In Budapest this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had an unintentionally revealing moment.
On an open microphone, he was overheard condemning as “crazy” the EU’s insistence on resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a precondition for closer trade ties. European links with Israel, he said, would determine whether the EU would “live and thrive or shrivel and disappear.”
The situation is surely even broader and starker than that. European leaders don’t realize their fate is wrapped up not only with Israel but with Judaism itself.
They don’t grasp that prejudice against the Jews is a major driver of Islamist attacks not just against Israel but also against the West. And they don’t understand how their own orthodoxies are aiding that malign process.
Last April Sarah Halimi, a 67-year-old French Jewish woman, was murdered by her 27-year-old neighbor, Malian immigrant Kobili Traore, who beat and tortured her before throwing her alive out of the third floor window of her Paris apartment. During the attack he shouted “Allahu akbar” and “you sheitan!” (devil). He had previously taunted her repeatedly with anti-Jewish remarks.
The police, who had failed to respond to the pleas by Halimi’s family to do something about Traore because they feared being accused of anti-Muslim prejudice, have refused to acknowledge this was an anti-Jewish crime.
In recent years, French Jews have been repeatedly attacked by Muslim assailants motivated by religiously based hatred of Jews. France has persistently ignored the significance of this.
When Islamists murdered French Jews in the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris in 2015, the Jewish community observed bitterly that this atrocity was only properly acknowledged because it happened two days after the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo.
What the Hyper Cacher atrocity actually showed, along with other attacks on French Jewish targets around the same time, was what Europeans have denied for so long: that Muslims kill Jews because they are Jews.
In 2003 Sébastien Selam was killed in Paris by Adel Amastaïbou who screamed: “I’ll go to heaven, I killed my Jew!” In 2014 in Lyon a man armed with a hammer and an iron stick charged at his neighbor, a woman and her child, yelling “Dirty Jew, go back to your country!” The same month a young man was beaten up in Paris by two men crying: “Dirty Jew, we don’t like Jews here, this is no Israel, this is Palestine!” In Britain, there is an ongoing furor over antisemitism in the Labour Party. This is being blamed on the party’s far-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn. But anti-Jewish attitudes, expressed principally through attacks on Israel, are now the default position throughout the Left.
The usual alibi that such views are anti-Israel but not anti-Jew doesn’t wash. Although those expressing them may have no personal animosity against Jews, their Israel-bashing has precisely the same characteristics as Jew-baiting: singling out Jews or the Jewish state alone for double standards, demonization and systematic lying used against no other people.
During Netanyahu’s visit to Paris last Sunday, the French president Emmanuel Macron helpfully observed that anti-Zionism was a “new type of antisemitism.” He also issued a welcome call for “total clarity” on the Halimi murder and admitted: “We were silent because we did not want to see.”
Alas, Macron himself doesn’t want to see what needs to be seen. He has persistently failed to acknowledge the real cause of Islamist terrorism, blaming it on things like joblessness, grievances or – most fatuously – global warming.
Islamist terrorism is caused by a fanatical interpretation of Islam. Intrinsic to that is hatred and fear of the Jews deriving from Islamic sacred texts. Islamists further believe that modernity has to be stopped, the Jews are behind modernity and all other evil and so the Jews have to be eradicated.
The Islamists’ key insight is that progressive views have hollowed out Western societies, particularly in Europe, so that they no longer know what values they need to defend against the Islamic jihad.
What secularists fail to grasp is that the values they most prize, such as the power of reason or belief in human rights, were created by Judaism and expressed in the West through Christianity.
Human rights rest on the belief that all are created equal in the image of God. The power of reason rests on the revolutionary concept in the book of Genesis that there is an intelligible universe.
Secular ideologies, however, are positively anti-Judaism.
Moral relativism denies the moral codes of Mosaic law. Deep green environmentalism repudiates the belief embodied in the creation that mankind is superior to the natural world. Scientific materialism dethrones God and puts man in his place.
Judaism is an obstacle both to the unconstrained individualism of Western libertines and also to the Islamist attack on reason, equality and freedom. Small wonder Western progressives make common cause with Islamists against the Jewish people.
Macron is a universalist who doesn’t believe in defending Western national identity. Nor does he believe in France. He said last February: “French culture does not exist; there is a culture in France and it is diverse...
French art? I never met it!” Anyone who believes Macron will defend the Jewish people, the free world or France itself is in for a rude awakening. As are the rest of Europe and the West, while they continue to misjudge the central importance of Israel and the Jewish people to their battle to survive.The writer is a columnist for The Times (UK).