You can see this mental agility all the time nowadays; you can hardly turn your television on these days without seeing someone carrying a sign that equates the swastika with the Star of David or some caricature that depicts an Israeli leader wearing a Nazi uniform. The problem for the Israelis is that they are not Nazis; life would be so much simpler for them if they were. The Israeli solution to the current situation in Lebanon has been to act with as much restraint as possible given the military situation, which seems sort of silly to me, since no one will give the Israelis any credit for their restraint anyway, so why bother? The Nazis would have responded to the attacks from Lebanon in much the same way they acted in such places as Lidice in 1942, the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, Oradour-sur-Glane and Warsaw itself in 1944: they would have attacked Lebanon and simply destroyed the country from the border to the Litani River, killing everyone and destroying everything in their path. After the slaughter was over, the Fuhrer would have given everyone involved a medal and thanked them for their service to the Fatherland. This is not likely to happen in Israel any time soon, despite the more rabid frothing at the mouth ravings of the loony Euroleft. It does make you wonder, though, why these folks are so completely off the wall when it comes to criticizing Israel. Personally, I think all of this is just that old Jew hatred they do so well, revamped and refurbished for a new generation.
You can say that they’re not anti-Semites, they’re just anti-Zionist, but when you can come right down to it, what’s the difference? Everyone has the right to criticize the State of Israel for its policies and actions, just as you can criticize the government of any democratic country. Being anti-Zionist, however, questions the legitimacy of Israel as a state because it questions the right of Jews to have a state in the first place. The Euroleft doesn’t mind an Israel that shares its territory and sovereignty with the Palestinians or doesn’t defend itself against attacks on its citizens and its territory by foreign terrorists; they don’t mind this because had any such Israel actually existed, it would have been destroyed years ago and spared Europe the uneasy conscience.
The queasy conscience comes from what actually happened on the Continent during the six years between 1939 and 1945. In the official version of events, everyone except for a few traitors and malcontents was either a member of the Resistance or an active supporter, that the governments in exile maintained a absolute hold on the loyalty of the people of their countries and were simply waiting for the Allies to liberate them in order to return, reinstate national sovereignty, and to lift the Nazi yoke from the neck of a long suffering population. There is much truth to the official story; too many brave European men and women died in front of Nazi firing squads or in the death camps or in Gestapo torture chambers from one end of Europe to the other for anyone to deny the very real achievements and the courage of the various Resistance movements.
But this is not the whole story. Whether today’s Europeans wish to remember this part of the story or not, the fact is that much of Europe collaborated with the Nazis and did so eagerly and willingly. The Waffen SS, for example, had no trouble recruiting Belgians, Frenchmen, Danes, Norwegians, Dutch, Bosnians, and many other nationalities to fight for Germany and many on the political Right could not wait for a chance to collaborate with Germany. In France, the Vichy government and the extreme French Right went out of its way to be helpful to the Germans, something that must have caused no end of confusion amongst many French senior citizens at the time. In their youths, these old folks would have seen a good many of these same right-wingers, men like Charles Maurras, go along with the French Army’s denunciation and frame-up of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer accused of spying for Germany, an event that brought French anti-Semitism out into the open for all the world to see. It was while watching the French mob bay for Dreyfus’ blood that the Viennese journalist Theodor Herzl realized that the Enlightenment hope of assimilating Jews into European society was wishful thinking and always had been, and that the only safe place for Jews would be in a state of their own with an army of their own to protect them. It’s also a nice bit of historical irony, when you think about it: Dreyfus’ enemies collaborating with Germany, the crime they accused Dreyfus of and that he didn’t commit.
After the war, of course, this history was quickly buried, both figuratively and literally; a spate of executions of the worst collaborators and those simply too slow or too stupid to get away in time allowed the masses of compromised others to get on with their lives without their consciences bothering them too much. By the late 1940’s, it was clear that the United States and the Soviet Union were in for a prolonged bout of ideological hostility and that the United States wanted and needed European allies in this new struggle, and best of all, the Americans were not going to be overly picky about what some people did during the war. This suited a lot of Europeans just fine and dandy, since their immediate pasts did not bear close examination, and so the rush to sign up on the American side of the Cold War began.
The Jews, however, wouldn’t simply vanish and spare many Europeans the occasional twinge of guilt. No indeed, they insisted on surviving and after the war they founded a state of their very own, of all things, and then did all sorts of un-Jewish things like defend themselves against attacks from people intent on murdering them en masse and pushing the few survivors into the sea. For a long time, the Europeans didn’t say much about Israel; no one liked bringing up the past, especially the uncomfortable parts I alluded to earlier, but after Israel’s victory in 1967 all that changed; no one roots for Microsoft, after all, and Israel’s victory made anti-Semitism palatable again, if that disgusting old wine came in the new wineskin of anti-Zionism. You might wonder why the Europeans are demonizing Jews again when they have brand new Muslim minorities they can demonize, marginalize, and otherwise treat like crap, but if I might venture a guess, it’s because the new Muslim minorities won’t just sit and take it in the neck the way the old Jewish minority did back in the days before there was a State of Israel. Having a pogrom is no fun if the victims fight back, and then, of course, there’s oil; Muslims have it and Jews don’t, and any European state that tries to trade in its old and used anti-Semitism for a brand spanking new Islamophobia is likely to have the price of the oil it buys skyrocket through the metaphorical roof. So the Europeans are sticking with the tried and true prejudice they’ve come to know and love for all these millennia. They’ve just poured the nasty old witch’s brew into a new bottle and they’re calling it by another name, but no matter from what angle you choose to look at it, the vile stuff’s the same old swill it always was.