The Jewish question in western Europe

Are Jews bad people? The conventional wisdom is that such questions are wrong in themselves, since the answer can only amount to prejudice. It is however possible to make a general assessment of a social, ethnic or religious group, without implying that all its members share specific characteristics. That can be done by asking the question: if the group disappeared, would the world be a better place? The question can be answered ‘on balance’, allowing for differences between the individuals who constitute the group.

This post assesses the effects of the presence of Jews in north-western Europe. It is about those who self-identify as ‘Jewish’, in the sense of belonging to the Jewish people. It is not about Judaism as a religion. It is about the present, not about the historical position of the Jews in Europe. It is not about Eastern Europe, because the political and social climate there is different.

The assessment is based on developments in the Netherlands, but seems generally applicable in north-western Europe. The details are set out below, but the central issue is easy to understand. Since the 19th century, European nationalists have been traditionally antisemitic, and European Jews suspicious of nationalism. In the face of mass immigration from Islamic countries, Jews have recently turned to nationalist and neofascist movements, as a defensive reaction. In turn, mass immigration has convinced the European right that Islam is a far worse threat than the Jews, and they are abandoning their antisemitism. The immigrants themselves have brought open antisemitism back to western Europe, where it had largely disappeared after the Second World War. Reactions to the State of Israel and its wars, have accelerated these political and social shifts.

All groups in the population can be assessed in terms of their collective effect on society, and judged negatively or positively. In fact the judgement will usually be negative – human beings generally come with flaws. I pointed out earlier that gays and Jews in the Netherlands share the same structural response to Islamic mass immigration. And in all western countries, xenophobic-populist parties have their power base in the low-income indigenous population – the ‘white working class’. So it is not wrong to assess the collective effect of Jews on society and politics, and it should lead to a better understanding of political trends in western Europe.

Generalisations about Jews

Conventional wisdom also says that generalisations about ethnic groups are wrong, because their individual members differ among themselves. ‘Prejudice’ is defined as the attribution of qualities to an individual member, solely on the basis of their membership of that group. That rejection of prejudice is often accurate – not all Jews are bankers, for instance, and not all Jews support the Israeli government, or its military campaigns.

Nevertheless it is possible to make accurate generalisations about members of the Jewish people, as an ethnic and national group. In fact, accurate generalisations about all members of all national groups are possible, because they share certain qualities, by definition.

To consciously belong to a nation is a political choice. An anti-nationalist would not belong to a national community, and would not have a national identity. Being a member of a national community also strengthens that community, even if the individual contribution is minimal. In this sense, every conscious member of a nation is a nationalist. Everyone who consciously belongs to the ‘Jewish people’ in the sense of a Jewish nation, is by definition a supporter of its continued existence, its values, and its identity. There are Jewish anti-Zionists, but there are no anti-Jewish Jews, just as there are no anti-Danish Danes and no anti-Swedish Swedes.

Catalan separatists don’t call themselves ‘anti-Spanish Spaniards’, they call themselves Catalans. Flemish separatists don’t call themselves ‘anti-Belgian Belgians’, they call themselves Flemish. Kurdish separatists don’t call themselves ‘anti-Turkish Turks’, they call themselves Kurds. These people reject the identity attributed to them by another nationalist ideology. Conversely, to accept that identity is to support that ideology. So a Jew who came to oppose the existence of the Jewish people, would first stop being a Jew, in the ethnic sense. The fact that an individual has not done that, and still identifies as a member of the Jewish people, says something fundamental about their politics.

Nations themselves are inherently political. By definition, a nation extends across generations, and is rooted in the past. It has a national culture and national values, which are inherited from previous generations, and transferred to the next generation. That is often taken for granted, but the process is inherently contra-innovative. Under certain historical circumstances, the underlying conservatism becomes visible. In Europe, the formation of a European state would imply the destruction of the ancient national identities and national cultures, and their preservation is a common theme of Euroscepticism. That position is conservative, by definition. Imminent loss of national identity brings out the conservative inside every nationalist.

In the case of the Jewish people, commitment to the Jewish national community is a commitment to ancient Jewish values, traditions and identity. It is by definition a commitment to the past. That is true for members of all nations, but that does not make it any less political. It is also true that all nations must adapt their ancient values, traditions and identity to the modern world, but that does not make them innovative. In fact, it probably makes things worse – if they all clung rigorously to their traditions like the Amish, nationalists would soon be politically irrelevant.

