[Previous] [Main Index] [Next]

Thursday, December 25, 2003

INCENDIARY ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE EU: 3rd and Final Installment

Those of you who have read the first two installments in this mini-series on European anti-Semitism will have, it's hoped, no trouble following the analysis here. The overall argument that spans all three installments is divided into 8 major parts, PART I, PART II, and so on. Parts I - III were set out in the initial installment; the lengthy Part IV took up all of the second installment; and what follows are Parts V - VIII. It will have helped if you've read those first two installments. If you haven't, you're urged to at least run your eye over both before tackling the argument here.

Another thing worth noting. This mini-series on EU anti-Semitism is something of an interlude in a much larger, wide-ranging project that began a few weeks ago: specifically, systematic comparisons between the US and other democracies, mainly in West Europe, and what --- for good or bad --- explains certain unusual American traits, cultural and institutional, that add up to what the admirable British weekly The Economist calls "American exceptionalism." The first buggy article in that larger series appeared in November, and the various constituent parts that comprise American exceptionalism were set out schematically there. With this interlude on European anti-Semitism now done, we will return to that more ambitious project starting with next article, taking up where we left off: the nature and evidence for the first American exceptionalism, a built-in suspicion --- again, for good or bad --- of big government. This suspicion, as the series showed in an exchange with a British visitor, stands out even when the comparative focus is narrowed to just the English-speaking democracies --- the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand.

So far, remember, the widely held suspicion in American politics was documented by concentrating on political institutions: a separation of powers at the center, an unique role for the courts in American politics, and a powerful federalism that has no rival even in Canada or Australia --- though tiny Switzerland's is comparable. When that larger, much more ambitious project resumes in the next article, you'll find several systematic comparisons of governmental spending --- all sorts as a percentage of GDP, including social expenditures --- in the US and EU democracies. Survey evidence will also be set out that documents why Americans are overwhelmingly satisfied with the relatively low levels of expenditures, again for good or bad . . . education and defense the two big exceptions, both policy-areas where the US outspends all other democratic countries, percentage wise or absolutely.

In the meantime, shift your attention to the rippling outbreak of anti-Semitic racism in the EU once more.


PART V. THE CAUSES OF THE NEW EUROPEAN ANTI-SEMITISM

More significantly, for all its virtues, the San Francisco Chronicle article on the incendiary anti-Semitism in the EU never gets around to pinning down and illuminating the root causes of its new outbreak and rapid spread there. Their analysis stays largely on the surface.

To get down to cases, the Chronicle journalists rightly note that anti-Semitism has been embedded in European life for over a thousand years or more --- actually, it's much older than the start of the Middle Ages to which the article makes reference, but no matter. That's not the problem. The problem is that the journalists are more or less content to observe that the new anti-Semitism, besides having ancient roots in European life, is rationalized in the media and elsewhere these days as anti-Israeli criticisms and then stop there. The root causes run much deeper. They're not just an outward sign of recurring historical influences, much as there are links to traditional European anti-Semitism; nor are the they confined to hostility toward alleged Israeli menaces to world-peace (huh?). Instead, they fester in the turbulence and social conflicts that surround the belated and externally imposed changes that the EU countries are being forced to implement . . . reluctantly, at a snail's pace in some countries like France, Italy, and Germany, more vigorously in Holland and Scandinavia, and with full-tilt tendencies in Ireland and Britain.

Most Europeans recoil from these changes and manifest worry and pessimism about them. This isn't just speculation. As PART IV in the previous buggy installment showed, the growing "gloom and pessimism" among the EU populations are captured faithfully by Eurobarometer, an official EU pollster group that probes public opinion in the 15 member-states twice yearly. [For that earlier buggy summary of its latest findings, published in November 2003 click here.]

Specifically, the gloom and pessimism that Eurobarometer found pertain to national and EU institutions alike as well as to each country's economic prospects . . . especially as the comfy welfare-state almost everywhere comes under forced changes, highly unwelcome. Less than half of the EU population even believes now that the EU itself is a good thing --- sentiments that reflect growing alienation among the national publics on display for years now and that the new EU constitution, drawn up over the last two years, was supposed to dispel. Not so. In early December 2003, the splits across the 15 member-countries --- as well as among the 10 new ones set to join next year --- were sufficiently sharp and far-reaching that the summit-conference of the heads of government, which was supposed to cap the two-year work by signing the final document, broke down in stalemated acrimony. As for overcoming the alienation of the publics, they weren't consulted once during the two-years of closed-door bureaucratic work on the proposed constitution. Come to that, few of the 15 existing member-states even intend to hold referenda on the momentous changes at stake. That is not the way the EU operates. Essentially a club of governments and technocrats --- the latter under the supervision of the EU executive commission --- it operates with largely tête-à-tête secrecy and at best very limited democratic supervision by the EU Parliament.

For the national publics, it's worse. Kept at bay by EU policymaking --- which entails intricate, astonishingly detailed regulations that intrude deep into the daily lives of individuals, business firms, employees, and national governments --- they have little say, if any, over those intrusions. Come to that, as survey evidence repeatedly shows, most Europeans don't understand how policies are shaped and administered by the tangle of EU institutions.
 

Unwelcome Or Resented Strains

What, in particular, is the complex of trends and buffeting influences prompting these dislocating changes and widespread sense of gloom and pessimism they have provoked? Consider some of the most prominent:



• The crackling, inescapable burden to overhaul and make the EU economies more competitive;

• The unrelenting pressures of globalization as one impelling force here, and the new economic dynamism in India, Pacific Asia, and the US as other forces ;



• The bursting illusions, widespread in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the EU, about alleged American decline and how the EU countries would catch-up or surpass the US in economic vigor and wealth --- and rival it in power and influence;

• The dawning if reluctant realization that the rapidly growing Islamic communities all over the EU aren't integrating, just the opposite; and are inclined more and more to fundamentalist revivalism and anger . . . especially among alienated Islamic youth, who, among other things, are in large part behind the surge of violent crime that has made many of the cities in West Europe far more dangerous than our cities here; [On this topic see the buggy comments here at this site; you'll also find there lots of links to other buggy-prof analysis on comparative crime levels in the EU and US]



• Related concerns of another demographic sort in full swing: the native European populations are not increasing in number, but shrinking, and at the same time they are growing older and need to be supported by state-financed pensions --- read: taxes on the ever smaller working populations.

• The timidity of older people in general, hardly just a European phenomenon, when it comes to complex and unsettling changes.


We can be more specific on this last count. Leave aside the rising age of European peoples. Both for cultural reasons --- and 60 years almost of an extensive welfare state that has led to various degrees of dependence --- the EU populations have become more and more risk-averse and worried about uncertainty and dislocating changes. In such psychic conditions, the burdens of a growing dependent number of retirees are bound to cause all sorts of added problems, not least how their pensions are to be financed. State-pensions can only be financed in two ways: by more taxes on the working population or on employers. The actively employed number of Europeans has been shrinking for two decades now. Partly this is a matter of low birth rates; partly it's structural unemployment of a long-term sort that hits young Europeans especially hard; and partly it's that Europeans over age 50 have been working less and less --- a problem that we'll be more precise about in a moment or two. In 1980, about 60% of Europeans between 50 and 65 were active in the labor force. These days, the percentage is below 50%, and in some countries below 40%. Meanwhile, more and more retired Europeans are living ever longer. Who will absorb the new tax burdens if state-pensions aren't cut back noticeably, even as the age of retirement is delayed by new policies?

