The original sin is attributed to Charles de Gaulle. Disappointed by the loss of the French colonies in Africa and the Middle East, as well as with France's waning influence in the international arena, the president of France in the 1960's decided to create a strategic alliance with the Arab and Muslim world to compete with the dominance of the United States and the Soviet Union. This alliance became the position of the European Community (pre-European Union) during the course of the 1970s, when an extensive European-Arab dialogue developed. However, this alliance, in the context of which Europe allowed the immigration of millions of Muslims to its territories and adopted an anti-Israeli and anti-American policy, will ultimately - and in fact has already - transform Europe into a continent under the thumb of the Arab and Muslim world. Europe is dead, and in its stead "Eurabia" has arisen.
This controversial thesis belongs to Bat Ye'or, the pen name of a self-taught Jewish intellectual who was born in Egypt and who currently lives in Switzerland. She refuses to reveal her real name for security reasons, she says, but her thesis is just the prologue to far-reaching conclusions and extreme statements about some European leaders who are kowtowing to Islam. While her ideas were once almost completely ignored, nowadays, because of the prevailing consternation in Europe regarding its complex relations with the Muslim world, she is receiving more attention, though she is still quite far from entering the European mainstream.
Last week she was invited to Jerusalem to speak at a conference of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the study of Antisemitism at Hebrew University. "This is a matter of a total transformation of Europe, which is the result of an intentional policy," says Bat Ye'or in an interview. "We are now heading towards a total change in Europe, which will be more and more Islamicized and will become a political satellite of the Arab and Muslim world. The European leaders have decided on an alliance with the Arab world, through which they have committed to accept the Arab and Muslim approach toward the United States and Israel. This is not only with respect to foreign policy, but also on issues engaging European society from within, such as immigration, the integration of the immigrants and the idea that Islam is part of Europe."
Bat Ye'or's most recent book, "Eurabia - The Euro-Arab Axis," which was published in English in 2005, could not have been published at a better time as far as she is concerned, precisely when the question of the Muslim immigrants' integration into the continent and Europe's cultural coloration is coming up repeatedly for discussion. The terror attacks in Madrid and London, the Prophet Mohammed cartoons, the murder of the Dutch director Theo Van Gogh and the riots about six months ago in the Paris suburbs have made these questions more critical. Europe, with its pluralist and democratic ethos, has hesitated in its reaction to these phenomena, although today there is a move toward policy changes.
Europe's hesitation has helped bolster extremist attitudes toward Muslim immigration in particular. In the political realm, this is seen among the far-right movements. In intellectual circles, this is evinced inter alia by people like the provocative Italian journalist and writer Oriana Fallaci, Dutch member of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and also Bat Ye'or. Although all of these individuals are opposed to the extreme right and its violence, they are warning that Europe as a secular, enlightened civilization with a Judeo-Christian background is dying. In its stead, says Bat Ye'or, will come a civilization subjugated to Islamic forces and their jihad ideology.
A controversial figure
Bat Ye'or's opinions have made her a controversial figure, as has the fact that she is not an academic and has never taught at any university. She conducts her research independently. Since the 1970s, Bat Ye'or, who is now 71, has published about 10 books, most of which deal with the life of the Christian and Jewish minorities in Muslim countries. She bases her most recent research on the conduct of institutions in the EU, and mainly on the protocols of the European-Arab Dialogue (EAD), which she says aims to establish a strategic alliance by means of tightening political, economic, diplomatic and cultural ties. The result, Bat Ye'or says, is European suicide.
What is motivating Europe in this alliance?
"What led Europe to accept the French policy was the energy crisis after the Yom Kippur War. Another issue is a security issue, because Palestinian terrorists began to strike on European land at the end of the 1960s. This policy is aimed at protecting Europe from the threat of terror."
If so, how do you explain the terror attack at Lockerbie or the attacks in Madrid and London, which occurred despite this alliance?
"Terror is a way of pressuring Europe, which is displaying weakness, while the Arab states are interested in obtaining something from it. In Madrid there is no evidence that any particular Arab government was involved, but in general it can be said that Europe is under a constant threat of terror. Terror is a way of applying pressure on the European countries to surrender constantly to the Arab representatives' demands. The Europeans had aims of their own in this dialogue, and the Arabs had other aims. Sometimes the Arabs threaten Europe by shutting the oil faucet. They demand, for example, that Europe always speak out for the Palestinians and against Israel."