Some generalisations about ‘all Jews’ are therefore accurate, at least when that means conscious members of the Jewish people. Some generalisations are also possible about their negative attitudes to others. All Jews in that sense are hostile to the existence of anti-semites.

Some Jews see anti-semites as ignorant and misguided people. Some believe that antisemitism is an ideology, which can be defeated by political means. However, there seem to be no Jews who accept the legitimacy of opposition to the existence of the Jewish people.

That has very significant political consequences. To understand just how important it is, consider the related issue of the existence of the State of Israel, as a Jewish state. Successive Israeli governments have consistently proclaimed Israel’s ‘right to exist’. Since Hamas came to power in Gaza, Israel has cited Hamas’ refusal to recognise its right to exist, as a justification for intermittent war against Hamas. It is the official reason not to negotiate with them.

In reality, Israel has no ‘right to exist’ at all. States simply don’t have existence rights in international law, or in ethics. There are perfectly legitimate reasons to abolish the State of Israel. So there is no obligation on Hamas, or anyone else, to accept the existence of the State of Israel. For obvious reasons, Hamas and its supporters do not like the State of Israel, and would prefer that it had never existed. Those negative attitudes are so fundamental, that they will not be abandoned in this generation. The Israeli demand to abandon them will not be met, and so the conflict will inevitably continue.

Now what does this analogy say about Jewish attitudes to antisemitism? Just as the majority of Jews in Israel oppose co-existence with Hamas, the majority of Jews in Europe seem to oppose co-existence with anti-semites. In practice, most if not all Jews are hostile to anti-semites. They are not prepared to simply ignore them, which might sometimes be the most rational course of action.

This too has political consequences, because Europe is full of anti-semites. Depending on how you define antisemitism, surveys show that they might form a quarter or half the population. The majority of immigrants from Islamic countries are overtly and fundamentally anti-semitic. That simply reflects the cultural and religious antisemitism in their countries of origin, and it is not something which will disappear soon.

So if European societies are to function, Jews must accept the fact, that many of their neighbours hate them, and wish them dead. There is no evidence that Jews are prepared to do that. What results from putting millions of Jews next to millions of anti-semites is not multicultural harmony, but intergroup hostility and enmity. We can’t expect peace between Hamas and Israel, but we can’t expect social peace in Europe either.

In many cases Jewish hostility extends to hatred of anti-semites. Now, there is no functional equivalence between being Jewish and being anti-semite. Jews are an ethnic and national group, and Judaism is a religion. Anti-semites are not an ethnic group, and antisemitism is not a religion. Nevertheless, the hatred which some Jews feel for anti-semites is morally equivalent to antisemitic hatred of Jews.

It is not possible to derive a moral judgement on this issue, from the Jewish people’s right to exist. As I pointed out earlier, this is just as much a fiction as Israel’s right to exist. Nations and peoples do not have existence rights in law, and their universal existence right is impossible in ethics because of its internal contradictions. So if an individual prefers that there were no Jews, that can not be shown to be inherently wrong, even though it might constitute a predisposition to genocide.

It is perfectly rational for Jews to reject antisemitism, and given the historical persecution and mass murder of Jews, also rational to fear its consequences. Nevertheless that does not confer an obligation on the state to ‘eliminate’ antisemitism. Taken to its logical consequence, that might require that the state killed all the anti-semites, which is not ethical either. As a general principle, the state should not persecute one section of the population, simply at the request of another.

It is therefore possible to add another generalisation, this time about the Jews in Europe. There is a condition of enmity and hostility between Jews and anti-semites. This generalisation would not be invalidated, by a few individual cases of Jews who get along with individual anti-semites. The enmity and hostility can be rationally derived from the previous generalisation, that being a member of the Jewish people is equivalent to a commitment to its continued existence. Inherent in anti-semitism is at least some degree of preference for the non-existence of Jews, which is incompatible with that commitment. We can therefore expect enmity and hostility between Jews and anti-semites, in any society with significant numbers of Jews and anti-semites. That condition is met in almost all EU member states.

The consequences of enmity

The fact that a society includes hostile groups, impacts on the quality of life in that society. This impact is underestimated, and under-researched. To clarify the issues, take the example of health care in the United Kingdom, at first without considering Jews and anti-semites.

The Conservative Party in the UK is very hostile to the long-term unemployed, who live on social security benefits. Most of them are not looking for work – understandably, since they only qualify for the worst jobs. These workshy ‘skivers’ and ‘scroungers’ are one of the most hated minorities in Britain, and they are particularly hated and despised by members of the Conservative party (‘Tories’).