An open-door policy of immigration would ease the burdens, only --- given that most would stream in from the explosively growing Arab populations across the Mediterranean --- to accentuate the crackling conflicts that already derive from their expanding numbers across West Europe.

 

Added Strains and Hence More Fears and Resentments

All these disruptive influences are bad enough. Add something else, strictly economic, which is forcing even the trimming European governments in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and elsewhere to confront more directly. In particular,

  • The traditional way of handling mounting structural unemployment can't be resorted to much longer, especially now that an expensive euro in dollar terms blocks export-led recovery out of recession or just flat GDP growth: trimming their work forces, at both ends of the age spectrum, to compensate for the poor, decades' long record of job-creation . . . at any rate everywhere except in Britain, Ireland, and to an extent more recently in Scandinavia.


To clarify briefly. Start at one end of the age-spectrum, older Europeans. As we just noted --- the figures are worth underscoring --- those men between 50 and 65 in the work force added up to about 60% in 1980. The figure has now shrunk under 50% on an average, and is down to around 40% in Italy or France or both. Even delaying the age of retirement --- one way of trying to reduce the social security burdens --- won't help much if more and more Europeans simply decide that they prefer not to work anyway once they reach 50 years or more.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the age-spectrum, unemployment among males and females between roughly age 18 and 30 is over 30% on an average, is long-term, and is no doubt much higher if you take into account those in makeshift government programs that lead nowhere and end soon, or who have dropped out of the work force and live with mom and dad forever. In Germany, one way of handling the youth crisis here is to let in as many young people to universities of all sorts, subsidize them, and let them stay on for years and years. In the upshot, the average German student gets his first degree at age 29. At this rate, in a couple of decades, the same student will probably get his degree one day and apply for social security retirement the next.

 




If only by way of clarification, the problems of jamming the already crowded, poorly underfunded EU universities with more students are worth dwelling on briefly.

As things stand, save in Britain, almost all EU universities are giant anonymous institutions full of anxious or drifting students. Most students can't count on finding a job related to their specialized studies when they graduate; many of them can't count on finding a career-job of any sort until several years pass. Little wonder that lots of them are alienated, primed to demonstrate vocally, and sometimes violently, for almost any cause. Nor is that all. According to a recent EU Commission study, the US spends about 2.3% of GDP on our universities and other post-secondary education; the EU countries average less than half that. US universities, as the study notes, not only charge tuition --- though at public ones it's relatively low --- but also have far higher endowments and raise large sums from private sources. In Italy, Germany, Spain, and France, the student-faculty ratio can be close to 100:1. In the US, the corresponding figures are about 10:1 for private universities and colleges; 20:1 for large public universities like UC; and 30:1 or so in community colleges. In German universities, graduate seminars can have over a 100 students! Those of the buggy professor usually average around 8-10. Most campus libraries in the EU are a mess too. Assuming they're open --- in France, they're closed at night and on weekends and throughout most of the summer --- they're likely to be under-stocked, poorly organized, and overcrowded.

"Countries have to get real about mass higher education," said Nicholas Barr, professor of public economics at the London School of Economics in the recent New York Times article just linked to: "The way they've done it in mainland Europe is to cram more and more people in the universities without raising the financing per student."

Why don't the EU countries spend more on university education then?

For a clear-cut reason. As things stand, the huge burdens of pension-schemes, unemployment insurance, health insurance, and what have you leave little money available anywhere in the EU for stepped-up expenditures for universities --- even in Britain, with its more streamlined welfare state since the reforms initiated by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative governments in the 1980s. In the mid-1980s, only about 14% of British high school students went on to universities or equivalents; now it's 40% --- still below the California figure of 60%, but an explosive growth all the same. Parallel changes have occurred on the Continent, where expanded enrollments seem to be a form of disguised outdoor-relief for the unemployed. Again, note: this varies across countries. The problems are less acute in Scandinavia and Switzerland (not in the EU) than elsewhere. Among the other countries, the British government and some state-governments in Germany are now proposing to charge tuition fees. The result? Even though the proposals seem essential and carefully limited, they're another source of anxiety-generating change in European life --- another cause of resentment and backlash. Even in France where no proposal for fees has been put on the agenda, widespread student strikes and demonstrations have erupted recently on the streets all over the country, and essentially because the central government intends to do nothing more than conform to EU laws and bring French diplomas in line with the standards in other EU countries.





 

PART VI. ENTER THE NEW ANTI-SEMITISM

What follows? Scapegoating, that's what. At any rate for lots of West Europeans --- the 30% or more who show strong anti-Semitic tendencies, and probably more . . . including the larger numbers, not necessarily anti-Semitic, who find the US behind their problems one way or another.

Recall here what the earlier two buggy installments argued. With some variation across countries, most West Europeans --- risk-averse as things stood anyway after WWII --- have been accustomed by both the violent turmoil of European history and more recently the mushrooming subsidies and safety-nets of their welfare states to blame others for their troubles and problems and externalize them onto personified forces. For most EU citizens, these other forces could be the opposition political party or parties in power --- the callous self-centered fools; or bureaucrats riding high in power-laden saddles who intrude everywhere; or big business, local or multinational --- still seen by the EU left in large numbers in quasi-Marxist fashion; or expanding big finance in lock-step with other globalizing pressures; or the growing Islamic communities; or Bush's America; or Hollywood or MacDonald's or . . . well, the list is long, very long. Often the culprit singled out is just other groups, which are better organized and hence getting more of the government dole-outs than your group. Anxious uncertainty and turbulent change are almost always a setting for such projected fears, envy, or resentments.

 

The Preferred Scapegoat These Days?

Easy to answer. No great powers of historical knowledge --- let alone divination of an uncanny sort ---are need to guess who the chief culprit-of-choice happens to be for at least a third of the EU populations, whether on the left or right: Jews, that's who . . . perennial trouble-makers of extra-potent power. Whether by themselves or in league with the powerful USA, and in any case behind most of the highly resented globalizing forces that are dislocating European societies --- the United States the chief culprit here too.

In their neo-conservative guise, for a start, Jews loom in the fantasies of bigoted Europeans as the conjured-up demons who dictate US unilateralist arrogance, and especially in union with --- as a couple of Swiss friends visiting Santa Barbara put it this summer --- that "Christer" Bush in the White House . . . Evangelical Christians, you understand, another abhorrent turnip-ghost in the politically correct European lexicon these days. In their Israeli guise, these Jew-demons won't make peace with the dictatorial, blatantly corrupt Palestinian Authority while suicide-bombers kerboom! cafes, religious ceremonies, open markets, and schools. Together, neo-con Jews, their manipulated naive Christers, and Israeli Jews are causing all sorts of endless troubles with the Arab despots by destroying Saddamite Iraq, helped by a few dupes like the lap-poodle Blair government in London, and threatening world peace in the process on a reckless scale: witness, once more, the recent EU survey that found Israel the greatest menace, and the US the third or fourth.

