Too many Europeans are ambivalent, like Livingstone. Terrorists, they figure, are evil; but if their preferred victims are Jews and Americans, how bad can they really be? As Europe prepares its own destruction, it resembles Germany in the early 1930s: Jew-hatred everywhere, on a low boil. ~David Gelernter
No one needs to defend Ken Livingstone or the company he keeps to realise that Prof. Gelernter has unfortunately joined in the deluded chorus of Europe-haters who share a far more visceral, irrational and ugly prejudice than most so-called anti-Americans. It is understandable that Prof. Gelernter, himself the target of the Unabomber, takes issue with those who are willing to turn a blind eye to the incitement of Islamic terrorism, and he is actually right about Ken Livingstone. It makes far less sense that he would then generalise from Ken Livingstone’s chumminess with Islamic clerics to say “Jew-hatred is Europe’s eternal flame.” Someone with a more informed and less biased view of European history might say more intelligently that the truths of Athens and the Truth Who rose again in Jerusalem are Europe’s eternal flames, with rather a lot of emphasis on the latter.
Of course, most of his article supposedly about the Mayor of London is really yet another tasteless, tired screed about the perpetual Jew-hatred of all Europeans everywhere at all times, as if the preoccupations of some Labour elites in Britain were representative of anything in the rest of Britain or the entire Continent. Someone who knows nothing about modern Europe and the vast bulk of European history, except for what he has picked up from the anti-Western agitprop that passes for the teaching of history in most schools today, would claim such a thing. Someone who knows it to be a gross and massively false over-generalisation, but who wishes to create a caricature of all Europeans for mean political ends, would also make such a claim.
This is the typical sort of filth one would expect from the Wall Street Journal editorial page, The Weekly Standard‘s hacks or any of a number of untalented scribblers who pass for the pool of “conservative intellectuals” today. It is not what I would have expected from Prof. Gelernter, whose book Drawing Life has been recommended to me as a truly exceptional and intelligent work.
Surely what drives the anti-European mad is their vague awareness of the fact that the noxious, explosive and empowered political anti-Semitism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is quite distinct from the old, generally mild, religious “Judaeophobia” as Prof. Lukacs calls it, and that Europe became more virulently anti-Semitic to the extent that it became modern, secular and democratic. Political anti-Semitism flourished precisely in those societies to the degree that they were introduced to modernist, secularist and revolutionary principles and the degree to which they departed from their traditional Christianity. What must drive him even more mad is the awareness that there are practically no anti-Semites left in Europe, and that the penal codes against anti-Semitic expressions in most “free” western European countries are extremely strict, which makes the perpetual anti-Semitism of all Europeans a hard proposition to prove (not that this stops the assertion of it at every turn).
The generic dedicated nationalist, who strives mightily to resist the obliteration of his identity into meaningless, secular European-ness, now fills the space of publicly approved loathing that old anti-Semitic movements reserved for Jews, the function of anti-Semitism in its democratic age of birth being exclusion of minorities and minority views and the mass mobilisation of ignorant mobs for the gaining of political power. That it could also be used to channel real popular grievances against liberalism because of the large number of Jews in modern European liberal politics was a case where it was an unusually useful political tool (and one that worked because of the association with despised liberalism, not vice versa).
What should be emphasised, though, is just how marginal to mainstream European politics anti-Semitism has been for all of modern European history, and just how wrong it is to subscribe to the ignorant nonsense that Europeans have some reflexive hatred of Jews built into their entire culture. To indict Europeans of this is to indict ourselves of the same, as we belong to a European culture, though it pains many Americans to admit it. That it has never been a political phenomenon worth mentioning in this country may be attributed to these things: our republicanism was not founded on absurd fictions but historical inheritance, our practical English heritage inoculated us from the worst ideological obsessions, and our culture developed without being infected as much by the germs of the last two revolutionary centuries.
It has never been much of a vote-winner, and many parties in the past with explicit anti-Semitic positions (but which were not out-and-out anti-Semite parties) would scarcely have bothered to bring up such an uninspiring issue: this is hardly the sign of an undying and pervasive prejudice. It is simply a symptom of the rise of mass man and the efforts of a mass man society to amalgamate and consolidate society into a uniform whole. As such, it is a product of a leftist mentality that is itself generally hostile to most things historically and genuinely European, including traditional Christian churches that quite naturally consider themselves the successors of Israel.
It is also worth noting that the Red Kens of the world do not support extremists clerics or apologise for the attackers Israel and America because they despise Jews (which makes very little sense with regard to America), but because they see these Islamists as useful tools in targeting two countries they regard as repositories of particular, Western national, ethnic and religious identities (see Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, etc.). (To the radical leftist in Europe or America, Zionism is as much retrograde Western nationalism as it is the leftovers of a utopian socialist movement.) Neocons have much the same attitude, provided that the targets of Islamism are not Israel and America (not for any love of America, mind you, but because it is a useful springboard for exporting their ideology).
When the Islamist ceases being a useful club with which to beat down Western identities, then he becomes to the radical leftist Livingstone just as disgusting to him as a religious fanatic as an old High Church Tory. It is only when Muslims are a minority inside a Western country that Livingstone would find them worth supporting–not for their own sake, but because their entry into society weakens what is left of the old Britain. It is that Western identity that they despise, and that which they wish to abolish in their own countries, which is why they are interested in welcoming as many non-Westerners to their shores as possible.