|The Belgian politician Karel De Gucht |
claimed Jews have a “belief that they
are right” (photo: European Union)
Take, for example, the case of Karel De Gucht. He is a leading Belgian liberal politician, who served as foreign minister and then as a European Union commissioner from 2009 to 2014, responsible for aid and trade. Two of the Belgian prime ministers under whom he served, Guy Verhofstadt and Herman Van Rompuy, also became high EU officials and it is fair to assume that De Gucht’s outlook is typical of the European political elite.
Yet in 2010, this supposedly liberal representative of this supposedly liberal union of supposedly liberal nations told Belgian radio: “Don’t underestimate the opinion . . . of the average Jew outside Israel. There is indeed a belief — it’s difficult to describe it otherwise — among most Jews that they are right. And a belief is something that’s difficult to counter with rational arguments. And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.” Washington was controlled by Jews, De Gucht declared, even in the Obama era: “Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. That is the best organised lobby, you shouldn’t underestimate the grip it has on American politics — no matter whether it’s Republicans or Democrats.”
It is revealing that De Gucht not only got away with this public outburst, but that it is not even mentioned in his Wikipedia entry under the heading “Controversies”. Such views are indeed seen as uncontroversial by many Europeans who consider themselves liberal. To utter them in public is a breach of diplomatic etiquette, but certainly not a resigning matter, and De Gucht in fact faced no serious consequences. At a public event just after the De Gucht incident I asked Peter Mandelson, a former EU commissioner who happens to be Jewish on his father’s side, what he thought about it. Lord Mandelson looked uncomfortable with the question and gave a non-committal reply, but later in private he made it clear that he was indeed disgusted by De Gucht’s conduct. Should the commissioner resign? “That is for him to decide,” was the reply. The fact that De Gucht came under no pressure to resign suggests that his brand of “soft” anti-Semitism is ubiquitous in Continental corridors of power. [Note: it is perfectly acceptable in Belgium for a schoolteacher, Pierre Piccinin, to complain of the "Zionist mafia" (he also worked for the European School) or for someone like Abu Jahjah to be a columnist at one of the most respected Flemish newspapers (De Standaard) and a frequent guest at TV and radio programmes.]
Yet the greatest danger to Jews today comes from a different quarter. Anti-Semitism has mutated again and is now a particular problem among Muslim communities in Western Europe. According to the study by Günther Jikeli, “Antisemitic Attitudes among Muslims in Europe”, Muslims show consistently higher levels of anti-Semitism than the general population in every country that has been surveyed. In the UK, for example, a Pew survey in 2006 showed that 46 per cent of the Muslim population had an unfavourable view of Jews compared to 7 per cent of the population as a whole. A 2008 survey comparing Christians and Muslims found that in Austria — historically one of the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe — 10.7 per cent of Christians agreed with the statement: “Jews cannot be trusted.” Among Muslims, the figure was 64.1 per cent. [...]
Does all this matter? As a Catholic, as an Englishman, as a civilised human being, I feel a profound sense of responsibility towards the Jewish people as a whole, but towards my Jewish compatriots in particular. Preserving the Jewish presence in our midst is as much a solemn duty for our generation as it was for our parents and grandparents, who fought to defeat the Nazis. As the last survivors of the Holocaust and the last exiles and émigrés pass away, we must take over their role as witnesses to the truth and guardians of that moral obligation. Never again should Jews have to live in fear among us. Never again should Jews feel that their loyalty is distrusted. Never again should they lack a state that is theirs, living in peace and security within recognised borders. Britain’s commitment to defend Israel’s right, not merely to exist, but to flourish, should be especially strong: it was, after all, the Balfour Declaration that brought the Jewish homeland back to life. Britain did not cover itself with glory during the Mandate period, but we do have a chance to redeem ourselves today by standing up for Israel at the UN and other international bodies, as our Anglophone cousins in Canada, Australia and the United States generally do. When Israel responded to attacks from Gaza last year by destroying the ability of Hamas to launch missiles and use tunnels to infiltrate Israel, the Prime Minister refused to join in the chorus of condemnation. Like Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, David Cameron has proved himself a friend of Israel. If only the rest of Europe could say the same.
“Never again” must be our watchword. Never again shall we betray the people whom St John Paul — the Polish Pope and righteous gentile who himself saved Edith Zierer, a Jewish concentration camp survivor — called our “elder brothers”.