Jews are leaving Europe

according to Geert Wilders, in his address to the House of Lords.

Readers of Walker Percy will recognize in this an echo of one aspect of Will Barrett’s dementia in the 1980 novel The Second Coming. Throughout the novel Barrett grapples with an increasing sense of alienation and wanders in and out of diatribes and declamations on the moral and spiritual condition of modern America – not all that different, now that I think about it, from his wanderings on and off battlefields as he roamed the South as a young man in The Last Gentleman.

Barrett’s obsessing on whether or not the Jews are leaving North Carolina is connected to his interpretation of Jews as a sign in the world. A sign of what? For Barrett, they may or may not be a sign of God’s presence in the world, and their existence in North Carolina perhaps an example of His blessing on those who live at peace with them. For Percy and the reader, Barrett’s obsession is just that – a sign of his dementia, related to a kind of upside-down search for God that leaves him in the bottom of a pit contemplating a toothache.

Does Geert Wilders suffer the same kind of dementia diagnosed by Percy in Barrett? The question, it seems to me, is whether he is factually correct. In The Second Coming, it was fairly well implied that Barrett was factually incorrect, even as he was surely onto something in recognizing the Jews as a sign of God’s presence in the world. I think Wilders is onto something in recognizing fundamental differences between Islam and the West, and though he doesn’t say quite as much, there is something unique about “the Mother of all Parliaments” in which a Jew was Prime Minister at the high point of the British Empire, precisely because a Jew was able to serve as Prime Minister. Suffice to say that the relationship between the modern British Parliament, Magna Carta, the Sanhedrin and the Torah is a fairly complicated affair. Not to mention what that relationship (assuming it could be established) might mean for the Knesset or the U.S. Constitution.

Now it may be that one man’s zenith is another man’s nadir – the history of British colonialism (not to mention Dutch colonialism) shows a fair share of bloodshed and bigotry – but if one were to plot the trajectory of political freedom in a world governed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or even Abdullah II of Jordan, how would it compare to political freedom in the world when it was largely ruled by the British Parliament in the late 19th century?

Can someone actually demonstrate that Jews are leaving Europe? Are Jews really a sign of Yahweh’s presence in the world? Are Muslims then also a sign of Allah’s presence in the world? Are Christians a sign of Christ’s presence in the world? Are Atheists a sign of godlessness in the world? Why exactly is one preferable to the other, other than any particular individual’s already established association with any of them? What do corresponding population figures have to do with this presence? Do these questions have any meaning at all? Or are they rather (pace Barrett) a sign of religious dementia?


  1. Anonymous says

    He seemed quite reasonable when I saw him on Newsnight, although I'm reluctant to say that as the EDF seemed to be marching yesterday in support of him. I think it is likely to be correct that the Jews might want to leave Europe – although are they keen to go to Israel at present? and can they get into the US? Disraeli had converted to Christianity (or perhaps his father had, I forget).

  2. Jonathan Webb says

    I think that if I were a Jew I'd think twice about raising a family in Holland.

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