Saturday, August 10, 2013

Was European Jewry reborn after the Holocaust only in order to die again?

From Mosaic, August 2013, by

Vibrant Jewish communities were reborn in Europe after the Holocaust. Is there a future for them in the 21st century?

...European Judaism looks healthy, and secure. Religious and cultural activities are everywhere on the rise. ...And yet, despite all their success and achievement, the majority of European Jews, seconded by many Jewish and non-Jewish experts, insist that catastrophe may lie ahead.
One does not have to look far to see why. A large-scale survey commissioned by the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) tells a tale of widespread and persistent anti-Semitism. Although the full study is not due to be released until October, the salient facts have been summarized by EU officials and by researchers like Dov Maimon, a French-born Israeli scholar at the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem. Among the findings: more than one in four Jews report experiencing anti-Semitic harassment at least once in the twelve months preceding the survey; one in three have experienced such harassment over the past five years; just under one in ten have experienced a physical attack or threat in the same period; and between two-fifths and one-half in France, Belgium, and Hungary have considered emigrating because they feel unsafe.
Statistics from my native France, home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, go back farther in time and tell an even darker tale. Since 2000, 7,650 anti-Semitic incidents have been reliably reported to the Jewish Community Security Service and the French ministry of the interior; this figure omits incidents known to have occurred but unreported to the police. The incidents range from hate speech, anti-Semitic graffiti, and verbal threats to defacement of synagogues and other Jewish buildings, to acts of violence and terror including arson, bombings, and murder.
And that is just France. All over Europe, with exceptions here and there, the story is much the same. Nor do the figures take into account the menacing atmosphere created by the incessant spewing of hatred against the people and the state of Israel at every level of society, including the universities and the elite and mass media, to the point where polls show as many as 40 percent of Europeans holding the opinion that Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians; or the recent moves to ban circumcision and kosher slaughter; or the intense social pressures created by the rise of radical and often violent Islam ...
Statements by EU officials and others, even while they acknowledge the “frightening” degree of anti-Semitism prevalent in today’s Europe, and even while they promise to “fight against it with all the means at their disposal,” also contend (in the words of the prime minister of Baden-Württemberg) that anti-Semitism is “not present in the heart of society” or in “major political parties.” Such bland reassurances have quite understandably brought little comfort.
Against this backdrop, it is little wonder that even so sober an analyst as Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, author of definitive works on the history and dynamics of anti-Semitism, has concluded that although the final endpoint of European Jewry may be decades in coming, “any clear-sighted and sensible Jew who has a sense of history would understand that this is the time to get out.”
For many European Jews, there is indeed a déjà vu quality to the present situation. Like Israelis, but unlike most American Jews, today’s European Jews are survivors, or children of survivors, either of the Holocaust or of the near-complete expulsion of Jews from Islamic countries that took place in the second half of the 20th century. They know, from personal experience or from the testimony of direct and irrefutable witnesses, how things unfolded in the not too distant past, and how a seemingly normal Jewish life could be destroyed overnight. When anti-Semitic incidents or other problems accumulate, they can’t help asking whether history is repeating itself.
...Half of [the] prewar European population perished in the Holocaust. Of the five to seven million survivors, about 1.5 million emigrated to the newborn state of Israel throughout the late 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Another half-million made it to the United States—a number that would surely have been higher had the restrictive quota system introduced in the 1920’s not still been in place. About 200,000 wound up in Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America, South Africa, and Australia/ New Zealand. As for the roughly 2.5 million locked up in the Soviet Union and Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, most made their way to Israel or the United States whenever the opportunity presented itself.
All in all, then, about two-thirds of post-Holocaust European Jews left Europe, and only one third remained. And the same is true of the more than one million Jewish refugees from Islamic countries. Upon being expelled or encouraged to leave, two-thirds headed to Israel and one third to Europe (or, in a few cases, to the United States or Canada). The proportion might vary according to country of origin—90 percent of Iraqi and Yemeni Jews emigrated to Israel, versus just 30 percent of Egyptian Jews— but the total ratio remained two-to-one against the continent.
What then motivated the minority that either stayed in or opted for Europe?
For the most part, Jews who before the war had been citizens of Western European countries were eager, once their rights and property were restored, to resume their former life as soon and as completely as possible, even at the price of a certain selective amnesia about their country’s wartime behavior....
... another and quite unexpected reason emerged to join or to stay in Western Europe. Old Europe, since 1914 the continent of gloom and doom, war and revolution, physical and moral exhaustion, division and crisis, decadence and tyranny, was giving way to a New Europe: optimistic, free, open-minded, united. Whereas the continent’s reorganization after World War I had been a total failure, the Western Europe that emerged from World War II looked increasingly like a success story—even, as was commonly said, a miracle.
What happened, basically, was Americanization. The U.S.—which this time, unlike after the previous World War, had resolved to stay in Europe—was a powerfully benign hegemon. As Western Europe strove to catch up with American standards of living and the American spirit, Washington provided military security both against Soviet expansion and, within Europe itself, between neighbor and neighbor. This in turn boosted regional cooperation and lent credibility to age-old projects for a European confederation.
... It culminated in the 1989 Western victory in the cold war, the incorporation into the West European fold of almost all of the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe and even three former Soviet republics, and finally the establishment of the European Union in 1993.
