreds of years, at the very least, and it’s systemic. All 9/11 and the latest Palestinian suicide bombers did was to notch it up.

Don’t get me wrong–there is much, much, about Europe that I love: it truly is the cradle of modern civilization. The Renaissance, the Enlightenment, language, writing, music, art, architecture, etc., were all raised to a fine pitch there. But along side of them, so were racism, anti-Semitism, totalitarianism and concentration camps.

Want an example of how institutionalized anti-Semitism is in Europe? Try to picture any member of Bush’s staff (hell, even Clinton’s staff) saying this:

In December, Daniel Bernard, the French ambassador to Britain, uttered an ugly anti-Semitic remark at a party hosted by newspaper publisher Conrad Black. He called Israel a “shitty little country” and then asked, “Why should the world be in danger of World War III because of those people?”

Look, I’ll admit that I’ve become fairly instinctively reflexive when it comes to Israel–I read lots of conservative and small-l libertarian Web sites and books, I’m sympathetic towards democracies, very, very unsympathetic to totalitarianism and dictatorships on both sides of the aisle, and my wife is Jewish, and very pro-Israel. What’s astonishing (and Nina and I had a conversation about this a few weeks ago, when Israeli / Palestinian conflicts really heated up), is how few people in the supposedly “liberal” and “Jewish dominated” media aren’t. NPR has been admonished more than once for being biased towards Palestinians. As has Peter Jennings. As has ABC’s Nightline (scroll up from link for more Nightline coverage). As has the New York Times. As has the L.A. Times.

It’s a very, very interesting trend, as Orrin Judd recently wrote, that conservatives have been fairly consistently pro-Israel, whereas liberals have increasingly become pro-Palestinian (don’t forget the big wet one Hillary planted on the cheek of Arafat’s wife a couple of years ago after a speech). It’s also been very interesting watching Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan turn blacks into anti-Semites, effectively erasing over a hundred years of friendly black/Jewish relations.

If you’d like a quick refresher on how we got here, you might want to read Jeff Jacoby’s recent column on how 1993 was the decisive year in Israel/Palestinian relations, and what Yassar Arafat did to undermine things. Or David Horowitz’s quick history of Israel and the Middle East. Also, check out Empower America’s “Twenty facts about Israel and the Middle East

Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee Law Professor, whom I’ve interviewed for several articles, and runs Instapundit.com, arguably the very best Web log on the Internet (can Web logs be anyplace else? [G]) sums it up perfectly:

My short answer: Sure, you can criticize Israel without being antisemitic. But when you criticize Israel for things you ignore in others, it raises certain doubts.
Let me leave you with some food for thought, from National Review’s Jonah Goldberg:

WHAT IF ISRAELIS WERE GAY? [Jonah Goldberg]
I think the Corner is best when we get a little give and take among ourselves. So here