Now what happens if a workshy skiver is taken to hospital for an emergency operation, and the surgeon is a Conservative? In the absence of restraints, the surgeon will try to kill or maim the patient during the operation, or deliberately infect them. It is easy for doctors to do this, especially in a hospital setting. Patients die all the time in hospitals, or they develop complications and infections.

Given that the medical profession has unique opportunities to kill or injure people, it is not a good idea that doctors are filled with hatred for their patients. But they often are, simply reflecting the enmity and hostility present in the general population. A Tory doctor will want to kill a workshy patient, because Tories have a preference for a Britain without workshy claimants. Just as with the Jews, the preference for non-existence of a minority, constitutes a predisposition to genocide against that minority.

Now in practice there are restraints on violence. A surgeon will be hesitant to kill a patient, because if he is caught, he will go to jail for life, and be publicly disgraced. Medical ethics also discourage maltreatment of patients. Nevertheless it is rational for a workshy claimant in Britain to fear treatment by a Tory doctor – they would certainly not get the best healthcare available.

We also don’t know, whether the restraints of criminal law and medical ethics always work. There must be thousands of Tory doctors in Britain, and even though workshy claimants are a small minority, the opportunity to harm them is substantial. Even if only a tiny minority of Tory doctors actually kill claimants, that might still amount to several cases each year.

That is only one example of enmity. A similar example in the UK health service is the hostility of UKIP supporters to immigrants from Eastern Europe. Again hostility in the medical profession simply reflects the hostility outside it: the populist United Kingdom Independence Party is Eurosceptic, and campaigns against migration from eastern Europe. Its supporters have a preference for a Britain without Polish immigrants, and therefore a predisposition to genocide against them.

Now what happens if a Polish immigrant is taken to hospital for an emergency operation, and the surgeon is a UKIP supporter? Again there is a strong motive to kill or harm the patient, and again there are restraining factors. Again the doctor will not deliver the best possible healthcare, because the motivation to do so is absent. Again it is rational for a Polish immigrant to fear a UKIP doctor, and again there is no certainty that the legal and ethical restraints will work. However, in this case the statistics are different. Given UKIP’s disreputable image among the British elite, you would not expect a medical specialist to support the party. Against that, there are probably more immigrants than workshy claimants, and immigrants are identifiable by their names. Medical murders of immigrants from Eastern Europe, especially Roma, can not be ruled out.

Nor can other medical murders be ruled out: gay doctors killing homophobes, homophobic doctors killing gays, feminist doctors killing misogynists and rapists, misogynist doctors killing feminists, and so on. It is simply a fact, that there is a wide range of possible hate crimes – because there is a wide range of hate.

I have explained this in detail, because enmity and intergroup hostility in western societies are ignored in the media. Some people may be shocked by the idea that hate-filled doctors are killing patients in hospitals, but it is almost certainly true. Health services certainly take no measures, to protect patients from doctors who hate them. That’s why I explained, in the earlier post on gay responses to immigration that I would be uneasy about treatment by some doctors.

The absence of public discussion on enmity in health care is surprising, because there is a well-tested solution: segregation. In Europe, there were once separate hospitals for Catholics and Protestants, separate hospitals for women, and even left-wing ambulance services. With the formation of national healthcare services, that historical segregation has been eroded, although some institutions retain their old names. Resegregation of health care would largely remove the threat of being killed or injured, by hostile medical staff. The UKIP doctors would work in the UKIP hospital, and no immigrants would go there for treatment. The Tory surgeon would work in a Conservative hospital, and claimants would not go there. Muslims would go to an Islamic hospital, and Christians to a Christian hospital.

This logic is unavoidable in any consideration of enmity in society. Far from being a harmonious unit, western societies are filled with groups which hate each other, and are predisposed to kill each other. When in contact, they will tend to harm each other, and that can be minimised by segregating them.

Those healthcare examples were intended to show the underestimated impact of enmity in general. As for Jews and anti-semites, more details are given below, but we can take it for granted that there is mutual enmity between them. It seems obvious that a notorious anti-Semite can not trust a Jewish surgeon to perform an operation, just as a well-known Jewish pro-Israel campaigner could not fully trust a notoriously anti-Semitic surgeon. Enmity is itself a predisposition to harm others: in both cases the fear would be rational.

So what would happen if health services in Europe were fully resegregated? In practice, we would expect that most Jews would avoid the Islamic hospitals, and that most Muslims would avoid the Jewish hospitals. A few individuals might make a point of defying that pattern, but realistically we can not expect entire communities to do that. Neo-nazis would not go to the Jewish hospital either, and if there was such a thing as an ‘Aryan Hospital’ Jews would avoid it.