And where were the Jews in this picture? Suddenly, they were welcome in Europe as Jews, to a degree unseen since the Emancipation in the late-18th and 19th century. From despised or barely tolerated outcasts, or more or less pitied victims, they became exemplary and even archetypal Europeans, if not the very embodiment of what the new Europe was supposed to be. Their persecution at the hands of the Nazis, a haunting episode that most Europeans would refuse even to discuss in the immediate postwar era, now served to epitomize what the new Europe was not, and whose recurrence it had been designed to prevent.
...Demographically, the postwar baby boom rejuvenated post-1945 West European Jewry, which was then further enlarged by immigrants from Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. In France, the Sephardi input was spectacular: between 1945 and 1970, the French Jewish population leapt from under 300,000 to more than 600,000. In Italy, newcomers from Libya and other Mediterranean countries allowed the local Jewish community to maintain its 1945 level (roughly, 40,000 souls) despite emigration and rampant assimilation and intermarriage. In Spain, a shadowy post-Civil War community numbering in the low thousands rose rapidly to 15,000 thanks to immigrants chiefly from Morocco. Smaller inflows benefited other communities from Switzerland to Belgium to Scandinavia.
The quantitative impact of this immigration yielded qualitative results, enabling some communities to reach a sufficient critical mass to sustain Jewish activities. Overnight, it became feasible to provide kosher food, build synagogues, open schools, publish books, and launch media. Sephardi immigrants in particular, being much more traditional and more “ethnic” than the native Ashkenazim, also ranked higher in Jewish self-identification. Despite the internal differences among them—assimilated Jews from Algiers, Casablanca, and Tunis bore little resemblance to the strictly Orthodox Jews from the Moroccan Atlas, the Algerian hinterland, or Jerba in southern Tunisia—all came from countries where religion, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, was the ultimate defining factor in public as well as private matters.
Jewish daily life was remodeled accordingly. France, which in 1960 boasted 40 kosher butchers in all, today has more than 300 butchers and as many stores, including the major supermarket chains, selling processed kosher foods. In 1960, there were four kosher restaurants in the entire country; today there are one hundred times as many. Where Jewish schools numbered about 40 in the early 1960s, with fewer than 2,000 pupils, today there are 286 schools serving 32,000 pupils. Some 45 percent of all Jewish children attend a Jewish school for at least a couple of years, and most study at least for bar- or bat-mitzvah.
Together with the flourishing market for Jewish services and a more tradition-leaning Jewish profile came greater confidence. Earliest to emerge were pro-Israel political activism, increased proficiency in Hebrew, more talmudic studies, and Orthodox revivalism, soon followed by the discovery of Diaspora subcultures and their languages (Yiddish, Ladino, Judeo-Arabic) and an upsurge in non-Orthodox religious denominations.
In sum, European Jews had entered a golden age, and as news of it spread, more non-European Jews joined the party. In the 1990s and into the first decade of the 21st century, sizable numbers of post-Soviet Jews immigrated to the European Union, chiefly to Germany. Some Israelis, too, moved to Europe, and many others without immediate plans went through the process of reclaiming their parents’ citizenship. For some Jewish or Israeli intellectuals and artists, Europe seemed like a New Jerusalem: more democratic, more promising, and more “Jewish-friendly” than Israel or the United States. ...
According to rabbinic tradition, anti­-Semitism starts when Jews beguile themselves into thinking they can fulfill their destiny in exile. Indeed, the anti-Semitic threat that so many European Jews worry about today materialized around the year 2000...
This, too, was not a sudden or even a completely unforeseen development: many previous phenomena that in themselves had appeared insignificant or negligible, or could be taken as lingering vestiges of a bygone past, turned out to be portents of things to come. Just as some physical or chemical substances may enjoy half-lives for eons, prewar and wartime anti-Semitism did not vanish overnight on VE Day but for a long twilight period continued to exist under one guise or another right alongside the new, emerging philo-Semitism. Conversely, the cycle of postwar philo-Semitism was still in flower when the latest, full-blown anti-Semitic cycle was getting under way.
For the record, it should be noted that in Eastern Europe and the USSR—the same countries that had hosted the killing fields of the Holocaust—anti-Semitism never really abated after 1945, and at times became even more open and strident than before. This accounts not only for the waves of Jewish emigration whenever the Communists permitted it—and continuing even after the fall of Communism—but also for the recent reemergence of explicitly anti-Semitic parties in Poland, Hungary, Rumania, and Ukraine.
Nor had the transition from anti- to philo-Semitism in Western Europe itself been all smooth sailing. An ostensibly repentant West Germany entertained for two decades a fictitious distinction between hard-core Nazis and ordinary Germans, with the latter category including Wehrmacht personnel and less hard-core Nazis who allegedly had been ignorant of or uninvolved in the Holocaust. This subterfuge allowed West German courts to issue light or no sentences to Nazi criminals who came before them, and to postulate a twenty-year statute of limitations on war crimes. In one highly symbolic gesture in 1955, the West German embassy in France attempted to halt the release at Cannes of Night and Fog, Alain Resnais’ documentary film about the Nazi extermination camps.
During the war itself, Britain, the nation that had heroically carried the full weight of battle from the collapse of France in June 1940 to the German assault on the USSR a year later, simultaneously indulged its own form of benign or not so benign anti-Semitism, especially in the form of governmental hostility directed at Zionism and the beleaguered Jewish populace in Mandate Palestine.
In France, after the war, Holocaust survivors sometimes had to go to court to retrieve their home or business, or to win back orphaned Jewish children who had been sheltered—and baptized—by Church-supported networks. The postwar French government routinely upheld most non-political Vichy-era legislation and even kept Vichy coins in circulation while insisting that the Vichy state never really existed in the first place—and that the French state and its bureaucrats had taken no part and bore no responsibility whatsoever in the Holocaust. Jews who had been sent to Auschwitz or other death camps were deemed to be only “political deportees” and, as such, inferior in status to deported French Resistance fighters, despite the fact that the latter were not systematically murdered by the Germans and in general enjoyed a much higher rate of survival.
