Allan C. Brownfeld
Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
As Extremism Grows Among Europe's Muslim Immigrants, There Are Lessons to Be Learned from America's Melting Pot
Young Muslims from Europe are traveling to the Middle East in growing numbers to join ISIS. They have been involved in the beheadings of Western hostages and are busy urging others to leave Europe and the United States as well to join their ranks.
There is, if seems, at least some level of support for this extremism within immigrant communities. A poll of British Muslims found that 27 percent had some sympathy for the motives behind January's Islamist attacks in Paris against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket. Eleven percent agreed that those who publish images of the Prophet Mohammed deserve to be attacked. The poll was conducted for the BBC between January 26 and February 20. There are about 2.8 million Muslims in Britain, about 4.4 percent of the population. "These are, as far as I'm concerned, worrying statistics," said Sayeeda Warsi, who was Britain's first female Muslim minister, before resigning last year over the government's policy on the war in Gaza.
In France, as the nation reeled from the terrorist attacks in Paris, reports filled the newspapers and T.V. newscasts of young Muslim students refusing to honor the dead, highlighting the sharp divisions in French society. Young Muslims in France live largely in a separate, segregated world. A 2012 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that France leads Europe in educational inequalities stemming from social and ethnic origins. France's National Council for the Evaluation of the School System has spoken of "school ghettos," referring to districts where dropout rates are high and performances exceptionally weak.
Starting in the 1950s, immigrants from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia began arriving in France. They were often sent to isolated housing projects that bred alienation. The expected smooth integration never took place. Despite a high unemployment rate, approximately 200,000 immigrants have arrived in France every year since 2004. Muslims now make up about 8 percent of the country, constituting the largest Muslim population in Western Europe. Four out of ten French recently surveyed said they considered Muslims "to be a threat to our national identity." Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's increasingly popular National Front, referred to Muslims praying in the street as an "occupation" of France.
The failure of France and other European countries to assimilate their growing Muslim immigrant population into the larger society is sowing seeds of future turmoil. The exodus of young recruits to ISIS from the immigrant neighborhoods of Paris, London, Brussels, Copenhagen, and other European cities is a indication of further turmoil to come. These young people with British, Danish, and French passports are likely to return and emulate the terrorist attacks we have recently witnessed.
Americans are not immune from this phenomenon. The attack upon the Boston Marathon is one example. The numbers of young American Muslims who have joined ISIS are, thus far, small, but efforts to recruit in immigrant communities, as among Somalis in Minnesota, are growing. But our own society has some experience with assimilating immigrants from around the world, integrating them into our society, and making them Americans. As Herman Melville said in the 19th century, "If you shed a drop of American blood, you shed the blood of the whole world." For its own survival, Europe would do well to study our melting pot experience.
Some time ago, Professor Seymour Martin Lipset of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, criticized those who were promoting bilingualism and multiculturalism in American public schools:
The history of bilingual and bicultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension and tragedy. Canada, Belgium, Malaysia, and Lebanon - all face crises of national existence in which minorities press for autonomy, if not independence. Pakistan and Cyprus have divided. Nigeria suppressed an ethnic rebellion. France faces difficulties with its Basques, Bretons, and Corsicans.
Remembering the way American public schools served to bring children of immigrants into the mainstream, Fotine Z. Nicholas, who taught for 30 years in New York City schools and wrote an education column for a Greek-American weekly, notes:
I recall with nostalgia the way things used to be. At P.S. 82 in Manhattan, 90 percent of the students had European-born parents. Our teachers were mostly of Irish origin, and they tried hard to homogenize us. We might refer to ourselves as Czech or Hungarian or Greek but we developed a pride in being American. . . . There were two unifying factors: the attitude of our teachers and the English language. . . . After we started school, we spoke only English to our siblings, our classmates and our friends. We studied and wrote in English, we played in English, we thought in English.
