(2 of 2)
There's more. To an extent that few Americans understand, modern Europeans have a deep sense of guilt about their colonial adventures. (Indeed, they have much to feel guilty about.) Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, a chilling catalog of French atrocities in Algeria and a cry to listen to those denied a voice, is one of the post-1945 era's most influential European books. All this has had an effect. It was easy for Europeans to be on the side of Israel when, as in 1967 and 1973, it seemed to be fighting a defensive war against those who wished to eliminate the Jewish state. But as Jewish settlements grew in the West Bank, Europeans became uneasy. Israel seemed to be adopting a policy of colonization that to modern European eyes was not just morally reprehensible but also bound to end in tears.
Clearly, for some Jews these rationalizations are beside the point. Europeans, they argue, are just plain anti-Semitic. They naturally "portray Jews as the real villains," says Rosenbaum; they always have, always will. Well, I just don't believe this about the post-1945 generations of Europeans, though I suspect that's because I don't want to. But, undeniably, past European anti-Semitism has had a bitter effect on present European attitudes. Put at its crudest, most Europeans know very few Jews; they killed too many of them. In America there is a thriving community for whom the survival of Israel is a passionate commitment; in Europe there isn't. No number of school lessons or church sermons about the Holocaust can overcome that humdrum truth.
So why do Europeans and Americans see the Middle East in such different ways? Above all, because the shadow and shame of the Holocaust reaches out of the past and lays a cold hand on our present understanding. All the prayers in the world won't make that grim truth go away.