Google+
Close
Guilt and Arrogance
Understanding the European streets.


Text  


Jonah Goldberg

Nique ta mère les juifs. Or, “F**k your mother, Jews!”

This, reports Chris Caldwell, is a popular slogan of the French “street.” The expression — and, more importantly, the sentiment behind it — is so popular in France it’s often truncated to, simply, “NTM les juifs.” Writing in the London Spectator British journalist Petronella Wyatt recently noted that, “Since September 11 anti-Semitism and its open expression have become respectable at London dinner tables.” Suffice it to say that what is true of London dinner tables is true of the “European street” in general today.

Advertisement
Of course, it’s a bit misleading to talk of the “European street.” The “Arab street,” after all, refers to the poorly dressed and unwashed throngs of semi-literate, anti-American, and Jew-hating Arab fanatics who daily burn American and Israeli flags along the boulevards of Cairo and Beirut.

The “European street,” meanwhile, tends to be better dressed.

Okay, there are more significant differences between the European and Arab streets. But it must be noted that if we are going to define these “streets” by their proclivity for torching Jewish symbols and — give it time — actual Jews, then there is very little difference between the offenders in Europe and the Middle East, if for no other reason than the fact that the “streets” of both regions are Arab and Muslim.

As I noted last week, the hysteria over Le Pen’s anti-Semitism — whether it is real, alleged, or exaggerated — is providing a convenient smokescreen for the fact that it is French Muslims of Arab and North African descent who are committing virtually all of the anti-Jewish crimes. Zacarias Moussaoui did not wear a Le Pen button on his lapel. As Chris Caldwell’s excellent reporting confirms, the most outrageous Jew-haters are the protesters denouncing Le Pen’s anti-Semitism.

The scandal therefore is not that Arab and Muslim thugs in Western Europe are scrawling “Nique ta mère les juifs” on the walls of their slums. The scandal is that Europeans, from the highest levels of their respective governments and media establishments on down, are making apologies for it.

FETISH OF THE UNDERDOG
Europe hasn’t always hated Israel. Indeed, it encouraged the creation of Jewish Palestine in the 19th century and of Israel in the 20th. In fact, for the first half of Israel’s existence, the United States didn’t even order any pastrami from the Jewish state. The British controlled Jewish migration — and the lack of it, during the Third Reich and after its fall. The Soviets (they count as Europeans too) were an immediate booster of Israel, and it was Czechoslovakian arms that helped it win independence. The Israelis fought alongside the British and French in 1956-1957, during the Suez crisis, forcing a deeply miffed Eisenhower to demand that the Israelis get out of the Sinai Peninsula.

You know how everyone talks about Israel using “American weapons” in the occupied territories? Well, the Israelis mostly used French weapons to occupy those territories in the first place (this occupation, by the way, was defensive, since it was land Israel seized only after being attacked). And, oh yeah, the Germans have supported Israel for a very long time for pretty obvious reasons. After all, Lenny from The Simpsons wasn’t exactly right when he said of the Germans, “Sure they made mistakes in the past, but aah, that’s why pencils have erasers!”

There are lots of theories about why the Europeans turned on Israel. All of them probably have some merit. Israel used to be a socialist utopia. Actually it never was a socialist utopia, because such utopias — like perpetual-motion machines — cannot exist. But the Israeli kibbutzim tried pretty hard and the Euros loved them for it. When Israel moved away from socialism and the lofty one-world rhetoric that went with it, the Euro-Left felt betrayed.

Another theory is that as Arabs and North Africans migrated in ever-increasing numbers, their electoral clout in European democracies moved Europe to more “even-handedness” toward Israel.

But, it seems to me, the main reason Europeans hate Israel is that they hate America; and the main reason they hate America is that they really hate themselves.

From a historical perspective, European anti-Americanism is pretty hilarious. There is, after all, no criticism a haughty “European” could level at the United States which could not be returned tenfold at the authors of the Inquisition, the Hundred Years’ War, the Holocaust, and the Council of Trent (why the Council of Trent? I don’t know, it just seems to belong). Mass murder? Hah! Racism? Hah-hah! Religious intolerance? Bah-hah-hah! Class conflict? Bahhh-hahh-hahaha! Imperialism? Okay, dude. Snort, chortle — seriously — chortle, guffaw… Stop it, you’re killing me.

And, of course, this leaves out the irony that, to the extent the United States is guilty of any or all of these crimes, that guilt is directly attributable to our own European roots. The more the United States created its own culture — largely built on the Protestant principles of religious dissidents from England and devotees of the Scottish Enlightenment — the less guilty we were of such sins, by and large. This is not to say that America has a perfectly clean rap sheet — no great nation does. But considering the extent of European guilt on these scores, Europe’s arrogance in lecturing us is mind-blowing.

