Jealousy and envy might also contribute to Europe’s unreasonable opprobrium of Israel. I am not even referring to jealousy of Israeli achievements on every relevant scientific level, but to the measure of civility the Jewish people in general apparently poses. During the first half of the twentieth century, countries such as Spain, Italy and Germany descended into internal tyranny, only to drag the entire continent down into the abyss with them in the ensuing years. Then there’s the Jews. A persecuted minority who just endured the slaughter of six million of their people, is given a state for the first time since the biblical era, which from day one was outnumbered and outgunned, faced with Arab wars of extermination. What then happened, or better, didn’t happen next, is something that is rarely seen for its merits and mostly taken for granted: Israel, a state of a traumatized people under absolute existential threat, remained a democracy. It did not regress into a military dictatorship, something that would have been all too imaginable considering the condition the country was in. This showcase of civility is something that rightly so embarrasses European history, and shows that somehow, the Jewish people, under the most heinous circumstances, showed a ‘high culture’ that Europeans can only dream of.
Another modern day factor is that the EU was created for a single purpose: to abolish the European concept of nation states. It foresaw a utopian, somewhat mono-cultural and border-less continent. With this in mind, it is understandable that EU-minded Europeans shiver when they gaze upon Israel; with her nationalism, distinctiveness, deeply rooted cultural and religious practices and the most potent national military force in the region, the Jewish state is the epitome of a nation state. Not only that, but this nation state flourishes despite everything and is therefore a prime argument against the anti-nation state doctrines of European federalists.
But, it is also important to view European culture as a whole. Europeans have become a people that can no longer tell friend from foe, effective culture from ineffective culture, construction from destruction and progress from regression. Europeans are a people that took the exact wrong lessons from World War Two; they view nationalism as the sinful cause of that conflict, while it was collectivism in all its forms that dragged us into darkness. Europeans are a people who developed a fashionable disdain for the men and women who saved them from Italian Fascism, German National-Socialism, the Japanese Empire and the Soviet Union, and still stand as their only guardians – the Americans – and have come to despise the economic construct that blessed them with the largest increase of wealth for all in human history: the free market.
The philosophical foundations of the relativism and yearning for ‘high culture’ that transgresses materialism and pursuit of profit that today prevails in Europe, have always had a problem with the bourgeoisie. The enlightened merchant middle class, that saw hard work and responsibility as their core values, were despised by the philosophers that laid the groundwork for the European culture of today.
What people, in European culture, are most associated with money, trade and the pursuit of profit? It’s not the Sri Lankans, I’ll tell you that much. Of course, that honor goes to the Jews.
As Thomas Friedman once wrote: “Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest.” European anti-Semitism is a centuries old phenomenon. The centuries old theological Catholic version, the race based National Socialist version, and the post modern anti-materialist version are all still leaving their marks on European collective culture.
It is a sad thought, but it has perhaps been naïve to think that, after so many centuries, European anti-Semitism would actually and truly disappear, just because six million Jews were sent to the gas chambers and execution pits. This might just not be how the human psyche works; it is only how we want the human psyche to work, because it feels so damn reasonable.
If one were to hate the Twin Towers for what they symbolize, and just one were to fall, would one then stop hating the remaining one?
Timon Dias is the winner of HonestReporting’s 2013 Blankfeld Award for Media Critique. Details of the 2014 Blankfeld Award will be announced soon.
Image: CC BY-SA Wikimedia Commons/Amnael7