By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
For years anyone who read Israel’s press had to suffer under the finger-wagging eurosupremacists lecturing and hectoring about how Israel was becoming a fascist backward country, and it was losing its “European” values.
They kept telling us, again and again, about the “good old days” of Israel, when it was European and whiter and more like Europe. They told us how Israel was taken over by non-Europeans, including Arabs and Mizrahim, Haredim and Russians. How Israel is divided between, what in their view is the “good European” Ashkenazi and the Mizrahi. Like this: “One is called Ashkenazi (from the word for Germany, in classical Hebrew). It comprises Israelis of European and American origin, those who support – or pretend to support – Western values.” Israel is “sinking in the quagmire of occupation and moving further away from Western values and democracy.”
The poor, sad, wealthy, Europhiles, even wrote that they would leave Israel. “Like every cosmopolitan person, strictly secular and with a universalist worldview, well-steeped in the global culture and speaking fluent English, I can have many other homes.”
Their real story went something like: “I belong to a dying breed in Israel…No Palestinian state will be established, and a binational state will be hell.” Supposedly these enlightened people were going to leave Israel for old Europe, where their values shined through. “Like any parents who believe that their children have no patriotic duty toward the Israel of today, and they do not need to risk their lives or die serving it, I have no doubt that I am doing them wrong by raising them here.”
As Uri Avnery wrote “growing numbers of well-educated, talented Israelis will emigrate to the US and Germany, leaving behind the less-educated, more primitive, less productive population. This is already happening. Almost all my friends have sons and daughters living abroad.” We’ve heard about the “primitive” Israel before, often a code word for Israelis of Arab or Mizrahi origin. Amos Elon told Ari Shavit, when asked about political primitiveness: “We know where it comes from. Either from the Arab countries or from Eastern Europe. But on the political level, this arrogance was manifested in a total forsaking of an embracing of the elites.” Some on the left in Israel shouts loudly “we are Ashkenazi” as if to be European origin is a point of pride. They call themselves the “white tribe” and bask in stories about old Europe. They talk about how everyone else in Israel is bad, how the “demographics” are against them. The “binational” state is looming. “The battle for Jerusalem is almost lost. Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) students currently account for 39 percent of all the capital’s school children. Arab students account for 37 percent of the capital’s school children.”
They come up with ideas to preserve a European ethnic preserve in Israel, a kind of Orange Free State. “It turns out that liberal democracy has its limits; it can’t bridge yawning gaps between totally different cultures — and Israel seems to have arrived at such a stage.” As usual we hear about how the “Ashkenazi” or European origin, has their “liberal democracy.” One author writes “They therefore no longer see liberal democracy’s values and institutions as impartial tools, but as the tools of the liberal Ashkenazi elites to impose their views on the majority.”
So for years we had to listen to this endless narrative in Israel. European immigrants to Israel automatically are born with “liberal democracy” and everyone else is not. Being “Ashkenazi” makes someone, somehow, different. The imagined community of “Ashkenazi” and “liberal” and “European” was cultivated. In his book Israel: Is it good for the Jews, Richard Cohen characterized this kind of Israeli as “the fighting intellectual, rifle in one hand and a volume of Kierkegaard in the other.” He worried that “Jews from Islamic lands,” whom he claimed made up 50% of the country, would erode the European Jewish nationalist fantasy.
But now things are starting to change. The Europe that these people fantasize about is electing Le Pen and supporting Brexit and Wilders. Remember they said “I don’t want to raise my kids in Israel, a place of constant terror”? Oh…wait…Europe now has daily terror.
All across Israel the Europhiles and Eurosupremacists are crying. They watch their Europe, their white fantasy, slowly change. What they called “liberal” and “western values,” but was always basically a stand-in for “whites only” values, is changing. They used code-words like “primitive” in Israel to always refer to Arabs or Jews from the Middle East. But wait…what is more primitive now? Are not the “primitives” now part of Europe? When they say “we should move to Germany to escape the primitives,” did they notice the diversity of Germany.
And now they are crying, crying out, because Europe looks more and more like Israel. They had a fantasy about old Europe, about a white, “liberal” Europe, without “primitives.” With “people like us.” But wait. Europe isn’t people reading Kierkegaard anymore. It’s increasingly Wilders supporters and terrorists and men with guns on every corner. Europe is changing.