Not every aspect of social life is as easy to segregate as healthcare, but the problem is pervasive.  The enmity is there, and instead of wishing it away, we should examine it, and consider the possible responses.

What do Jews believe?

Online expression gives an insight into attitudes and beliefs, including hate, enmity and hostility. It is not evidence that all members of a particular group hold certain specific views, but it indicates trends and typical positions. In the Netherlands, where social media were widely used even before they were called ‘social media’, it is possible to estimate mood and trends among the Jewish minority in this way. They look approximately like this:

Islam is fundamentally hostile to the Jews. The greatest enemy of the Jews in history was not Adolf Hitler, but the Prophet Mohammed. With a few exceptions, individual Muslims are antisemitic.

The left is against the Jews. The left and the Muslims are allied against the Jews. The media are largely controlled by a left-wing elite.

The European Union is controlled by left-tending elites, which are anti-Israel and pro-Palestine. The EU seeks to destroy the nations and peoples of Europe, including the Jewish people.

Mass immigration did not happen for economic reasons: it is a political project of the elite that controls Europe. Mass immigration to Europe is intended to destroy national identity. Mass immigration from Muslim countries is intended to destroy Europe’s civilisation and heritage.

Mass immigration to the Netherlands was initiated by left-wing elites. It is intended to destroy the Dutch nation, its identity, and culture. It is also partly intended to destroy the Jewish presence in Netherlands.

Mass immigration to the Netherlands is harmful, and the presence of each individual immigrant is usually harmful. With a few exceptions, it would be better if each immigrant had not come here.

The left promotes multiculturalism, which considers all cultures equal. All cultures are not equal, and the culture of most immigrants is inferior to western culture. Multiculturalism leads to toleration of abhorrent practices and attitudes, such as forced marriage, honour killings, and antisemitism.

Mass immigration has certainly been a disaster for the Jewish minority. Jews have no long-term future in the Netherlands.

These views are accompanied by some misconceptions: that most immigrants are Muslims, or that Muslims will soon form the majority of the population. However, most are simply an emotional reaction to real circumstances.

Again, that does not mean that every Jew in the Netherlands thinks like this. Nor are these views specific to Jews: in fact most are shared with the non-Jewish supporters of Geert Wilders, who form about one-fifth of the ethnic Dutch population.

These views also tend to form an ideology: a person who believes one will generally believe the others. That half-formed ideology has a name: Eurabia. Nevertheless people who hold such views may be reluctant to identity themselves as supporters of the Eurabia idea, because it is so obviously a conspiracy theory. (When listed like this, the similarity to old antisemitic conspiracy theories is also evident).

Now the list seems reasonably accurate for the Netherlands, but it would probably not apply in eastern Europe. That is because attitudes to Jews, and Jewish attitudes, have both changed substantially, in the last generation. There has been a substantial political realignment in western Europe. It should be seen as a process, which is more advanced in some countries than in others.

The political shift

From the 19th century until a generation ago, there was a clear relationship between nationalism and the Jews in Europe. Nationalists sought a monocultural and monolingual nation-state, and simply assumed the inherent superiority of their own nation and culture. Often the nation was defined in openly racial terms. Apart from some small non-threatening and picturesque minorities, nationalists found that members of other nations did not belong on the national territory. They were forcibly assimilated in peacetime, and often expelled in wartime. Immigration was low, with perhaps only 1% or 2% of the population foreign-born.

Jews were not considered ‘true’ members of the nation. In fact, Jews and Gypsies had a special status – they were not considered members of any European nation. They were considered ‘rootless’, unlike the other nations, who were bound to a national homeland. The Jewish minorities were tolerated because they had been there for a long time, but they were not accepted as part of the national community. Antisemitic beliefs, prejudices, and conspiracy theories, were standard among nationalists. The more radical the nationalism, the more antisemitic it was. Inside nation-states, the Jewish minority tended to political support for ‘internationalist’ movements and non-racial ideologies: Marxist, social-democratic or liberal.

In western Europe, open antisemitism was discredited after the Second World War, but that only reinforced its association with radical nationalism. By the 1960’s or 1970’s, people who labeled themselves ‘nationalists’ were typically anti-semitic, and often simply neonazis. The Jewish rejection of their ideology was complete.

