June 10, 2003

RON ROSENBAUM has a nice piece on the growing tide of European antisemitism.

There is a horrid but obvious dynamic going on here: At some deep level, Europeans, European politicians, European culture is aware that almost without exception every European nation was deeply complicit in Hitler’s genocide. Some manned the death camps, others stamped the orders for the transport of the Jews to the death camps, everyone knew what was going on—and yet the Nazis didn’t have to use much if any force to make them accomplices. For the most part, Europeans volunteered. That is why “European civilization” will always be a kind of oxymoron for anyone who looks too closely at things, beginning with the foolish and unnecessary slaughters of World War I, Holocaust-scale slaughter that paved the way for Hitler’s more focused effort.

And so, at some deep level, there is a need to blame someone else for the shame of “European civilization.” To blame the victim. To blame the Jews.

Yep. This piece first appeared last year, but it seems even more appropriate today, as this sort of behavior becomes steadily more obvious. But they’re not fooling anybody — except the willingly fooled, and those disappointed that things didn’t work out as Hitler planned, of whom there are still plenty in Europe and elsewhere. And as Rosenbaum notes:

Isn’t it interesting that you didn’t see any “European peace activists” volunteering to “put their bodies on the line” by announcing that they would place themselves in real danger—in the Tel Aviv cafés and pizza parlors, favorite targets of the suicide bombers. Why no “European peace activists” at the Seders of Netanya or the streets of Jerusalem? Instead, “European peace activists” do their best to protect the brave sponsors of the suicide bombers in Ramallah.

We know why. The Euros, meanwhile, might take a cautionary note from Ken MacLeod.

UPDATE: A reader who prefers to remain anonymous emails:

Glenn, I’ve been reading Instapundit for a long time — I’m a writer and editor based in London now (in fact, I can see the massive BBC towers from my back window).

Hitchens’s piece on the British obsession with Wolfowitz is right on the money: for some reason, his name always comes up first in the list of “neocons” who “control” the Bush administration. Half the time they either misidentify or fail to identify his position. Most frequently he “works in the Defense Department,” which has a nice shadowy sound to it — much more effective than “he works for Donald Rumsfeld,” because these Wolfowitzian neocons only “work” for their own kind, right? Naturally, when this is pointed out, they immediately go on the defensive, about how they’re against racism and could never be anti-semitic and not all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic (by the way, have you ever met or heard from anyone who said it was?).

But this leads to a point about anti-Semitism that many — particularly those among my fellow lefties — fail to understand: Nazism does not define anti-Semitism. That is: one can hold anti-Semitic attitudes, and one can even hold them un- or semi-consciously, without believing that all Jews should be gassed. Not being a Nazi doesn’t mean one cannot under any circumstances be an anti-Semite. For some reason, this distinction is perfectly clear to anti-war lefties when talking about racism — witness how frequently they accused Republicans or even war supporters of unconscious or institutional racism — but when it comes to examining the anti-Semitic content of their own beliefs, it just doesn’t get through.

Not much does. BTW, here’s the Hitchens post. I added this update here because of the Nazi point. I think that we’re seeing two different, but related things: (1) a rebirth of the old (and non-genocidal) species of Continental antisemitism, which was suppressed by anti-Nazi talk for a while; and (2) a desire, as Rosenbaum describes above, to overcome the Nazi-era guilt, and also the constraints imposed by that guilt. This is also driven, I think, by foreign policy concerns. It’s much harder to posture morally, suck up to the Arabs, and oppose Israel when confronting the facts that (1) Europeans did largely support the Holocaust; and (2) Arabs largely still do. So the impulse is to explain it away by saying (1) the Holocaust wasn’t that bad; (2) Israel is just as bad; and (3) see, Europeans aren’t any worse than anyone else. (This is much the way Stalin-era Soviets responded to comments on genocide by saying “what about you Americans and your Red Indians?”) As with the Stalinists, it’s a dodge in defense of the indefensible.

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