As for neo-con Jews dominating US foreign policy, Prime Minister Blair's strong support is apparently due in bigoted minds to a similar Jewish cabal in London:

"In an interview with Vanity Fair in May 2003, Tam Dalyell, a parliamentary member of the ruling Labor Party, complained that a "cabal of Jewish advisers" unduly influenced Prime Minister Tony Blair. He mentioned Lord Levy, Blair's Middle East envoy; former top aide Peter Mandelson, whose father is Jewish; and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, one of whose grandparents was Jewish."

You got that? Jack Straw had one grandparent who was Jewish. At this pace of genealogy, we can count on British racists to eventually trace back Tony Blair's ancestry to Jewish forbears at some point in the past --- if need be, back all the way to Beowolf and possibly Grendel-the-Man-Eating-Jew-Monster as the forebear in question --- in order to prove that a Jewish cabal has stolen the Labour Party, the British government, and the British military and put them all at the disposal of the Texas-Idiot's Jew-driven America. Not to forget James Bond . . . Ian Fleming his creator. Hmm, Fleming. Sounds furtively Hebraic, no?

The list of projected imbecilities runs on. There's the widespread outrage directed at the Texan-Idiot in the White House --- a play thing in the hands of his Jewish and other Big-Business puppet-masters --- who won't hand zealous Big-Green activists a victory by endorsing the Kyoto Treaty. What a rat! As Red-Ken, the mayor of London, put it when the mentally challenged cowboy visited Britain in October, he happens to be the single greatest threat to humankind in all of history. Can it get worse, the lather of prejudice and fantasies? Apparently. The Texas Idiot's latest outage hits directly at European pockets: his shameless temerity to cold-shoulder the Axis-of-Avarice member-countries when it comes to competing for industrial and other contracts in post-Saddam Iraq . . . the initial financing for which will largely come from American-taxed funds anyway.

Odd, no? In the era of UN sanctions after 1991, France, Russia, and Germany were all eager to sell Saddamite Iraq luxury cars, new telephone systems, and other industrial goods under the auspices of the oil-for-food-and-medicine guise that the UN permitted after 1996. Not much food or medicine in those deals. Meanwhile, hard as it is for for the French and other EU media to recall, the French government didn't complain about exclusive contracts with President Saddam when all the revenue flowing out of sanctioned Iraq had to go through one western bank --- headquartered in France as it happened.

[Sidebar note added January 17, 2004: a political cartoon that appeared in Liberation, the preferred paper of the dogmatic left in France, is a perfect illustration of the European prejudices that jumble together Bush's evangelical religious convictions, anti-Semitism, and anti-Americanism: For the link, our thanks to Merde en France, its January 14, 2004 blogging comment. Note the Star on Bush's jacket, which looks like a combined American 5-point Star and the Israeli 6-Pointer. Beating some poor Frenchman or European over the head with his cross, Bush leads the observer to yell, "Careful, he's wielding his favorite philosophy."]



 

The Demonic Role-Call of Jewish Devils and Power Uncoiles Farther

Never mind, hard facts don't count for anti-Semites --- or come to that, much of the EU media, it seems. They never do for racists of any sort, but the fantasies of anti-Semites always have this core festering conviction: Jews --- 14 million world-wide, one-quarter of 1.0% of the world's population --- are overwhelmingly alien, powerful, and secretive, unleashing demonic forces in order to achieve their goal of global conquest. And hence, it goes without saying, responsible for the troubles besetting the racists, individually or collectively.

For most EU bigots, to resume our list of personified demons, the menaces number big bankers, unscrupulous brokers, runaway speculators, and media moguls, all behind the dreaded forces of globalization and hogging all the loot for themselves. Most, needless to add, are supposedly Jewish and behind the stagnant incomes for many EU citizens the last few years.

"I'm not racist," a Swiss woman who was interviewed by French TV said after last month's election that brought the new right-wing Swiss party into coalition government, "mais franche-ment pourquoi les juifs ont tout de l'argent": "but why, to speak frankly, do the Jews have all the money?"

In this hot-wire mental syndrome, the influence of the Jews extends in other fearful directions too. Jews, as we all know, dominate Hollywood films and American TV and music and so are responsible for the continued intrusions into European culture and its erosion before these US-foisted commercial onslaughts. Ditto MacDonald's and Coca-Cola and genetically modified beef and --- horror of horrors --- California and Oregan and Washington wines that dare use terms like chardonnay and merlot, as though French vineyards were never wiped out by disease in the 1880s and had to be replenished almost everywhere by California vines, created in the first place by Italian wine-growers in the Napa and Sonoma regions north of San Francisco. For all the same reasons, Jews and other big capitalists and financiers, together with some hard-boiled Christers in the White House, are behind the rapid expansion of globalizing capitalism and big business everywhere . . . including, it's feared, the importation of US-style "casino-capitalism.

 

The political upshot?

On the right, add in fear of Muslim extremism and growing numbers, and all this is enough to explain the surging populism of Le Pen's National Front, Haider's Freedom Party, Italy's Forza Italia and Northern League, Belgium's Volksblaam, and the more race-baiting wing of the Danish People's Party, otherwise a fairly responsible conservative movement.

As for the EU left, its disoriented members hunger desperately for new causes, particularly after the rout of radical socialism in the 1970s and 1980s and then the collapse in the next decade of Communist and brutal third-world collectivist systems --- their last great political hope. Not much you can expect from North Korea or Castro's Cuba, is there? No matter. There are always other mammoth causes to embrace, especially for those who hunger after surrogate secular religions. In Greenpeace and similar circles, Big-Green transformations of industrial capitalism as it currently exists --- especially in its runaway American form, at any rate as understood widely in the EU media --- are the new Big-Hope. For other left-wingers, it's reversing the forces of globalization --- if need be, by smashing up the centers of European cities. Take that! And that! Others just like to mob together and protest whenever there's a World Bank Summit or a meeting of the G-7 countries, though the wild anarchos will be there too, ready to dish out more violence and provoke battles with the cops. Whack, Thwack! A few lefties such as Jose Bove, widely admired as a folk hero in parts of the EU, content themselves with trashing the local MacDonald's and then gripe when they're found guilty of destroying private property; others, the more violent hamburger-hating ilk, enjoy firebombing a MacDonald's in Brittany and killing a French worker. A French worker? No, a collaborator apparently.

MacDonald's, you see --- which has nearly 1000 outlets in France and employs over 40,000 Frenchmen while buying its food from French farms and letting French managers and part-owners run all of the outlets --- is a danger to Europeans almost as monstrous as Mickey Mouse himself, especially in his Disneyland home outside of Paris itself.