Given this historical background, there has been a remarkable shift in attitudes and ideology. Jewish support for the Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders is exemplary for the trend. So is Wilders own philo-semitic and resolutely pro-Israel position, which dovetails with his opposition to Islam and immigration. There seems to be no research on the origins of this shift. The plausible explanation is, that it is a predictable and logical reaction to mass immigration, and especially mass immigration of Muslims.

The logic of the transition is simple. It is logical for Jews support a monocultural, mono-ethnic state as a defence against Islam and Islamisation. They perceive the nation-state, correctly, to be an inherent barrier to mass immigration. They would identify with the nation-state where they live, and support a classic traditional national identity, because that is the most effective barrier against migrant culture, specifically Islamic antisemitism. They would logically oppose ‘multiculturalism’, because it permits such attitudes. They would logically oppose the left, because they left supports immigration and a multi-ethnic society. They would logically support the right, because the right opposes the left, and supports a classic national identity.

On the other side, the nationalists correctly see mass immigration as an existential threat to the nation and its culture. Their fear of Islamisation (‘Islamification’ in the UK) has overshadowed their former fears of Jews. Unlike the old ‘Jewish conspiracies’, mass immigration and its impact are plainly evident. The revised nationalist perceptions created the conditions for acceptance of Jews, although they don’t fully explain the new nationalist philosemitism.

This political shift in Europe has had consequences for Jews in Israel and the United States, who have revised their negative attitudes to European nationalism. In fact, the shift has been accelerated by the emergence of a transatlantic anti-Islam movement, which has propagated the Eurabia theory. Their ideological influence facilitates the emerging Jewish-nationalist political alliance. Nationalists will by definition oppose any trend to a supra-national entity, and if the European Union is ‘facilitating the Islamisation of Europe’, then it would also be logical for Jews to join the nationalists in opposing the EU.

Jewish perceptions of the State of Israel, indeed of Jewish identity itself, are also shifting. Early Zionism sought a national homeland as a refuge against persecution, not a crusade against other religions. At its inception, the immediate enemies of the State of Israel were ‘the Arabs’, but now it is increasingly ‘the Muslims’ or simply ‘Islam’. Israel’s supporters in Europe now promote the idea that it is an outpost of the west, rather than a national homeland. They see it as a frontier state, resisting a long-term Islamic onslaught on western civilisation as a whole. Inevitably that perception will influence policy and public opinion in Israel itself.

In international relations, this kind of realignment is called renversement des alliances. It implies that former enemies are now allies, and former allies now enemies. In politics, the consequences extend beyond the original logic of the realignment. When Jews are aligned with the nationalist right, they are aligned with the right in general. They are inevitably aligned with ideology and policies, which have no direct relevance to the position of Jews in Europe. That can be illustrated by political trends in the Netherlands, where the realignment is well advanced.

Political positions

Again with proviso that not all Jews think alike, the general political position among Jews in the Netherlands can be summarised as follows…

Mass immigration should stop. Migration is only acceptable with small numbers of pre-selected migrants, who offer economic benefits. The present free movement polices of the EU should be revoked. If immigration can not be ended, then it should be highly restricted, by introducing as many barriers as possible, such as age limits, language tests and citizenship tests.

Specifically there should be no more immigration from Muslim countries. Turkish membership of the EU is unacceptable, because it give tens of millions of Muslims access to the EU member states.

Migrant minorities inside the country should be compulsorily assimilated (‘integrated’). Some would however prefer to see them leave, and see integration as futile or counterproductive.

Enforcement of official monolingualism, including language bans in schools. (In practice, English is exempt from such prohibitions).

Support for the classic Dutch national identity. That identity is not historically stable: the present version was promoted in the 19th century, to downplay religious divisions. It emphasised Dutch cultural superiority, and the 17th-century Golden Age. After 1945, it incorporated the ‘national suffering’ during the German occupation.

Rigorous opposition to multiculturalism, which is seen as intrinsically wrong, and a a disaster in practice. (By now, that is the general opinion on multiculturalism in the Netherlands).

Unwillingness to accept antisemitism, even when it is rooted in religious belief.

Euroscepticism in varying degree: certainly opposition to further expansion of EU, and to more intensive European integration.

A general anti-left sentiment – a feeling that the left has failed, that it is elitist and detached, and that it is primarily responsible for the disaster of mass immigration. The legitimacy of left-wing ideals is not fully accepted. There is specific hostility to left-wing antisemitism, which is defined as rejection of Israel’s right to exist.

