The Situation in Germany Is Deteriorating for Jews — and Everyone: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Algemeiner, June 20, 2018— “The twelve years of national socialist rule was a speck of bird poop compared to the more than thousand years of Germany’s glorious past.”
The Migration Crisis Will Shatter Europe: Margaret Wente, Globe & Mail, June 25, 2018— As politicians wrangle behind closed doors, the MV Lifeline is in limbo.
Europe’s Vanishing Calm: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, June 7, 2018— The Rhone River Valley in southern France is a storybook marriage of high technology, traditional vineyards, and ancestral villages.
Parshat Balak: A People That Dwells Alone: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Jewish Press, June 28, 2018 — This is an extraordinary moment in Jewish history, for good and not-so-good reasons.
On Topic Links
Bureaucracy Preventing Ingathering of the Nicaraguan Exiles: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News, June 28, 2018
The Palestine Pavilion – 1924-25: Saul Jay Singer, Jewish Press, June 20, 2018
Spain: Ground Zero for Europe’s Anti-Israel Movement: Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, June 23, 2018
Sidestepping Standard Procedure, Austrian Chancellor Visits Western Wall: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, June 10, 2018
THE SITUATION IN GERMANY IS DETERIORATING
FOR JEWS — AND EVERYONE
Algemeiner, June 20, 2018
“The twelve years of national socialist rule was a speck of bird poop compared to the more than thousand years of Germany’s glorious past.” This graphic statement was made by Alexander Gauland, the co-chairman of the German extreme right-wing AfD party, at an official party conference earlier this month. A German government spokesman called Gauland’s remark shameful, and the statement also led to condemnations from a variety of politicians, media outlets, and others. It was criticized from within the AfD as well.
Gauland reacted by saying that he did not deny Germany’s responsibility for the crimes of the Nazis. He also remarked that his words expressed extreme repugnance for National Socialism, since he compared it to animal excrement. Yet as so often happens, this issue was treated largely as an isolated incident rather than seen in a much wider context.
The impact of Holocaust-related traumas reemerges regularly in Germany in many different ways. Now Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “welcome policy” on immigration has added another recurring problem: the partly insolvable challenges that will result from Germany’s massive refugee influx. Since September 2015, at least 1.3 million asylum seekers — mainly Muslims from countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan — have entered Germany. In the September 2017 elections, the AfD received 12.6% of the vote and became Germany’s third largest party. Without Merkel’s immigration policy, this right-wing anti-Islam party would probably have had difficulty passing the 5% parliamentary entrance threshold.
As a populist and nationalist party, the AfD promotes extreme national identity and rejects supranational Europeanism. Yet Gauland’s remark and the many negative reactions from his colleagues show that the party knows it must tread carefully. Still, popular support for the AfD continues to increase. A recent poll gave it 16% of voters’ support, close to that of the country’s declining second party the SPD socialists. German acquaintances keep telling me that numerous people in the mainstream intend to vote for the AfD. Part of the reason is that they see no other alternative to express their wish to stop the inflow of refugees.
Although Merkel has walked back her refugee policy somewhat, many Germans remain dissatisfied, partly because the media publicity about murders and other major crimes committed by Middle Eastern immigrants is widespread. The stable Germany of recent decades is changing and Germany is becoming a country in flux. Domestic and international problems have piled up rapidly. The government parties no longer have a majority in the polls. The national refugee agency BAMF is under scrutiny for a major scandal; the head of the agency has been fired. There are also important policy and personal tensions between the two Christian parties — Merkel’s CDU and the Bavarian CSU.
When it comes to Germany’s foreign relations, the situation is deteriorating as well. In Italy, a populist government wants to transgress the European Union’s financial rules. The United Kingdom is negotiating its departure from the EU. Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the nuclear agreement with Iran has led Tehran to threaten to abandon its commitments under the deal unless the Europeans compensate it for American sanctions. The newly imposed US tariffs on steel and aluminum may soon be followed by tariffs on cars, which will hit Germany hard. Trump also has so little respect for Germany that he has even stated that the country’s citizens don’t support the government on the immigration issue.
A strong Germany is crucial for Israel’s position in Europe. Internal tensions can become bad for the country’s Jews. All one can conclude is that developments in Germany should be watched closely by both Israel and local Jewish organizations.