None of this is to gainsay the benign transformation in Western Europe that was to come. It is rather to reflect on an irony of history: that the seeds of the new anti-Semitism were being planted at about the same time the old anti-Semitism was giving way. In France, moreover, they were being planted by a most unlikely individual.
[In June 1940] as France was reeling under the German onslaught, Charles de Gaulle ... had become the leader of the Free French, a small group of soldiers, civil servants, and colonial administrators who, in cooperation with the British, were intent on resisting the Nazis and the collaborationist Vichy regime.
In time, de Gaulle would grow suspicious of his Anglo-Saxon hosts and benefactors. ...
After the war, de Gaulle’s foreign policy—he was prime minister and then president from 1944 to 1946 and from 1958 to 1969—grew fiercely nationalistic, based on a complete rejection of the West and of Anglo-American hegemony. He withdrew from NATO in 1964, sided with the Communists in Indochina in 1966, and supported Quebec separatism in 1967.
... he also terminated an extremely fruitful cooperative relationship with Israel in science, technology, nuclear research, and armaments. As explained dryly by de Gaulle’s foreign minister, Couve de Murville, this was just a matter of national interest: as long as France maintained its special relationship with the “Zionist state,” it would be unable to enter into a much sought-after grand alliance with the “non-aligned” world and the oil-rich Arab kingdoms.
All of this came as a shock to much of de Gaulle’s constituency at home, which had been quite supportive of Israel. The France-Israel alliance had in fact been engineered in 1955 by Pierre Koenig, a Gaullist defense minister, and later expanded by Pierre Messmer, a Gaullist minister of the armed forces. The president himself had once referred to Israel as “a friend and an ally”—and it had therefore been widely assumed that he would stand by its side during and after the Six-Day War of June 1967.
Instead, just days before the war broke out that would end in Israel’s victory, he struck a “neutral” pose by placing an embargo on weapons deliveries to Middle Eastern belligerents; since Israel was then France’s only customer in the region, “neutrality” amounted to a switch to the Arab side.
Then, at a press conference in November, not only did de Gaulle question Israel’s legitimacy as a nation-state but he also denounced Jews in general as an “elite, self-assured, and domineering people,” equipped with “vast resources in terms of money, influence, and propaganda.” I was nineteen at the time and, like most young people in France who were not on the Left, a fervent Gaullist; I remember listening to the radio broadcast and feeling my blood run cold.
Had de Gaulle been a covert anti-Semite all along? ...In sum, it would be fair to say that de Gaulle had been raised in an anti-Semitic culture, had become relatively unprejudiced in his middle years, and relapsed toward the end of his life. But de Gaulle’s personal feelings are less important than his legacy. In 1967, he was widely criticized for his betrayal of Israel and his anti-Jewish remarks. Still, he was and he remained de Gaulle, a larger than life character and France’s greatest national hero since Napoleon. Thanks to his enormous stature and his major domestic achievement—a new, modernized, and all-powerful state bureaucracy fully committed to his doctrine of “national independence”—the decisions he made and the stands he took would exercise a growing influence not just on France but on all of Western Europe.
The anti-American, pro-Arab, and objectively anti-Israel policies initiated by de Gaulle in the 1960s have remained to this day an essential tenet of French foreign affairs and French political culture, whether under conservative or socialist governments. If they have also spread like a virus into the European Community and the European Union as a whole—and they have—the reason is that the EU’s decision-making process, at French insistence but with British acquiescence, is based on the principle of unanimity or near-unanimity rather than on majority opinion.
 France may at one point have been the lone country in Europe with an explicitly anti-Israel agenda, but when it came time to formulate an all-European position on the Middle East, the choice was between no position at all or a compromise between, on the one hand, the French line and, on the other hand, the more pro-Israel approach advocated by other countries. Since Europe very much wanted to have, or appear to have, a say in Middle Eastern affairs, it chose the second option, thus turning a tiny minority view into, in effect, half the European view. And since every European country was supposed to abide by the EU’s “common foreign policy,” a modicum of hostility to Israel was now routinely endorsed.
Over the years, the entire European political class has been reeducated into a culture of Israel-bashing. Think of William Hague and David Cameron: as young Conservative activists or backbenchers, these British politicians were as pro-Israel as Stephen Harper of Canada; today, as mature politicians, they have joined Europe’s anti-Israel choir.
To the degree that Israel’s popularity had been an important factor in Europe’s postwar embrace of its Jews, the growing rejection of Israel undermined the Jewish image and standing. According to a 2011 study on “intolerance, prejudice, and discrimination in Europe” by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (linked to Germany’s Social Democratic party), 63 percent of Poles and 48 percent of Germans believe that Israel is conducting a genocidal war against the Palestinians aimed at their “obliteration.” The same study found 55 percent of Poles, 41 percent of Dutch, 37 percent of British, and 37 percent of Germans in agreement with the following statement: “Considering Israel’s policy, I can understand why people do not like Jews.”
Still, the Gaullist-inspired reversal of attitude toward Israel would probably not have been strong enough on its own to resurrect old-fashioned European anti-Semitism. It was powerfully abetted by two additional developments.
First, the half-century of Europe’s virtuous cycle started to unravel. From the 1990s on, one could sense growing discomfort with the top-heavy, anti-democratic, and chaotic governance of the European Union. The successive treaties of Maastricht (1992), Amsterdam (1997), Nice (2001), and Lisbon (2007), clumsily mixing heavy-handed overregulation with a free-market economic model, were ratified by national parliaments that were rightly seen as subservient to the unelected European Commission in Brussels...
Disillusionment with the European project gathered strength after the launching of the euro in 2002, a deflationary “single European currency” that undermined whatever stability in the world economy had been provided by the American dollar, and that was also totally incompatible with the welfare programs ingrained in the culture of many EU members. Not only did the euro fail to sustain prosperity on the Continent...but after 2008 it led to a series of national bankruptcies or near-bankruptcies from Ireland to Greece and from Spain and Italy to France.