Again these views are not specific to Jews: they are standard among Wilder’s supporters. When Jews do think this way, their political positions logically derive from the beliefs listed earlier. If Jews in general see mass immigration of Muslims as a threat to the Jewish community, then Jews in general will tend to oppose immigration.

Nevertheless, alignment with the right means alignment with other policies of the right. Support for Geert Wilders and his party entails some support for all other policies of the party. Wilders is a successful right-wing nationalist populist, and his movement has expanded to include almost the entire secular right in the Netherlands. His party has adopted a wide range of right-wing demands, to broaden its appeal.

Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) is for instance skeptical of global warming, and opposes carbon taxes and the construction of wind turbines. It calls for a more restrictive policy on drugs. Its policies on immigration are indeed primarily targeted at Muslims, but also at Poles, Bulgarians and Romanians. It also wants Antillians treated as immigrants, even though they are Dutch citizens.

Where PVV policies are directly relevant to the Jewish minority, they can be very harsh. In cases of homophobic or anti-Semitic harassment by immigrants, for instance, Wilders advocates not only punishment of the perpetrators, but deportation of their family. The PVV advocates deportation in a wide range of circumstances, constituting a de facto repatriation policy. It advocates closure of Islamic schools, leaving Muslims as the only religious group without its own schools. It wants the ‘Judeo-Christian culture’ anchored in the Constitution. It proposed a tax on Islamic headdress, and a ban on the Koran.

It is true that if Wilders became Prime Minister and controlled the legislature, Jews in the Netherlands would be far safer and secure than at present. In fact they would be better protected than in any other European country. The widespread antisemitism, and the sense of foreboding among Jews, would disappear. A public Jewish culture would be possible, in place of the present culture of fear – the security guards, the bomb-proof glass, and the surveillance cameras. However, that would come at the price of a dictatorial nationalist political culture, widespread police repression, de facto ethnic cleansing, withdrawal from the Schengen Zone, reintroduction of border posts, and withdrawal from the EU, with inevitable economic consequences.

Jewish support for Wilders and his party is the clearest example of political realignment in western Europe. Some comparable right-wing populist parties in other countries do seek Jewish support, but have been unable to distance themselves fully from their neofascist past. In the United Kingdom, the electoral system limits the size of such parties anyway. In Germany, the scale of the neonazi movement means that new right-wing parties cannot stay free of its influence, so Jews are less likely to support such parties. The political realignment in other countries is therefore more diffuse than in the Netherlands, and not so clearly directed at one specific party, but the trend is there nevertheless.

The impact of the political realignment under Jews can not therefore be dismissed, by saying that ‘not all Jews support it’. It is not necessary that they all support it, for it to be politically significant. It is not even necessary that Jews live in Europe, for their politics to have an impact: Wilders’ party is financed largely by conservative Jews in the United States. It is also necessary to consider the impact of the political realignment, on the actions of individual Jews.

Impact of individual actions

LIke members of any other minority, individual Jews in the Netherlands influence the political and social climate, by political activity, in the exercise of professional and social functions, and increasingly via social media. In most cases, what they do is no different from what non-Jews would do, in the same circumstances. Sometimes, however, their actions are motivated by their identity, and it is those which contribute to a collective political and social impact. Of course that is equally true for other groups, but that does not alter the fact of the impact.

The influence of the Jewish minority is limited by its small size – about 3 per thousand in the Netherlands and Belgium, 5 per thousand in the UK, and close to 1% in France. That is partly offset by generally higher levels of education and social-political participation.

Individual behaviour with negative impact includes the promotion of hostile attitudes to immigrant minorities, by constant repetition of accusations against them. Some of those are comparable to antisemitic tropes: accusation of hostility to the host country, accusation of concealed goals, accusation of antisemitism and racism. High crime rates and high dependency on state benefits are other common accusations. In the Netherlands, Moroccans specifically are accused of being genetically inferior, “due to inbreeding”.

Members of political parties, journalists, politicians and office-holders, and policy advisors also advocate restriction of immigration, and state-enforced integration (which often amounts to a collective punishment). In the Netherlands, these measures are disproportionately directed at Moroccans, who are perceived to be the most antisemitic minority. They include symbolic humiliations, such as compulsory visits to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

Some workfare polices are also motivated by this kind of hostility. For instance, unemployed ethnic-minority youth are compelled to clear snow – a method once used to humiliate Jews in Nazi Germany. Restrictive conditions on benefits, and benefit sanctions, are also used to hit ethnic minorities disproportionately. Urban regeneration policies are also used to target minorities, by selectively listing their housing for demolition: that is often justified as ‘breaking up ghettos’.