Successive waves of immigrants have assimilated into the American society. They entered a United States that had self-confidence and believed in its own culture, history, and values, and was determined to transmit them to the newcomers. And the immigrants themselves wanted to become Americans. Our traditional response to the problem of assimilation, The Economist points out:
. . . was to treat each immigrant as an individual. . . . The essential American promise is that individuals will rise or fall on their own merits. . . . Waving the banner of diversity, opponents of the melting pot are in danger of promoting ethnic division as a matter of public policy. . . . The government should not only oppose legal distinctions between ethnic groups; it should also do more to build a common American culture through education. . . . If children are taught to see themselves as members of an ethnic group, rather than as Americans, the U.S. will rapidly become disunited.
If some in the U.S. have retreated from our melting pot philosophy, the countries of Western Europe have never properly embraced it. They seem not to know how to make their Muslim immigrants French, British, or Belgian. Perhaps they should have considered this dilemma more carefully before they opened their doors to these immigrants. They now have a lot of catching up to do.
It is important to remember that by coming to the U.S. and Western Europe, immigrants are voting with their feet for our system and our way of life. They should be helped to assimilate into our societies, not to recreate here and in Europe the very systems they have escaped at such high cost.
In his Wriston lecture on "Universal Civilization," V. S. Naipaul, the son of immigrant Indian laborers who grew up in post-colonial Trinidad and was educated in England, contrasts some of the static, inward-looking, insular, backsliding "non-Western" cultures with that spreading "universal civilization" that he finds to be based on Jefferson's idea of the pursuit of happiness. Discussing the essence of Western civilization, which sets it apart from others, Naipaul characterizes it in these terms:
The ideal of the individual, responsibility, choice, the life of the intellect, the idea of vocation and perfectibility and achievement. It is an immense human idea. It cannot be reduced to a fixed system nor generate fanaticism. But it is known to exist and because of that, other more rigid systems in the end blow away.
The American society traces the rights we take for granted back to the Magna Carta. The idea of trial by jury, due process of law and limits upon government power come from this ancient English charter. The fact that the majority of present-day Americans cannot trace their individual ancestry to England bears little relationship to the British nature of American culture. In America's British Culture, Russell Kirk argues that:
Two centuries after the first U.S. census was taken, nearly every race and nationality in the world had contributed to the American population, but the culture of America remains British. . . . The many millions of newcomers to the U.S. have accepted integration into the British-descended American culture with little protest, and often with great willingness.
The challenge for Western Europe is to assimilate its growing Muslim immigrant population into the French, British and other cultures and societies in which they now live. The American experience provides a model of how this might be achieved. If these immigrants remain isolated and alienated, Europe will face increasingly stormy days ahead.
Family Breakdown: One Important Cause of Many of Society's Ills
In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then assistant secretary of labor who went on to serve as Democratic U.S. senator from New York for nearly a quarter-century, issued a report warning of a crisis growing for America's black families. It reported a dramatic increase in out-of-wedlock births and one-parent families and warned of the "tangle of pathologies" which resulted. Among these were poor performance in school, increased drug use, and a growing rate of incarceration for crime.
"The Moynihan argument . . . assumed that the troubles impending for black America were unique," writes Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute.
. . . a consequence of the singular historical burdens that black Americans had endured in our country. That argument was not only plausible at the time, but also persuasive. Yet today that same "tangle of pathology" can no longer be described as characteristic of just one group within our country. Quite the contrary . . . these pathologies are evident throughout all of America today, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Single motherhood has become so common in America that demographers believe that half of all children will live with a single mother at some point before age 18. Research from Princeton University's Sara McLanahan and Harvard University's Christopher Jencks shows that more than 70 percent of all black children are born to an unmarried mother, a threefold increase since the 1960s.
In a new paper, McLanahan and Jencks assess the state of children born to single mothers, nearly fifty years after the Moynihan Report warned that the growing number of fatherless black children would struggle to avoid poverty. The report looks prescient. Black children today are about twice as likely as the national average to live with an unmarried mother. Research is confirming Moynihan's fears that children of unmarried mothers face more obstacles in life.
In the studies reviewed by McLanahan and Jencks, it was found that these children experience more family instability, with new partners moving in and out, and more half-siblings fathered by different men. The growing number of studies in this field also suggest that these children have more problem behaviors and more trouble finishing school.
The growing debate about income inequality ignores the evidence that shows that unwed parents raise poorer children. Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution calculates that returning marriage rates to their 1970 level would lower the child poverty rate by a fifth. There may be a partisan political reason why this point is not made more often. The Economist suggests that, "This omission may be deliberate. Democrats are reluctant to offend unmarried women, 60 percent of whom voted for the party's candidates in 2014."