THE MIGRATION CRISIS WILL SHATTER EUROPE
Globe & Mail, June 25, 2018
As politicians wrangle behind closed doors, the MV Lifeline is in limbo. The Lifeline is a rescue ship that picked up 234 migrants off the Libyan coast last week. Normally it would have docked in Italy. But Italy’s new hard-line government turned it away. No one wants the passengers, who are mostly young African men. Italy’s new Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, has already threatened to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants unless Europe gets serious about sharing the burdens of intercepting and processing them. Last week, he posted a video on his Facebook page in which he called the passengers of the Lifeline “human meat.”
Attitudes have hardened on migration across Europe – not only in Hungary and Poland, which have had little tolerance for foreigners, but also in France and even tolerant Sweden. The top two issues in most countries are immigration and terrorism, pollsters find. Experts can lecture all they want about how immigration, terrorism and crime are really pseudo-problems, whipped up to serve the interests of the populists. But the truth is that Europe’s leaders have failed miserably to come up with any common solution to the migration problem. That’s why support for national populists is rising and why centre-right parties are shifting farther right.
The absolute numbers of asylum seekers have fallen dramatically since 2015 – the year of the great surge to Germany. Even so, as the Financial Times says, “The impact of migration on European politics has become truly poisonous.” In Sweden, the once-shunned anti-immigrant right is heading for a breakthrough in September’s elections. In Germany, Angela Merkel’s job is in jeopardy if she can’t manage to placate her coalition partners in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, who are being challenged by the far right. They’re threatening to close the borders if they don’t get new assurances on immigration – a move that would be a devastating blow to the European Union’s open-borders policy.
Anti-immigration sentiment in Germany is also fuelled by violent crime. Recently, a young Iraqi man was apprehended for the violent rape and murder of a 14-year-old German girl – a graphic reminder to many people that the government can’t control who is living within its borders. “The government should beg for forgiveness from Susanna’s parents, ” said Bild, a popular daily newspaper.
Ms. Merkel is pushing for a common approach and united solutions to Europe’s migration problems. But that’s looking like a lost cause. The idea of “burden-sharing” – which would require every country to take its fair share of asylum claimants – has been a flop, because countries such as Hungary and Bulgaria believe their fair share is zero. Asylum claimants themselves are only interested in going to northern countries with good welfare benefits. Other ideas involve massively beefing up policing of Europe’s external borders – if only they can figure out who will pay and what will become of the migrants who are intercepted. The Italians are now proposing “reception centres” – perhaps located in Europe, or perhaps North Africa, where people can be housed (or detained, depending on your point of view) while their claims are processed.
None of these solutions address the bigger problem, which is that there is today a near-infinite supply of both economic migrants and asylum seekers, that the distinction between the two can be somewhat arbitrary and that hundreds of millions of people in the most decrepit and dysfunctional places on Earth are now equipped with cellphones that allow them to see how the First World lives. Africa’s population, now about 1.25 billion, is expected to double by the year 2050. That’s a lot of overloaded dinghies.
Even in the case of genuine refugees – of which the world has some 62 million at the moment – it’s clear that the welcome mat has grown thin. The reality is that the post-Cold-War paradigm doesn’t work anymore. The 1951 Refugee Convention “was never designed for huge masses of people outside of the West,” writes political scientist Ivan Krastev in his penetrating book, After Europe. His message: Don’t blame the far-right fringes for Europe’s discontent. Blame the oblivious elites. “The inability and unwillingness of the liberal elites to discuss migration and contend with its consequences, and the insistence that existing policies are always positive sum (i.e., win-win), are what make liberalism for so many symbolic with hypocrisy,” he writes. Can liberalism survive the challenge? We’ll find out. Meanwhile, another refugee ship is adrift on the Mediterranean, looking for a place to land. There will be many more.
EUROPE’S VANISHING CALM
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review, June 7, 2018
The Rhone River Valley in southern France is a storybook marriage of high technology, traditional vineyards, and ancestral villages. High-speed trains and well-designed toll roads crisscross majestic cathedrals, castles, and chateaus. Traveling in a Europe at peace these days evokes both historical and literary allusions. As with the infrastructure and engineering of the late Roman Empire right before its erosion, the Continent rests at its pinnacle of technological achievement.
There is a Roman Empire-like sameness throughout Europe in fashion, popular culture, and government protocol — a welcome change from the deadly fault lines of 1914 and 1939. Yet, as in the waning days of Rome, there is a growing uncertainly beneath the European calm. The present generation has inherited the physical architecture and art of a once-great West — cathedrals, theaters, and museums. But it seems to lack the confidence that it could ever create the conditions to match, much less exceed, such achievement.