And where did the Jewish community fit in this picture? Jews had benefited from their identification with the European project as long as “Europe” was a warrant for prosperity and progress. As “Europe” came increasingly to connote disruption, stagnation, and poverty, they were increasingly held in suspicion—guilty by association with a false dream, as it were, and all the more so since many of the charges against the EU (undemocratic, ruled by an opaque clique with no concern for ordinary Europeans) dovetailed with classic conspiracy theories about the Jews.
The second, very large factor working against the Jewish community arose from an abrupt shift in Europe’s demography. In the early postwar decades, population growth had contributed to the era of good feeling. From the 1970s on, everything changed. The European birthrate plummeted, just as immigration from Muslim countries was attaining unprecedented heights. Today, Muslim immigrants and their children amount to 10 percent or more of the population in major countries like Germany and France as well as in Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. In the United Kingdom and Denmark, Muslims comprise upward of 5 percent of the population.
...The entire French population, including overseas territories, stands currently at 67 million. Some seven to ten million of these—10 to 15 percent—are non-European, mostly Muslim immigrants or children of immigrants. Among younger cohorts, the figures are much higher: 20 to 25 percent of those under twenty-five are of non-European and Muslim origin. Within the next half-century, unless the ethnic French embark on a new baby boom of their own, or immigration stops, or immigrant fertility falls dramatically, France will become a half-Islamic and half-Islamized nation.
This is quite problematic in itself, and all the more problematic to the degree that Islam overlaps with radical Islam: a philosophy and a way of life that reject democracy, the open society, and, needless to add, Jews. Islamists see Europe as an Islamic-society-in-the-making; attempts by ethnic Europeans or by democratically-minded Muslims to reverse that process, or to reconcile Islam with European and democratic values, are regarded prima facie as “Islamophobia”: i.e., a Western war on Islam. Indeed, in the radical Islamic view, any objection or opposition to Islam or to the transformation of Western secular democracy into Islamic theocracy vindicates jihadism as a legitimate form of self-defense.
In Islam: The French Test, the veteran French journalist Elisabeth Schemla, formerly an editor at the leftwing magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, conservatively estimates Muslims in France at seven million. In her judgment, based on survey data, one third of that community—fully two million people—already embrace radical Islam, and the proportion is steadily growing....
Islamist violence is not only a matter of murder or terror—often, as we have seen, directed at Jews. Most frequently it manifests itself in intimidation, taking the form of petty crime and racketeering, threatening behavior on trains and buses, or full-fledged rioting and looting. While not always openly Islamic in character, these acts primarily involve Muslim youths, as was the case in the French riots this year and earlier in 2005, and in this year’s Swedish riots. The implicit message they convey is clear enough: any perceived slight to the Muslim “nation within the nation” is liable to trigger mob violence or even urban warfare. They thereby strengthen the bargaining power of Muslim organizations, especially the radical ones, vis-à-vis the government and the political class.
...The sad fact is that many European Muslims subscribe to the unreconstructed forms of anti-Semitism that are prevalent in the Muslim world at large, and are impervious to any kind of Holocaust-related education. In today’s Europe, hard-core anti-Jewish and anti-Israel activity, from harassment in the street or at school to arson and murder, is mostly the doing of Muslims.
... For a variety of reasons and out of a variety of motives—one might list among them the upsurge of an undifferentiated European xenophobia, combined in this case with a felt need to deflect the fear and resentment of Muslims onto an easier target— many ethnic French, Germans, and other Europeans are now of the opinion that Judaism, too, is an alien creed, and must be duly countered or curtailed. In surveys, they point to external similarities between Jews and Muslims: related Semitic languages, insistence on ritually processed food and ritual slaughtering, circumcision, and gender separation. Two-fifths of Britons and up to three-quarters of Germans now oppose circumcision. Last year, after a medical mishap involving a Muslim circumcision, a German court banned the practice altogether for minors; it took parliamentary action to make it legal again.
Ritual slaughtering, kosher as well as hallal, is likewise under threat in Europe. Almost three-quarters of Frenchmen disapprove of it, and almost one-half of Britons advocate a complete ban. Indeed, the practice is already prohibited in five European countries. The most recent to join the ranks is Poland [which]... has effectively banned the production of kosher meat.
Some political figures have rushed to condone and encourage these developments. Last year, François Fillon, the prime minister of France in the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy administration, urged both Muslims and Jews to renounce “ancestral traditions with not much meaning nowadays,” like kosher and hallal slaughtering. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, who came in third in the 2012 French presidential race, suggested in Le Monde that both the Islamic female veil and the Jewish male kippah (yarmulke) should be banned in public. In a TV interview on the same day, she conceded that the kippah is “not a problem” in France, but pressed Jews to adjust to its banning anyway as “a small sacrifice” since “laws must apply to all.”
But evenhandedness in these matters is absurd, and wholly unjust. Punctiliousness in ritual observance is far more central to traditional Judaism than to Islam, and there are already many instances where, as the researcher Dov Maimon has detailed, the religious rights of Jews have been set aside by European governments. Above all, putting Jews in the same category as Muslims in order to appear evenhanded requires pretending that they are two of a kind when it comes to the problems each presents to civic and social life in Europe, to democracy, and to Western values. This way lies surrender to blackmail and, eventually, conflict without end.
