|Pilar Rahola - English|
Haverim vehaverot, ani ge'ai lehiyot ithem ha'erev me'od. (Friends, I am very proud to be with you this evening.)
When Winston Churchill rebuked [Neville] Chamberlain for his posture toward Hitler, Churchill coined one of his historic phrases: "We seem to be very near the bleak choice between war and shame. My feeling is that we shall choose shame, and then have war thrown in a little later, on even more adverse terms than at present." It is striking to see history's unfortunate tendency to repeat its own miseries, and thus, caught up in the Chamberlain syndrome, a good part of Europe over and over chooses shame, without first being able to frighten off its many wars.
I come here today from the "old continent," and from that older Sepharad, mythical and in pain, to ask your forgiveness for being a part of a society that is more anti-Semitic and more anti-American every day, and, day by day, more separated from its own moral sense. I am a committed European, a lover of the best of our vibrant and heterodox culture. Yet I am also convinced that today's Europe does not exist beyond the special- interests club into which it has turned-old, grumpy, upset at its prodigal American child that, despite it all, is considered a bastard.
Anti-Americanism is today one of the signs of Europe's identity, almost as powerful as was the endemic anti-Semitism that formed its worst history. Anti-Semitism, virulently reborn and justified under the protective umbrella of anti-Zionism (always easy to sell, especially thanks to the UN), is not the purview only of the extreme right. Anti-Semitism today, like anti-Americanism, belongs to the left. And if we recall that leftist intellectuals are the ones who form the elite of thought and fashion the great currents of opinion, we conclude that we are confronting a new unique view which is dangerous and subtle. Quoting my friend, author Marcos Aguinis, we may refer to the left's retreat to anti-modernity. In fact, much of what has happened these days in the streets of Europe had plenty of anti-modernity and too much of irresponsibility. Today [Georges] Clemenceau's derogatory and arrogant phrase, maintaining that "the United States is the only country which has passed from prehistory to decadence without going through the state of civilization" would fall short. Europe is more arrogant, more deprecating, and, of course, even more anti-American. In the same way, Europe, without being more anti-Semitic than it has always been, returns to its own demons, and savagely liberated from its Jewish skin, does not liberate itself from its hatred toward what is Jewish.
I have been asked about America's impact in the world after September 11 and the Iraq war. The first stop is Europe. This is my analysis. No matter how much we speak of the common European home, our home is empty, as Carlos Semprun Maura [author of Revolution and Counter-revolution in Catalonia] would say; and it has more than one landlord and a goodly number of floors. There are the imperial dreams of the France of Jacques Chiraq, the most notable example of shame and hypocrisy. The France which took part in the bloodiest wars in forgotten Africa; which attempts to sell nuclear reactors to despotic Iraqi-whose nuclear threat was aborted by Israel through the actions of a hero named Ilan Ramon; that France, which conducted a "splendid" intervention in the Iran-Iraq war, where the practice of using child soldiers to sweep minefields was massive; which has never made peace with its bloody past of Nazi collaboration and colonialism; that France is trying to hawk the banner of peace. The result is reactionary imperialism that, while searching for a "united front never to be defeated" as an alternative to the American front, has no problem linking itself with Islamic terrorism and considering a bunch of Arab dictatorships to be deserving allies. The slogans in the streets of Paris, the paradigm of many European "streets," where Hamas terrorism is considered a form of noble defense and Saddam appears as a loving grandfather, have been among the most shameful spectacles in recent history.
As someone said, "a no to war" does not mean "yes to peace." In France's case, or that of an obliging Belgium, which is willing to pass judgment on the heads of democratic states such as Israel, but delighted in its past in the Congo or Rwanda, where 800,000 persons died; or lovely Russia, which massacres in Chechnya, but cries for Saddam; in all those cases, it is more evident that "no to the war" has been a "yes" to their own wars. With absolute disdain for the fight for liberty and democracy, in the name of democracy they base their actions.
Clearly, Europe is made up not only of France or Russia, but also of a long list of Eastern countries, from Lithuania to Bulgaria, which, liberated from the Stalinist yoke, are delighted that the United States is fighting totalitarianism, under which they, not in vain, suffered. And, of course, the list also includes England, Italy and Spain, but why is this definition totally disconcerting?
Today the identity uniting the largest number of Europeans is the same that reconstructs French identity and unifies the citizens of the peripheral neighborhoods with rich University of Paris kids: That identity is anti-Americanism. Expressed as a single thought, it simplifies problems through a most primitive reductionism, turning the United States into the expedient dupe of its own miseries, and, by its permanent demonizing of the ugly American, it liberates itself from its own guilt. That Europe, which shaped the world's colonial shame, gave rise to the two great totalitarianisms of the modern history, Nazism and Stalinism; marked the twentieth century with two world wars; forgot with cruel indifference the 221,484 Americans buried in its own cemeteries, [soldiers] who had arrived to save it from itself; that same Europe of Balkan shame, of African horror, of indifference to Armenian or Kurdish extermination; that Europe does not have the historical right to give moral lessons. And it is precisely because of its disgraced position in history and its permanent need to request American aid that it holds onto its anti-Americanism.
