Jewish Political Studies Review 19:3-4 (Fall 2007)
Eurabia: A New Geopolitical Concept
Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, by Bat Ye’or, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005, 384 pp. French version: Eurabia: l’axe euro-arabe, Jean-Cyrille Godefroy, 2006, 348 pp.
Reviewed by Joel Fishman
Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia represents a highly important contribution to our understanding of the relationship between the Islamic peoples of the Mediterranean Basin and the European states organized in the European Union. The author has raised a question of critical importance: whether a cultural war, or, to use the expression of Bernard Lewis and Samuel P. Huntington, a “clash of civilizations” is in progress between the Islamic world and the West, and Europe in particular.
Bat Ye’or advances the interpretation-with considerable documentation-that from 1974, the Arab world entered into an agreement with the EU, led by France. The price which the Arab countries demanded for an assured supply of fuel and presumably protection from terror was that Europe realign its foreign policy in complete support of the Arab cause. Europe should withdraw its support for Israel and work for its destruction; Europe should open its doors to large numbers of immigrants from Islamic lands and accept the new populations without attempting to integrate them culturally; Europe should change its cultural orientation to one which is Islamic and based on the model of the Mediterranean Basin taken as a harmonious economic unit. Bat Ye’or further identifies the two main ideological pillars of Eurabia as: (1) hatred of Israel combined with a strong dose of anti-Semitism, and (2) fierce opposition to the United States and its popular culture.
Bat Ye’or identifies France as the main mover in this project, particularly because of its desire, after the Algerian War, to reconstruct its old empire on its new basis. Since the French Empire had large Islamic populations, the high-level bureaucrats and intellectuals who supported this endeavor favored a policy of understanding and friendship with the Arab world.
As part of the background to this discussion, Bat Ye’or points to a number of seemingly incidental facts. The ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, endeavored to influence French policy by approaching French diplomats in the region. His message was that if France would adopt a policy hostile to Israel, he would bring the support of the Arab world. Whether or not Haj Amin could have delivered is unclear, but that was the proposition which he put into play. Bat Ye’or also relates that the new plan found support among former Vichy bureaucrats. Indeed, Maurice Couve de Murville, the French ambassador to Egypt and one of General de Gaulle’s closest advisers on foreign policy, also supported this initiative. Among the other advocates of the idea were members of the European far Right in Germany and Austria. Their circles included a strong representation of unreformed Nazis and some Christian groups, particularly the Catholic Church.
Bat Ye’or described the comprehensiveness of the Euro-Arab collaboration in an interview with FrontPageMagazine.com of 21 September 2004:
The field of Euro-Arab collaboration covered every domain: from economy and policy to immigration. In foreign policy, it backed anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism and Israel’s delegitimization; the promotion of the PLO and Arafat; a Euro-Arab associative diplomacy in international forums; and NGO collaboration. In domestic policy the EAD [Euro-Arab Dialogue] established a close cooperation between Arab and European media television, radio, journalists, publishing houses, academia, cultural centers, school textbooks, student and youth associations, tourism. Church interfaith dialogues were determinant in the development of this policy. Eurabia is therefore this strong Euro-Arab network of associations-a comprehensive symbiosis with cooperation and partnership on policy, economy, demography and culture.
This is really a shocking interpretation, and for a reader not intimately familiar with the subject, and that includes most of us, her findings and conclusions are overwhelming. They are not “politically correct.” For those who are committed to the idea of a “dialogue between civilizations,” her conclusions represent “inconvenient information.” If one raised the subject in France of a clash of civilizations, or “le choc des civilizations,” he or she might very likely be singled out as a fascist. Eurabia is not a subject for cocktail conversation. Nevertheless, the problems which Bat Ye’or has described have become increasingly evident and with the passage of time her findings have gained credibility.
Bat Ye’or’s scholarship has been consistently original and far ahead of her contemporaries, as was the case with her classic, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam. It is the reviewer’s considered opinion that Eurabia represents a serious contribution to knowledge. Although the book is a difficult read, its findings and its author’s analytical ability and courage will gain increasing appreciation with the passage of time.
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DR. JOEL FISHMAN is a fellow of the JCPA and chairman of the Foundation for the Research of Dutch Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is carrying out research on political warfare, particularly media warfare and propaganda.