Even worse scenarios may be contemplated. Real life is often circular: the farther you travel in one direction, the closer you come to those traveling in the opposite direction. What about a nightmare fusion, at some point in the future, of an anti-Semitic Left, an anti-Semitic Right, and an anti-Semitic Islam? In the case of France, there are ominous precedents: many Frenchmen who started out as fierce anti-German patriots in the late-19th century ended as pro-German activists or collaborationists in the 1930s and early 40s. “Better Hitler than Blum,” went a slogan of French pro-German appeasers at the time of Munich (the reference was to Léon Blum, a Jew and then the socialist prime minister of France). Many right-wingers might feel closer today to the stern creed of Islam than to either Zionism, globalism, or the flaccid morals of liberal democracy.
Alternatively, many prewar left-wing anti-racists and philo-Semites were eventually seduced by Hitler’s “socialist” credentials, and accepted anti-Semitism as part of the package. Following the same pattern, today’s European Left and far Left tend to cultivate Muslim voters at any cost in order to gain an edge over the Right. And indeed, in the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections, 86 percent of French Muslims voted for the Left, probably enough to ensure a win in both races. In another exquisite irony, a cottage industry of European academics and intellectuals has taken to promoting Muslims as Europe’s “new Jews” and indicting present-day Jews for betraying their “universalist” mission on earth by “regressing” to a reactionary ethnocentrism.
As for Muslim anti-Semitism, it has been intimately connected with classic European anti-Semitism for more than a century, and has massively borrowed the latter’s doctrines and tropes, from the blood libel to Holocaust denial to the crazed conspiracy-mongering of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The two brands share a common language, and each sees in the other a mirror image of itself. Much money has also circulated between them. Just as fascist and Nazi funds helped Arab and Iranian anti-Jewish activists in the past, so Arab and Iranian money has been lavished on all stripes of European anti-Semites in our time.
The Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky once famously distinguished between the “anti-Semitism of persons” and the “anti-Semitism of things.” The former category, made up of individuals (including some Jews) with their particular moral or political shortcomings, can be fought, at least up to a point. The latter, which has to do with deep-seated social factors, with demographics, and/or with hard, obdurate, ingrained ideology, is another matter entirely. Of the two varieties, European Jews now confront the second. What will they do?
Emigration, either to Israel or to America, is an option being actively considered. Should this become a widespread choice, it will inevitably be followed by the shrinkage of Jewish institutions, the drying-up of religious and cultural life, the deepening erosion of morale, growing anxiety and fearfulness—and more emigration.
The signs are everywhere. Recently, a leading rabbi in Paris reported that four-fifths of the young people being married at his synagogue no longer see their future in their country of birth. Admittedly, right now everybody in France is pessimistic about the future, especially the economic future; according to a recent poll, more than one in three citizens are considering emigration, and the proportions are higher among the young and the working class. Still, French Jews, and young French Jews in particular, appear to be considerably more pessimistic than others, and more serious about their pessimism.
And it must be said that they have reason. A sense of history, even if unarticulated and perhaps barely conscious, inevitably hovers over today’s situation. Almost a half-century ago, in an essay entitled “Jews and Germans,” the great scholar Gershom Scholem endeavored to locate the “false start” that led from Germany’s guarded mid-19th-century enfranchisement of its Jews, and from German Jews’ grateful embrace of all things German and the dream of a unique German-Jewish “symbiosis,” to the savage German attempt in the mid-20th century to annihilate all the Jews of Europe. While granting that the key to the mystery remained elusive, and that in any case the past could never be “completely mastered,” Scholem dared to hope that increased communication between the parties might yet yield the “reconciliation of those who have been separated.” Dying in 1982, he was spared the need to witness the outcome of his brave hope.
An even longer sense of history might take one back to late-18th-century France, the cradle of the Enlightenment, and to the moment when, during deliberations over the civic enfranchisement of French Jews, the liberal nobleman Stanislas de Clermont-Tonnerre rose in the National Assembly to declare: “To the Jews as individuals, everything; to the Jews as a people, nothing.”
Citizenship for the Jews was to be purchased conditionally, at the price of an end to their communal apartness and to many of their religious traditions.
For the most part, in France and throughout Western Europe, that price was fully and willingly paid. Generations of Jews eagerly pledged their allegiance to the ideals of democracy, patriotism, and religious tolerance, pouring their prodigious talents and energies into making Europe a better place. Over the centuries, in fair weather, the bargain held; in foul, the price would be successively raised, the conditions of acceptance revised, the bargain hedged, until at last the offer was finally, brutally, rescinded in wholesale massacre.
Now, busily building monuments and museums, Europe ostentatiously engages in celebrating and mourning its lost dead Jews of yesterday, whose murder it variously perpetrated, abetted, or (with exceptions) found it could put up with. Meanwhile, it encourages and underwrites the withering of Jewish life today. Once again, Jews are accepted on condition: that they separate themselves from their brethren in Israel and join the official European consensus in demonizing the Jewish state; that they learn to accommodate the reality that so many ethnic Europeans hate them and wish them ill, and that Islamists on European soil seek their extinction; and that in the interest of justifying their continued claim to European citizenship, they accept Europe’s proscription of some of the most basic practices of their faith.
To the dead Jews of yesterday, everything; to the living Jews of today, little and littler.
Can it really be that European Jewry was reborn after the Holocaust only in order to die again? Can it be that, even as Jews, you only live twice? History, of course, is unpredictable except in retrospect.
... it would be irresponsible in the extreme to brush off the possibility of demise; “unthinkable” is no longer a word in the Jewish vocabulary. ...The expiration date looms nearer, however slowly and by whatever intermediate stages it may finally arrive.
...the end of European Jewry, a millennia-old civilization and a crowning achievement of the human spirit, will deliver a lasting blow to the collective psyche of the Jewish people. That it will also render a shattering judgment on the so-called European idea, exposed as a deadly travesty for anyone with eyes to see, is cold comfort indeed.