Members of political parties, journalists, politicians and office-holders, and policy advisors also use their positions to support Wilder’s PVV party. That does not necessarily mean that they vote for it, or that they are party activists – it has no formal membership anyway. Wilders attitudes and policies have widespread support in other parties, and that he can count on sympathisers there, who see him as a necessary corrective to ‘leftist multiculturalism’. This diffuse support allows the party to operate, despite its questionable legal structure, and undermines demands for its prohibition on grounds of racism.

Individuals inside the police and judiciary, and local and national office-holders, can use their position to protect Wilders supporters, and the right in general. That includes de facto judicial tolerance of death threats to opponents, and of incitement to violence against Muslims. In the Netherlands, if you write “Kill all the Jews” on your Facebook page, there is a significant chance that you will be arrested and prosecuted, at least if someone reports it. If you write “Kill all the Muslims” you will not be arrested or prosecuted, even if it is reported. This policy is clearly discriminatory, and clearly disadvantages Muslims, and it is a direct result of lobbying by Jewish organisations (and philo-semitic Christian parties).

Members of political parties, journalists, politicians and office-holders, and policy advisors also promote a general tolerance of the right, and of right-wing online and broadcast media. Anti-immigrant columnists, academics, and commentators benefit from easy access to the mainstream media.

None of these behaviours are specific to Jews. A non-Jewish newspaper editor can open his paper to anti-Islam columnists, and run constant stories on immigrant crime. A non-Jewish member of a political party can lobby inside the party, for tougher immigration and integration policies. A non-Jewish public prosecutor can decline to prosecute individuals, who post incitements to kill Muslims and burn mosques. Non-Jewish mayors and urban planners can decide to demolish social housing occupied by Muslim tenants.

And once again, not all Jews behave like this. However, when a self-identified Jewish individual does behave like this, in the exercise of some profession, function or position in society, then they are at least partly motivated by the fact of their own explicit choice for a Jewish identity. It is simply not credible to claim otherwise.

Remember that all those things are wrong: they are unethical, discriminatory and/or racist. A good person would not abuse a political, social, administrative, or legal function, in this way. That fact that an individual does act in this unethical way, is an indication of a malicious motive. In the real-world case of Jews in the Netherlands, that motive is the commonly held beliefs about the threat of mass immigration, and the commonly held right-wing political positions, which were listed here earlier. Again, that does not mean that only Jews fear these things, or that only Jews hold these political views. They are shared with a substantial and influential section of the non-Jewish population in the Netherlands, especially PVV voters.

Some will say it is antisemitic, to claim that a Jew is ever motivated in his or her actions, by the fact of being Jewish. Some even say that about support for Israel. However it is simply not credible, that a Jew in Europe would be strongly pro-Israel purely at random. It is even less credible, that Jews in Israel randomly chose to live in a Jewish state, and that it has nothing to do with their being Jewish. In western Europe, the enmity, the antisemitism, the polarisation, and the death threats, make it even less likely, that self-identified Jews can go through life, without their identity having any influence on their decisions.

In the end there is no definitive proof of this, one way or the other. We can’t look inside the brain, to see exactly what motivated an individual to act in a specific way. If they do give an explanation, it might be illusory, or incomplete, or false. Politically it is a realistic assumption that Jewish identity influences political and social behaviour, just as with any other ethnic or religious identity.

What would happen if the Jews disappeared?

On that assumption of both correlation and causation, it is possible to consider what would happen in the absence of the causal factor. If there were hypothetically no Jews in the Netherlands – meaning those of self-identified Jewish ethnicity rather than religion – what would happen? Not a total transformation of politics, state or society – the Jewish minority is too small for that. There would however be differences in policy and political climate.

The established parties would be somewhat less protective towards Wilders’ PVV, and there would be more chance of it being banned.

Xenophobic columnists, authors and researchers would have somewhat less access to the media, and pro-immigration voices more. There would be less Euroscepticism and nationalism, in the public debate on Europe.

The police would be somewhat more active against online incitement from the right, and consequently there would be fewer death threats to Muslims and opponents of Wilders.

Immigration policy would probably be less restrictive, with slightly more migrants as a result. Assimilation policy would be less rigorous, and migrants would be more free to speak their own language. There would probably be fewer restrictions on Islamic dress.

The population would therefore be somewhat less homogenous and more diverse, probably compensating for the loss of diversity due to the absence of Jews.