Has Europe consciously decided to take upon itself Arab politics and culture?
"The Europeans hoped to develop, by means of the EAD, a new means for control of the Arab world. Ultimately, it is Europe that created Yasser Arafat and the Hamas government."
What is the worst-case scenario? Where is Europe going?
"If it keeps on this way, Europe will become a vassal, a satellite of the Arab world, which is larger in terms of numbers. Demographically, we are already losing. The vacuum that has been created in Europe will be filled by the children of immigrants. Today we already know that in France the children of the immigrants are opposed to the French curriculum and do not want to learn about the Holocaust. They want Arab-Muslim history and are opposed to European history. This is the Islamization of the culture. ... The EAD includes a policy of eliminating and delegitimizing Israel. In Europe there is a complete alliance with the Palestinians. There are those, for example, who say that Israel is the greatest danger to world peace. Or the initiative in Britain to organize an academic boycott in order to isolate Israel. This is a way to de-legitimize Israel."
"Up until the 1980s, she was not accepted at all," says Professor Robert Wistrich, head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. "In academic circles they scorned her publications. Only when Bernard Lewis published the book 'Jews of Islam' with quotations from Bat Ye'or did they begin to pay any attention to her. A real change toward her emerged in the 1990s, and especially in recent years. Today there is more awareness of the fanatical aspect of Islam."
Wistrich, the organizer of the conference in Jerusalem last week, says he invited Bat Ye'or to discuss whether the phenomenon of multiculturalism was beneficial for the Jews. On the one hand, he says, the Muslims do not want to integrate into European society, while on the other hand, Europe professes an ideology of multiculturalism but does not know how to absorb them. In the past multiculturalism was perceived as beneficial to Jews, but now there are about 1 million Jews and nearly 20 million Muslims on the Continent. According to him, Bat Ye'or's session was the stormiest one at the conference and one participant, a Muslim from France, burst out at her and charged that he was offended by her remarks.
"I gained recognition earlier in the United States," says Bat Ye'or. "In Europe I was only invited to small conferences at first. They didn't even mention my name in publications. In the United States, I am certain that the September 11 attacks woke people up, including the Jewish community that had previously ignored me, because it belongs more to the left."
She says that with the exposure, the attempts to revile her also increased. "Bat Ye'or deals with the decisions that have been taken over time via the EAD," says Wistrich. "At the conference I said half-joking that it was possible to call this 'the protocols of the elders of Brussels.' However, unlike 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,' which is a total forgery, here we have documents and here we have a question of interpretation. It is definitely possible to argue with the interpretation that she gives to the protocols. I myself don't see it this way, but some of the processes she describes are correct, for example the double attitude toward terror and the Palestinian issue. What is interesting in the European context is the gap, and even the abyss that has emerged between the elites - officials, the media, academics and the church - and public opinion. In a survey conducted in Germany recently 83 percent gave the answer 'fanaticism' to the question 'What is Islam?' Sixty percent said there was a clash of civilizations. This is why Bat Ye'or is getting more attention these days."
Her opinions on the integration of the Muslims and Europe's bleak future are acquiring many supporters for her in Europe's extreme right-wing circles.
"Some of the ideas I have written about are very much accepted today," says Bat Ye'or, "sometimes also on the extreme right and in racist movements. I believe this is bad. Attacking Muslims, sometimes even physically, is stupid."
Nevertheless, it is easier today for a Jew in France to get a good job than it is for a French Muslim. How does this line up with your theory?
"It depends where. There is a certain boycott of Jews in the political arena. Jews can't get everywhere. The universities, for example, are controlled by the Palestinians. Though there are Jews in Parliament, they have to take the pro-Arab policy upon themselves - otherwise they will be boycotted."
Why then did Europe cooperate in the American war in Afghanistan?
"In Afghanistan Muslims toppled the Taliban. The idea was to help the Muslims. Iraq is a special case. France had very good relations with Saddam Hussein, and many French companies made money from the 'oil for food' program. Iraq was the fulcrum of the struggle, because Saddam was an anti-American and anti-Israeli hero."
If so, then it is impossible to rely on Europe to help solve the nuclear crisis with Iran.
"No. The Europeans will not do anything to protect Israel. If at all, they will do something because Iran is threatening other Muslim countries with which Europe has good relations. Europe is not interested in Israel's future at all."