Jews: the most incompetent practitioners of “ethnic cleansing” on the planet

From CIF Watch, 8 Aug 2013:

...Asked to respond to the statement that “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians,” (in a 2011 poll conducted by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung) 63.3 percent of Polish participants expressed agreement, as did 48.8 percent in Portugal, 47.7 percent in Germany, 42.4 percent in Great Britain, 41 percent in Hungary, 38.7 percent in The Netherlands, and 37.6 percent in Italy. 

...the “Israel as the new Nazis narrative which Richard Landes argues indicates (among other pathologies) a desire to be freed from Holocaust guilt – can be easily refuted by a few population statistics.
  • The Palestinian population in the West Bank increased from 462,000 in 1949 to more than 2.5 million today.
  • In Gaza, the population increased from 82,000 in 1949 to 1.7 million today.
Additionally, to add further context: The number of Arabs killed (since 1920) in Arab-Israeli wars is less than the number of Arabs killed by Arabs in Syria alone since 2011.

As a point of reference, the Jewish population of Gaza and Palestinian controlled West Bank is practically zero (save a few pro-Palestinian “journalists” who reside there), while the Jewish population in the entire Arab Middle East has decreased from over 850,000 in 1949 to less than 5,000 today.  (Yet, relatedly, despite the almost complete disappearance of Jewish inhabitants in territories they control, Palestinian and Arab leaders continually incite their population to engage in mass murder against Jews in Israel and the diaspora.)

The broad charge that Jews are ethnically cleansing Arabs (Palestinians or otherwise) in the Middle East, based on the numbers, represents the opposite of the truth.  In the territory where Jews rule or have ruled in some manner since 1948 the Arab population has increased dramatically, while territories in the region where Arabs rule (representing over 99% of the total land) have slowly become either nearly or completely Judenrein.
...Those suggesting that Israel is conducting “a war of extermination against the Palestinians” are engaging in an almost comical historical inversion, and at the very least would have to conclude in the face of the evidence that Jews are, by far, the most incompetent practitioners of “ethnic cleansing” on the planet.

'Israeli drone strike' kills 5 terrorists in Egypt

The Israeli army Heron TP drone
An air strike has reportedly killed several Egyptian militants in Sinai. Source: AAP
SEVERAL Egyptian [terrorists] have been killed in an air strike in Sinai as they prepared to launch a rocket into Israel, security sources and witnesses say.
The origin of the strike was not immediately clear.
Some sources spoke of an Israeli air strike conducted from Israeli air space and others credited the Egyptian military.
Two senior Egyptian security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an Israeli drone strike inside Egypt killed five suspected Islamic [terrorists] and destroyed a rocket launcher on Friday.
The officials said the Israeli attack was in co-operation with Egyptian authorities.
The Egyptian officials said that the drone had been flying over the site of the attack since Friday morning...
State media said at least five members of a [terrorist] cell led by local Islamist [terrorists] were killed in the raid.
Earlier, Egypt's army said two explosions were heard at around 4:15pm in the al-Ojra area, three kilometres from the border with Israel...
Israel's military on Thursday ordered the cancellation of all flights in and out of the Red Sea resort of Eilat, which borders Egypt, due to what is said was a security threat.
Last month, Israel deployed a battery of its Iron Dome missile defence system near Eilat, which has been a target of attacks in the past...

