Anti-Zionism as Cultural AIDS and its Cure: Reflections on France VII (Conclusion)
How do you tell very smart people some (what to you seem) obvious things that they cannot seem to see? If it were just an intellectual argument – like the year 1000 – I can deplore the results, but it’s not life-threatening. The ship of historiographical consensus may have sunk long ago, but ultimately… does it really matter? Isn’t what medievalists do pretty irrelevant to what’s going on today?
But here, if what I think I perceive is 70% accurate, the French, the Europeans really are picking up their heads from the sand, and looking out like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming train.
How does one explain a dangerous situation to someone in denial. How do you wake up the driver who’s fallen asleep at the wheel on icy mountain roads is such as way as to wake her quickly enough, but without panicking him. How does France wake up before she careens off the mountainside, last overheard repeating in his sleep the received wisdom that the Roman Empire never really fell.
Were France to careen off the edge, I for one cannot contemplate that with equanimity. That would constitute a tragedy too great too great to contemplate no matter how unpleasantly self-destructive the French behave. France is part of our heritage and part of our inspiration. Granted, that which so inspired from France is now in short supply. But even at the most “rational” dimensions of positive-sum thinking, France’s health is the interest of cultures of freedom. It’s fall – which would almost certainly bring about the fall of other, many European countries with similar problems?
To borrow a metaphor from the Muslims, France is in the heart of “realm of freedom”, and her loss would be a catastrophe for the culture of freedom we have fought so hard over the last millennium to establish. I personally have deep personal ties to France (the French, especially the Parisians, are an aquired taste), but any sane person cannot contemplate France’s fall with pleasure. To think otherwise is to indulge the desire to take vengeance on France, to get French Derangement Syndrome, to wish ill on them even at our own costs.
Doubts: Can I be Right and all these People Wrong?
So maybe I am exaggerating all this. Maybe I’ve gone too far, projecting my millennial “readings” on France, as I did on Y2K. Pretty soon, I’ll be predicting that by 2010, as a century earlier, France will have it’s first execution of Jews on charges of plotting against the one true religion. Ridiculous. Shake it out of your head. As someone noted on the Medieval List:
You know, it is probably a good idea not to get to caught up in the phenomena one is supposed to be studying. I shall now be unable to sleep for trying to retrieve a half-forgotten quotation about scholars getting infected by the madness they were describing.
And yet… and yet… the dynamics sure look familiar.
A French friend, a medievalist, writes back from cheery Provence…
Next time you come, you must come here and don’t spend all your time with those northern intellectuals. We had a good laugh as we read you.
Didn’t Sidonius Apollinarus write from somewhere near there in the late 5th century, enjoying the good life?
The Jews, Europe’s First Dhimmis
Maybe if my amused friend’s note had at least addressed the “Jewish question” a bit, I’d have been more reassured.
But no. French gentiles are, with few exceptions, extraordinarily uninterested in what Jews have to say. Since 2000, an extraordinary turn has increasingly imposed itself in French public discourse. The Jew cannot testify. His evidence, as Jewish, is systematically discounted, consistently denied on charges of “communautarisme” [partisanship]. The 21st-century Jew is France’s (Europe’s?) first Dhimmi. And that is not because he is the least and most miserable of the minorities in France, but because he is at once the most vulnerable and, in civil society, the most dangerous. In a society that prizes freedom, tolerance and self-criticism, Jews will rise to prominence. And for those, like the demopaths and the hate-mongerers who despise and fear freedom, the Jews are the ones whose discourse one must silence. Historically speaking, war mongers first knock off the Jews, and societies that let them do this end up either at war with their neighbors (Nazis) or with themselves (medieval and Spanish inquisition).
Ask anyone who defends Israel to the slightest degree, and they will report, as did RM in an email of March 21:
En effet la diabolisation d’Israel a atteint un tel degré que le simple fait de défendre ce pays suscite presque immédiatement un soupcon : êtes-vous juif ? non je ne suis pas juif … ah mais alors pourquoi vouloir défendre l’indéfendable.
[In fact, the demonization of Israel has reached such a degree that the simple fact that you defend that country almost immediately raises the suspicion, “are you a Jew.” “Uh, no.” “So why do you want to defend the undefendable.”]
This experience has happened to many. When I first met one of the French consuls in Boston, I told him about this problem. He responded, “well, given the evidence, it’s not hard to understand why someone would oppose Israel. Why are you surprised?”
Okay, it’s a “reasonable” argument. But unanimity? No one independent enough to look with reasonable dispassion and come up with a reading that says, “the Palestinians exaggerate at best, and given the circumstances, the Israelis are behaving more decently than most nations — certainly than Arab nations would given the nature of the attack and the disparity in power? No one?
“When the fishes all swim in the same direction, it’s because they’re dead,” noted Pierre-André Taguieff, one of those righteous gentiles who denounces the Judeophobia of the French (and gets accused by Tariq Ramadan of being Jewish as a result.
Or, “when all the intellos face the same direction it’s because a culture of honor and shame has invaded academic life, and no one dares stand opposed to the public consensus. Of course, in the long run that gives you naked kings. And the real question now is, can we afford that?
In the coming showdown, it’s going to be a question of freedom vs. dominion. Can we have sufficient respect for the other that freedom is possible? Or will we allow a thugocracy to take-over, alpha males and their ideologues imposing a new reign of dominion of one man on another, of intimidation, of mutual suspicion, a new dark age every bit as bitter as the early medieval, and late Carolingian, whatever we hear about thriving markets and flourishing towns.
Selling out the Jews at a time like this seems crazy. They are masters in positive-sum. They adopt rapidly to the rules of civil society, become professionals, give passionate commitment to the ideals that democracies cherish, even to the point of endangering fellow Jews. Here are agents of tolerant modernity, people with a very high threshhold to violence (Warsaw ghetto uprising only came in April 1943) who can help spread a culture of civility, where otherness, even opposition, is easier to acknowledge, and things turn rapidly from violence to discourse. No wonder, when a typical Frenchmen looks at public figures — professionals, media folk, talking heads — he thinks France is 20% Jewish.
And when these people tell you that your growing Arab minority is making life intolerant for you, when they appeal to your judges, policemen, journalists and intellectuals to come to their aid, you tell them, “I don’t believe your testimony… and anyway, you can’t blame them, look at what your doing to their brethren in the “Occupied Territories.” Does that make sense? Either practically or morally? Is any intellectual culture that can look at the Arab-Israeli conflict and come out so decisively and pervasively anti-Zionist fair? Everyone swims in the same direction?