Hmm, Mickey Mouse . . . another suspicious Hebraic-sounding name, no?

After all, there was Mickey Cohen --- the L.A. mobster of the 1930s and 1940s, a friend of the even better known Bugsy Siegel and the creator of Las Vegas . . . both captured with skill in Bugsy, the 1991 film with Warren Beatty in the Siegel role and Harvey Keitel playing Mickey. The director, as it happened, no one less than Barry Levinson . . . another you-know-who. Well, rumor has it that one day, in a burst of anger, the real Bugsy was heard by a Hollywood gossip-columnist to refer to his friend Cohen as "Mickey, you little rat!" I ask you, was this just a coincidence? Or wasn't it more likely the inspiration that led Walt Disney to create his Jewish-sounding mouse? Bugsy, we know, was acquainted with Walt Disney. For that matter, since his love-life focused on the starlet Virginia Hill ---played wonderfully by Annette Bening in the film --- he was acquainted with all the Hollywood actors, directors, and studio head; and so . . . . Nor is that all. Our suspicions about Mickey Mouse's religion-and-ethnicity intensify when you consider another brute fact --- Mickey's main-squeeze happens to be none other than Minnie Mouse. Minnie! Ever hear of a member of the Nazi party named Minnie? Is there anyone named Minnie whom Jean-Marie Le Pen or Jorg Haider invites to dinner parties? Come on, can all these just be coincidences?

Then there's Israel.

Almost all of the EU left, it goes without saying, sees it in demonic terms. For 59% of all Europeans, Jews --- in their Israeli garb --- are the world peace's greatest threat. Not, you understand, the main culprit in the Middle East Conflict; that judgment might be wrong, but it doesn't necessarily reflect prejudice. No, Israeli Jews are the world's greatest threat! Seems absurd? Well, here's a political cartoon showing Prime Minister Sharon, naked and vicious like a monster, ready to tear apart and eat a Palestinian baby . . . something that could be right out of Der Stuermer, the Nazi paper in Germany during the Hitler era, or for that matter featured in the state-controlled media in the Arab world. Was this an aberration in the EU media? Hardly. The Nazi-like cartoon published originally in The Independent was selected as the best political cartoon of the year by a British group of cartoonists.

Taetervolk) --- are in line with this resurgence, as are the growing expressions of anti-Semitism in the media and political life. Bush himself, recall, was said to be another Hitler by a former minister in the Socialist-Green coalition during or right after the elections in September 2002. Seems fantastic? No more so than the topsy-turvy logic rife in the Arab world that stigmatizes Israel as the New Nazi-State, even as the same state-controlled Arab media assure their viewers and readers that the Holocaust never occurred. And in any case, Hitler never did get to finish the job anyway . . . the bungling fool.





  A More Concrete Source of Anxiety Behind The Anti-Semitism: DISPLACED FEARS

Looming above all these dislocating worries and anxiety are the growing fears in Europe --- fears, not just misgivings --- about the rapid growth of Islamic populations and fundamentalist bigotry, hatred of European culture whatever its national form, and tendencies toward both violent crime and tolerance of Islamo-fascist terrorism, if not outright enthusiasm. The fears are partly political, partly cultural, and partly anxiety about ever greater violent crime and terrorist attacks to boot. The political and cultural conflicts are on display in almost every EU country now, as in the recent French commission's call to ban all religious symbols in the schools, or in the Danish conservative governments efforts to halt the spread of mosques and cultural centers favorable to fundamentalism, or in Prim Fortuyn's short political surge and assassination in Holland, or in Jorg Haider's continued influence in Austria, or in Le Pen's National Front now getting 22% of support in French public opinion even as Le Monde conceded, in a recent editorial, that the National Front's views have an even greater influence in people's thinking there.

How is anti-Semitism related to this?

Well, psychoanalysts refer to displaced anger or frustration that we act out. For lots of us, it's a common occurrence. The boss pushes us around at work, and we have to swallow our tongue; co-workers leave us full of edgy touchiness and we have to massage their egos; spouses, lovers, what have you do something annoying but we can't complain. Who wants to sleep on the couch? So what do we do? We come home and kick the cat, that's what. That's also what displaced anger and frustration are about.

People who blame Jews for their troubles tend to reflect a similar defense mechanism --- not that it exhausts the causes of their bigotry and projected fantasies. Most EU bigots --- probably more than the 30% of EU citizens found in the two ADL-sponsored surveys to be strongly anti-Semitic --- likely fear and detest the increasingly alienated Muslim minorities in their countries, especially given the surging crime coming out of their youth. Currently, there are about 20 - 25 million Muslims of all sorts in the EU, legal and illegal. Their demographic growth far overshadows that of the native European populations. As for Jews, the corresponding figure in the EU is 1.3 million, and the last time anyone looked, there have been no reports of Jewish terrorists assaulting Muslims physically or burning their mosques or cultural centers. Nor are Jews evident in the bursts of violent street crime in all EU cities that are making European lives increasingly difficult. Then, too, even as one Arab terrorist network or another seems to be uncovered almost daily around the EU, no security forces in any West European country have uncovered any Jewish terrorist-groups furtively at work. That's surprising no? Especially since, if we've to believe the EU-commissioned survey that singled out Jews, to the tune of 59% true-believing Europeans, as the greatest threat to world peace.

So . . . just as some of us, full of pent-up anger and frustration, come home at night and kick Tabby, lots of EU bigots --- more likely up in a lather of even greater anger and frustration over real or imagined Muslim-caused problems for them --- come home and fantasize about Jewish power as a mental act of eventually finding ways to get even with them. Like the kitty, the tiny Jewish minorities aren't any concrete danger to those who --- while externalizing their problems and blaming others for their troubles --- mentally side with the Muslim thugs and other EU bigots who have made life hard and dangerous for the EU's 1.3 million Jews, one-third of 1.0% of the total EU population. For every Jew, some of them --- the survivors of the Holocaust --- who've lived in Europe for 1500 or more years, there are 20 Muslim immigrants. In a decade, that figure will likely be 30 Muslim immigrants for every EU Jew. Guns are already rampant in their communities. Terrorist networks exist there too. Outright attacks on Muslim thugs as a way of revenge are dangerous. Kick the defenseless cat instead.

Seems far-fetched, the analysis about displaced fear and frustration?

Hardly. Consider here the surprising outbursts now and then of sympathy for Israel, a tough state standing up to Arab terrorists, from right-wing extremists like Le Pen in France or Jorg Haider in Austria praising Israel's defense of its existence. All this, you understand, even as they continue to attack Jews in France and Austria in fully predictable anti-Semitic ways.

A couple of side-bar comments here.