The sense of depression in Europe reminds one of novelist J. R. R. Tolkien’s description of the mythical land of Gondor in his epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings. Gondor’s huge walls, vaunted traditions, and rich history were testaments that it once served as bulwark of a humane Middle-earth. But by the novel’s time, the people of Gondor had become militarily and spiritually enfeebled by self-doubt, decades of poor governance, depopulation, and indifference, paradoxically brought on by wealth and affluence.
Europeans are similarly confused about both their past and present. They claim to be building a new democratic culture. But the governing elites of the European Union prefer fiats to plebiscites. They are terrified of popular protest movements. And they consider voters little more than members of reckless mobs that cannot be properly taught what is good for them.
Free speech is increasingly problematic. It is more dangerous for a European citizen to publicly object to illegal immigration than for a foreigner to enter Europe illegally. Elites preach the idea of open borders. But people on the street concede that they have no way of assimilating millions of immigrants from the Middle East into European culture. Most come illegally, en masse, and without the education or skills to integrate successfully.
Oddly, less wealthy Central and Eastern Europeans are more astutely skeptical of mass immigration than wealthier but less rational Western Europeans. Europeans claim to believe in democratic redistribution, but apparently not on an international level. They are torn apart over a poorer Mediterranean Europe wishing to share in the lifestyles of their northern cousins without necessarily emulating the latter’s discipline and work ethic.
Germany wishes to be the good leader that can live down its past by virtue-signaling its tolerance. Yet Berlin does so in an overbearing, almost traditional Prussian fashion. It rams down the throat of its neighbors its politically correct policies on Middle Eastern immigration, mandatory green energy, virtual disarmament, mercantilist trade, and financial bailouts. Rarely has such a socialist nation been so hyper-capitalist and chauvinist in piling up trade surpluses.
The world quietly assumes that the rich and huge European Union cannot and will not do much about unscrupulous Chinese trade practices, radical Islamic terrorism, or Iranian and North Korean nuclear proliferation. Such problems are left to the more uncouth Americans. That unspoken dependency might explain why many Europeans quietly concede that the hated Donald Trump’s deterrent foreign policy and his economic growth protocols could prove in the long term a better deal for Europe than were the beloved Barack Obama’s lead-from-behind and redistributionist agendas.
The European Union’s sole reason to be is to avoid a repeat of the disastrous 20th century, in which many millions of Europeans were slaughtered in world wars, death camps, and the great Communist terror in Russia. Yet paradoxically, the European reaction to the gory past often results in an extreme Western sybaritic lifestyle that in itself leads to decline.
European religion has been recalibrated into a secular and agnostic political correctness. Child-raising, if done, is often a matter of having one child in one’s late thirties. Buying a home and getting a job depend more on government ministries than on individual daring and initiative. Yet the more credible European lesson from the last century’s catastrophes is that too few 20th-century European democracies stayed militarily vigilant. In the 1930s, too few of them felt confident enough in Western democratic values to confront existential dangers, such as Hitler and Stalin, in their infancy. Atheistic nihilism and a soulless modernism — not religious piety and a reverence for custom and tradition — fueled German and Italian fascism and Russian Communism. Contrary to politically correct dogma, Christianity, military deterrence, democracy, and veneration of a unique past did not destroy Europe.
PARSHAT BALAK: A PEOPLE THAT DWELLS ALONE
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Jewish Press, June 28, 2018
This is an extraordinary moment in Jewish history, for good and not-so-good reasons. For the first time in almost 4,000 years we have simultaneously sovereignty and independence in the land and state of Israel, and freedom and equality in the Diaspora. There have been times – all too brief – when Jews had one or the other, but never before, both at the same time. That is the good news.
The less-good news, though, is that Anti-Semitism has returned within living memory of the Holocaust. The State of Israel remains isolated in the international political arena. It is still surrounded by enemies. And it is the only nation among the 193 making up the United Nations whose very right to exist is constantly challenged and always under threat. Given all this, it seems the right time to re-examine words appearing in this week’s parsha, uttered by the pagan prophet Balaam, that have come to seem to many, the most powerful summation of Jewish history and destiny:
From the peaks of rocks I see them,
from the heights I gaze upon them.