There may be, some observers point out, a connection between government welfare programs and the breakdown of the family, as well as the declining number of men in the workforce. As late as 1963, on the eve of the War on Poverty, more than 93 percent of American babies were coming into the world with two married parents. According to the 1960 census, nearly 88 percent of children under 18 were then living with two parents. For the quarter century from 1940 to 1965, official data recorded a rise in the fraction of births to unmarried women from 3.8 percent to 7.7 percent. Over the following quarter century, 1965-1990, out-of-wedlock births jumped from 7.7 percent of the nationwide total to 28 percent. The most recently available data are for 2012, which shows America's over-all out-of-wedlock ratio had moved beyond 40 percent.
The trends discussed in the 1965 Moynihan Report for black families have now extended to American families of all racial backgrounds. Among Hispanic Americans, more than 30 percent of children were in single-parent homes by 2013, and well over half were born out of wedlock by 2012. Among non-Hispanic white Americans, there were few signs of family breakdown before the massive government entitlement programs began with the War on Poverty in the 1960s. Between 1940 and 1963, the out-of-wedlock birth ratio increased, but only from 2 percent to 3 percent. In 1960, just 6 percent of white children lived with single mothers. As of 2012, the proportion of out-of-wedlock births was 29 percent, nearly 10 times as high as it was just before the War on Poverty.
In his study, The Great Society at Fifty: The Triumph and the Tragedy, Nicholas Eberstadt argues that:
What is indisputable . . . is that the new American welfare state facilitated these new American trends by helping to finance them: by providing support for working-age men who are no longer seeking employment and for single women with children who would not be able to maintain independent households without government aid. Regardless of the origins of the flight from work and family breakdown, the War on Poverty and successive welfare policies have made each of these modern tendencies more feasible as mass phenomena in our country today.
The War on Poverty, of course, did not envision such a result. These were unintended consequences that, as we have seen, are often the case with many well-intentioned government programs. President Lyndon Johnson wanted to bring dependence on government handouts to an eventual end, and did not intend to perpetuate them into the future. Three months after his Great Society speech, Johnson declared:
We are not content to accept the endless growth of relief rolls of welfare rolls. . . . Our American answer to poverty is not to make the poor more secure in their poverty but to reach down and to help them lift themselves out of the ruts of poverty and move with the large majority along the high road of hope and prosperity.
In Eberhardt's view:
Held against this ideal, the actual unfolding of America's antipoverty policies can be seen only as a tragic failure. Dependence on government relief, in its many modern versions, is more widespread today, and possibly also more habitual, than at any time in our history. To make matters much worse, such aid has become integral to financing lifestyles and behavioral patterns plainly destructive to our commonwealth - and on a scale far more vast than could have been imagined in an era before such antipoverty aid was all but unconditionally available.
Any serious discussion of poverty and the growing gaps in income must confront the reasons why, for example, in the past 50 years, the fraction of civilian men ages 25 to 34 who were neither working nor looking for work has quadrupled and that for many women, children, and even working-age men, the entitlement state has become the breadwinner. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said "the issue of welfare is not what it costs those who provide it, but what it costs those who receive it."
At the heart of the social and economic decline we face at the present time is the breakdown of the family. Few in the political arena, in either party, are addressing this question. Unless they do, their proposals to move our economy forward and lessen the gaps in income and wealth are unlikely to succeed.
There Is a Growing Danger that Police Are Being Made Scapegoats for Larger Racial Problems that Society Ignores
The attacks upon police for "racism" have been mounting as a result of the killings of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, and elsewhere. Many with a history of demagoguery when it comes to questions of race relations, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton among them, have done their best to keep this issue alive. Sadly, they have cast more heat than light on a question that is far more complex than their self-serving analysis would lead Americans to believe.
Recently, FBI director James Comey addressed this question. At the outset, he declared certain "hard truths," including the fact that the history of law enforcement has been tied to enforcing slavery, segregation, and other forms of discrimination. "One reason we cannot forget our law enforcement legacy," he said, "is that the people we serve and protect cannot forget it, either."