(i.) Close to be a certifiable loony, Haider has swerved in even more erratic directions of late. As recent as four or five years ago, he was denying that he was anti-Semitic; then, shunted aside in order for his Freedom Party to enter the Austrian coalition at the time with the Christian Democrats, he resumed his tirades in a sotto-voce manner. Eventually --- about the time he got back from visiting Saddam Hussein and praising the mass-murdering tyrant as the world's greatest statesman --- Haider's frothy fears about Muslim immigrants got the best of him, and so, believe it or not, he starting publicly urging that Jews from the rest of the world immigrate to Austria. Why? In his now
pro-Semitic stance, it was apparently the only way in his view to salvage the waning fortunes of Austria's economy and its 60 year record of cultural torpor. Yes, he said that explicitly:

Said Haider: "I would like to give priority of immigration to Jews who wish to come to my country, Austria. We in Austria know how much the Jews have contributed to our culture and economy, much beyond their proportionate percentage in the population. Any place Jews come to, its economy flourishes."

Go figure. In any case, the pro-Jewish stuff didn't prove long-lasting. At last hearing, Haider was simultaneously assaulting Jews and Muslims alike]




(ii.) A particularly frank, hard-hitting survey of the social problems caused by the growth of Islamic numbers and fundamentalism --- and the fears and efforts at appeasement in France, the country with the largest Muslim population (about 10% of the 60 million or so French men and women) --- was set out in an unusual symposium last spring sponsored by Frontpage online. It featured 7 French intellectual specialists, including Jean-Francois Revel, the noted critic in that country of its flaring institutionalized anti-Americanism among its elites. Note: elites. Not necessary among average Frenchmen themselves. See The Death of France. The symposium runs in two parts. You'll be able to click on the second part at the end of the link just listed here.

Keep in mind that the Frontpage symposium preceded the burst of books and articles that swarmed through the French media starting this last summer and into the autumn about the country's decline: economic, political, diplomatic, and cultural. We'll return to this cut-to-the-quick French debate at the end of this article, with some excerpts from a journalist survey of that domestic soul-searching.


 

VII. IS THIS THE EU FUTURE THEN?

No, Not The 1930s All Over Again

It's all a potent if disjointed mix, these jumbled prejudices we've been analyzing here . . . volatile too, what with all the anger, resentments, envy and uncoiled anxieties that blame various bogeymen in European circles, both on the left and right, for their mounting troubles: Jews, casino-capitalism, globalization, Israel, and American power and wealth. A question prompts itself here. Quite apart from these specific, up-to-date demons and related fears, are there other differences with the Nazi anti-Semitism that flared during the 1930s and 1940s?

Sure. Obviously.

Bad as the new European Jew-hatred and -hostility happen to be, a Holocaust isn't in the offing.

* For one thing, all of West Europe is solidly democratic today. That wasn't the case in the 1930s, when one fragile democratic system collapsed under ideological extremism and came into the hands of fascists and Nazis. Even in countries like France in that period, where democracy survived until the Vichy regime appointed itself after the German conquest, a latent civil war between left and right had been flaring since the mid-1930s in its domestic politics.

* For another thing, thanks in no small part to EU cooperation, virulent, militarized nationalism --- another part of the fascist appeal in the 1930s and 1940s --- is wholly absent in West Europe these days. Even the nationalist French political elites, however anxious for great-power status, restrict their unilateral military interventions for their greater glory and profit to propping up corrupt French-clients and client-states in Africa.

* As a third twist, for all the disagreements that have rocked NATO recently, the alliance remains intact and a US presence firmly anchored in the EU. Whatever happens in West Europe, the US will remain a stronghold of tolerance and political decency. It wasn't accidental that President Bush denounced the new EU anti-Semitism when he was recently in London. It's all in character with American realities these days. Most Americans take pride in seeing an African-American as our Secretary of State and another as our National Security adviser.

Something else needs to be mentioned too: Israel. In particular . . .

* When the Nazis and their European helpers everywhere began slaughtering Jews like so much charnel-house excrescence, there was no state anywhere ready to defend them --- no, not Britain or the US. Jews were rounded up and butchered by the millions, always in collaboration with local national governments and police --- Denmark and Bulgaria the only exceptions. [Francoist Spain --- officially neutral --- also refused to deliver its tiny Jewish population to its Nazi friends despite repeated efforts to that end by the SS and German diplomats.] These days, the situation is far different. Much to the displeasure of many in the EU, both on the left and right, a militarily powerful if small Israel --- armed with nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems including on submarines --- will survive and be able to threaten or destroy any Jew-persecuting state that might emerge again, whether in Europe or elsewhere.

So no, the start of the 21st century isn't going to be a replay of the 1930s, let alone the Holocaust that followed.

 

PART VII. EVEN SO, THE NEW FASHIONABLE EU ANTI-SEMITISM IS UGLY AND DANGEROUS ENOUGH

Among other things, it has made daily life hard and increasingly unbearable for the tiny 1.3 million Jewish minority in most of the EU --- especially in France, but hardly just there. Recall what an Oxford professor was quoted as saying in the initial buggy installment on this mini-series on European anti-Semitism:

"The demonization of Israel had led to the demonization of its supporters and Jews in general," said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a fellow at the Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and the Middle East Center at St. Antony's College, Oxford. There is a feeling among the 300,000 or so Jews living in the United Kingdom that they are being silenced, adds Ottolenghi. "In order to live quietly, it is advisable not to identify yourself as a Jew, unless you do so in conjunction with strong condemnation of Israel. The feeling is that Jews in Europe today are on probation. And the U.K. is no different."

Remember, too, who are the chief racist bigots making life difficult for Jews in Britain. No, not the British right. Rather . . .

". . . Ottolenghi and others say, the trend has been led primarily by the left-wing and liberal press. They cite the growing number of Judeophobic statements and characterizations since Sept. 11. Only slightly less over the top than the cartoon of Sharon, the cover of the New Statesman magazine's Jan. 14, 2002, issue featured a huge, glistening gold Star of David piercing a British flag under the headline: "A kosher conspiracy? Britain's pro-Israel lobby."

All this in Britain . . . a country, recall, that's one of the least anti-Semitic in the EU, at any rate according to the two ADL-sponsored surveys undertaken last year. About a fifth of Britons, to be more specific, were found to express strong anti-Semitism; only Holland at 9%, a country that has welcomed Jews as far back as the 1490s--- fleeing the Spanish Inquisition --- showed less anti-Semitism. The average across the EU, recall further, was about a third of the populations. If life for Jews is hard in Britain, what's it like in the rest of the EU?

Even traditionally tolerant Denmark, a country justifiably renowned for its devotion to human rights, can allow a popular newspaper to feature a fanatical Islamist ad that offered to reward anyone killing prominent Danish Jews. There are 7,000 Jews in Denmark, a country of 4 million. Hard to believe they're much of a danger to the Danes, isn't it? Even so, extremists in the Danish People's Party --- otherwise, a long distance from Le Pen's hate-loving National Front --- can engage in outright anti-Semitism without fear of much reproach, if any. Then there's Greece. Its most prominent musician, flanked by government ministers, can denounce Jews on a public podium "as the root of all evil" and be sure of not facing any important reproach, whether from those ministers or others. In France, it's worse. The 600,000 Jews there --- the EU's largest Jewish minority --- have to be careful not to wear Jewish symbols of any sort even as they go about their daily business, whether kids in schools or adults at work or older adults on their way to cultural centers. Jews in Germany have to be warned not to wear any Jewish symbols either, including yarmulkes if they're orthodox; the danger of physical assault is too great.

