Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: War between America and Europe
Posted on 12/27/2001 8:10:03 AM PST by Pokey78
My colleague Petronella Wyatt reported the other week that since 11 September anti-Semitism and its open expression has become respectable at London dinner tables. Barbara Amiel then chipped in with the news that its spread to lunch and afternoon tea, too.
Apparently, at a recent gathering chez Barbara, the ambassador of a major EU country told guests that the current troubles were all because of that shitty little country Israel.... Why, he asked, should the world be in danger of World War Three because of those people? Next came a private lunch at which the hostess doyenne of Londons political salon scene made a remark to the effect that she couldnt stand Jews and everything happening to them was their own fault. A few days after 11 September, Richard Ingrams wrote a column in the Observer headlined Who Will Dare Damn Israel? Answer: take a number and join the queue.
This is the mood music of the new war, and more mellifluous in Britain than in the Arab world, with its amusing pop songs (I Hate Israel) and droll sitcoms (Plots of Terror, featuring an Ariel Sharon who drinks the blood of Arab babies and then tosses them on the bonfire). It would be frightfully tedious if Jews were thin-skinned enough to make a fuss about this sort of thing when there are so many more important things to worry about such as, for example, the potential backlash against Muslims that Western leaders are always fretting about in-between photo-ops at the mosque. President Bush and co. have been so busy enjoining us not to beat up our Islamic neighbours that theyve failed to notice an actual as opposed to hypothetical spate of hate crimes: according to Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, more European synagogues have been attacked and burned in the last year than in any year since 1938, the year of Kristallnacht. This doesnt seem to be getting a lot of press coverage.
Americans are resigned to Britains and Europes need to damn Israel, if only because theyre used to being on the receiving end themselves. Among British Conservatives, anti-Zionism tends to go hand in hand with anti-Americanism or, to put it in a more positive light, Europhiles tend also to be Arabists (Ian Gilmour, etc.). This is perfectly understandable: a certain type of Englishman looks at an Arab and sees a desert version of his most cherished self-delusions. Where Jews are modern, urban and scientific, Arabs are feudal, rural and romantic. Jews wear homburgs; Arabs wear flowing robes and head-dresses. Jews are famously in trade; Arabs are just as famously hopeless at economic creativity: they have oil, but require foreigners to extract it and refine it. A backward culture that loves dressing up and places no value on professional activity will always appeal to a segment of the English elite. Look at the Prince of Wales in that wannabe Bedouin get-up he wore to meet Brother bin Laden the other week. Scarcely had he tossed the Highgrove hejab in the washer than he went out and gave a speech denouncing the arrogance of skyscrapers. In America, blacks talk of the white Negro; the Prince comes over like a white Arab.
Over on the other side, meanwhile, whether or not Jews are still regarded in Europe as grasping, taloned, sallow, hook-nosed usurers with eyes like rattlesnakes, the traditional defects pale in comparison with a more recently acquired trait: their Americanism. Americans and Jews are not entirely synonymous, but, to elderly European Jews of a certain age, criticism of the Yanks has a familiar ring to it. In 1937, Sacheverell Sitwell visited the Bukovina, formerly the easternmost province of the Habsburg empire, then part of Romania and now in Ukraine. Its capital city Czernowitz was a multicultural mélange of Romanians, Ruthenians, Poles, Germans, Armenians and Swabians, but, as Sitwell noted, youd never know that from a stroll down Main Street: There is not a shop that has not a Jewish name painted above its windows. The entire commerce of the place is in the hands of the Jews. Yiddish is spoken here more than German. Not any more the Jews of Czernowitz are dead or fled but the Hebrew hegemony in the Bukovina has a contemporary echo in the high streets of modern Britain: There is scarce a shop that has not an American name painted above its windows: McDonalds, The Gap, Dunkin Donuts, Toys R Us, Starbucks. American is spoken more than British: Have a nice day. Would you like fries with that? Resentment of US cultural imperialism is merely a supersized version of the charges levelled at tween-wars European Jewry: the anti-globalisation crowd, droning on about interlopers interested only in profits and swamping local cultures, are singing a very old song. Indeed, the savvier Aryans can claim to have seen it coming. As Werner Sombat wrote in The Jews and Economic Life (1911): One can rightly say that the United States owes what it is entirely to the Jews: that is, its American nature. What we call Americanism to a large degree is nothing other than the influence of the Jewish spirit.