Marginally fewer people would lose social security benefits, there would marginally be less workfare, and tenants in social housing would face somewhat less threat of eviction.

Against this, individual Jews obviously do make positive contributions to society, but equally other individuals would do that in their absence. Any non-homogenous minority can only be assessed ‘on balance’, taking account of positive and negative aspects.

They can however be assessed, as I said at the start. On balance, the contribution of the self-identified ethnic Jewish minority, in the present historical and political circumstances in western Europe, is negative, for the reasons explained here in detail. (Again, I have avoided comment on Judaism as a religion).

European Union policy

So there is a new ‘Jewish question’ in western Europe, and that needs to be recognised, by the European Union and the individual states. As always, policy should target what needs to be targeted, and certainly not an ethnic group. Racist incitement to violence, for instance, should simply be treated as a crime, a matter for police and the criminal courts. It would be wrong to collectively punish one minority, for its general hostility to another minority.

The EU should instead respond to the ‘new Jewish question’ with two fundamental policy principles.

Firstly, the Jewish minorities in western Europe must be told explicitly to accept the presence of antisemitism, and especially Islamic antisemitism. Mass migration from countries where antisemitic views are the norm, means inevitably that part of the population will be antisemitic after the migration. In any case a section of the indigenous population always was antisemitic. The European Union must state the obvious: that it can not make antisemitism disappear, and there is no point in trying. The EU and the member states must therefore tell the Jewish minorities, that they can simply not expect to live in a society free of antisemitism.

Secondly, the European Union must tell Jews in Europe, that the price of their safety is too high. That will shock many people, but it simply reflects reality. Despite a high level of security and police protection, Jewish institutions are not safe from physical attack. The state can not protect them absolutely: even if it could, Jewish families and individuals would then be targeted. Even more so, there can be no total protection from hostility and discrimination.

What might theoretically be possible, is for the European Union to guarantee Jews the same level of safety, that they enjoy in Israel. That, however, was only achieved by relocating European Jews to another continent, and establishing a separate Jewish state. There are draconian policy options, which could perhaps provide the same level of protection for Jews in Europe, as for Jews in Israel. Once they are made explicit, however, it will be clear that they are immoral. In practice, they would include a mass expulsion of Muslims from Europe, and a right-wing regime with a level of repression comparable to Franco’s Spain, or Greece under the military dictatorship.

The European Union and the member states, must explain clearly to the Jewish minorities that, given the degree and prevalence of hostility to them, their safety can only be guaranteed by policies which the EU will not implement, and that consequently their safety will not be guaranteed. That must be said as explicitly as possible.

Under these circumstances, many individual Jews will consider the option of emigration. They don’t have to go to Israel, since the USA is also an option, but the European Union must also recognise the specific nature of defensive Jewish migration to Israel.

Should the EU therefore consider a policy of encouraging Jewish migration from Europe to Israel? That is not the same as compulsion, and it is in any case official policy in Israel, that all Jews should ultimately migrate. There are however strong arguments against such a policy. It would promote the principle of separate national states for each ethnic group, which has already caused so much bloodshed in Europe. It specifically strengthens the State of Israel, and it would enrage the Palestinians for that reason. They would see it as EU-financed Jewish settlement, and that would provoke more violence. Israel would probably try to annex the entire West Bank, to house the millions of new inhabitants, and that certainly means war.

A more limited migration might be possible without too many side-effects. Some European Jews have already chosen to migrate to Israel, as a response to the hostile climate in Europe itself. Despite alarmist reports, the numbers are low, a few thousand per year at most. If the European Union did adopt the policies suggested here – explicit acceptance of the presence of antisemitism, and explicit refusal to guarantee the safety of the Jewish communities – then more individuals and households will make that choice. It is reasonable under those circumstances for the EU to accept and facilitate it. But with or without such EU policies, there will be dramatic consequences if the entire Jewish population decides to migrate.

There is very little understanding among European political elites, of just how difficult this whole question is. That is partly because of the fixation with Nazi ideology and the mass murder of European Jews during the Second World War, and the tendency to interpret the present in those terms. Europe is not role-playing the Nazi era, and there is a moral need to assess the present realities, and rethink the options. That requires a rethink of European ‘societies’ themselves, and recognition of the fragmentation, polarisation and hostility inside those societies, which is now becoming apparent.


2 thoughts on “The Jewish question in western Europe

  1. Pingback: What is left antisemitism? | Political Aspects

  2. Pingback: Antisemitism in centre-left parties in western Europe | Political Aspects

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