Can Europe’s Jews Feel Safe Alongside Muslims?

The Jewish exodus from France shows that Islam’s rapid growth has caused a crisis for the Continent’s oldest minority. Bromides won’t do any more

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French special forces evacuate the Hypercacher kosher supermarket in eastern Paris. Four hostages, all Jewish, were killed (Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)

Recent events in France, Britain and Denmark confirm the Europe-wide threat that we now face. Symbolic reactions to this are obviously not enough. After the Paris shootings we had “Je suis Charlie” demonstrations and all the sort of daft symbolism which the TV so loves—dimming the lights of the Eiffel Tower, the great bells of Notre-Dame booming out and so forth. None of this achieves anything, not only practically but even intellectually. It is all very well for people to demonstrate in their thousands holding pencils in the air or make passionate declarations about freedom of speech and the press, but the hard fact of the matter is that editors and journalists across Europe—and further afield—will hesitate even more than before over anything liable to incur the wrath of Muslim zealots. And free speech was the quite explicit target in both Paris and Copenhagen. Contrary to the popular adage, the sword is quite normally mightier than the pen. TV stations and newspapers will be increasingly reluctant to show cartoons of Muhammad or anything else that might draw a terrorist attack. And this is the key: ultimately what Muslim zealots want is to impose sharia law on the West, indeed, on the world, and the ban on images of the prophet is a key sharia tenet. The evidence suggests that the bullies are winning.

The media naturally framed the issue as one of freedom of speech. For the Jewish community the issue was that four Jews had been targeted and murdered because they were Jews. France now enjoys the unhappy distinction of having more (and more persistent) anti-Semitic attacks than any other country in Europe and possibly the world. As a result the Jewish population is expected in the next few years to have fallen from 500,000 to 400,000—a whole 20 per cent drop. France is thus today in the same situation that Germany was in 1933. This is not only deeply shameful for all Europeans but it is a fact which ought to make one sit up very smartly indeed, and not only because we all thought that we would never face another 1933. The Jewish population of Europe has been the great bearer and leader of Enlightenment values for two centuries now. There is no need to rehearse all the Jewish contributions to science, the economy, literature, medicine and culture in general. Any educated Gentile knows perfectly well that the Jewish minorities across Europe play an absolutely primary role in all those societies, leavening the loaf as it were. Jews are very precious people and only societies not in their right mind—like contemporary Russia, Nazi Germany or much of the Middle East—would happily watch their local Jewish minority diminish in number. A projected drop of 20 per cent in the French Jewish population in just a few years is a sign that something is terribly, terribly wrong.

In Copenhagen too one man was killed because he was a Jew and the terrorist was clearly attempting to gain access to a synagogue where he would have found eighty Jews, many of them children. This fact—and the visions which swim in the head of what might have happened—caused one member of the Jewish community there to say, “We are living the nightmare.” Netanyahu’s subsequent appeal for all European Jews to re-settle in Israel expressed the pessimism about Europe as a whole as a safe place for Jews to live in which, though alarmist, is already widespread in America and becoming increasingly  common among European Jews too.

Each time there is some new outrage committed by Islamic terrorists, Europeans go through a sort of lobster quadrille. There is immediate anger against Islam and Muslims in general, quickly countered by denunciations of Islamophobia. Muslim clerics will be found who denounce the terrorists as anti-Islamic and liberal Muslims will be produced who demand freedom of speech and the press just as loudly as the rest of us. Indeed, the media will quickly draw attention to the fact that there are Muslim victims too, like one of the policemen cold-bloodedly shot down in Paris. Having bounced around this sounding box the media then draws the lesson that anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic manifestations are all as bad as one another and that being good liberals means that we should all avoid taking any view at all about whole communities and instead treat everyone as individuals. This sounds right and reasonable and all men of goodwill subscribe to such sentiments.

However, the fact that Jews are now fleeing France in exactly the way they fled Nazi Germany in 1933 suggests that this just isn’t good enough—not even nearly good enough. Of course, this is not to say that France today resembles Hitler’s Germany: the very opposite. It is an unimpeachably liberal republic. But the particular liberal compromise with Islam that it represents is actually having the same results that the Nazis wanted. The fact that all the Jewish victims of the Paris supermarket attack were buried in Israel, not France, is a powerful signal of the mood. Even in death, and even in an Israel continually threatened by rocket attacks, French Jews feel more secure there than they do in France.

The basic sociology of the situation is that there are almost five million Muslims in France out of a total population of 65 million. (In Denmark Muslims constitute nearly five per cent of the population.) As elsewhere in Europe, this population tends only to rise, thanks to a positive natural increase while the host population is declining, and the continuous addition of Muslim refugees and immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. Similarly, Muslims are strongly pratiquant (while the host population is ever more secular), which means that Muslims have a far stronger community sense than other groups and also that they weigh far more heavily than their numbers might suggest in the religious and cultural life of the country. They are also simply far more determined about promoting their distinctive identity than other groups. They want their women to dress differently, they want the sexes to be kept apart, they want Muslim schools and Koranic education and the extremists among them may commit terrorist acts. One could admit any number of Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians or Shintoists to one’s country without facing any of these distinctive demands or pressures.

The crude fact appears to be that you can’t have as many Muslims as this in France—or even in Denmark, where there has been a growing pattern of Muslim hostility to the tiny Jewish community left there after the Holocaust—without generating pressures which cause the Jews to flee. It will be objected, of course, that the reason for the alienation of many Muslim youths is their high unemployment rate and the poor conditions in the banlieues. That is true enough, but there is no sign at all of these conditions diminishing: rather the contrary. Similarly, the “reason” for the wave of anti-Semitic attacks in France in 2012-15 relates to anti-Israeli feeling provoked by events in Gaza and on the West Bank. (I put inverted commas round “reason” because such events would not cause similar reactions by other groups. Throughout the long struggle for Indian independence, after all, there was no Hindu terrorism in Britain.) But there again, neither Israel nor anti-Israeli feeling is going to go away: everything suggests that Israelis and Palestinians will fight their own Hundred Years’ war.