I dont entirely agree with that, but it seems to me Sombat is right to this extent: American sympathy for Israel and European support for the Arabs are essentially cultural statements, unrelated to the finer points of the Palestinian question. America supports Israel not because its Jewish but because its democratic. In fact, Republicans support Israel despite the Jews. American Jews are urban liberals and one of the Democratic partys most reliable core demographics. There is no political benefit whatsoever to Bush in taking a hard pro-Israel line. Au contraire, Arab-Americans are just about the only immigrant group other than the Cubans that votes Republican. Yet that will never translate into GOP support for Arab states as presently constituted. My northern, rural, conservative neighbours are, when you prod em a little, mildly xenophobic and share a reflexive distaste for overt Jewishness. But theyll always back Israel over Syria or Egypt because to them liberty trumps everything else. They are also under no illusions as to the kind of state an Arafat-led Palestine would be: if you gave him Switzerland to run, hed turn it into a sewer. So Republicans look at Israel and see not Jews but a liberal democracy.
Funnily enough, thats also what the Arabs see. They dont hate America because it backs Israel; they hate Israel because it looks like America its a functioning state. If you get out a map of the world and look at the vastness of the Arab lands from North Africa to the Gulf with a tiny Israeli sliver in the middle (if you accept the 1967 borders, its only 11 miles wide at one point), its simply not possible for any rational human being to blame the tiny sliver for all the woes of the surrounding vastness. At least in the old days Muslim victim culture sought out more plausible oppressors. Writing after the Great War, in which the Ottoman empire picked the wrong side through bad luck as much as anything else, Albert Kinross recounted his discussions with an educated Turk:
The beys politics amounted to this: why did British diplomacy allow German diplomacy to lead poor Turkey by the nose? He presupposed, firstly, that the Turk could do no wrong, and, secondly, that the Turk was an irresponsible and charming child whom it was the duty of the Great Powers to pet and spoil. To my unregenerate mind, a good hiding would have been more salutary.
The Turk has grown up, rather impressively. But were still trying to pet and spoil his former Arabian provinces i.e., win their hearts and minds when in truth the good hiding administered to Osama and Mullah Omar is far more salutary.
But even if you accept that Jews are slavering money-lenders no London hostess can stand and that Israel is a shitty little country, so what? In the objective sense, the Arab states are failures. If Israel was imposed on the region in the Forties, the other nations date only from the Twenties. The only difference is the Jews have made a go of it. Both Israel and Egypt get massive subventions from Washington: Egypt, an economic basket-case, pisses it away; Israel is now a net technology exporter.
If America recognises a kindred spirit in Israel, then so does Europe in the Arab autocracies. After all, when King Fahd, President Mubarak, et al. sell themselves to the West as anti-democratic brakes on the baser urges of their people, they sound a lot like the European Union. As weve seen yet again, the principle underpinning the new Europe is not We, the people but We know better than the people not just on capital punishment and the Treaty of Nice and the single currency, but on pretty much anything that comes up, including national elections. When 29 per cent of Austrian voters were impertinent enough to plump for Jörg Haiders Freedom party, the EU punished them with sanctions and boycotts. As the Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson put it, The programme that is developing in Austria is not in line with EU values. In the new Europe, the will of the people is subordinate to the will of the Perssons. Understandably, to such an elite the Oslo peace process ought to be as remorseless and undeviating as the path to European unity: how preposterous to let something as footling as the wishes of the Israeli electorate disrupt it.
