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Jewish World Review
July 13, 2004
/ 24 Tamuz, 5764
French indifference to evil escalates
Rabbi Aryeh Spero
Just a few weeks ago a 14-year-old boy wearing a yarmulka came out of the Ourq subway station in Paris and was attacked by two Muslims. While yelling at him "dirty Jew," they knocked him down, beat him on the head and broke his nose. The boy begged for help from the French passers-by fellow citizens but they simply walked away, did nothing.
At the University Medical School of Saint-Antoine in Paris, four young Muslim men entered a lecture hall yelling "Death to the Jews." They confronted a Jewish student and beat him to a pulp and, like vultures, picked his valuables and robbed him. The lecturing professor said nothing while watching the attack and the entire class of French students remained silent while the thugs simply departed without a care. This, too, happened within the last few months.
The purpose of relating these stories is not to expose French anti-Semitism and the predatory mindset of French Muslims against Jews. It is to show how the French have become indifferent in their own society to brutality and unwilling to stop it. No wonder, then, the French will neither support nor sacrifice to fight Islamic terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan when in even their own county, with incidents only feet away, they lack the moral courage to stop brutality. Yet many Americans exhort us first to obtain permission from the French if a War against Terrorism is to be deemed legitimate.
The indifference and cowardice that is transpiring almost weekly by Frenchmen in their own streets is but a micro version of what they are proposing on a macro (global) level.
Though many nations are part of the "coalition of the willing" in our fight against terrorism, in the mind of many opinion-makers, absent specific French endorsement, American enterprises lack not only legitimacy but also morality. The danger inherent in the Euro-centric aspiration is that they will remake America in the French image. If successful in reshaping our thinking and policies, its proponents will have made us more like the French: indifferent, immoral, cowardly. They will have succeeded in denuding us of that which makes us American: engaged, honorable, heroic.
Though what has transpired on French streets reveals the mindset behind their foreign policy, the opposite is equally true. That is to say, the unwillingness these last two years by Jacques Chirac to stand against world terrorism has taught his people how they should react on their Parisian streets when witnessing local Islamic brutality: Do nothing. A "leader" communicates by example.
What else can explain how but a few weeks ago in Paris a 12-year-old Jewish girl coming out of Hebrew school was attacked by two men who, in public, held her down and slashed her face with a box-cutter, carving a swastika into her face. They, too, walked away unchallenged. By now they have observed the cowardice and indifference of French foreign policy.
While the John Kerrys of the world intone the routine "I'm uncomfortable" when hearing of such incidents, it still does not shake their belief that the French are still the standard-bearers of what constitutes "moral" foreign policy. Even in New York City, some Jews who are "worried" by such incidents remain vocal in their demand that we need the French if what we do is to be assigned credence. Somehow they don't grasp the connection between how what is allowed in Paris is a corollary of France's anti-war policy. Obviously the mores and mindset that allow the former produces the latter. Underneath the French lip service that is "concerned" by home-grown Islamic Jew-hatred and worldwide jihadist terrorism is an attitudinal reality that is willing to accept and live with it.
What is it that blinds otherwise informed Americans to French sins? For many on the coasts, appearing sophisticated, nuanced, worldly, and circulating among the "charmant" is all-important. In their mind, France and much of Europe represent this; America's heartland does not. They identify with Parisians more than Virginians. To them, most Americans are cowboys, rednecks, unenlightened, parochial simply not chic. In front of their European friends, they are embarrassed by Americanism, its ways.
In their desire to appear to themselves and others as "worldly," they look towards France. It is an emotional need that seems to override almost everything else, including the common sense and historic dictates of what is necessary for domestic security and national defense.
We, however, who value the defense of our country, must not allow the personal need of some to appear "European" stand in the way of what is best for America. Preparing the best soufflé is not a diploma for morality, courage, principle.
Recently in Germany a law was passed allowing people to eat and carouse naked on benches in many public parks. Those who think of themselves as urbane repeatedly disparaged President Bush's War on Terrorism since the Germans did not give it their blessing.
Without question, there is a connection between immorality and indifference. A society that finds little distinction between those who wear clothes and those who parade without garb, between that which is obscene and that which is decent, has lost its capacity to differentiate between right and wrong, the sacred and degenerate, between good and evil. Indifference sets in when distinctions are blurred.
A society cannot be roused to fight a specific thing when no thing is outcast. Ultimately, every thing is "allowed its place." That is the definition of decadence. Indeed much of Europe has degenerated into decadence, trying to pass off self-indulgence as liberty. We saw that earlier in the century during the Weimar Republic. Yet the permission-seekers want America to take its cue from Germany as to what is right or wrong. For them, indifference is a virtue if Europe declares it so.
History and psychology have shown that soon, as a salve, indifference to evil becomes endorsement of it. Refusal to do what is right leads to a need to despise what is right.
The idolization by some Americans of the mores of Europeans is nothing new. For decades they have berated the American people for "not following the European example." John Kerry is one of America's loudest proponents of conditioning America's security on French and German approval. In fact, when asked by reporters to describe his wife, the former Mrs. Heinz of Pennsylvania, he gushed forth the best compliment his worldview could offer: "She's so European!"
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JWR contributor Rabbi Aryeh Spero hosts New York radio's “Talking Sense with Rabbi Aryeh Spero." He's the president of Caucus for America.
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© 2004, Rabbi Aryeh Spero