Most European Jews support the European Union. The idea of a united Europe where nation-states are superseded by cosmopolitan institutions is appealing to a people historically exposed to nationalist hatred. European Jews here follow the footsteps of their forefathers who in previous centuries enthusiastically supported unification movements throughout the continent.
In the 19th century, Jews made a disproportionate contribution to the Risorgimento which sought to establish a strong central government in the fractured Italian peninsula. North of the Alps, German unification was speeded by Chancellor Bismarck’s adviser, the Jewish banker Gerson von Bleichröder who helped bankroll Prussia’s military campaigns. German and Italian Jews were as enthusiastic about a unified Germany and a unified Italy, as many European Jews nowadays are about a unified Europe.
During the heady days of German and Italian unification, educated elites in these lands were delighted to do away with the profusion of small rival states which dotted Germany and Italy. National unification promised more trade, more freedom of movement and more political rights. Emancipation from submission to the whims of Dukes, Barons and Popes particularly appealed to the historically weak and politically-vulnerable Jews. It is remarkable to realize how similar the hopes Jews pinned in a united Italy and a united Germany in the 19th century were to those placed in the European unification process in our days.
In the light of Italy’s anti-Semitic Racial Laws of 1938 and the rise to power of the German Nazis in 1933, it is clear that the enthusiasm of 19th century European Jews was misplaced. What the Jews could not foresee is that new states don’t just displace parochial identities, but create cruder ones in the process. Today’s European federalists genuinely believe that the developing pan-European identity will be based on respect for cultural tolerance, social justice and human rights. What these federalists forget is that this identity has relatively shallow historical roots and is grounded on economic and demographic strengths which Europeans
Once the financial conditions for a pan-European welfare state fade, it will be evident that the core markers of a pan-European identity are racial whiteness and Christian roots. A politically-unified Europe will therefore gravitate towards these basic common denominators of the continental identity. This process will be gradual, yet unstoppable, as local and national identities are superseded by a continental consciousness. As a result, Jews and other non-white minorities could be increasingly perceived as foreign in a united Europe, particularly in the wake of financial slumps and economic downturns.
A pan-continental identity and culture will not be the sole factors steering Europe away from Jews. A politically-united Europe will view itself as entitled to an autonomous foreign policy, no longer subordinate to American or North Atlantic interests. In this context, Europe will increasingly try to differentiate itself as a super-power by pursuing a foreign policy that contrasts American influence in the Middle East and North Africa.
The corollary of this approach is a marked and increasingly open hostility to Israel, viewed as a pawn to be sacrificed for Arab and Muslim support in the international arena. Federica Mogherini, the former European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs was not accidentally hostile towards Israel and also eager to appease Islamic autocrats. She is just a taste of what the world can expect from an increasingly united and assertive Europe.
A unified Europe need not be an avatar of the Third Reich. However, there are solid reasons to fear that if the balance between regional, national and continental identities is displaced, Europe will become less hospitable towards Jews. Most European Jews tend to believe that they face two chief threats: that of militant Islamists and that of traditional nationalists. The history of 19th and 20th century Germany and Italy suggests that European federalism will eventually power a pan-European nationalism inimical towards Jews and all non-white, non-Christian minorities in the Old Continent.