Monday, January 5, 2015

"Anti-Semitism in Europe"

                    Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Anti-Semitism in Europe
January 5, 2015

To paraphrase Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a people in economic straits will search for a scapegoat. With Europe – six years after the financial crisis – still mired in economic difficulties, the rise of extremism is a consequence of that behavior. And there is little question that the fringe that represents extremism is broadening.

Even though a dozen European countries have communist parties, it is telling that when one Googles ‘European extreme political parties,’ the only ones that show up are those on the right. It reflects the media bias, and that those on the left fear only right-wing autocracies. Conservatives, on the other hand, dislike ‘big’ government in any form; thus are concerned about totalitarianism no matter whether it emerges from the right or the left.

It was interesting that Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a New Year’s Day speech, denounced Europe’s far-right parties, slamming the organizers of recent anti-Islam protests in Germany. She described them as having “hearts often full of prejudice, and even hate.” Her attack on right-wing populism was echoed by France’s François Hollande and Italy’s retiring president, the 89-year old Giorgio Napolitano. While xenophobia in any form is to be reviled, it is curious that all three ignored the anti-Semitism that has been emerging from, among other places, Europe’s elite (generally Leftist in their political philosophy), but perhaps most frightening, from Muslim communities – the fastest growing segment of Europe’s population. The speeches ignored left-wing populism, which are every bit as ubiquitous and virulent as that from the right. Evil knows no political bounds. If Hitler was Beelzebub, Stalin was Mephistopheles. It would appear that ignoring anti-Semitism is politically acceptable in Europe, while denouncing Islamophobia is politically correct.

Thomas Klau of the European Council on Foreign Relations explains the Left’s concern for the rise in right-wing extremism. He noted that “…as anti-Semitism was a unifying factor for far-right parties in the 1910s, ‘20s and ‘30s, Islamophobia has become the unifying factor in the early decades of the 21st Century.” That statement, as it stands, may be true, but it ignores the critical differences between the behavior of Jews, who have always lived within a country’s cultural norms and who obey its laws, and Islamic extremists who have vowed to destroy the western world’s way of life.

Explanations for this cock-eyed behavior are difficult to comprehend. Christianity, which is under attack in many Muslim nations, had been the most important unifying, cultural component of European society. It is now in decline. Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal detailed the decline in church congregations over the past decade – 200 in England, 200 in Denmark, 515 in Germany. Roman Catholic leaders in the Netherlands predict that two-thirds of their churches will be out of commission in a decade. A similar story is forecast for their Protestant churches. On the other hand, as the author notes, Orthodox Judaism is holding steady, and Islam is growing rapidly.

European political pragmatists recognize that Muslims will be part of their future. They know that the world population of Muslims is more than 100 times that of Jews. These elitists understand that Turkey is a Muslim country, part of which is in Europe, and that the Middle East is a short distance away, as are the countries of North Africa. Immigrants travel reasonably easily between Muslim countries and Europe. European elites know that most Middle Eastern Muslims cannot abide the State of Israel, and have no love for the Jewish people. It is unsurprising that anti-Semitism has reared its head, but it is sad when someone of Ms. Merkel’s background and standing does not condemn the anti-Semitism of the political elite in Brussels, Paris and Berlin with the same passion she rightly castigates prejudice against innocent Muslims.

Hard times beget scapegoats. No one likes to look inward when it comes time to assign blame. Europe remains mired in economic mediocrity. Last month, the European Central Bank (ECB) cut its forecast for growth for 2015 to 1% from 1.6%. The size of government in their economies precludes tacking on much more debt; though it appears that the ECB will do some quantitative easing to artificially keep interest rates low. Austerity does not work, because it has been focused on debt repayment, rather than on tax cuts and regulatory reform needed to stimulate the private economy. The transition toward freer markets will not be easy, but the current path terminates in mutual assured destruction.

Man is a parasitic animal. He relies on others. While we perform our own specialties, be it driving a school bus or running a fortune 500 company, we depend upon others to do their jobs. You make bread; I will make candles. That dependency extends to government. Probably 90% of people take more from government than they give. The benefits extend from the schools our children attend, to the highways we drive on, to the moneys expended on defense; so that we may live freely and without fear. Those who are the most dependent have the least interest to change; the greater their numbers the less is the incentive to change. It is only a small number of high-earning taxpayers who pay in more than they take out. Since everyone’s vote counts the same – as it should – any extrication from this plight will be long…if it can ever be done.

Europe has other problems. Nationalism – a function of xenophobia, economic malaise, along with language, ancient enmities, heritage and culture – remains a core impediment to a unified Europe. Questions remain unanswered and unaddressed, at least in a serious manner. Why have some countries performed better economically than others? Why are some noted for their art, others for their music and still others for their entrepreneurship? Why are some more militaristic? Why did democracy and commerce flourish in England over the past two hundred years, but only come to Germany after devastating losses from two world wars? Why have eastern Europeans more quickly adopted capitalist ways than their better off western neighbors?

Like the fog in Carl Sandburg’s eponymous poem, anti-Semitism “comes on little cat feet.” It is insidious. This was true in 1920s and ‘30s Germany. It is discomforting but livable at the start; only time reveals its viciousness. Leaders in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, London, and throughout Europe must be wary of threats from Islamist extremists. But they must not fall victim to the anti-Semitism which has grown as a consequence of an expanding Muslim population (and the extremism of a few), and of economic difficulties, which are a result of a state trying to manage what is best left to the private sector. Political correctness, no matter its tempting appeals, should play no role in a state, nation or region. The stakes are too high.

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