With Ireland giving serious consideration to a pro-BDS bill while Jews throughout Europe can no longer safely walk the streets wearing a kippah or Magen David, one cannot help but view the future of Jewry in Europe with considerable trepidation. It can be argued that Europe has never been the most hospitable home for Jews, but recent fiscal and demographic changes virtually guarantee that European Jews will experience an even bleaker future on the continent.
The first sign of a negative prognosis for a Jew in Europe is the questionable financial health of virtually every country on the continent as reflected by their stagnant economies and significant indebtedness. The current national debt of the United Kingdom is equivalent to approximately 2.3 trillion U.S. dollars. France’s debt is over 2.5 trillion dollars; Germany is just slightly below that at 2.4 trillion dollars. Servicing that debt diverts money from all sorts of government programs, leading to citizen dissatisfaction and anger. Servicing that debt also requires a tax base that is growing, but that is the exact opposite of what is happening throughout Europe.
Declining economic situation:
What these coincident phenomena are pointing to is a declining economic situation in Europe, and even the most cursory reading of history tells us that whenever European societies have experienced meaningful financial hardship, blaming the Jews has not been an atypical response.
If Europe is to avoid the financial degradation that is looming on the horizon, the number one need is to increase the population, or more accurately, to grow the number of taxpayers. The problem is that in virtually every country in Western Europe, women in the native population are having an average of under two babies each, meaning they are not reproducing enough to replenish their populations. In Germany, for example, the native/ethnic German population is declining by about 100,000 per year.
To exacerbate this problem of an inadequate birth rate, Europeans are also facing rising life expectancy, meaning even more residents will rely on the state for pensions and health coverage.
These demographic trends, coupled with the already troubling fiscal situation throughout Europe, are exerting enormous pressure on European countries to significantly increase immigration. They simply need more people in order to maintain the taxpayer base required to support senior citizens and the recipients of welfare and other entitlements as well as service the staggering debt.
At this time, the principle source of immigrants is the Arab countries, and from a non-Jewish European’s perspective, that is not a bad thing. First, those Europeans realize that their countries will disappear into the dustbin of history if they don’t replenish their populations, and not incidentally, there is the humanitarian aspect of helping people flee the hell-holes of the Middle East.
Overarching issue – Demographics:
Which brings us to the overarching demographic issue, and that is the difference in fertility between Muslims and non-Muslims. Because Muslims average nearly three children per family, the Muslim percentage of the overall population in Europe will continue to grow at a dramatic rate. For example, in England in 2011, there were approximately 2.7 million Muslims or less than five percent of the total population. In 2016, there were more than 4 million Muslims, accounting for nearly six percent of the country’s overall population. Given the difference in fertility between Muslims and non-Muslim women, it’s quite possible that the number of Muslims in England will number more than 12 million by 2050 or more than 20 percent of the total population.
In Sweden, the demographics are even more dramatic. Whereas the 350,000 Muslims in Sweden in 2000 accounted for approximately 3.5 percent of the total population, by 2017, the number of Muslims had grown to more than 800,000 or 8.1 percent of the population. Again, there is a large gap in fertility between the two groups, hence the total numbers and percentage of population will continue to rise significantly.
There were approximately 3.3 million Muslims in Germany in 2010 – four percent of the total population. In 2016, there were more than five million Muslims or about six percent of the total population. The picture in France is more of the same. In 2010, France’s five million Muslims accounted for about eight percent of the country’s total population. Only seven years later, there were 8.5 million Muslims or 13 percent of the total. Similar to what is taking place elsewhere in Europe, France’s Muslim population is growing at a rate considerably faster than is the case for non-Muslims.
How do host countries vet potential immigrants?
From a Jewish perspective, these shifting demographics give rise to two important questions. First, how do host countries ensure they are welcoming Muslims and not Islamists? There are millions of peaceful Muslims eager to immigrate to Europe, but there is also an unknown number of radical Islamists hiding amongst the legitimate refugees, and the Jewish experience with radical Muslims is not a pleasant one. Second, do Muslim immigrants assimilate in the same fashion as previous newcomers, meaning that even if some of the current immigrants harbor unsavory opinions or cultural biases, can we not expect successive generations to grow out of those prejudices?
Unfortunately, the European experience with respect to the huge waves of Muslim immigration has been a troubled one. Violence, especially assaults on women, has become endemic in areas that are home to large Muslim enclaves, and wherever the Muslim population has grown significantly, the incidence of anti-Semitic acts and pronouncements has increased.
In concrete terms, Jews in Europe are the victims of hate crimes three-to-four times more often than is the case for Muslims, and in most cases of anti-Jewish acts, it is Muslims who are the perpetrators. In fact, in every country that has welcomed a significant number of Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic statements and actions have risen in direct proportion to the growth of the Muslim community. In concrete terms, France saw more than 90 incidents of violent anti-Semitic acts in 2017, an increase of nearly 30 percent compared to the previous year. In England in 2017, there were nearly 1400 anti-Semitic incidents reported, a 34 percent increase versus 2016. Germany had almost 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents reported in 2017, and the trend in 2018 is upward.
Jews throughout Europe are clearly facing harassment and physical attacks unseen since World War II. All the while, European governments are not demonstrating any particular resolve to deal with the problem.
A real problem for European Jews
I came to Canada in the early 1950s from a Europe still reeling from the aftermath of World War II, hence I do feel empathy for people fleeing oppression and deprivation in an effort to build a better life for themselves and their families. I truly believe that a significant proportion of the immigrating Muslims are well-meaning and will eventually make a positive contribution to the countries that are welcoming them. However, there is, unfortunately, a minority that harbors radical anti-Semitic views, and the numbers are sufficiently large to pose a real problem for European Jews. This would be a waning concern if the younger immigrants were assimilating and becoming more westernized in their worldview, but sadly, many among the next generation of Muslims are rejecting their host countries’ values and continuing to embrace the anti-Semitic irrationality of the countries they fled.
Most Europeans have come to understand that this rise in unvetted Muslim immigration coupled with a deteriorating economic situation virtually guarantees them a diminishing quality of life.
For Jews, the problem is even more severe. The French Jews were the canary in the coal mine, with thousands leaving for Israel, and over 75% of the Jews remaining in France saying they want to leave. Jews in other European countries have been slower to catch on but they are recognizing in increasing numbers that their future does not lie in a Europe that has addressed its existential demographic threat with no consideration for the vulnerabilities of her current citizens.