Friday, August 09, 2013

Who disspossessed whom???

y Lyn Julius:
Cairo's Tahrir Square is once more in the news: revolution and counter-revolution, protest and put-down.  But some issues never capture the headlines: for instance, did you know that at least 13 villas and public buildings around [Tahrir] square  (including the present Swiss, German, Canadian, Russian, US, Korean, Bahraini and Algerian embassies) were once the residences of wealthy Jews - properties seized by the Egyptian state?
The Jewish settlement of Ofra (Wikipedia)
Together with humbler properties owned by Egypt's 80,000-strong Jewish community - itself now on the verge of extinction - these grand residences stand as silent witnesses to mass dispossession. The Jewish owners never received compensation and were summarily expelled in the 1950s.
A feature about the Tahrir Square embassies appeared in the Hebrew press on the day that, in order to force Israel to make concessions for peace, the EU announced it was banning co-operation with Israeli institutions that operate beyond the 'pre-1967 borders' – the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The EU regards these territories as ‘Arab land’. 
With its anti-settlement policy, the EU is sending a clear signal that it is acceptable for the Arab states, goaded by the Palestinian leadership, to 'ethnically cleanse' the Jewish population of the so-called Palestinian territories,  the Middle East and North Africa, but that Jews living a few meters beyond the 1948 armistice lines are obstacles to peace. 
The idea that the territories beyond the Green Line should be Jew-free received a ringing endorsement from Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas just as US secretary of state John Kerry sat Israelis and Palestinians down to peace talks in Washington DC. Not a single Israeli would be allowed in a Palestinian state, Abbas announced.
Like the Palestinians, the EU assumes that the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are ‘Arab land.’   But nothing is ever that simple in the Middle East. Land ownership is a tangled web, although that's a point not often made by the Israeli government. 
The Golan Heights are almost universally considered 'Syrian' territory and yet the Jewish National Fund lays claim to 73,974 dunams in southern Syria. The earliest purchase was made in the 1880s. 
Similarly, land ownership in Jerusalem and the 'West Bank' is far more complex than the EU thinks. The 'Jewish settlements' north of Jerusalem, Atarot and Neve Yaakov, were evacuated in 1948. Mount Scopus - technically in 'Arab' East Jerusalem - remained a Jewish enclave in Jordanian-controlled territory. 
It is also little known that hundreds of thousands of Arab squatters in 'Arab East Jerusalem' live on land still owned by the Jewish National Fund. The JNF purchased hundreds of individual parcels of land in and around Jerusalem during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. In 1948, on one of these parcels the UN built the Kalandia refugee camp. The Deheishe  refugee camp south of Bethlehem was also built on JNF land.
In the 1920s and 30s Iraqi and Iranian Jews queued up to buy parcels of JNF land; after the 1948 war, they  were cut off from their purchases when these came under Jordanian rule, as Gil Zohar explained in his 2007 Jerusalem Post piece.  In total 145,976 dunams (I dunam = 1,000 sq. m) of Jewish land is said to have come under Jordanian control. (Jewish property claims against Arab countries by Michael Fischbach, p 85).
In Abu Dis, the site of the putative Palestinian parliament, some 598 dunams of land are actually Jewish-owned as even Palestinian organisations acknowledge
During the 1920s and 30s the ‘Agudat HaDayarim’ Jewish Cooperative Society was established in Jerusalem in order to create Jewish neighbourhoods outside  the Old City. The Society had over 210 members, from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds - including Persian, Iraqi and Yemenite Jews.  In 1928 the Aguda purchased 598 dunams of land on the city outskirts in Abu Dis  in order to build a ‘Garden Community’ (homes with agricultural plots). Although it acquired a legal title to the area, the Arab revolts of 1929 and 1936-9 prevented the Aguda from establishing the new community.  The War of Independence resulted in the Jewish-owned lands in Abu Dis coming under the control of the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. 
Another 16,684.421 dunams of Jewish land in the rural West Bank - including the Gush Etzion settlements, land between Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm, and in Bethlehem and Hebron - were seized by the Jordanians after 1948. 
Even before 1948, riots and massacres caused Jews of the centuries-old Yishuv to evacuate their homes in Hebron and parts of Jerusalem.
Before it fell to the Arab Legion in 1948, Jerusalem had a Jewish majority. The first refugees from eastern Jerusalem were Jews from the Shimon Hatzaddik quarter - the site of the tomb of Simon the High Priest. The Old City of Jerusalem became 'judenrein' as thousands of Jews were expelled, leaving their property behind. The Old City was ransacked and some 58 synagogues were destroyed during the 19-year Jordanian occupation. Jews were banned from their holiest places.
There is a respectable body of  opinion which argues that most Israeli settlements are legal. Even if Israel were to agree that the Jewish settlements stigmatized by the EU are illegal under international law, the proportion of land 'built on Arab land' in the West Bank represents a tiny fraction of the Jewish-owned land abandoned or seized as a matter of deliberate policy in Arab countries.
 The issue of Jewish settlements has to be seen in the context of the mass exchange of land and population between Jews and Arabs  across the entire region.
The status quo represents an exchange far more favourable to Arabs than to Jews. According to economist Sidney Zabludoff, the Jewish refugees – 75 percent of whom resettled in Israel - lost assets worth twice as much as those abandoned by Palestinian refugees.
On the macro-level, the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries estimates that Jews living in Arab countries owned some 100,000 sq km of deeded property, equivalent to four or five times the size of Israel  itself. 
Many cities in the 'Arab' Middle East and North Africa had large Jewish populations. Baghdad was a quarter Jewish. Within a generation, the Jewish population of the Arab world will have been ‘cleansed’ out of existence.
Evidently, private ownership of property does not equate to sovereignty. But many people – the EU included - assume that areas inhabited in Jerusalem and the ‘West Bank’ by a majority of Arabs - regardless of whether they established that majority at the expense of Jews - should naturally come under Arab sovereignty. Organisations like J-Street and Yachad are willing to fight for Arab squatters’ rights; you would be hard-pressed to find any human rights group or NGO prepared to campaign for Jewish property rights.
The suggestion is never considered that the attacking parties in the 1967 war - Syria and Jordan - should be made to forfeit territory as the price for their aggression. No Arab state has been held to account for ‘ethnically cleansing’ their innocent Jewish citizens whom they branded, from1948 onwards, as ‘members of the minority of Palestine’. Instead, the Arab states have pocketed the spoils. It goes without saying that no Arab government has paid out any compensation for lost Jewish property.
Israel is expected to make all the concessions.
 East  Jerusalem was annexed to Israel; some Jews have recovered their properties, and settlements predating 1948 have been re-established since the ‘West Bank’ came under Israeli control. But those Jews who purchased parcels of land in East Jerusalem and its periphery have not been allowed to recover lands purchased from the JNF.
The reason is that these come under the jurisdiction of the 'Jordanian Custodian for Enemy Property' .
The irony is that the Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews among them are screwed twice over: by the Arab states, who forced them to become refugees and dispossessed them of their original dwellings in Arab countries - be these mansions in Tahrir Square or rather more modest abodes ; and by Israel, which, in compliance with international law, will not, as a general rule, allow Jewish-owned lands beyond the Green Line  to revert to their original owners until a final peace settlement is signed.
In all the discussion of ‘Jewish settlements’ the international community has a decontextualised and distorted idea of just who has dispossessed whom - and the Israeli government is not exactly helping to enlighten them.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Religion and Rule in Saudi Arabia