Mr. Comey also acknowledged the existence of unconscious racial bias "in our white-majority culture," and how that influences policing. He conceded that people in law enforcement can develop "different flavors of cynicism" that can be "lazy mental shortcuts," resulting in more pronounced racial profiling.
But he then warned against using police as scapegoats to avoid coming to grips with much more complex problems affecting minority communities, including a lack of "role models, adequate education, and decent employment," as well as "all sorts of opportunities that most of us take for granted." In his address at Georgetown University, Comey declared:
I worry that this incredibly important and difficult conversation about policing has become focused entirely on the nature and character of law enforcement officers when it should also be about something much harder to discuss.
Citing the song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" from the Broadway show "Avenue Q," Comey said that police officers of all races viewed black and white men differently using a mental shortcut that "becomes almost irresistible and maybe even rational by some lights" because black men commit crime at a much higher rate than white men.
Comey said that nearly all police officers had joined the force because they wanted to help others. Speaking in personal terms, he described how most Americans had initially viewed Irish immigrants like his ancestors "as drunks, ruffians, and criminals." He noted that, "Law enforcement's biased view of the Irish lives on in the nickname we still use for the vehicle that transports groups of prisoners. It is, after all, the 'Paddy Wagon.'"
If black men are committing crime out of proportion to their numbers, it is important to consider the reason. According to a report just released by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI), by age 17, only 17 percent of black teenagers live with two married parents. Professor Orlando Patterson, a Harvard sociologist who is black, published an article in December in the Chronicle of Higher Education, lamenting that "fearful" sociologists had abandoned "studies of the cultural dimensions of poverty, particularly black poverty," and declared that the discipline had become "largely irrelevant."
Now, Patterson and Ethan Fosse, a Harvard doctoral student, are publishing a new anthology called The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth. In Patterson's view, fifty years after Daniel Moynihan issued his report about the decline of the black family, "History has been kind to Moynihan." Moynihan was concerned about an out-of-wedlock birth rate in the black community of 25 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the equivalent rate for 2013 was 71.5 percent. (The rate for non-Hispanic whites was 29.3 percent.)
The inner-city culture that promotes the social dissolution that results in crime has been written about for many years by respected black observers. In 1899, the scholar W. E. B. Du Bois drew on interviews and census data to produce The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study. He spent a year living in the neighborhood he wrote about, in the midst of what he described as "an atmosphere of dirt, drunkenness, poverty and crime." He observed in language much harsher than Moynihan's, the large number of unmarried mothers, many of whom he referred to as "ignorant and loose." He called upon whites to stop employment discrimination, which he called "morally wrong, politically dangerous, industrially wasteful, and socially silly." He told black readers they had a duty to work harder, to behave better, and to stem the tide of "Negro crime," which he called "a menace to civilized people."
In 1999, on the hundredth anniversary of Du Bois's study, Elijah Anderson published a new sociological study of poor black neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Code of the Street, and recorded its informants' characterization of themselves and their neighbors as either "decent" or "street" or, in some cases, a bit of both. In The Cultural Matrix, Orlando Patterson lists "three main social groups" - the middle class, the working class, and "disconnected street people" that are common in "disadvantaged" African-American neighborhoods. He also lists "four focal cultural configurations" (adapted mainstream, proletarian, street, and hip-hop).
Patterson views the "hip-hop" culture of the inner city as a destructive phenomenon, and compares MC Hammer to Nietzsche, contends that hip-hop routinely celebrates "forced abortions" and calls Lil Wayne "irredeemably vulgar" and "all too typical" of the genre. Thomas Shelby, a professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard, writes in The Cultural Matrix that "suboptimal cultural traits" are the major impediment for many African-Americans seeking to escape poverty. "Some in ghetto communities," he writes, "are believed to devalue traditional co-parenting and to eschew mainstream styles of childbearing."
In his speech on race in 2008, President Obama said that African-Americans needed to take more responsibility for their own communities by "demanding more from our fathers." Fifty years ago, Daniel Moynihan worried that "the Negro community" was in a state of decline with an increasingly matriarchal family structure that led to increasing crime. In the fifteen years after he published his report, the homicide rate doubled, with blacks overrepresented among both perpetrators and victims.
