Mama Merkel and the Immigration Invasion of Germany
On Oct. 20, months after the “immigration invasion” of Europe began -- whose long-term impact goes far beyond temporary obsessions like email servers and Benghazi -- one of the Wall Street Journal’s chief pundits finally addressed the subject. Bret Stephens wrote an op-ed, “In Defense of Christendom.” The reason for the long silence is not hard to guess. The Wall Street Journal has long been wedded to the notion of open borders. Never mind that Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman admonished the paper almost twenty years ago “It’s just obvious you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.” The Journal has remained deaf to Friedman’s irrefutable argument that in a redistributionist state, unlimited immigration, with its unlimited demands on the public purse, at minimum will destroy limited government.
So how should the socially conservative editorial page react to open borders in action? In theory this was fine. Yet there was something deeply troubling about millions of Muslims invading Europe’s richest welfare states, with no end in sight. As the King of Siam would say, it was a puzzlement.
Stephens finally ended the embarrassing silence. He ignored the economic impact and focused on what is in truth the most important danger to which this migration contributes: the destruction of European civilization. Stephens treats the immigrant invasion as what he calls “a stiff breeze” in a civilization that has already lost its moral compass. No longer believing in the sources from which their comfortable beliefs in human rights, peace, progress, spring -- Judaism, Christianity, the Enlightenment, capitalism, etc. -- they have lost the capacity for what Pope Benedict called “self-love.” Stephens is by no means the first to make this point. Nobel Prize for Literature winner Imre Kertesz more than a decade ago identified “suicidal liberalism” as Europe’s dominant set of values, leaving it “wide open to Islam.”
Stephens describes Angela Merkel’s behavior in the crisis as “odd and disconcerting.” This is because she has been seeking a small immediate favor from Turkey -- stemming the refugee flow from its shores -- in exchange for major concessions that could only aggravate the problem in the longer run: visa-free entry to Europe for 75 million Turks and forwarding Turkish membership in the E.U. Given that Turkey under Erdogan has become steadily more autocratic and contemptuous of the human rights the E.U. supposedly holds dear, and Merkel is trying to stem the Muslim tide into Europe, not pave the way for many millions more, this makes no sense. Moreover, were Turkey to become part of the E.U., Europe would physically border on major sources of the refugee flow: Syria, Iraq and Iran. For Stephens all this sits oddly with Merkel’s leadership of a party whose purpose ‘is to rally the German right to a reasonable conservatism.”
How then is one to explain Angela Merkel, whose open invitation to Syrian refugees turned a migrant flow into a deluge? She probably feels less enthusiasm for Europe’s legacy in championing the values of which Stephens speaks than does Stephens. Uppermost in her mind when she thinks of her country’s legacy is likely to be its role as perpetrator of the Holocaust. Clearly it is this catastrophe that underlies her reaction to the plight of Middle East refugees. In the initial euphoria over her welcome, as migrants carried signs saying “Germany” and “Mama Merkel” she openly marveled -- and rejoiced -- that migrants were so eager to come, given the country’s history. Merkel is also mindful of Stalinism which she experienced growing up in East Germany. She dismisses the idea of fences (Hungary’s solution): “I’ve lived behind a fence for long enough.” In Merkel’s mind then, the foremost issue is likely to be “making amends” for vile European behavior rather than preserving Enlightenment values.
To explain is not to excuse. Merkel is further evidence of the continuing validity of 17th century statesman Axel Oxenstierna’s admonition to his son Johan: “Learn my son with what little wisdom the world is governed.” An adept politician -- or she would not have risen to be Germany’s first woman Chancellor or continued in the role for ten years -- Merkel does not think ahead, as a statesman must. So she comes up with simplistic statements like “Who are we to defend Christians around the world if we say we won’t accept a Muslim or a mosque in our country?” What is at issue is not “a Muslim” or “a mosque” but the transformation of Germany into an Islamic country. An official internal report leaked to the daily paper Bild estimated this year alone there will be 1.5 million asylum seekers in Germany, almost double the number originally believed. And given the right of refugees to bring in family members, multiply this number by six or seven. This marks a huge demographic shift, especially since these are largely young people, while Germany’s population is rapidly aging.
And while Merkel may think her policies involve learning the lessons of the Holocaust, she pays no mind to the impact on Germany’s Jewish population. At a rally against anti-Semitism at the Brandenburg gate in September 2014, Merkel said: “The fact that there are again more than 100,000 Jews living in Germany [in fact there are more than double that number] is nothing short of a miracle. It’s a precious gift which fills me with profound gratitude. Jewish life belongs in our country. It’s a part of our identity and culture.” While there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of those sentiments, does it not occur to her that her own policies are likely to achieve Hitler’s aim of making Germany judenrein, that is, free of Jews.
Belatedly, this has crossed the mind of Jewish community leaders in Germany. Josef Schuster, the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany (which, unbelievably, supports Merkel’s open door policy!) recently met with Merkel to voice his concern that, given how many of the newcomers are from countries hostile to Israel, they might strengthen anti-Semitic views in the Arab community. Schuster told the newspaper Welt am Sonntag that his words created an awkward silence, after which Merkel took notes and promised: “We must address that.” How on earth does she propose to do so?
Schuster’s own suggestion, which he passed on to Merkel, does not pass the laugh test: “I…see a need to integrate the refugees in our community of values as soon as possible.” Alas, however foreign their values may be on other matters to the prevailing mores in Germany, Muslims will find no lack of kindred spirits on both extremes of left and right to join with them in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic projects. The migrants will provide the physical savagery that will make continued Jewish life impossible to sustain.
Millions of Muslim immigrants will also before long shift the political balance. Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the eve of his trip to Berlin on October 21 declared, “Germany is a very important partner for Israel in regards to our national security.” How long will that relationship withstand the pressure of millions of Muslims?
It never stops with the Jews. Merkel’s policies, however high-minded, are already splitting German society down the middle, an outcome she should have anticipated and about which her advisers should have warned her. The grievances of those who were not consulted, but who will be forced to pay, both in taxes and in quality of life, are legitimate. Some of the forms in which those grievances are expressed will not be.
Even here Mama Merkel bears responsibility. A good mother knows her children’s capacities and does not push them to the point where they break down.