From Future Directions International, Wednesday, 07 August 2013, by Gustavo Mendiolaza, Research Analyst,  Indian Ocean Research Programme:
The recent sentencing of a Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, has once again sparked concerns about human rights in Saudi Arabia. On a political level, it has highlighted the shifting attitudes of young people in Saudi Arabia in questioning religion and theocracy.

On 29 July, a sentence of 600 lashes and seven years imprisonment was given to Raif Badawi, on charges of insulting Islam through electronic channels. The lashes will be administered over a period of weeks or months. In a country that still practices amputation, stoning, beheading, eye-gouging and various other methods of punishment, the recent sentence against Badawi is still seen as excessive. Nevertheless, as the members of the Saudi royal family grow older, with few clear plans for succession, these sentences are a principal tool used to limit dissenting civic opinion.
The House of Saud, and King Abdullah in particular, face two pertinent problems that need to be addressed. The first is the succession process for the throne, as the agnatic seniority system has created a pool of potential candidates, but few are less than 70 years of age and many closer to 80. The second issue is the young people in the population, who have, in recent years, due in large part to globalisation, begun to question the legitimacy of the monarchical system. Though Saudi Arabia successfully navigated the Arab Spring that washed over the region in 2010-11, its government and societal structures mirror many of those in the countries that were affected.
Consequently, the combination of these two factors has produced significant internal problems for Riyadh. One of the principal critiques made by Badawi in his blog commented on the role of religion in Saudi Arabia and was highly critical of senior Saudi Islamic figures. That role has remained a key issue in recent years, as the young people become increasingly exposed to Western culture, through both foreign workers and the media. The end result is that the young people, those most affected by societal inequality, have questioned the legitimacy of the Islamic system enforced in Saudi Arabia.
For King Abdullah, addressing these matters has been no easy task. The Saudi legal system and its government are based on a strict application of Islamic Law. Questioning the legitimacy of the system, as Badawi has done, is likely to increase in the years to come, as the heavy-handed approach by the government loses touch with the changing population dynamic. Until now, Riyadh has been able to keep a lid on the boiling pot, through large government revenues that have provided education and work placements for many thousands of Saudi nationals. Oil revenues are expected to decline over the next decade, due to diminishing exports. This raises the question of how the al Saud house will maintain stability in the future.
A fortunate aspect for King Abdullah is that Arab monarchies seem to be significantly harder to overthrow than military despots. Therefore, we do not expect to see a level of revolution in Saudi Arabia comparable to that in Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Egypt. In the years to come, however, there will be more calls by the youth of Saudi Arabia questioning the legitimacy of the state and its Islamic doctrine. The direction that King Abdullah and his successors take in the matter will very much dictate whether Saudi Arabia can compete with the more dynamic states on its periphery, such as Turkey, Iran, Qatar and, in the long run, perhaps Egypt.
Raif Badawi is representative of a growing segment of Saudi society that seeks change to the existing order. His sentence of seven years imprisonment and 600 lashes highlights the seriousness with which Saudi Arabia, throughout its government, demands stability. With King Abdullah having celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday on 1 August, change may happen sooner rather than later. Addressing these concerns should be a priority for the King, before the haphazard succession process occurs.