Orlando Patterson, in a recent interview with Slate, said: "I am not in favor of a national conversation on race," and noted that most white people in America had come to accept racial equality. But whether or not such a "national conversation" is useful, we are now in the midst of such an enterprise. FBI director Comey is contributing to that exchange. He asks:
Why are so many black men in jail? Is it because cops, prosecutors, judges and juries are racist because they are turning a blind eye to white robbers and drug dealers? . . . I don't think so. If it were so, that would be easier to address. . . . The percentage of young men not working or not enrolled in school is nearly twice as high for blacks as it is for whites. . . . Young people in those neighborhoods too often inherit a legacy of crime and prison, and with that inheritance they become part of the police officer's life and shape the way that officer, whether white or black, sees the world. Changing that legacy is a challenge so enormous and so complicated that it is, unfortunately, easier to talk only about the cops. And that's not fair.
A New Look at the Declaration of Independence
American students are less proficient in their nation's history than in any other subject, according to results of a recent nationwide test, with most fourth graders unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure, and few high school seniors able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought American troops during the Korean War.
Diane Ravitch, an education historian, was invited by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which conducted the test, to review the results. She said she was particularly concerned by the fact that only 2 percent of 12th graders correctly answered a question concerning Brown v. Board of Education. Students were given an excerpt including the following passage and were asked what social problem the 1954 ruling was supposed to correct:
We conclude that in the field of public education, separate but equal has no place, separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.
Ms. Ravitch declared: "The answer was right in front of them. This is alarming." Secretary of education Arne Duncan said, "The results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education."
Yet, if we are not teaching history in our schools, there is widespread interest in our history in the larger society. Biographies of figures such as Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson have all been best sellers in recent years. Television series about major historical events such as the Civil War have attracted large audiences.
Now, much attention is being given to a new study of the Declaration of Independence, Our Declaration, by Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Danielle's father, Bill Allen, is also an academic and scholar. He was one of the early black conservatives and has long opposed race-based programs that judged men and women on the basis of their race and ethnic background rather than their individual merit.
While many Americans think of Thomas Jefferson as the sole author of the Declaration, Danielle Allen points out that, "The monumental achievement of Thomas Jefferson is, ultimately, to have produced a first draft."
She notes that Jefferson shared his draft with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, who offered suggestions. It then went through the Committee of Five and on to Congress, that from July 2 to July 4 edited the Declaration extensively, "much to Jefferson's chagrin." Congress cut about a quarter of Jefferson's words, added some references to divinity and took out a section attacking slavery.
In Allen's view:
With changes such as these, with God edited in and a condemnation of slavery elided, Congress achieved a text that the men of that day and age could live with, including Jefferson, grumpily.
She views this process in positive terms. Jefferson, she writes, produced a work of such "philosophical integrity and unquestionable brilliance" that it could survive the "intense committee work." And, she argues, the committee work reflected the Founders' belief in equality.
This process of "democratic writing," coming after many months of discussion and argument not only in Philadelphia but throughout the colonies, is, Allen believes, worthy of celebration:
There is no other way for a free and equal people to chart its course. Our only chance to achieve collective happiness comes through extensive conversation punctuated here and there with votes, which will themselves over time, in their imperfection, simply demand of us more talk.
The Declaration declares the right of a people to create a government "most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." This in turn, writes Allen, rested on a radical notion: "As judges of our own happiness, we are equals," and, as a result, "the unrelenting work for which each of us, in face of this equality, must take responsibility."
The book Our Declaration is a line-by-line, often word-by-word commentary on our Founding document. The inspiration to write the book was stimulated by Danielle Allen's experience teaching the Declaration to night school students in Chicago. She writes about growing up in a mixed-race African-American family whose dinner conversations often turned to the Declaration and its pronouncement that "all men" are created equal.
The book has stirred some controversy. Reviewing Our Declaration in The New York Times Book Review, Professor Steven B. Smith of Yale writes:
This book makes three large claims about the Declaration of Independence, one that is profoundly true, another that is debatable, and a third, I would say, that is false. Its principal truth is that when Jefferson wrote "all men are created equal," this genuinely meant to apply to all, black as well as white. There is moral cosmopolitanism in the Declaration's language.
