One wonders why America, a nation of immigrants, can be suddenly so receptive to Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric. The best answer, so far, is that immigration does not seem to work any more the way it did, at least for certain groups of immigrants.
A similar situation has arisen in Europe. In 2009, the American journalist Christopher Caldwell famously characterized the changes that a massive non-European, non-Judeo-Christian, immigration was forcing over Europe as a “revolution.” We may now be on the brink of a counter-revolution, and that can be as violent and far-reaching as revolution itself.
Last year’s massacres in Paris (the attacks on satirical cartoonists and a kosher supermarket’s customers in January 2015, then the November 13 killing spree) were a tipping point : the French – and by extension, most Europeans — realized that unchecked immigration could lead to civil war.
Then there was the Christmas crisis in Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean. On December 24, a fire was activated at an immigrant-populated neighborhood in Ajaccio, the capital of Southern Corsica. As soon as the firemen arrived, they were attacked by local youths, Muslims of North African descent. Such ambushes have been part of French life for years. This time, however, the ethnic Corsicans retaliated; for four days, they rampaged through the Muslim neighborhoods, shouting Arabi Fora! (Get the Arabs out, in Corsican). One of Ajaccio’s five mosques was vandalized.
Then, there was the New Year’s crisis in Germany and other Northern European countries. On December 31, one to two thousand male Muslim immigrants and refugees swarmed the Banhofvorplatz in Cologne, a piazza located between the railway Central Station and the city’s iconic medieval cathedral. As it turned out during later in the evening and the night, they intended to “have fun”: to hunt, harass, or molest the “immodest” and presumably “easy” German women and girls who celebrated New Year’s Eve at the restaurants and bars nearby, or to steal their money. 766 complaints were lodged. Similar incidents took place in other German cities, like Hamburg, Frankfurt and Stuttgart, as well as in Stockholm and Kalmar in Sweden, and Helsinki in Finland.
Here again, the local population reacted forcefully. Support for asylum seekers from the Middle East plummeted – 37 percent of Germans said that their view of them has “worsened,” and 62 percent said that there are “too many of them.” The Far Right demonstrated against immigration in many cities, but liberal-minded citizens were no less categorical. Le Monde, the French liberal newspaper, on January 20 quoted Cologne victims as saying, “Since 1945, we Germans have been scared to be charged with racism. Well, the blackmail is over by now.”
Indeed, postwar Europe, and Germany in particular, had been built upon the rejection of Hitler’s mad regime and everything it stood for. Nationalism, militarism, authoritarianism, and racism were out. Multinationalism, pacifism, hyperdemocracy, and multiculturalism were in. This simple, almost Manichean, logic is collapsing now – under the pressure of hard facts. Or rather the Europeans now understand that it was flawed in many ways from the very beginning, especially when it came to multiculturalism, the alleged antidote to racism.
What Europeans had in mind when they rejected racism in 1945 was essentially antisemitism. Today, the “correct” antiracist attitude would be to welcome non-European immigrants en masse and to allow them to keep their culture and their way of life, even it that would contradict basic European values. Hence last summer’s “migrants frenzy,” when the EU leadership in Brussels and major EU countries, including Angela Merkel’s Germany, decided to take in several millions of Middle East refugees overnight.
European public opinion is now awaking to a very different view. And the political class realizes that it must adjust – or be swept away.
The Schengen regime – which allows free travel from one country to the other in most of the EU area – is being quietly suspended; every government in Europe is bringing back borders controls. The French socialist president François Hollande is now intent to strip disloyal immigrants and dual citizens of their French citizenship (a move that precipitated the resignation, on January 27, of his super-left-wing justice minister, Christiane Taubira). He is also hiring new personnel for the police and the army and even considering raising a citizens’ militia. Merkel now says that immigrants or refugees who do not abide by the law will be deported. Even Sweden, currently ruled by one of Europe’s most left-wing cabinets, has been tightening its very liberal laws on immigration and asylum.
Most Europeans agree with such steps. And wait for even more drastic measures.
Michel Gurfinkiel a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at Middle East Forum and the Founder and President of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative think-thank in France