Indeed, Europe’s problems with Israel and America can be boiled down to these two attributes: guilt and arrogance.

The Europeans, as we all know, are now the backseat drivers of history. They had their hands on the wheel for a very long time, and the world is better off for it — an assertion which is, sadly, politically incorrect on both sides of the Atlantic, but no less obviously true for being so. Were it not for European civilization leading the way for much of the last thousand years, humanity would be in a ditch. To suggest otherwise is to dabble in fantasy.

But, around the middle of the last century, the Europeans got lost and America had to get into the driver’s seat. This was very embarrassing for the Euros because, after all, they’d driven us around for years, treating us like we were a little brother they’d gotten stuck chauffeuring to Little League games. (The fact that the driver traditionally gets to decide which radio stations everyone listens to and which drive-thrus to stop at particularly rankles with Europeans who hate American culture.)

As a way to compensate with this indignity, and with its own errors, Europe internalized the moral conclusions of the Left. The churches stand empty across the Continent. Nihilism, relativism, postmodernism, subjectivity, deconstructionism: These are the tools used to dismantle and diminish the accomplishments of a once-great civilization.

But — most of all — imperialism and colonialism are now the original sins of European Man. Indeed, so the thinking goes, the Pale Penis People did nothing right in their wars of violence and cruelty against the darker peoples of the world. Never mind that violence and cruelty are staples of human history, not pernicious inventions of the Enlightenment.

Except in Germany, the collapse of empire has done more to shape the modern West European mind than the lessons of World War II did. The Dutch, the British, the French, the Belgians, the Spanish, the Portuguese: They all did terrible things in their colonies and they all paid a terrible price for it. Rather than fight — and probably lose — the various nationalist movements in their colonies and holdings, these societies opted for the convenience of white guilt. In all of these countries, Europeans decided to justify their withdrawal from empire as a moral epiphany rather than a surrender. Aren’t we wonderful for admitting how wrong we were!

This is not to say they weren’t racist or conquerors. Of course they were. But what remains is a reflexive desire to side with their former subjects, to “understand” every atrocity and barbarity committed by the descendants of Rousseau’s noble savages in its proper “context.” In much the same way as American leftists can be counted on to explain away or justify just about any inner-city pathology, Europeans are likely to make excuses for their former subjects ad nauseum unless someone — usually America — shames them out of it. This week, white intellectuals — many of them Jewish — from around the country are celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the Los Angeles “rebellion” or “uprising.” They nod sagely as decrepit Black Panthers tell them how it’s their fault that a bunch of young black men went on a murderous rampage. Similarly, across the Atlantic a continent of guilty white liberals has spent a generation coming up with excuses for their former colonial subjects, making the same kind of allowances for violence and “pent-up rage.”

ENABLING EGOTISM
But white liberal guilt, here or abroad, is relatively harmless by itself. It only becomes dangerous when — mixed with moral relativism and an arrogance so colossal it threatens to throw the planet off its rotational axis — it becomes policy. The Europeans are the enablers of barbarity for the simple reason that it makes them feel like they’re still in charge in some way.

The Europeans still believe they are the avant-gardes of history. They believe they are more enlightened, more sophisticated, more capable of reading the map to the future. These backseat drivers sit there, smugly confident that the United States is simply a less-evolved version of them, following the same road they were on, making the same mistakes they made.

This attitude causes European “intellectuals” to predict the imminent comeuppance of the U.S. If schadenfreude is the joy one feels at another’s misfortune, then we need a word for the rage that comes with anticipating a misfortune that doesn’t happen. One small example: During the Gulf War, the editor of the leading German weekly Die Zeit spoke for his fellow intellectuals when he wrote that America’s adventure was the “last, almost spastic twitching of U.S. supremacy.”

This sort of foolish wishful-thinking shows how little Europeans understand their all-grown-up kid brother. The United States was never an empire in the European tradition, especially not in the 20th century. We conquered Japan and Germany, fixed them — and left. When we seized major new territory, we made it a state with rights and representation equal to any other state — or gave it back. Our major wars — World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait — have been waged to save people from aggression, not to seize new land or even to hold on to old conquests.

In short, they can lecture us all they want about colonialism, but it falls on deaf ears over here because we were never like them. Sure, we mucked about in our own backyard. But the only major wars of national liberation we ever had to fight against were ones like Vietnam — which was, of course, a burning bag of dog poop left on our collective doorstep by none other than the former colonial masters in the region, the French.