I would say, at the risk of emulating Freud, that Europe suffers from a dual complex with respect to the United States: a great superiority complex, derived from its historic arrogance (not in vain it is the cradle of democracy), and an evident inferiority complex, based on its notorious incapacity to avoid and be saved from its own disasters. Therefore, the result is wounded pride, rancor, jealousy, impotence-perfect material for a psychoanalyst. If Woody Allen were making a movie about European frustrations, undoubtedly he would have a ball. By deprecating that which is American, we could say that Europe perhaps is trying not to deprecate itself.
The second stop on the same voyage is the European left, the social foundation of anti-American thought. I refer to the dogmatic left, of course, with the pertinent Communist substrata not yet exorcised. How many of the most enthusiastic spokespersons against the war in Iraq have made peace with their Stalinist past? In spite of the many arguments that could be made against the war, it is evident that the only argument that does not hold up is anti-Americanism. Notwithstanding this, we can say that the antiwar movement was activated only because behind the tanks there were flags bearing stars and stripes. The well-intentioned among you who are listening should not have any illusions: Europe has not expanded its peace culture; it has increased its anti-American culture. None of the most committed activists in Europe has mobilized for the million dead in the macabre unification of the Sudan; nor for the thousands of dead from Algeria's confederation, or for Saddam Hussein's Black September or the killings of Syrian opposition members by Hafez Al-Assad. And, of course, they are not interested in the wars in Southeast Asia, derived from the Communists' adventures in days gone by; nor are they moved by Africa's slow and invisible death. I did not see any banners protesting France's recent intervention in the Ivory Coast during the days of street demonstrations-nor will I see them.
A tank with stars and stripes or with the Star of David is all that is needed for the conscience of the European left to become indignant, mobilize, and demand explanations. Against the so-called American imperialism, that same left defends notorious dictatorships and totalitarianisms, in a dogmatic derivative that seems a lot like a fascism of the left. Common sense requires thinking that some things are good, even if they are defended by George W. Bush or Ariel Sharon, but the Manichaeanism of the left that dominates European thought does not allow that little bit of common sense. In the end, how can we be surprised by a left which has fallen in love with enlightened tyrants-Stalin, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, and now Arafat? What a beautiful ability to cry only with the left eye!
In my country, for example, we have converted Jose Saramago [winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature] into some kind of "thought guru," when he is the paradigm, with Garcia Marquez, of an irrefutable statement: "One may write like a genius but think like an idiot." August Bebel in 1884 already named this [anti-Semitism] "the socialism of fools." Why this elevation of Saramago's altar? Because of his infamy in comparing the Shoah to the victims of Jenin? It is hard to find a crueler example of immorality: Hurling upon the victims of the Shoah their own martyrdom is another way of killing them. Because he has made himself into the anti-American champion? Another deplorable example: The United Left [a Spanish parliamentary left-wing party] has refused to attend the Holocaust commemoration because of-I quote, because there are some stupidities that must be quoted precisely-"solidarity with the Palestinian cause and with the millions of Soviet dead during World War II." In other words, aside from demonstrating that they have understood nothing from European history (that victims of war will never be comparable to the unequaled horror of the creation of an industry to exterminate a people), and they also demonstrate that there are victims do not move them. That same party considers Arafat a new epic myth.
Freud, in his celebrated letter to Einstein in 1932, said that "all which fuels cultural evolution, works against the war." I dare, humbly, to disagree with the great genius. In my country and on my continent, many of the agents of culture are also agents of the most superficial, uncritical, and dogmatic discourse that exists today in Europe. No doubt reading a lot does not guarantee judicious thinking.
From my point of view, the worst thing done by the contemporary left is its betrayal of democracy by forgiving terrorist nihilism. This leads to two shameful results: betraying the principles of justice, according to which all victims are equal; and giving terrorism its own wings. The examples are outrageous: Never did I see a single demonstration against the terrorist network following September 11, and never did I hear of an NGO wanting to send human shields to cafes in Tel Aviv. There is a selective solidarity deriving from an also selective pacifism which, in its time, considers the attack on the Twin Towers as a pure consequence of American politics. The Jewish victims in Israel also end up, in the words of these Chamberlains, their own executioners. One need only venture into the remains of the revolutionary sixties, that is, to the Porto Alegre and Durban forums, to understand what we are talking about. The lucid intellectual Andre Glucksman warns us of the danger of fundamentalist nihilism, but European intellectuals only preoccupy themselves with American democracy.
