The Magazine

How Europe Sees Us

The old world confronts the new.

Dec 27, 2004, Vol. 10, No. 15 • By FRED SIEGEL
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In Free World, Garton Ash devotes his closing chapters to ideas for how the United States and Europe can heal the world's social wounds. He dismisses American worries about European anti-Semitism as overheated. After all, he notes, in another piece of intellectual slovenliness, both Israelis and Palestinians kill civilians. But Europe, with its rising Muslim underclass and virulent anti-Semitism, needs to worry about healing itself.

As Barry Rubin has noted, when it comes to Judeophobia, "rather than easing the Middle East's madness," Europe has caught the disease itself. In Rising from the Muck: The New Anti-Semitism in Europe, philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff, a non-Jew, has written a powerful account of how European Islamophilia has generated a riptide of hatred not only on Europe's Arab streets but among left-wing and Euro-Gaullist politicians. With bin Laden being hailed as "the Che Guevara of Islam," the French guilt and humiliation left over from World War II has melded imperceptibly with the Islamist attempt to paint Jews as the true Nazis. As in America during the 1960s, there has been a "heroic aestheticization" of an underclass, which coincides in this case with the attempt by the French to align themselves with third-world thugs, from Rwanda to Sudan to Vietnam, in order to increase their international leverage. But France, argues Taguieff, is playing a fool's game. He quotes a French Islamist leader: "France has more Muslims than most countries in the Arabian Peninsula, Libya, or Lebanon, . . . and [still] you don't think it's part of dar al-Islam."

The problems Garton Ash ignores aren't confined to France. They occur right under his nose in the pages of the London Guardian, a newspaper for which he writes regularly. The Guardian repeatedly strays across the thin line separating its love affair with Palestinian rage from anti-Semitism.

The effusions of goodthink in Free World float above all the disfigurement of Europe's decline, and the book's reasonableness is at odds with the realities. Reasonable fellow that he is, Garton Ash can't take either French or Islamic revanchism seriously. That's why Free World can't be taken seriously.

Fred Siegel is a professor at the Cooper Union for Science and Art in New York.