This list of daily menace runs on. And it will very likely, if the buggy analysis uncoiled here and in other buggy articles is sound, gather more force in the future.

 

Why Anti-Semitism Will Probably Pick Up In Momentum

If the catalogue of daily menace for Jews in Europe will likely get worse, not better, it's because the underlying causes of the new surging anti-Semitism don't lie in Israeli policies under Ariel Sharon or American foreign policy in the Bush era. They may have some influence, but they're not crucial. The root causes, as we've seen, lie elsewhere. They fester in the ferment and feared changes in European life --- full of dislocations and just getting under way, hardly in fourth-gear yet --- that have emerged recently in European life, and further aggravated by demographic changes . . . in particular, the bursting numbers of alienated Muslim minorities. On current trends, the turmoil and externally imposed changes are bound to pick up in speed and multiply. Already, it appears, the comfy, solidly recognizable decades of steady material growth, welfare benefits, and a sheltered life behind the fortress of American power in a little European Community are essentially history --- little else.

The initial cozy EU in the 1950s and 1960s was confined to 6 member-states, France and Germany inthe driver seat. In the next two decades, it expanded to first 9, then 11, and now 15 member-states, including Britain --- the most dynamic of the big-four EU countries, economically and in military matters: also, the US's closest ally. By late spring 2004, another 10 states in East Europe will join; and that includes several like Poland that are pro-American in sentiment. Not that an EU of 25 member-states is the end point. Other East European countries want in too. So, for that matter, does Turkey, a country of 70 million Muslims --- soon to be 100 million in another decade. For West Europeans, all this will be hard to deal with. For the French and German elites, it's doubly hard; their days of whip-managing the EU into line are now over --- one more part of modern history. President Chirac might, as he did last February in the run-up to the war with Iraq, bluster and fume with hauteur and denounce the 10 soon-to-be EU members in East Europe as mal eleve --- badly reared, outspokenly supporting the US and the UK --- but they didn't cave in, and they won't in the future.

The Root Causes Enumerated Again

So, too, already passing into history --- on a different level --- are the other motive-forces behind the growing discomfort and pessimism in the EU that underpin the new anti-Semitism: above all,

* the shattered illusions that unemployment can continue to mount in the EU, hitting youth and minorities especially, even as the work-week for protected workers shrinks, paid vacations and holidays multiply, sick leave expands, and ever greater numbers of retirees who are living longer and on state-pensions can continue enjoy rising benefits for decades and decades.

* Or the collapsing illusions that the US is in relative decline, soon to be surpassed by West European prowess, intelligence, and humane welfare-state capitalism;

* Or, connected with this, the eroding illusions that globalizing forces can be kept at bay by European cooperation and clever tinkering here and there with regulations and welfare benefits;

* Or, in foreign policy, the exploded illusions that buying off the vicious dictators of the Middle East with contracts, diplomatic courting, military sales, and energetic diplomatic and financial support for Palestinians --- much of which EU financial aid, not accounted for as the EU Commission had to admit last year before the EU Parliament, ends up in the coffers and bank accounts of Arafat and his cohorts --- will soon lead to Middle East peace. Not to mention, in a French mental twist, that it would also let France emerge as the great intermediary between the West and Islam, its spring-board to great power status.

* Or, come to think of it, the shattered self-delusion --- the word isn't misplaced here --- that the Muslim communities in the EU, who are swelling in number, hanker after assimilation to the post-modernist secular lives that dominate mainstream West European politics and society.

* Or, related to this, the blasted-apart delusion that violent crime --- markedly on a downward trend in the US --- is an American problem, not a European one, and that European streets and schools and subways and suburbs will remain safe, secure places for one and all forever and ever. In fact, as survey data gathered every four years by a UN-sponsored study undertaken by a Dutch university shows, Americans are the least worried of 20 or so industrial countries when it comes to going out in public space; have the most confidence in their police; and are the only country where violent crime has noticeably declined in the last decade, not increased.


 

But Wait! Have We Been Exaggerating Here?

I'd like to believe so, but can't. There are too many clear realities and ongoing trends at work in European life for years now that aren't encouraging, most of them mentioned here already and for that matter in other recent buggy articles.

If these trends continue much longer, then in all likelihood anti-Semitism and anti-globalization and anti-Americanism in European outlooks and behavior will be increasingly caught up in a self-created tangle of aggravating social strife and ideologically charged conflicts of an eruptive sort. No, its eruptions won't lead to new fascism. That, as we've seen, isn't in the offing --- thank heavens. But crippling strikes and huge and violent demonstrations and political assassination --- as in Italy two years ago and in Holland about the same time --- are, as is renewed terrorism of the Red Guard and Baader-Meinhoff and IRA and Corsican sort. No less worrying, bursts of Islamist terrorism have to be expected too. And the more violent crime spreads its disruptive impact on European life, the more vocal will likely be the demands for tough, unrelenting law-and-order, themselves likely to lead to a new cycle of Islamist backlashes and terrorism.

 

The latter point needs to be illuminated.

Keep in mind that the current population balance between the Arab Middle East and North Africa on one side and West Europe on the other is about even: if anything, slightly tilted in favor of West Europe: around 380 million vs. 300 million. That demographic will change drastically in two decades. Right now, half of the Arab populations are under 15 years of age, and around 2020 they will number about 500 million. Unless drastic changes are made in Arab economic and political life --- the major reason along with weapons of mass destruction programs for the US and UK to topple Saddam Hussein and try to transform Iraq as a start --- most of these young Arabs will be unemployed. As things stand, unemployment averages around 20-25% in the 22 Arab countries among men. Yes, just among men. In mullah-dominated Iran, it appears to be higher still; after 34 years of their rule, poverty encompasses nearly half the population. In Saudi Arabia, for all its oil revenue --- trillions of dollars squandered by playboy royals, 4000 of them --- male unemployment is around 30%. The connection between it and support for rabid Islamist terrorism --- 15 of the 17 terrorists who carried out 9/11's massacres on US soil were from Saudi Arabia --- is something worth pondering.

Where do Europeans think the hundreds of millions of unemployed Muslims will try flocking to if the economies and political systems of the Middle East aren't drastically changed? New York's a long way off. Sicily, Greece, Marseilles, the Spanish Riviera and Gibraltar are all near-by, in some instances just a few miles northward. Where do Europeans imagine that those who can't sneak into the Continent will tend politically --- toward support for some Arab Social-Democratic Party? Was the link between the 9/11 terrorists and unemployed Saudi university students and graduates accidental, a transient phenomenon with no future?

