Europe baffles many people. Why does this continent of democracies persistently favor Arab dictatorships while pouring vitriol on the United States and Israel? Why, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, did the streets of Europe fill with millions of demonstrators supporting Saddam Hussein while hurling epithets at George Bush and Ariel Sharon? Why does a continent that is historically, and still demographically, Christian let itself be inundated with Muslim immigrants who are allowed to keep their culture and fealties instead of assimilating to Western values?
In Eurabia the historian Bat Ye’or, pioneer of the concept of dhimmitude (submission to Islam by non-Muslim peoples), presents a deeply insightful, richly documented explanation of the European malaise. She locates its roots in France’s desire during the 1960s to revive its crumbling Mediterranean empire by building “quiet” influence in the Arab world, while indulging its Gaullist dreams of grandeur by uniting that world with Europe as a counterforce to American power. It was an impulse that, from the start, subordinated cultural affinities with democratic, Christian America to a mix of ressentiment and lingering romanticization of the Arab world.
Although Europe’s capitulation to the Arabs is often dated from the 1973 oil crisis and ascribed to economic factors, Bat Ye’or maintains that the Arab oil sheikhdoms’ own dependence on the West essentially rendered the oil weapon hollow, as evidenced by America’s successful surmounting of the crisis. By that time, though, France had already led Europe into closer affiliation with the Arabs for reasons that were largely political, and she suspects that the oil threat was only “a pretext…to reverse previous EEC economic policy toward Israel and the Arab world.”
It was, indeed, the period of the oil crisis that saw the creation of the Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD) — a network of parliamentary, propagandistic, cultural, and economic ties that Bat Ye’or views as the main engine of Europe’s creeping dhimmitude. Evolving through a series of pompous conferences and wordy, high-flown documents about supposed “common values,” the EAD enabled European politicians and intellectuals to impose their geopolitical program on a European populace that initially was neither pro-Arab nor anti-Israeli, and to this day is ignorant of the EAD and its activities.
It was a process of moral decay and betrayal of Europe’s own democratic ideals. Under EAD influence, Europe played the key role in legitimizing Yasser Arafat and his PLO even as they made terrorism an international plague. At the same time, Europe launched its campaign of pressuring and vilifying Israel while ignoring the plight of Christians in Arab countries like Lebanon, Egypt, and Sudan and embracing blood-drenched dictators like Saddam and Syria’s Hafez al-Assad. This went hand in hand with mounting antagonism to America even while its Cold War umbrella was all that shielded Western Europe from the Soviet threat.
Meanwhile, a deliberate, preferential immigration policy, openly stipulated in EAD documents, brought millions of Arabs and other Muslims to Europe under advantageous terms that allowed them to import their civilization intact — including the traditional Muslim contempt toward “infidel” peoples. Although those EAD texts spoke in grandiose terms of “mutual” benefit and influence, the demographic traffic was strictly one-way. Accordingly, whereas Europe increasingly glorified Arab-Islamic culture and instituted it in its educational systems, while denying its own Christian roots, the Arab countries retained their dictatorial, exclusively Islamic character. Lurking behind this growing European cravenness, Bat Ye’or asserts, were motives of fear and greed — fear of Arab terrorism and the desire to avert it by paying what amounted to a traditional Islamic “poll tax” of servile tribute and economic assistance; greed for the economic benefits that this relationship brought to Europe itself.
The trends merged in what Bat Ye’or calls the “cult of Palestinianism.” It involved not only a morally insouciant, political backing of the Palestinians no matter what violence they perpetrated and what efforts Israel made to accommodate them, but also the growing embrace of a new Palestinian “replacement theology” that portrayed Jesus as a Muslim Arab and Islam as the matrix of Christianity. Though resisted by the Vatican, this theology was increasingly adopted by both Catholic and Protestant circles in Europe in comradeship with Middle Eastern churches whose own espousal of it reflected their condition of severe dhimmitude. Central, of course, to this outlook is a denial of the Jewish roots of Christianity as part of the delegitimization of Jewish ties to the Holy Land and of Israel as a state.
Three decades after the EAD began eroding Europe’s identity as a Western-aligned continent, Bat Ye’or sees Europe’s situation as bleak. As an “aging, confused, and timorous” civilization that has affiliated itself with “an assertive, demographically booming, Arab-Muslim world,” a reassertion of identity is “highly improbable” and the decline “may be irreversible.” “One may hope,” however — the sole hope Bat Ye’or offers in this sobering book — “that America’s resolute policy has opened…new opportunities for the world to eschew a former order of political connivance with hate and crime.” As she has stated in lectures and elsewhere, she sought specifically to publish this book in America as a means of alerting Americans both to Europe’s advanced state of decay and to the United States’ role as the last bulwark against Islamic encroachment and last possible force for Western moral revival.
The message is not made easier to absorb by the book’s often cumbersome prose, which strangely alternates with passages of almost prophetic eloquence and power. The fruit of the effort sometimes needed to read this work, though, is exposure to a mind of uncommon depth and brilliance and a message of urgent importance.
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