I do not question the need for a critical look at American policies, but it has to be on par with a serious European self-critique, and above all, with a sharp rejection of Islamic fundamentalism. Today, this is not the case; thus the American criticism becomes a form of Manichaeanism-of irresponsible Manichaeanism.
Islamic fundamentalism is the natural heir to the two great totalitarianisms of mankind, Nazism and Stalinism. Just like them, it is fundamentally anti-Semitic, and like them, it presents a doctrinal body based on terror, total annulment of liberty's principles, and bloody expansionism. Also like them, it acts upon indifference-remember the words of Herman Broch [Austrian Jewish novelist and anti-fascist]: "Indifference is a form of violence"-European impotence, and paternalism, a paternalism which in the case of the left becomes complicity.
The motives are multiple, among them, the absence of their own epics and the collapse of the great utopias that mark modernity. Orphaned from such dreams, a great majority of citizens look toward the Arab world, searching for the resonance with Lawrence of Arabia. They fall in love with all-out wars, with the tribal chants of the revolution, perhaps convinced that, between the "revolution or death" cry of Che Guevara and the "hail death" of Hamas, there is not much difference. Thus they search for Lawrence of Arabia but have not yet realized that they have really run into Osama bin Laden... or into Arafat.
It is Arafat and the Palestinian cause that compels us to stop at the third station: the terminus of European anti-Semitism. With deep pain, I convey that all that is European and all that is Palestinian love each other so much because they are neighbors in a common territory: Judeophobia. It is Judeophobia, unrecognized as such, excused under the umbrella of anti-Zionism, which accounts for the tremendous criminalization of Israel, the demonizing of its legitimate rights, and, above all, the total subscription to the Palestinian cause, drenched or not in blood. European neutrality regarding the Middle East is a pro-Palestinian neutrality. A great man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., observed this in his 1967 Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend:
The times have made it unpopular in the West to proclaim openly a hatred of the Jews. This being the case, the anti-Semite must constantly seek new forms and forums for his poison. How he must revel in the new masquerade! He does not hate the Jews, he is just "anti-Zionist!"
Thirty-six years later, this speaker has had to confront more than one celebrated intellectual in a public forum holding to the same thing that was denounced by Dr. King-that he is "only an anti-Zionist."
If anti-Semitism is the new rhetorical formulation, the permanent and relentless criminalization of Israel is its practical formulation. Israel is the only country in the world that has to apologize for its existence every day, that is censored, distorted, and by all counts rejected. This is not about defending what is Palestinian; it is, above all, about rejecting what is Israeli. This rejection suffers in Europe from two fatal agonies: the agony of information, which is assassinated by the blows of sectarianism and propaganda, and the agony of intelligence, assassinated by the blows of pamphlets. We may state, without doubt, that Israel has lost the battle for public opinion and nowadays does not project itself as the peaceful country that it is. Has it lost this battle due to its sins? I dare say that not even its finest virtues could redeem it from European hatred.
None of this should surprise us. Despite the brutal Christian tradition that turned the Jewish people into a God-killing people ("a plague, a pestilence, a sheer misfortune for our country," as Martin Luther said), no decent European would now speak in those terms. (By the way, you may tell Mel Gibson on my behalf that he is a creep [for making a movie that portrays Jews as the killers of Jesus].) But between the evil medieval Jew who [was accused of] killing Jesus and the soldier of the Jewish state who [is accused of] killing children in Bethlehem, there is a perverse and pleasant symbolic relationship, nourished unconsciously by many Europeans.
Informational distortions proceed from there, with linguistic perversities that turn terrorists into freedom fighters and corrupt dictators into romantic leaders. There are no Jewish victims, as there are no Palestinian executioners. At the culmination of the distortion of the truth, Arab terrorism becomes comprehensible and even acceptable. The obstinate reality of a cause-the Palestinian cause-kidnapped by every kind of murderous indifference, with a cruel international following, moved by a totalitarian ideology that has resulted in thousands of casualties, simply disappears. The Near East is a collection of fallacies that have turned confusion into truth's worst enemy and possibly the fiercest enemy of peace.
Israel doubtless has paid a high price for the optimism of Camp David: On the one hand Israel is not responsible for its failure, but on the other it must pay the consequences.
I come from Europe. I apologize once again. It is my parliament, the European Parliament, which finances the Palestinian educational system, where hatred of Jews is inculcated every day, in an apology for a fatalism that ends up being the planned elegy of a murderous culture. This fatalism also makes access to democratic culture impossible for entire generations. It is my European parliament that refuses to find out what happens with its funds, to discover the corruption of Arafat and his allies, to consider the consequences of the hyper-militarization of Palestinian society. It is my parliament that remains indifferent toward the only real threat in the area: Israel's disappearance. Of course, not even the flaming UN, with "pretty-boy" [Kurt] Waldheim among its secretary-generals, having turned Zionism into a form of racism, counts among its 220 member states 150 dictatorships; neither the UN nor Europe will ever send a soldier to save Israel.
