Once again, Europe's pathetic clown, Silvio Berlusconi, has delivered a tasteless joke, proving how little dignity is left in Italian politics. This time, the joke involved anti-Semitic motifs and made light of Holocaust victims.
But as far as Israel's government is concerned, Berlusconi can rest easy with his orgies and his demagogic speeches. And he can always be counted on to supply the latter, as he did on Europe's Holocaust Day in 2009, when he stated: "Anti-Semitic laws [instituted under Mussolini] are still perceived as a deep wound inflicted not only on the Jewish community, but on Italy's entire society, which suddenly lost part of its history" (La Stampa, January 29, 2009 ).
In general, West European prattle about the Holocaust should not mislead Israelis. It does not negate European racism.
Berlusconi is a great friend of Israel's, so he is allowed to be anti-Semitic. His government also sponsors racist propaganda against Muslim immigrants. Using the economic crisis as a pretext, and buoyed by irredentist trends of affluent northern Italy, many Italians think they can transgress every moral boundary in their treatment of foreigners. Disgustingly, drivel about the Holocaust serves as a convenient cover for racism.
And France's president, a champion babbler about the Holocaust ("I changed at Yad Vashem," he declared during his first election campaign ), expels Gypsies as though they were Polish Jews in Germany in 1935. Yet Israelis respond with indifference (apparently, so long as a policy doesn't end in gas chambers, it isn't so bad ).
As far as Israeli public opinion is concerned, the "confrontation with the past" offers us unconditional acceptance into the "family of nations," that is, the Western nations. And so long as they act "as we do" - building fences, occupying territory, controlling Arab streets and villages - we can feel right at home and accuse them of being "hypocrites" as we go on "confronting the past," meaning the Holocaust.
But unfortunately for us, to many in the West we serve as a symbol of neocolonialism. By providing a myth of a besieged West confronting an "encroaching" Islam, we provide a license for new forms of racism undertaken in the name of (what else? ) "deep friendship with Israel."
Hence anyone who takes umbrage at non-Jewish intellectuals and peace activists who stubbornly insist on opposing a 43-year-old occupation rather than dealing with other outrages around the world should think about how we managed to become an economic and military extension of the West and a Western symbol of control over the East. What, exactly, are the grounds for denouncing those, such as Western leftists, who can't stand this symbol?
Italy, Denmark, Holland and France are indeed good friends of Israel's. And racism is surging within their borders, making the lives of minorities intolerable.
But it is worth taking a look at other European countries, such as Germany and Spain. These countries' political systems are, for the first time in European history, dealing with heterogeneity - a Muslim minority - in a new way. Despite manifestations of racism and political differences between left and right, both countries view Islam as a legitimate component of Europe (and Britain undoubtedly preceded them in this respect ).
Anyone who paid attention to the Spanish response to Al-Qaida's attacks in the elections held immediately afterward, or who reads the frequent statements by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, can identify the change: These countries have accepted heterogeneity as a way of coping with the future, including the economic crisis.
This is not the "confrontation with the past" that Israelis stubbornly seek. You do not deal with the past when you forge economic policy; you don't forge economic policy if you are not thinking about the future. If only we could learn something from the present!
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