This is a people who dwell alone,
not reckoning themselves one of the nations. (Num. 23:9)
For two leading Israeli diplomats in the twentieth century – Yaacov Herzog and Naphtali Lau-Lavie – this verse epitomised their sense of Jewish peoplehood after the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. Herzog, son of a Chief Rabbi of Israel and brother of Chaim who became Israel’s president, was Director-General of the Prime Minister’s office from 1965 to his death in 1972. Naphtali Lavie, a survivor of Auschwitz who became Israel’s Consul-General in New York, lived to see his brother, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, become Israel’s Chief Rabbi. Herzog’s collected essays were published under the title, drawn from Balaam’s words, A People that Dwells Alone. Lavie’s were entitled Balaam’s Prophecy – again a reference to this verse.
For both, the verse expressed the uniqueness of the Jewish people – its isolation on the one hand, its defiance and resilience on the other. Though it has faced opposition and persecution from some of the greatest superpowers the world has ever known, it has outlived them all.
Given, though, the return of Anti-Semitism, it is worth reflecting on one particular interpretation of the verse, given by the Dean of Volozhyn Yeshiva, R. Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin (Netziv, Russia, 1816-1893). Netziv interpreted the verse as follows: for every other nation, when its people went into exile and assimilated into the dominant culture, they found acceptance and respect. With Jews, the opposite was the case. In exile, when they remained true to their faith and way of life, they found themselves able to live at peace with their gentile neighbors. When they tried to assimilate, they found themselves despised and reviled.
The sentence, says Netziv, should therefore be read thus: “If it is a people content to be alone, faithful to its distinctive identity, then it will be able to dwell in peace. But if Jews seek to be like the nations, the nations will not consider them worthy of respect.”
This is a highly significant statement, given the time and place in which it was made, namely Russia in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. At that time, many Russian Jews had assimilated, some converting to Christianity. But Anti-Semitism did not diminish. It grew, exploding into violence in the pogroms that happened in more than a hundred towns in 1881. These were followed by the notorious Anti-Semitic May Laws of 1882. Realising that they were in danger if they stayed, between 3 and 5 million Jews fled to the West.
It was at this time that Leon Pinsker, a Jewish physician who had believed that the spread of humanism and enlightenment would put an end to Anti-Semitism, experienced a major change of heart and wrote one of the early texts of secular Zionism, Auto-Emancipation (1882). In words strikingly similar to those of Netziv, he said, “In seeking to fuse with other peoples [Jews] deliberately renounced to some extent their own nationality. Yet nowhere did they succeed in obtaining from their fellow-citizens recognition as natives of equal status.” They tried to be like everyone else, but this only left them more isolated.
Something similar happened in Western Europe also. Far from ending hostility to Jews, Enlightenment and Emancipation merely caused it to mutate, from religious Judeophobia to racial Anti-Semitism. No-one spoke of this more poignantly than Theodore Herzl in The Jewish State (1896):
We have honestly endeavored everywhere to merge ourselves in the social life of surrounding communities and to preserve the faith of our fathers. We are not permitted to do so. In vain are we loyal patriots, our loyalty in some places running to extremes; in vain do we make the same sacrifices of life and property as our fellow-citizens; in vain do we strive to increase the fame of our native land in science and art, or her wealth by trade and commerce. In countries where we have lived for centuries we are still cried down as strangers … If we could only be left in peace … But I think we shall not be left in peace.
The more we succeeded in being like everyone else, implied Herzl, the more we were disliked by everyone else. Consciously or otherwise, these nineteenth century voices were echoing a sentiment first articulated 26 centuries ago by the prophet Ezekiel, speaking in the name of God to the would-be assimilationists among the Jewish exiles in Babylon: You say, “We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone.” But what you have in mind will never happen. (Ez. 20:32)…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
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On Topic Links
Bureaucracy Preventing Ingathering of the Nicaraguan Exiles: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News, June 28, 2018—While the political situation in Nicaragua rages out of control, a small community of Jews and non-Jews in the process of conversion is struggling to make aliyah to Israel. Their lives are threatened but the doors for them to return to their people are jammed shut with paperwork.
The Palestine Pavilion – 1924-25: Saul Jay Singer, Jewish Press, June 20, 2018—After WWI, Great Britain was highly motivated to stage an international exhibition.
Spain: Ground Zero for Europe’s Anti-Israel Movement: Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, June 23, 2018—Valencia, the third-largest city in Spain, has approved a motion to boycott Israel and slander it by declaring the city an “Israeli apartheid-free zone.” The move comes days after Navarra, one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities, announced a similar measure.
Sidestepping Standard Procedure, Austrian Chancellor Visits Western Wall: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, June 10, 2018—Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz visited the Western Wall on Sunday, the first time in recent memory a leader of a European Union country visited the holy site, even for what is being billed only as a “private visit.”