“All my children moved to Europe to escape Israel’s racism, terror and problems,” say the sad people. But then terror came to Europe. Problems came to Europe. Racism, which had only hidden its head in 1945, came back to Europe.
Israel’s ridiculous Eurosupremacists created a myth about Europe over the years, constantly whining that Israel wasn’t European enough, and that it was being “taken over” by darker people, its “villa in the jungle” threatened. The solution they always had was to increase their hatred for anyone from the Middle East and wall themselves off in acceptance committees and segregated schools and then to leave for Europe. They had wanted to create mini-Europe in Israel, in the Middle East, much like the old French colony in Algeria sought to create a mini-Paris.
But like all colonies, the colony of the mini-Europe failed in Israel. Unlike Algeria, it didn’t fade away back to the mother country, because their was no mother country. It became more rooted and indigenous. But its Europhiles felt disconnected from a more Middle Eastern Israel. They needed Denmark in the Middle East. They came up with ideas, like cantons, like segregation, anything to divide the cultures. But they lost. They lost not only in Israel, but they lost in Europe also. Because their fantasy of a “liberal” Europe does not exist. For years they beat Israel with the example of Europe, “be like Europe, be like Europe,” they said, they wanted cultural orientation to Europe, affinity for Europe, admiration for things like symphonies and piano and all sorts of 19th century European culture.
But Europe changed. Israel changed.
This shows that when you wall yourself off and try to create a whites-only preserve and then define your whites-only apartheid as “western liberal European”, that you are doomed to go the way of Algeria and the Orange Free State of Apartheid, and the Old South. The world of Europsupremacism and “I’m born European and therefore inherit better and superior values” is disappearing. Israel has a little remnant of Euro-exceptionalism, like people devoted to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, living in 1912 and saying “if only we can go back.” If only…if only…liberal Vienna of the pre-war years. Blah blah.
There was no liberal Vienna. There was no liberal Europe. There has been a cult of people using their desire for a whites-only club to cover their claim that “we only let in people with liberal values.” How can I get liberal values? “Were you born European?” No. “Then you can’t have them.” This is how Israel’s Eurosupremacist commentators, the little sad club, have written for years. They told generations of Arabs that they were “primitive” and Mizrahim that they were “racist” and Russians that they had “crime in their blood” and that people of color have “black color looked very shabby, tattered and stained with evil.”
This is really how the Israeli “liberals” write about black people, about Arabs, people of color, and anyone who is different.
But guess what. They lost. Their attempt at a European-white-only preserve, a canton or whatever, isn’t going to happen. Their threats to “go to Europe” are all destroyed now, since the second they go to Europe, they don’t find “whites only” anymore. Go to Paris, Berlin, those places you talk about. What would be wonderful is to walk around those cities with the same Israelis who hate Arabs in Jerusalem, and see their faces as they realize their “Europe” changed.
For almost 60 years there has been a little sad group within Israel who constantly whined about how there were not enough Europeans in Israel, and that their “values” were not being respected. For a short period they got to enact their apartheid, their acceptance committees and segregation in education, to wall themselves off, but over time that didn’t work, and they began whining about how they will move abroad. But then abroad changed too. Abroad became more like the places in Israel they were walling themselves off from. They never wanted to be part of the Middle East. They thought they could move to the Middle East, but never move there. That’s the ultimate colonial fantasy, to bring the “old country” with you. But the Middle East wins in the end, it wins a little bit at a time.
Now their choice is to go back to Europe, their fantasy. But Europe is all full of right wing parties, just like the right wing they whine about in Israel. Wherever they look now in Europe they see Israel maybe 20 years ago. Europe will become more and more right wing, more and more terror is likely.
How much longer will Israelis have to listen to the whining and hectoring of the former Europeans? How much longer the stories about the “primitives” and “us liberals”. Sadly it will limp on. Because Eurosupremacism is hard to make go away. Because acceptance committees still shield them from meeting others and schools still allow you to only study with people that are similar. But one of the amazing things is they now have to wrestle with not only alienation from Israel where they live, but also alienation from their Europe fantasy.