Second, Smith notes, is the considerable attention Allen devotes to the famous "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" clause. He asks:
How much does the Declaration depend on a theistic orientation? Jefferson and his colleagues speak of rights as being endowed by our Creator. An endowment suggests that these rights are not self-created but a gift. Yet as Allen correctly notes, the God invoked by the Declaration is certainly not the God of the Bible. . . . Allen seems to argue . . . that the language of divinity is entirely marginal to the text . . . she says the Declaration's language of "self-evident" truths is drawn not from Scripture but from logic. . . . She confidently affirms that one does not need to be a theist to accept the arguments of the Declaration. It is not at all clear that this confidence was shared by the authors of the text.
What Smith finds to be Allen's "least plausible" assertion is her claim about the "group writing" that went into the composition of the Declaration. She expresses the view that group writing shows how something called the "collective mind" contributes to the production of our shared moral vocabulary. Smith disagrees. He notes that Jefferson's original draft contained a strong denunciation of the slave trade as a "war against human nature," and writes that:
The passage was deleted by the Continental Congress as too inflammatory. . . . Jefferson's relationship to slavery was, as Allen observes, "maddeningly complex," but had his words not been compromised by the group, they would have rendered impossible later misrepresentations of the Declaration as expressing the economic self-interest of the slave owners.
Another area of debate has been Allen's belief that "equality" is central in the Declaration.
Traditionally, American society has seen the claims of liberty and equality as pulling in opposite directions. And in the battle between liberty and equality, the claims of individual liberty have held the dominant position. There is, of course, some historical evidence to back up Allen's claim. In Democracy In America, written in 1835, Alexis De Tocqueville wrote that, "Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom."
More often, however, we have understood "equality" to mean equal opportunity to go as far as our individual talents and hard work will take us, as well as equality before the law, and in the eyes of God, not equality of condition. In Capitalism and Freedom, economist Milton Friedman states that, "The 19th century liberal regarded an extension of freedom as the most effective way to promote welfare and equality; the 20th-century liberal regards welfare and equality as either prerequisites of or alternatives to freedom."
Whether or not one agrees with all of Danielle Allen's conclusions, the fact is that she has produced an important book. Her passion for each of the Declaration's 1,337 words is extraordinary. And to see Americans focusing on their history, exploring what Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and their colleagues really meant, is hardly a minor achievement in our era of popular culture and political correctness.
Urging Jews to Flee France Is Calling for a Posthumous Victory for Hitler
In the wake of the terrorist attack in Paris, which included an assault on a kosher grocery store, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to France and urged French Jews to flee their country and emigrate - make "aliyah" - to Israel.
He declared: "I wish to tell all French and European Jews - Israel is your home." He said that he would convene a special committee to promote emigration from France and other European countries.
Yair Lapid, Netanyahu's former finance minister, said: "European Jewry must understand that there is just one place for Jews, and that is the state of Israel." This, of course, is what Zionism believes, that Israel is the "homeland" of all Jews and that those Jews living in France, England, the United States and elsewhere are really in "exile."
This, of course, is an ideological construct that has no relationship to reality. The overwhelming majority of American Jews, for example, have always believed that Judaism is a religion of universal values, not a nationality, and that rather than being in "exile" in America, they are fully at home. This view has been expressed repeatedly in our history. In 1841, at the dedication ceremony of Temple Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, Rabbi Gustav Poznanski declared: "This country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple."
There is widespread dismay in France at the Israeli notion that French Jews are not really French and their real "home" is Israel. The horrors of terrorism that have been inflicted upon Paris and elsewhere are being confronted by the governments involved. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, "If 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure."
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, said that far better than emigration to Israel, would be the preservation and protection of Jewish life in the many countries Jews call home. He regretted that
. . . after every anti-Semitic act in Europe, the Israeli government issues the same statement about the importance of aliyah rather than employ every diplomatic and international means at its disposal to strengthen the safety of Jewish life in Europe.
He said: "The Israeli government must stop this Pavlovian response every time there is an attack against Jews in Europe."
Yonathan Arli, Vice President of CRIF, an umbrella group of Jewish institutions in France, says that he believes Jews should remain in France, which is their home. "We have had a Jewish community living here for more than a thousand years," he said.