I will go further: Within the heart of the European Parliament lies the notion that the State of Israel should not exist at all. Of course, the European responsibility for the creation of that state, after its attempted extermination of an entire people, vanishes into a memorable forgetfulness. Let me say with rage: Forgetfulness is always an option. In fact, to forget means having a good memory. Europe has, to the disgrace of rationalism, a very good bad memory. And it knows well that blaming the Jews always sells well in a demagogue's market.
I have left to the end the Islamic theme, for the last stop. Europe is also Islamic. They are Islamic, many of the outlying neighborhoods in French, English, German, and soon Spanish cities. It was English terrorists who perpetrated the latest attack in Israel. In Barcelona's mosques, Spanish citizens signed up to fight first for Bin Laden and then for Saddam. One of [Israeli humorist] Ephraim Kishon's jokes is that "Israel is the most advanced country in the Near East-thanks to its neighbors." Is it true? Doubtless, the world's great burden and the most serious threat to democracy are the 1.2 billion Muslims who live chained to theocratic regimes. Despite a few million who live in the democracies (including 16 million in Europe), their openness to a fundamentalist irredentism is worrisome, as was the openness to fascism of Christian populism in the past. We know that in the Muslim world, the Shoah is minimized and even denied. Abu Mazen himself, the "Great White Hope" for peace, wrote a doctoral thesis supporting Holocaust denial. We can still read his assertion that only 890,000 Jews died, and the rest was a Zionist invention. And he is considered a moderate!
In Saddam's schools there was a phrase that schoolchildren had to learn: "There are three things that Allah should not have created: Persians, Jews, and flies." The terrible Protocols of the Elders of Zion, together with Mein Kampf, are authentic best-sellers; in madrassas spread half way around the world a fatalistic culture is taught daily making hatred of everything Jewish the basis of its identity-along with hatred of democracy, as could be expected. In Pakistan alone there are 7,000 such places educating 600,000 students. It is estimate that half become radical militants. Their objective? No doubt it is to fight modernity-just like Stalinism and Nazism. Thus it is evident that the fall of two dictatorships in the Middle East-Afghanistan and Iraq, two powerful incubators of terrorism and two destabilizing agents in the region-is the best news in the current fight for democracy. Of course, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt still are there, along with our worst nightmares, but something significant is stirring in that powder keg of the world.
Thus, because the world is better off without Saddam and Bin Laden, and because, above all, democracy is safer, I maintain that Europe betrays itself when it does not fight Islamic fundamentalism. It becomes nonhistorical if not anti-historical. Europe betrays itself once again, repeating its own mistakes. There are those who say that Europe is irredeemable, but we are redeemed.
It starts with the fight for democracy-the same fight that Israel has been waging for 55 years, surrounded by anti-democratic enemies. No doubt this is its reward for being the anomaly, a rational state in the midst of irrationality.
This is the same fight waged constantly by the United States, despite its many enemies and its grave mistakes-the same fight that Europe has lost so many times. A Spanish writer recently noted that "an independent thought is a distraught and solitary place." Today such a distressing place belongs to those of us in Europe who are not pointing the gun at Israel, not hating America, and not blindly forgetting our own failings. Yet it is we who are right, without a doubt, because history speaks to us clearly: At the appearance of each new totalitarianism, most of Europe went to take a nap. And some, captivated by the Stalinist past, are still asleep. Islamic fundamentalism is the world's new totalitarianism. As such, it is the enemy of the Free World, and of the Islamic world itself, which it enslaves in a spiral of hatred, fanaticism, and ignorance. Raising our voice against it is not only a moral requirement but an intellectual obligation; it is also an act of self-defense.
I end with the hope that you will be indulgent with old Europe. We are like those aristocratic old ladies-tired, wrinkled, and sour-who do not let anyone do anything, perhaps to avoid confronting their own decadence. Europe has given the world the pillars of democracy. It has also given birth to the termites that have tried to destroy those pillars. Good and evil both reside in that old, sad, and, despite it all, beautiful continent. More anti-American than ever, Europe is again anti-Semitic and, on top of that, pan-Arabist. We are part of the problem, yet we must be part of the solution. As Americans, you must not succumb, out of isolation, into dominance. As Jews, what can I tell you? I feel Jewish because I am European, and that is the only moral condition that can redeem a European from her own past of shame.
Shalom.Date: 5/6/2003 12:00:00 AM