Richard MatherRichard Mather writes and edits for Israel News Online. He has also written for the Jewish Media Agency, Poetica Magazine, Drash Pit, Voices Israel and Chabad Lubavitch’s Holiday Times Magazine. He lives in Manchester, England.
In an interview published in the most recent edition of Jewish Voice from Germany, towards the September elections, Angela Merkel says Israel’s security is part of Germany’s “national ethos, our raison d’être.” This echoes her 2008 speech to the Knesset when she spoke of Germany’s “Holocaust shame” and asserted her country’s support for the Jewish state.
The German chancellor’s comments are very welcome but can Germany really uphold its commitment to Israel? If domestic opinion is anything to go by, probably not. According to a BBC World Service Poll conducted this year, a staggering 67% of Germans say they dislike Israel. And a survey conducted on behalf of Stern magazine shows that around two-thirds of Germans believe their county has no special obligations to the Jewish state, with many denouncing Israel as a country that pursues its interests “without consideration for other nations.”
Germany’s feelings about Israel are inescapably tied to memories of Nazism and the desire to close the book on the past. But it would be terrible if the Holocaust ever loses its universal resonance. The Shoah is a potent reminder of man’s inhumanity to man. More specifically it is a reminder of what Europe is capable of when it turns its back on the Jewish people.
If the German people are suffering from a collective case of Holocaust amnesia, then it is hardly surprising that negative attitudes towards Israel are growing. This may explain why in the past few years, anti-Zionism has become a socially acceptable way of expressing anti-Semitism in Germany on both the Left and the Right. Already Germany has distanced itself from Israel by abstaining from (rather than opposing) a UN vote approving the de facto recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state.
Another problem that could undermine Israeli-German relations is the Islamification of Europe. By Merkel’s own admission, Germany is well on its way to becoming an Islamic stronghold. “Our country is going to carry on changing,” she told a newspaper in 2010. “Mosques, for example, are going to be a more prominent part of our cities than they were before.”
How can Merkel reconcile the Islamification of Germany with Israel’s security? She can’t.
Islam is the largest minority religion in Germany, which has over 3 million citizens of Turkish-Muslim origin, representing 4% of the population. There are also between 159,000 and 200,000 Palestinian Arabs in Germany. By comparison, there are a mere 119,000 German Jews and this figure is projected to fall to 108,000 by 2020.
A rapidly growing Muslim population and a declining Jewish community mean that future German politicians will ignore the Jews and pander to anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic Muslims. I won’t be surprised if a left-wing party in Germany promises to upgrade relations with the Palestinians in order to win over the Turkish vote.
What would happen if Germany reneged on its support for Israel? Practically speaking, nothing much. But it would be a blow to the conscience of the world. Because of its crimes against the Jewish people in the 1930s and 1940s, Germany has a special moral imperative to protect and support Israel in good times and bad. This means distancing itself from the Palestinian cause and offering strong diplomatic support for the Jewish state at the UN and in the EU.
If Germany abandons its support for Israel, then it would send out a message that the guilt of the Holocaust is finally assuaged. It would be a green light to neo-Nazis, the Far Left and Islamofascists across Europe to act with impunity against the Jews.
Already there are signs that things are going awry. Newspapers in Germany and Britain demonize the State of Israel by printing anti-Semitic cartoons. Muslim thugs routinely harass and assault Jews in Toulouse and Malmo. Left-wing politicians in the EU parliament lend their support to Hamas. Equally vile are the Far Right bigots in Greece and Hungary who demonize Jews, gypsies and Muslims on the grounds of race.
We cannot escape the fact that there is a wide seam of intolerance in Europe. And this intolerance – which found its most gruesome expression in the 7/7 and Madrid bombings, as well as the recent beheading of a British soldier – is incompatible with the values of democracy, free speech and sanctity of human life.
The bewildering rise in terrorism, street protests, radicalism and bigotry in modern Europe recalls the shrill and shallow politicking of the 1930s. Contempt for “the other” (usually Jews) is as commonplace now as it was in fascist Germany. The media and the megaphone are the political tools of Palestinianists and Nazis alike.
The threat of violence (real and imaginary) is used to silence the critics who are denounced as Zionists or American puppets. Musicians are suppressed because of their allegiance to the Jewish people. Contemporary jazz musician Eric Herrera was recently banned from playing the Fiesta Major Alternativa because he was photographed in Barcelona attending an event marking Israel's 65th anniversary.
How is this different from the Nazi prohibition of Jewish composers like Arnold Schoenberg? In short, there is no difference at all.
Europe has been running on empty ever since the end of the Second World War.
Europeans are seemingly powerless to resist the return of fascism. Wallowing in post-colonial guilt and cultural relativism, Europe has spectacularly failed to address the problem of resurgent anti-Semitism, probably because it so captivated by the absurd narrative of the Palestinian underdog.
As things stand, the EU is a hollow entity. It is a superstructure without a soul. The Nazis mocked the moral code found in the Hebrew Scriptures, while today’s Europe discards the ethical system bequeathed by the Jews via the Christians. Indeed, the EU is embarrassed by its Christian heritage, but it is willing to tolerate Islam.
It welcomes Muslims, but is unable to integrate them into European society.
It condemns racism but turns a blind eye to anti-Semitism.
It prides itself on protecting minorities, but routinely ignores Jewish voices.
The EU needs something to fill the void. If there was ever such a thing as Judeo-Christian culture, it turned to ashes in the crematoria at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Europe has been running on empty ever since the end of the Second World War and if it’s not careful the void will be filled by the twin evils of neo-Nazism and radical Islam. And in their wake the pestilences of anti-Semitism, racism, terrorism, homophobia and sexism will ravage the continent.
A fascist Europe poses a danger to everyone, Jew and non-Jew alike.