Meanwhile, in the EU itself, unemployment among Muslim youth is itself worrying. Exact figures aren't available; unlike in the USA, the EU governments don't break down unemployment stats according to race or ethnicity. We do know it's high --- and almost certainly a cause, one among others to be sure, of the growing tendencies toward Islamist fundamentalism and violent crime.

 

A Qualification

The tag-on here is important. All these backlashes and their impact, including a cycle of violence caused by Muslim youth and easy-to-foresee violent assaults on them from right-wing extremists, will no doubt vary in virulence around the EU. That's hardly a risky prediction.

Some countries, most likely Sweden, Finland, and Denmark --- also Ireland and Britain --- will do better, not least because they have already absorbed a fair number of the economic changes that are needed . . . this, even if none of them, Britain included, have come bracingly to terms with the social clashes inherent in surging violent crime, Islamic fundamentalism, shifts in demographic balance, and the numbers of alienated Muslim youth who are engaged either in crime or support for terrorism. As for Holland, traditionally a tolerant and stable country anchored by a moderate political system of reconciliation, its future is likely to prove more problematic, and for a straightforward reason: there's a big surge of Islamic numbers, mainly young, in that country to the point that in two decades or so they may outnumber the dwindling native population in most cities. Germany, I fear, will experience the same turmoil and conflicts as France and the other Latin countries. As for Greece, it could explode.

 

 

PART VIII: A TRIO OF EUROPEAN VIEWS TO END OUR ANALYSIS

(i.) The Debate About Projected EU Decline

Earlier this year, a respectable French research institute's views of what the EU would look like in mid-century was published. Reprinting those views --- in summary form, set out in The International Herald Tribune out of Paris --- seems a convenient way to bring this long analysis to a close. As you read the article, keep in mind that the institute set out three scenarios. The gloomy one that the IHT dwells on is the baseline projection. It's what will likely materialize if the EU doesn't reverse its demographic decline and find ways to overhaul its economies and make them more vigorous, streamlined, and competitive.



Paris: May 14, 2003

"French research group paints a gloomy economic picture"

PARIS: For a doomsday scenario, this one paints Europe heading for the dungeons of history as an economic force.

"The enlargement of the European Union won't suffice to guarantee parity with the United States," it says. "The EU will weigh less heavily on the process of globalization and a slow but inexorable movement onto 'history's exit ramp' is foreseeable."

By 2050, under this scenario, Europe's share of the world economy is only 12 percent, against 22 percent today, while the euro is a second-class currency. North America maintains its "technological hegemony," Greater China, which includes Taiwan, grows to represent almost a quarter of the world's economy, and the Japan-Korea region's share of trade, along with the yen, declines sharply in importance. Roughly a half century from now, goes the scenario, an EU of 30 member states will have a growth rate of 1.1 percent, the North American free trade grouping, 2.3 percent, and Greater China, 2.6 percent.

This vision of Europe's misery-to-come is projected in a new report called "World Trade in the 21st Century" by the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales (Ifri).

It is interesting because the research organization is not usually in the business of drawing grim perspectives for either France or the EU. Its tone also fits the register of a thesis advanced in the newspaper Le Monde that the current decline in the dollar does not reflect American weakness but a situation in which "the power of a country, in circumstances of low inflation and low growth, is reflected in its ability to depreciate rather than increase the value of its currency."

The Ifri report, of course, contains scenarios in which Europe does better. But they depend on exceptional changes in current political, social and economic trends. Rather, the report's basic projection, called the "reference or trend scenario," is calculated on a continuation of the current curve of world trade and economics.

For Ifri, Europe has two basic problems. The first is its dwindling population. From 2000 to 2050, the institute projects a decline in the EU's active population from 331 million to 243 million. Over the same period, the active populations of Greater China and South Asia move ahead, while the North American grouping rises from 269 million to 355 million.

The second involves technological progress and capital accumulation. In these areas, according to the reference scenario, North America "continues to suck in a good part of the world's savings," while Europe depends on "savings and domestic investment" for capital. North America remains "the locus of innovative activity," the projection says, even though Europe will make gains in productivity, cutting the size of its lag behind the leaders.

What can Europe do? If things go along as at present, according to the reference scenario, "the decline of Europe is confirmed and the EU with 30 members becomes a second-rank economic power."

But in a more favorable second scenario, Ifri projects the creation of an area of "integrated development" that includes Europe, Russia and the south shore (the Arab countries) of the Mediterranean.

This involves launching in the target areas outside the EU "a vast program of technical cooperation reinforcing the creation of local scientific and technical elites and fixing them in their country of origin" - in other words, making sure they do not migrate to other competitive parts of the world.

At the same time, and in a somewhat contradictory manner, immigration to Europe is encouraged at the rate of at least 30 million persons by 2020. Then, in what might be called a burst of optimism, the report talks of improved economic conditions in the Mediterranean Arab partner countries, and - although they remain under "firm" governments - their introduction of "real" freedom of expression and greater emancipation of women.

Parallel to this, Ifri's scenario most favorable to Europe projects an improvement in Europe's own demographic situation, and "Russia's coming closer to the EU and vice versa."


 

(ii.) The Debate About French Decline

What follows is the IHT take on the searing, soul-searching debate in French life on its decline, which has left Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin and their pretentions of great-power influence look like the maneuvers of illusionists and flim-flam artists. Are these just intellectual rumblings voiced by unhappy French writers and scholars? Possibly, but note: they have been vented with sufficient vigor that no one less than Villepin himself --- the French Foreign Minister --- felt obliged to reply to them in an article published in Le Monde back in October.

From The International Herald Tribune October 2, 2003

" PARIS A growing sense of France's decline as a force in Europe has developed here. The idea's novelty is not the issue itself. Rather it is that for the first time in a half century that the notion of a rapid descent in France's influence is receiving wide acknowledgment within the French establishment.

At its most hurtful and remarkable, and yet perhaps its most honest, there is the start of acceptance by segments of the French intellectual community that French leadership, as it is constituted now, is not something Europe wants - or France merits.

Several current books, three on the bestseller lists, have focused discussion on the country's incapacities, rigidities and its role, they say, in the context of the Iraq war, in dividing the Western community and fracturing notions of Europe's potential unity. The books, with titles that translate to phrases like "France in Free Fall" or "French Arrogance," are merciless in their accusations of the fantasy-driven ineffectualness of French foreign policy and the extent of the country's economic breakdown. Or they more specifically target what one of books, "Le Pouvoir du Monde," by Bernard Poulet, regards as the implosion of the newspaper Le Monde, mirror of the French establishment, from one-time symbol of rectitude to self-appointed "universal mentor and Great Inquisitor"; or what another, essentially a short essay, called "Au Nom de l'Autre" by Alain Finkielkraut, contends is the rise in France of a new kind of anti-Semitism in proportions greater than anywhere else in Europe.

Together, they project the image of a decadent France, adrift from its brilliant past, incapable of inspiring allegiance or emulation and without a constructive, humanist plan for the future.

