The myth of multiculturalism

Like a tsunami, the powerful surge came on quickly, forcefully and unrelentingly. There was some warning of the imminent destruction, but too few saw it coming too late.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu moved the first tectonic plate that caused the deluge. Multiculturalism in Israel, he declared, “has failed totally," The ocean erupts.
As if the the unstoppable political storm that was already headed towards Israel needed any prodding, the often abrasive Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Foreign Minister and proponent of the proposed loyalty oath to Israel and as Jewish and democratic state, added that his Yisrael Beitenu party (literally “Israel is our home”), along with the prime minister’s Likud party are “committed to a dominant Jewish culture and opposed to a multicultural one.”
By now Israel should have been preparing for complete diplomatic annihilation. But the concoction of  destructive statements was not completed. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the high-proportion of unskilled Arab and foreign labor was holding Israel’s economy back, although, he added, Israel does need to import more highly trained specialists from the Diaspora.
With those statements, Israel’s relevance as a political entity, which was always questioned, came to a complete and abrupt end. The political storm came from all corners of the globe and washed away any remnants of Israeli legitimacy. Israel finally stood alone in a morally and democratically vague corner.
Had these statements actually been made in Israel, there surely would be an end to any political relevance for the state. Not only would the Arab states play their broken record of criticism against Israel, but Europe would have a field day, and even the old friend in the United States would no longer be able to tolerant Israel’s seemingly overt ethnocentrism. Zionism would unequivocally be translated as racism, Israeli apartheid firmly established in the eyes of the world, and the previously flawed debate will finally be vindicated.
In reality, these statements were made, but not in Israel. They were made by the leaders of a country with a terrible historical record of racism, which manifested itself into the most destructive genocide in history: Germany.
On October 16th, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated at a meeting with young members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party that, in fact, German Multikulti (multiculturalism) “has failed totally.”
In addition, the chairman of a sister party to the CDU, Horst Seehofer, said that the two parties are “committed to a dominant German culture and opposed to a multicultural one.”
And it was Chancellor Merkel that stated that the flood of immigrants into Germany was holding back the nation’s economy.
These statements reflect a very German and European attitude towards assimilation, nationalism and multiculturalism. European countries have tried to deal with the influx of foreign workers (which often are Muslim) in various ways. When they realized that assimilation was not a viable option for their foreign guests, loyalty to the state was the next best choice.
American political scientist George Friedman points out, “The onus on assimilating migrants into the larger society increased as Muslim discontent rocked Europe in the 1980s. The solution Germans finally agreed upon in the mid-to-late 1980s was multiculturalism, a liberal and humane concept that offered migrants a grand bargain: Retain your culture but pledge loyalty to the state.”
Despite the liberal image that Europe portrays, they have been intent on retaining an “authentic” form of national identity. Multiculturalism, as politically sensitive as it sounds, was a way to protect a specific ethnic identity of the state. As Friedman argues, “For the Europeans, multiculturalism was not the liberal and humane respect for other cultures that it pretended to be.” Rather, it was a defensive maneuver to protect their cultures.
Germany, their European neighbors and Israel are not alone in their desire to protect national identity. This is a universal trait held by most nations (except the United States, which is an anomaly in its lack of ethnic identity). Douglas Feith, former US under secretary of defense and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, pointed out in his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Can Israel be Jewish and Democratic?”, that many European countries have a strong ethnic identity written into their national infrastructure and symbols. Several nations have Christian crosses in their flags, while “Ireland has a law that allows applicants of “Irish descent or Irish associations” to be exempted from ordinary naturalization rules. Poland, Croatia and Japan have similar laws of return favoring members of their own respective ethnic majorities. Many other examples exist.” Although ethno-nationalism is exclusive in its nature, it is universal in its practice.
There are two lessons to be learned here. First, there is a limit to the liberalism that most countries in this world will tolerate. Europe is a perfect example of a group of nations that do not practice what they preach. Ethno-nationalism is as important to European nations as it is to anyone else, possibly even more. (For more on this topic, I suggest reading Professor Jerry Muller’s outstanding essay “Us and Them” in the March/April 2008 issue Foreign Affairs, which powerfully illustrates this point.)
The other point is that Israel again is under a microscope in which other nations do not have to contend. After the loyalty oath in Israel was proposed, there was a strong chorus from many around the world arguing that this move is racist and discriminatory. No such chorus accompanied Chancellor Merkel’s statements. And one would think that comments of that nature coming from Germany would sound alarms around the world, but they didn’t.
The level of hypocrisy here, in which Israel is held up to higher standards than the European countries hold themselves, is not new, but it should not be tolerated. If Israeli politicians had made those statements, we would have immediately heard about it from the media, Western and Arab governments, and human rights groups. But the international community still tries to mold Israel to its liking. It can still be shaped into some democratic ideal, a standard that the nations of the world cannot even reach themselves.
This is the world we live in. Nations prefer to protect their ethnic identities. And they even do so while maintaining their democratic principles. It happens in Europe, Asia, and even Israel.
For more from this author, visit The Big Ben Theory.
For George Friedman’s essay on Stratfor, click "Germany and the Failure of Multiculturalism."
Douglas Feith’s Wall Street Journal op-ed “Can Israel Be Jewish and Democratic?” can be found here.
For Professor Jerry Muller’s essay, “Us and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism,” click here.