KUMBAYA TERRORISM
But the fact remains: The Europeans see the United States and Israel through the lens of their own nostalgia. For the last decade, anti-American books have torn up European best-seller lists, especially in France. With titles like Who Is Killing France?: The American Strategy, American Totalitarianism, and the best seller No Thanks, Uncle Sam, the French increasingly assume the mantle of victimhood against an imperial America. Henry Kissinger, for example, is a “war criminal” according to the French and Spanish, yet nobody in Paris or Madrid is all that interested in getting Idi Amin out of Saudi Arabia, where’s he’s been a guest for two decades.

Meanwhile, Israel is cast as the seat of the American raj in the Arab world. The analogy is, of course, absurd. But absurdity goes hand-in-hand with being a nation of so many cheeses. Israel isn’t a colony and, except as refugees, the Israelis have no place to go. They are not French schoolteachers making Arab students chant in class, “Our forefathers, the Gauls…” They are not British citizens with boathouses in India’s lake country, and who can come home to Manchester or London once the “wogs” take back their lands. The Israelis are already home. They believe in military force because they lived for 2,000 years with the (ironically, European) notion that their lives could be secured in the goodwill of others. The Europeans themselves taught them the folly of such trust.

Regardless, in this context, of course it’s understandable that the oppressed peoples of the world would want to fight America and its lackey. And it’s only to be expected that the “enlightened” Europeans would cheer the effort. After all, it’s America’s turn. Tom Paulin, a poet at Oxford, voiced his solidarity with the Palestinians when he told an Egyptian newspaper, “I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all.” “I think they are Nazis, racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them.” These “Brooklyn-born” settlers, the poet insists, “should be shot dead.”

There’s nothing new or unique to Euro-eggheads wallowing in the bloody rhetoric of the faux revolutionary. “Violence,” argued Frantz Fanon, the former mouthpiece for Algerian revolutionaries and international icon of mau-mauing intellectuals, “is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.” A true voluptuary of violence, in the great traditions of Mao and Pol Pot, Fanon inspired black radicals on both sides of the Atlantic. But he also inspired guilty white lefties. Jean-Paul Sartre, in his introduction to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, wrote: “To shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time.” The Wretched of the Earth is still quite popular in Europe — as is, needless to say, Jean-Paul Sartre.

In 1930, the British government sent Sir John Hope-Simpson to check out what was going on in Jewish Palestine. Attached to his final report was a letter in which he wrote, “All British officials tend to become pro-Arab, or, perhaps, more accurately, anti-Jew… Personally, I can quite well understand this trait. The helplessness of the fellah appeals to the British official. The offensive assertion of the Jewish immigrant is, on the other hand, repellent.”

The European fondness for the obsequious and helpless native has endured. Intellectuals across the continent practice the hard bigotry of no expectations when it comes to violence committed by the downtrodden. The helplessness of the fellah appeals to them so. Indeed, it’s as if Europe — and the Left in general — is hinged as a moral counterweight. They’ve redefined the axiom that might doesn’t make right by concluding that those with might can never be right. European commentators discuss this all the time, saying they “root for the underdog” — as if being an underdog is, of itself, noble; as if rapists and murderers cannot be underdogs too. So, when Israel is weak and picked upon, it is the hero. When Israel is comparatively powerful, it’s all of a sudden a Nazi state.

The Arabs have learned this fact well. Does anyone honestly believe that that the Palestinians in particular, or Arab governments in general, are especially offended by “aggression”? Of course not. These countries have launched innumerable wars against Israel and each other. The Islamic religion is increasingly — and sadly — being taught as a religion of aggression in many of these countries. And yet, put a camera on a Palestinian “legislator” and, like a doll with a string in its back, he will start spouting about “Israeli aggression.” This is for European consumption — and it works.

After all, according to most dictionaries, “massacre” means “to kill indiscriminately and wantonly; slaughter.” Europeans never use the word — at least, not with any outrage — when fanatics strap bombs to their bodies and kill as wantonly and indiscriminately as conceivably possible. They are never deplored for launching another “cycle of violence.” But when Israelis send soldiers into crowded camps in order to kill very discriminately, that is a “massacre,” a tragic renewal of the cycle of violence.

Israel — like America — has to be wrong because it is more powerful; because, again, might is never right. Israel — like America — can never be the good guy because such American notions as “good guys” and “bad guys” are the juvenile fantasy of a kid-brother nation that still needs to grow up. Truth be damned. Good be damned. Indeed, as Fanon noted, “truth is that which hurries on the breakup of the colonial regime” and “the good is quite simply that which is evil for them.”

There is only one response to such outrageous moral narcolepsy. Nique ta mère les européens.

Note: My apologies for not posting this Monday as promised. It seems that whenever I promise to write something by a certain date I run into huge problems delivering. The answer of course is to not promise any more.



Text