Book Review

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The Euro-Arab Axis

Bat Ye'or
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005, 384 pages


B at Ye'or's thesis is simple: Europe has allowed itself to be taken over by Arab interests. The need for oil, Europe's predilection for accommodation, and their desire to act as a counterweight to America are the roots of anti-Zionism, antisemitism, and hatred of America in Europe. The threat, says Bat Ye'or, is not just to the existence of Israel, but to the survival of Europe as we know it. Their future, should current trends continue, could be one of `dhimmitude', or subservience to their future Muslim masters.

Eurabia, somewhat disappointingly, has few insights about either Europe or Arabia, but instead adopts a Likud-like party line that Europeans are biased against Israel and unfairly favor the Palestinians. While few objective observers would disagree with this, it's not a particularly profound insight. Bat Ye'or missed an important opportunity to warn the Europeans of the dismal future that may await them. To Bat Ye'or, an Egyptian, Europe is little more than a black box. The explanation for their behavior as she sees it lies not in their sociology, psychology or even history, but is simply the product of unremitting pro-Arab propaganda. The concept of "Eurabia" is used not to warn of a dystopic future Europe under shari`a, but as a club to shame the Europeans for allowing their policies to be dominated by the Arabs.

Throughout the book, Bat Ye'or lambastes the European elites and Europe's funding of Arab terrorist organizations. According to Bat Ye'or, European anti-Israeli policy was largely the result of a massive propaganda campaign by an organization called the Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD), a discussion forum between the European Community and the League of Arab States that was started in 1973. ``The EEC [European Economic Community],'' says Bat Ye'or, ``constructed its whole Arab policy in tandem with Arab demonization and delegitimization of Israel, precisely because the Arab League had demanded an anti-Israeli policy and the promotion of the PLO as a condition for Euro-Arab economic exchanges and oil supply.''

While the existence of this sort of conspiracy seems quite plausible after the massive UN oil-for-food scandal, Bat Ye'or doesn't explain how such a scheme could work. Europeans undoubtedly pander to the Arabs in order to secure trade deals with them. But oil is a fungible commodity. The only way an oil-for-Palestinians deal would make sense would be if clandestine oil supplies were being sent to Europe at sub-market prices. The alternative that Bat Ye'or suggests, that Europe's pro-Arab stance is motivated by hatred of the Jews, is almost too unpleasant to contemplate. Bat Ye'or says the Europeans were so overwhelmed by their fear of Islamic terrorism that they willingly reshaped their beliefs and changed their foreign policy--which means they are well along the path to self-imposed dhimmitude.

In her search for a rational reason for Europe's self-destructive behavior, however, Bat Ye'or overlooks the importance of appearance in European societies. Europeans have a boundless faith in the ability of gestures, negotiation, and appeasement to convert hostile regimes into friendly allies. This faith arises from a confusion of politically-correct pretense with reality. For European elites, it is the appearance of doing the right thing that counts, much more than the accomplishment of any objective. This attitude dominates all European public policies, from their insistence on continuing dialog in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to their infatuation with the Kyoto treaty, which the Europeans have no intention of actually following. The fact that the ultimate outcome may be harmful or even suicidal is secondary.

Bat Ye'or also overlooks an important fact about Europe: that the Enlightenment culture that produced modern democracy, liberal capitalism, and the age of knowledge is dying in Europe. Europe today is like a beautiful museum, filled with relics of the great artistic and architectural achievements of its past. Its people are only now starting to realize that their present course of depopulation, de-democratization (a.k.a. 'subsidiarism'), and demilitarization promises a grim future, yet those who care feel demoralized and powerless to prevent it. As Bat Ye'or says, their leaders are unwilling to acknowledge the existence of a problem, let alone face the necessity for radical change. However, she doesn't discuss how a failure to change could play out. Europeans can be an unpredictable bunch. Failure to address their problems could ultimately lead to a civil war in Europe--or something worse--as the last surviving native Europeans come to realize their glorious culture is in grave danger of becoming extinguished by a seemingly unstoppable influx of Muslims bent on colonization.

There's no way to know whether the Europeans have the strength to avoid their looming socialist self-euthanasia, or whether they will choose to go out in an inferno of destruction. But I am also not convinced that their anti-Americanism is anything more than a reflection of their unwillingness to face the dreadful reality of their current situation. To a person lying in bed with a terminal illness, the sight of a healthy person whose vitality and strength derives from a denial of the very things that make the sick person unique sometimes provokes feelings of rage. The rage, although directed outward, is actually frustration at the sick person's own situation and fueled by his or her refusal to see the error of their ways.

The tendency of the mainstream media and the Left is to dismiss concerns like these until it's too late to do anything about them. Then the problem is seen as "inevitable", it having been pointless to have tried to avert the catastrophe, and they are, in their own mind, proved `right' once again. On the other hand, many on the Right have already written off Continental Europe as a lost cause, the only unresolved questions being whether Britain will hop aboard their sinking ship and drown along with the rest of Western Europe, and whether America should bother to pull Europe's collective butt out of the fire yet again. Bat Ye'or courageously risks a more optimistic view, that if Europe is warned strongly enough it could still be saved. To some, her warnings about the dangers of Islam and her passionate defense of Israel will seem politically incorrect and therefore will be mostly ignored or disparaged, probably with a good dose of the usual name-calling. Bat Ye'or unflinchingly pursues her goal of convincing Americans not to follow down the path that Europeans have chosen, not to sell out Israel, and to continue carrying the torch for Western civilization.

Despite Bat Ye'or's tunnel vision about the importance of Israel and the Palestinians, Eurabia is an important and painstakingly researched book and a wake-up call to a continent of 450 million people whose future, and the future of the West, will be decided in what looks to be a very event-filled, unpredictable, and exciting century.

April 15, 2005 Back