So each half of the West looks in the Middle East for what it values most in itself: for the Americans, liberty; for Europe, paternalism, benign or otherwise. The result is a mirror image: just as Israel is the odd man out in the Middle East, so increasingly America is in the West, wedded as it is to such bizarre concepts as capital punishment, gun rights, free speech, etc.
As for Barbara Amiels EU ambassador, fretting that shitty little Israel, those people, are plunging the world into war, let me propose an alternative theory: its all his fault. The other day, Mickey Kaus, an iconoclastic neoliberal, noticed that Zacarias Moussaoui, the French national now charged with conspiracy in connection with 11 September, became an Islamic radical while living in London drawing welfare benefits; also, Ahmed Ressam, arrested on the eve of Y2K while en route to blow up Los Angeles International Airport, had been living in Montreal where he survived on welfare payments; likewise, Metin Kaplan, who heads a radical Islamic sect, claimed social benefits in Cologne for many years until two million deutschmarks in cash was found in his flat.
In other words, life in the Middle East may have fired their Islamic fundamentalism, but benefit cheques from the soft West Euro-Canadian welfare states enabled them to pursue their obsession at the taxpayers expense. If youre looking for root causes for terrorism, European-sized welfare programmes are a good place to start. Maybe if they had to go out to work, theyd join the Daily Mirror and become the next John Pilger. Or maybe theyd open a drive-thru Halal Burger chain and make a fortune. Instead, Tony Blair pays Islamic fundamentalists in London to stay at home, fester and plot. Having grown up in Arab countries that place no value on work and provide little incentive to economic activity, your would-be suicide bomber fits easily into the welfare culture of the European Union or Canada. He wouldnt last long in New Hampshire.
Say what you like about the Jews, but they dont sit around on welfare. In St Urbains Horseman, Mordecai Richler recalled some of the routine slurs of the Quebec government during the second world war, including an official pamphlet showing a coarse old Jew, nose long and misshapen as a carrot, retreating into the night with bags of gold. A junior minister was dispatched to do damage control. Anti-Semitism, he told the press, is grossly exaggerated. Speaking for myself, my accountant is a Jew and I always buy cars from Sonny Fish.
Just so. In the Middle East, two cultures jostle side by side: one channels its citizens energy into economic fulfilment, the other into pathetic victim fantasies. The sides the United States and the European Union have chosen to align themselves with say as much about themselves and their own psychological health as they do about Palestine.
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LOL! This guys nails it all in one sentence! He then goes on to explain further, but this is the core of his article. Another GREAT one from Steyn.
I didn't get religion about backups until it was too late either ;)
Please add me to the list...
America supports Israel not because its Jewish but because its democratic. In fact, Republicans support Israel despite the Jews. American Jews are urban liberals and one of the Democratic partys most reliable core demographics. There is no political benefit whatsoever to Bush in taking a hard pro-Israel line. . . . My northern, rural, conservative neighbours are, when you prod em a little, mildly xenophobic and share a reflexive distaste for overt Jewishness. But theyll always back Israel over Syria or Egypt because to them liberty trumps everything else. They are also under no illusions as to the kind of state an Arafat-led Palestine would be: if you gave him Switzerland to run, hed turn it into a sewer. So Republicans look at Israel and see not Jews but a liberal democracy.
If America recognises a kindred spirit in Israel, then so does Europe in the Arab autocracies. After all, when King Fahd, President Mubarak, et al. sell themselves to the West as anti-democratic brakes on the baser urges of their people, they sound a lot like the European Union. As weve seen yet again, the principle underpinning the new Europe is not We, the people but We know better than the people not just on capital punishment and the Treaty of Nice and the single currency, but on pretty much anything that comes up, including national elections.
True story. Arabs import all of their skilled labor.
I recently went to a speech given by Oliver North. One thing he said rings true to me. He said (in reference to 9-11) "they don't hate us because of anything we did, they hate us because of who we are"
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