We went through bombing attacks, the Holocaust, acts of terrorism, and we are not about to leave now. We just want to be safe.
Writing from Paris in The Forward, Laurent-David Samama notes that while some French Jews might be considering emigration:
. . . others - including young Jews like me - feel that making aliyah is a too-easy escape; it's simply not the answer. Those of us who remain in Paris, Marseille or Lyon are determined not to let the terrorists win. Throughout French history, Jews have experienced many periods of crisis. We've always overcome them, and we will overcome them again. Now more than ever . . . there is another communal faction that believes France needs us to stay here, to play the role of social whistleblower.
Smadar Bar-Akiva, executive director of JCC Global, a network of Jewish community centers, declared:
Jews in France clearly feel that last week's events were a turning point in their lives. Yet the calls for French Jews to pack their bags and make aliyah are disturbing and self-serving. . . . It will be more constructive to help French Jewry continue the educational and social work they are already doing.
Uri Avnery, the leader of Israel's peace movement, Gush Shalom, noted that:
The blood of the four Jews murdered in the kosher supermarket was not yet dry when Israeli leaders called upon the Jews of France to pack up and come to Israel. Israel, as everybody knows, is the safest place on earth. This was an almost automatic Zionist gut reaction. . . . The basic belief of Zionism is that Jews cannot live anywhere except in the Jewish state, because the victory of anti-Semitism is inevitable everywhere. Let the Jews of America rejoice in their freedom and prosperity - sooner or later they will come to an end. They are doomed like Jews everywhere outside of Israel. The new outrage in Paris confirms this basic belief. There was very little real commiseration in Israel. Rather a secret sense of triumph. The gut reaction of ordinary Israelis is: "We told you so!" and "Come quickly, before it's too late."
Israel is doing its best to make Jews feel unsafe in their native countries. In mid-January, the Israeli embassy in Dublin posted an image on Facebook showing the Mona Lisa wearing a hijab and carrying a large rocket. The line underneath read, "Israel is the last frontier of the free world." In a similar vein, the Arab Affairs correspondent of Israel's Channel 10 broadcast a fear-mongering "investigation" from London supposedly proving that the city was overrun with Islamic extremists.
Writing in Mondoweiss, Jonathan Cook points to the similar worldview of Zionists and traditional anti-Semites:
Israeli politicians of both right and left have parroted his (Netanyahu's) message that European Jews know "in their hearts that they have only one country." The logical corollary is that Jews cannot be loyal to other states they live in, such as France. . . . In this regard, Netanyahu and the far right share much common ground. He wants a Europe free of Jews. The far right wants the same. . . . One Israeli commentator noted pointedly that Israeli politicians like Netanyahu "were helping to finish the job started by the Nazis and their Vichy collaborators: making France Judenrein.
Sadly, the Israeli government has never recognized that Jewish citizens of France, the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries are not "Israelis in exile." Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly called upon American Jews to make a "mass aliyah" to Israel. No other foreign government argues that millions of Americans, because of their religion, are in "exile" in the United Stated and that their real "homeland" is that foreign country.
Such claims distort the meaning of Judaism almost completely. In 1929, Orthodox Rabbi Aaron Samuel Tamarat wrote that the very notion of a sovereign Jewish state as a spiritual center was "a contradiction to Judaism's ultimate purpose." He wrote:
Judaism at root is not some religious concentration which can be localized in a single territory. Neither is Judaism a "nationality" in the sense of modern nationalism. . . . No, Judaism is Torah, ethics and exaltation of spirit. . . . It cannot be reduced to the confines of any particular territory. For as Scripture said of Torah, "Its measure is greater than the earth."
Israel should be content to be the "homeland" of its own citizens, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, and stop attempting to speak in the name of millions of men and women who are citizens of other countries. No other country does this. And its call for French Jews to abandon their country at a time of crisis is unseemly in the extreme. Claude Lanzmann, the widely respected French Jewish filmmaker, best known for his Holocaust documentary film Shoah, said, quite wisely, that following Benjamin Netanyahu's advice would have only one result, giving Hitler, who did his best to rid France and all of Europe of Jews, "a posthumous victory." *