So the facts of life are that the things which have provoked a minority of French or Danish Muslims to violence will continue to provoke them. If you allow for those facts and if you have a solid and growing mass of five million Muslims you are bound to find among them many thousands who will be Islamic fundamentalists, who will go off to fight in Syria, Yemen, Iraq or elsewhere and who will also be prone to carry out anti-Semitic and terrorist attacks in their host nation. In practice, the state then finds itself powerless to protect its Jewish minority. All French Jewish schools and synagogues have been under armed guard for several years but this has not prevented continuing terrorist outrages. It seems very likely that Amedy Coulibaly was intending to attack a Jewish school and synagogue but ended up killing a policewoman instead before heading for the kosher deli, clearly in search of more Jews to capture or kill. Without any doubt the terrorists will succeed in making more French Jews flee.

Moreover, a number as large as five million (or Denmark’s five per cent) makes the task of the local intelligence services in trying to prevent such things simply impossible. There are too many people to watch and for every terrorist there are bound to be many more sympathisers willing to contribute money, safe houses and so on. This is why the French intelligence service, just like its British counterparts, continually warns that though it may foil many Islamic terrorist plots, it cannot possibly prevent them all. Which is to say, we are bound to have more Charlie Hebdos as well as more Salman Rushdie-style fatwas. The only way to stop this would be to allow a regime of sweeping preventive detention of all suspected Muslim zealots. Most Europeans would find this incompatible with civil liberties. Some will hope that getting more Muslim religious leaders to denounce violence will make a difference, but thus far there is no evidence that this will stop the extremists.

It is no good pretending that the extremists were only a tiny minority. In the wake of the attacks the online Daily Beast reported that Parisian Muslims were prone to argue that they had all been staged: “It was a conspiracy designed by the Jews to make Muslims look bad.” In some Muslim areas teachers reported that as many as 80 per cent of their students refused to observe the minute’s silence decreed for the victims and some said openly that they supported the attackers. The truth is simply that to have as many as five million Muslims in your country—perhaps even just to have 2.8 million, as in Britain—means that you are bound to have at least several thousand young people liable to be tempted by jihadism. The same applies to Denmark and indeed to many other European countries.

Liberals tend to hope that their local Muslims will gradually become more integrated and more secular. This may happen in timebut it will take several more generations. Long before that process is complete there will be no Jews left in France or Denmark. The real question is how many Jews there will be left in all of Europe. After all, the Muslim population is growing everywhere and the Jewish populations of most European countries are well educated and quite prosperous. They are thus highly mobile and can easily leave for Israel, Australia or North America.

The only way that this is not going to happen is if European countries find some way of diminishing their Muslim populations. Again, it is difficult to imagine ways of doing that which will not meet strong objections from liberal opinion. Indeed, many political leaders—like Barack Obama—have been keen to denounce terrorism in general, leaving out the word “Islamic”: many are so nervous of upsetting Muslim opinion that they are not even willing to call a spade a spade.

All these remarks apply with equal force to Britain, Germany and the rest of Europe. The German newspaper which reprinted the Charlie Hebdo cartoons was immediately the victim of an arson attack. Danish Jews are such a tiny group that they are down to three synagogues but this has not protected them from increasing threats. In Britain there was much mirth and some outrage over the misdescription of Birmingham as a Muslim city by the Fox News commentator, Steven Emerson—and rightly so. Birmingham, it was pointed out, was only 22 per cent Muslim. But not long ago it was zero per cent Muslim, and already there have been attempts at an Islamic takeover of schools there. As the Muslim percentage of the city’s population heads on up towards 30 per cent one can’t help wondering whether there might be more such attempts. One wonders, too, quite how secure the Birmingham Jewish community feels—and whether its numbers are already diminishing.

In recent weeks we have seen Jewish schools and synagogues in Britain placed under armed police guard. Last year the number of anti-Semitic attacks in Britain hit a 30-year high. During the recent fighting in Gaza things became so bad that it almost seemed that we would see a British kristallnacht. Our Jewish community is already down to 290,000 and Maureen Lipman is far from the only British Jew considering emigration.

This is an utterly shameful situation when one thinks not only of the huge Jewish contribution to British life but also of the fact that many British Jews came to this country as refugees because it was a bastion of freedom. Even in 1940 they could feel secure here: but are we any longer the Britain of 1940? After all, British Jews are an entirely peaceable community; they threaten no one. Attacking them for what Israel does is no more acceptable than attacks on the Muslim community would be because of the (much worse) deeds committed by IS or al-Qaeda.

Posing the problem like this will, of course, be unpopular. I have Jewish friends who tell me that although they frequently go to Israel they don’t really like a society mainly composed of Jews, that Jews do better as minorities in other countries. It is the sort of crude generalisation that, generally speaking, only community members are allowed to make about their own community. But the situation is now so serious that we need to break out of such constraints and face the facts about what the growth of Muslim communities means. As things stand, the liberals whose main concern is to denounce Islamophobia are in fact agreeing to expel the Jews from Europe. This was exactly what Hitler wanted to achieve.

As the euphoria of the giant marches and the orchestrated solidarity with Paris dies down, what we have to deal with is that unless we stop and reconsider quite fundamentally, we will simply be carrying out the programme of the Third Reich.