Multiculturalism in Western Europe has now definitively been declared a failure. That is what German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last October. Around that time the Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer
remarked that his Christian Social Union party “supported the German leading culture and is against multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is dead.”
This month British Prime Minister David Cameron blamed multiculturalism for Islamic extremism. He was followed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said: “We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him.” The latest attack on multiculturalism came last week from Dutch Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Christian Democrats, Maxime Verhagen. What the great majority of their country’s populations understood many years ago, has taken their leaders far too long to understand and thereafter to admit.
The fate of the few leading politicians who were ahead of their time may be worse. Former Dutch Liberal Party leader and Minister of Defense Frits Bolkestein was one of those. In 1991 he published in the daily De Volkskrant an article in which he stated his views on the comparison of cultures. Bolkestein summarized his views in an interview with me a few years ago: “The existing policy of ‘integration while maintaining cultural identity’ had to change to ‘integration into Dutch society even if that means adapting one’s culture.’ He added that where Islamic values of immigrants came into conflict with essential values of Dutch society, the latter should prevail.
To leave no doubt, Bolkestein remarked further that “judged by the standards of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the dominant civilization of Europe at present is superior to the Islamic civilization. All civilization is based on making judgments.” He gave as examples that the civilization of the ancient Romans was superior to the civilization of the Gauls in what is now France and that democratic postwar Germany had a superior culture to Communist East Germany.
Ten years later when Bolkestein was a European commissioner, his colleagues there also did not understand yet what he had written long before. Bolkestein twice tried to raise in the Commission the problem of the multicultural societies in Europe and the risks of unlimited Muslim immigration. His colleagues did not want to discuss the issue. Afterwards, Bolkestein said to another commissioner that he had the feeling that members of the commission “almost considered him a racist.” His colleague replied: “Drop the word almost.”
Can’t trust Europe on Mideast
For European Jews, little good has come out of the huge Muslim immigration. Or, to put it in a non-euphemistic way: The massive non-selective influx of immigrants from Muslim countries into Western Europe and the failure of integration of large numbers of them into European societies, is the most negative development for European Jewry in the past 50 years.
Many of these immigrants brought troubling anti-Semitic prejudices from their countries of origin and taught them to their children. In some cases, the anti-Semitism of these Muslims is far more violent than that of members of the autochthonous population. There is no doubt that the contribution of Muslims to anti-Semitic incidents in Western Europe is far above their share in the general population.
As so often is the case, the Jews were the first victims. As usual, they are also not the last. Partly because of European xenophobia and partly because of the many problems which a certain percentage of the Muslim immigrant population has caused in Western societies, Islam, its value systems and customs are often attacked. Issues such as ritual slaughter and circumcision, Muslim schools and even eternal cemeteries are now targeted more frequently. In their wake, Jewish rituals have also come under criticism and may be threatened by law.
The huge immigration of Muslims into Europe has also been highly problematic for Israel in many ways. Several of their leaders increase anti-Israeli incitement. The number of Muslims in the population is significant enough for many political parties to try to appease them in order to obtain their votes. In tight elections, these votes can make the difference. In addition, by accommodating the viewpoints of most Muslims on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, European politicians have found a cheap way of giving them something which costs these parties nothing.
Both European Jews and Israel can only regret that it took European leaders so long to publicly state the failure of the version of multiculturalism which has been unsuccessfully practiced in many European countries.
That delay in understanding embodies another crucial lesson for Israel. It took the top leaders of Europe 20 years to understand the causes of major negative developments in their own countries, which took place in their presence. It underlines that their judgment on issues of essential importance cannot be trusted. Israeli politicians should not be shy about saying so. It is one of many strong arguments in explaining why Europe, which has followed erroneous policies for so long at home, is now doing the same in the Middle East.
Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 19 books, several of which deal with European anti-Semitism
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