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Europe, Radical Islam, and the Socialist Roots of Modern Anti-Semitism

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france-israelEven before the Paris attacks, there were worries over a sharp rise in anti-Semitism in the UK and mainland Europe in 2014, says Caroline Wyatt of the BBC. In the past few years thousands of French Jews have fled the country to the one place they feel safe: Israel.

“The French Jewish community is gripped by a very deep sense of insecurity and that sense is often traced back to the attack in Tolouse in 2012,” says Avi Mayer, a spokesperson for the Jewish Agency for Israel. “But there’s also a lower-level sense that it’s simply impossible to be openly Jewish in the streets of France, and that’s something that’s manifested itself with Jewish discomfort with wearing yarmulkes in the streets or necklaces with Jewish stars.”

The resurgence of anti-Semitic sentiment in Europe is appalling and tragic. What it shouldn’t be, however, is unexpected. Like it’s Islamist extremist counterpart, the roots of this hatred are often economic.

Europe has always been susceptible to the siren’s call of socialism, and as economist Tyler Cowen pointed out nearly 20 years ago, there is a direct link between statism and the persecution of minorities:

The history of the Jewish people illustrates the relatively favorable position of minorities in a market setting. Hostility toward trade and commerce has often fueled hostility toward Jews, and vice versa. The societies most congenial to commercial life for their time – Renaissance Italy, the growing capitalist economies of England and the Netherlands in the seventeenth century, and the United States – typically have shown the most toleration for Jews.

We cannot let the religious fervor of the Jihadists obscure the ideological similarities they share with Europe. At the core of anti-Semitism is a mistrust of capitalism and a fear of economic liberty. In studying anti-Semitism between the years 500 and 1306, Will Durant identified an undercurrent that parallels what we see today: “The main sources have ever been economic, but religious differences have given edge and cover to economic rivalries.” (Story of Civilization Vol. IV: The Age of Faith)

As America continues to support liberal democracy in the Middle East, we can expect resistance not only from the Arab monarchies but from our Old World neighbors as well. While they will wring their hands and agree that terrorism is a threat to security, free markets and economic liberty are what they truly fear. As the statist policies continue to degrade the EU economy, Europe’s search for a scapegoat will continue to expand from the Jews and Israel to the U.S.

Despite the satirical vision of Michel Houellebecq’s Submission (in which an archetypal French liberal—a Sorbonne literature professor—finds life under Sharia to be liberating), Europe isn’t likely to directly side with the Jihadists; they are too committed to an atheistic worldview to ever fall completely under the spell of radical Islam. But Europe and the Islamists may still find common cause, similar to the way the Communists and Nazis were ideologically opposed and yet both leveraged anti-Semitic fervor to achieve their ends.

Even though the ideologues won’t be turning to radical Islam in droves, we shouldn’t be surprised if it traps a few in the post-Marxist vacuum. We have already seen signs the anti-globalization movement will back the forces of terrorism if they believe it will further their aims.

As the former communist Illich Ramirez Sanchez noted, “Revolutionary Islam attacks the ruling classes in order to achieve a more equitable redistribution of wealth” and Islam is the only “transnational force capable of standing up the enslavement of nations”.

Don’t recall where you’ve heard of Sanchez? Maybe you know him better by his nickname: Carlos the Jackal.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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