Prof. Benzion Netanyahu observed that the most horrific anti-Jewish episodes in the Middle Ages occurred when clashes between Christianity and Islam intensified. For example, Spain in the 15th century, and during various Muslim invasions of Europe.
A new clash is brewing in Europe. After years of tensions between Europe’s Christian and Muslim populations, the European conflict escalated last week to violence, triggered by the shooting of a Muslim teenager by French police. In less than a week, French police arrested over 3,000 people – mainly young Muslims.
As it so happened, during the same week, the BBC escalated its well-documented incitement against the Jewish state, reawakening the Middle Ages blood libel: “Israeli forces are happy to kill children.”
This escalation was even steeper since this time, the BBC presenter did not allege that Israel targets civilians but that some of the terrorists who murder Israeli citizens are under 18, hence Israel’s fighting them amounts to “Israel killing children.”
Moreover, unlike in the Middle Ages, when Europeans were indoctrinated with rhetoric that Jews kill children, presumably “reluctantly” – they need their blood to make matzot – this generation of Europeans are apparently indoctrinated with a higher-level blood libel: The Jewish state is actually “happy” to kill children.
Herzl understood that whenever there are frustrations in Europe, Jews are in danger. While some last week breathed a sigh of relief that Muslim protesters did not target French Jews, the historical pattern is clear: Europeans direct their frustrations toward the most relevant aspect of Judaism – at Herzl’s time, as both Europe and Jews turned secular, the opposition to Judaism shifted from being directed to the Jewish religion to being directed to the Jewish nation. Now, as we saw last week, it is directed to the Jewish state and Zionism – the new anchor of Judaism (Judaism 3.0).
Christianity vs Islam or atheism vs monotheism?
European diplomats and pundits argue that the European conflict should not be framed as Christianity vs Islam but rather secularism vs religion. As evidence, some Europeans point to measures taken against the Jewish religion, such as attempts to restrict circumcision and kosher animal slaughter.
Indeed, after 1,500 years or so of being anchored in religion, Europe now champions zealous secularism and even anti-theism. Today’s European democracy is a byproduct of the French Revolution, which was, among other things, a rebelling against God, even changing the seven-day week to 10 days to negate the view of the “old Europeans” that God created the world. (This is in sharp contrast to the American democracy, which is a byproduct of the American Revolution, rooted in faith: “one nation under God”).
So if Europe’s conflict is indeed with religion, where does this leave European Christians? Outside Paris, “Old Europeans” still practice religion and nationalism. Indeed, the “Paris vs France” mantra was a backdrop of the “Yellow Vest” protests of recent years.
And so, in coming decades, as lines of demarcation in the “Battle for Europe” are drawn, it is possible that the conflict on some level would turn to be atheism (“New Europeans”) vs monotheism (“Old Europeans” and Muslim migrants). This relates to Europe’s philosophical divide with Americanism and its 2,300-year-old opposition to Jerusalem (see EuropeandJerusalem.com).
This needs to be taken seriously. Not only due to Herzl’s and Netanyahu’s warnings about the dangerous ecosystem to Jews that such conflict generates but also because the European conflict has long-term global impact. The ancient global feud, monotheism vs paganism, which was dormant for over 1,300 years – ever since Europe accepted monotheism in the form of Christianity, and the Middle East in the form of Islam – now seems to re-emerge in a new arena: Europe.
A preemptive European peace conference
As suggested in a previous Magazine article, Europe should convene a preemptive peace conference rather than follow the normal cycle of history: A surprise massive European war every century, followed by a reactive peace conference that sets world order for the next century (1919, 1815), followed by an unexpected war.
Europe should embark on an honest conversation with itself, for its own sake and for the sake of the world, core to which should be finding ways to end Europe’s disruptive intervention in Israeli-Palestinian affairs. The primary victims of Europe’s obsessive intervention are Palestinians. Europe robs them of basic human rights, such as the right to decide if to be employed by Jewish-owned companies, while at the same time massively funds organizations that incite Palestinians against Israel. Such European funding should go down to zero. Imagine a foreign government funding organizations that incite European Muslims against France, or organizations that encourage French policemen to “break the silence” and report abuse of Muslims (3,000 arrests – each has its own story), and then disseminate this information to Muslim communities, leading to more violence and escalation. Europe should not tolerate foreign countries doing so in Europe, and it should stop engaging in such abusive behavior in the Jewish state.
It is important to recognize that such European reversal is difficult, if not impossible. Years of indoctrination take their toll. Herzl noted that “There is no use in suddenly announcing in the newspaper that starting tomorrow, all people are equal.” Similarly, it is not simple reversing years of indoctrination that Israel is “happy to kill children,” and commits a “massacre in Palestine” and “crimes against humanity.”
The combination of Europeans being incited against the Jewish state and Europe’s growing conflict with both its Muslim and Christian populations is a recipe for yet another European-sourced global disaster.
Will Europe have the courage to pivot and confront its issues? Or will Europe continue its trajectory toward “the War of European Succession”? This remains to be seen in coming decades. ■
Conclusion and re-emergence of monotheism vs paganism
Moab’s conflict with Israel is peculiar. Balak, king of Moab, hires Balaam to curse Israel, even though it is clear that Israel has no intention to invade Moab. We even learn that God prohibits this.
Similarly, Balak does not seem to fear that Israel would spread its faith in God to Moab. He himself believes in God, so does Balaam, so does Yitro, priest of Midian, and so do other nations, as we learn in the “Song of the Sea.”
So what is the strategic threat that Balak identifies? Seemingly, it is monotheism!
The “world order” at the time is polytheism. Such order can contain “another Lord” – Moab can worship Israel’s God, and Israel can worship Moab’s pagan deities.
This pluralistic approach is evident when Balak sends messengers to Balaam carrying paganic elements (ksamim), and in Balaam’s using paganic tools in his first two attempts to curse Israel (it is stated that in the third attempt, he does not). Israel disrupts this world order with its message of monotheism – one God.
Israel itself is divided, as some, seemingly the “heads of the nation,’’ worshiped Moab’s Baal and invited a Midianite princess to worship Israel’s God.
The monotheism vs paganism conflict lasted for centuries but came to its end by the 7th century CE: The Roman Empire accepts monotheism in the form of Christianity, and the Middle East in the form of Islam. Yet, in a stunning reversal of history, by the 21st century, this biblical conflict seems to renew in a new arena: Europe.
The writer is author of Judaism 3.0: Judaism’s Transformation to Zionism (Judaism-Zionism.com). For his historical biblical analysis, see ParashaAndHerzl.com