Of all the books, the current No. 2 on the bestseller list of L'Express, "La France Qui Tombe," by Nicolas Baverez, has been the focus of unusual attention.

Baverez, a practicing attorney and economist who has a strong place in the Paris establishment, argues that France's leadership hates change. Rather, it "cultivates the status quo and rigidity" because it is run through the connivance of politicians, civil servants and union officials, bringing together both the left- and right-wing elites. They are described as mainly concerned with preserving the failed statist system that protects their jobs and status.

Although he has little patience with the American role in the world (it is branded unilateral, imperial and unpredictable, yet flexible and open to change) Baverez charges that the failure of French policy on Iraq and Europe - resisting the United States with nothing to offer in exchange, and attempting to force the rest of Europe to follow its lead - "crowns the process of the nation's decline" and leaves France in growing diplomatic isolation everywhere.

Over the past year, said Bavarez, "French diplomacy has undertaken to broaden the fracture within the West, and duplicate American unilateralism on the European scale by its arrogant dressing down of Europe's new democracies. It has sustained a systematically critical attitude that flees concrete propositions in favor of theoretical slogans exalting a multipolar world or multilateralism. . . "


 

(iii.) A British View of The French Debate

Here, finally, is British view of these French tussles --- something that always warms the hearts of most Britons.

From The Observer (London), October 12, 2003

Doubts tearing France apart

At the FNAC Etoile in Paris, more a multi-storey literary warehouse than a bookshop, the shelves are buckling under the weight of ammunition for a political and social war. With titles such as French Arrogance, Falling France and French Disarray, this is heavy-calibre weaponry that is being trained on France's political elite in a war that has broken out over the very soul of the country. Launched against a background of top-level disillusionment with Europe, accelerating unemployment rates, spectacular company failures and a stagnant economy, the books - by some of France's leading social commentators - have added an incendiary factor to popular protests over reforms that could end the 35-hour week, cut social security benefits and introduce across-the-board austerity.

Having recently emerged battered from national education strikes and months of street demonstrations over reduced retirement benefits, Jacques Chirac's administration is looking on with dismay at media encouragement for right-wing intellectual claims that France is now the weak man of Europe, mired in hypocrisy nationally and internationally, indifferent to popular needs such as care of the aged, and shaken by the aftershocks of vain defiance of the US-led war in Iraq. In short, that France is going down the pan.

'Reading these books, France is in agony, powerless and irretrievably condemned to decline,' Dominique de Villepin, the suave but widely mistrusted Foreign Minister, complained over two pages in Le Monde last week, comparing today's prophets of doom to anti-republicans who collaborated with the Nazis.

Equally piqued by France's depiction is the Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who sought out America's Time magazine to complain about state-educated French intellectuals 'scrutinising French society while perched on the summit of a pyramid' and obsessed with 'declinism'. And it is a pretty bleak picture, even by the account of the most rational of the 'declinists', Alain Duhamel, whose lugubrious face haunts every TV channel and serious newspaper column and charges that the country has been struck down by an 'insidious evil'.

....Both pale into insignificance alongside L'Arrogance française, where the journalist authors, Romain Gubert and Emmanuel Saint-Martin, state: 'With our sermons, our empty gestures and our poetic flights, we (the French) have pissed off the planet. Worse: we make them laugh.

'It's a sickness to which French people are addicted - believing that France must offer the world Light, Law and Liberty; that their leaders are the carriers of a universal message.'



Replies: 2 comments

I fear you are correct about the bastions of the French cullinary tradition.

"Le Fast Food" is as attractive to French households as it is to those of other nationalities, the good up and coming French chefs are all working in London these days and the bistro is indeed dying out. Having said that, there are quite a few making a living out of the 2-hour lunch break. Should you make it to the Riviera I will introduce you to one such restaurant that does an excellent 4 course lunch including wine and coffee for €12.50 (or about $100 at todays exchange rates :) ) - I expect you to show your gratitude by inviting me to the local ** Michelin restaurant in return so we can verify the status of the fourth bsation.

Posted by Francis @ 12/27/2003 03:49 PM PST

Just to set the record straight Finland was another country that, although allied with the Nazis, did not hand over any of its own Jews to the Nazis. Its record wasn't perfect in that it did hand over eight Austrian Jewish refugees (see http://www.thankstoscandinavia.org/press%20release_finnish%20pm%20apologizes.htm for the apology) and may have handed over a number of Soviet POWs, including jewish ones, in exchange for Finnish-named Soviet POWs captured by the Germans; but overall it is clear that Finns never cooperated with the Nazis other than in a limited military sense.

PS in your article responding to my claims of angloshperic exceptionalism you said I lived in Italy, which is untrue as I reside on the French Riviera, close (and at this time of the year easily mistaken given the hordes of Italian tourists) but no cigar.

THE BUGGY REPLY:

Francis: Thank you for the clarifying comments about Finland, something I didn't happen to know. It's gratifying to learn it. That then makes two German allies, Finland and Bulgaria --- plus possibly Franco-Spain, never at war with the Allies --- that refused to cooperate with Nazi genocide.

The French Riviera --- you live there, huh? My mistake. I thought you owned a huge king-size castle on the other side of the border, complete with a retinue of Sicilian and Sardinian servants trained at a special school for Discretely Docile House-Staff in London. Let's hope that you at least have an Italian sous-chef working in your kitchen.

French cuisine --- which was still a wonder when I first went to Europe as an undergrad to study in Germany in 1959 --- has long fallen on evil days. Alas. The backbone of French food was first and foremost wives and mothers in small towns and cities, who spent hours each days going to markets and preparing big mid-day and evening meals; now most French women live in big cities and work and are as exhausted at the end of the day as the men. Scarcely any of my French female students at Bordeaux University in the mid-1970s knew even how to cook. A second backbone was about 10,000 small family-run bistros; virtually all have disappeared since the 1950s, victims of the growing affluence of the French who found for the first time they could buy cars, houses, secondary-homes, trips to Club-Med, big TVs, and the like, rather than spend the little discretionary income they once had at nearby momma-poppa bistros. A third bastion, young men --- who would toil for years as browbeaten apprentice-chefs at slave-labor wages in the hope that one day they might have their own restaurant --- found that they could get lots of decent paying jobs elsewhere without being screamed at all day long by temperamental head-chefs, full of edgy worries that they'd lose a star when a Guide Michelin inspector showed up. As everyone knows, when that happens, you have to commit hari-kari French-style. Honor requires it. Small wonder that most of those slaving away in French restaurants these days appear to be North Africans.

That leaves only the fourth bastion --- the very expensive restaurants, about 300 in number, that get stars in the Guide Michelin. If you're willing to spend $100 - $150 apiece for a meal, you'll do OK. Essentially, they're for about 50,000 very rich French and whatever well-heeled tourists happen to be passing through.

It's a shame. No doubt there's someone at work in the National Front ready to prove it's all the fault of the Jews or the Arabs or Mickey Mouse or the Idiot-Texan in the White House.

Posted by Francis @ 12/27/2003 08:31 AM PST