AGEFI Luxembourg - novembre 2023

Novembre 2023 17 AGEFI Luxembourg Economie O pinion - by Paul N. G OLDSCHMIDT , Director, EuropeanCommission (ret.),Member of the Support Com- mittee of StandUp for Europe The misuse of this term is creating a deplorable confusion that is fueling the reawakening of ram- pant anti-Semitism. Beforewritingon this subject, Iwish to explainwhy I have chosen this particular moment to do so. Clearly, the current geopolitical turmoil, which is causing such grief and suffering, is the subject of widespread ignorance and prejudices. It has stim- ulatedme to address a question that affects deeply somany people for different reasons and to which I have givenmuch thought over the years. As the textwillmake clear,myname (Goldschmidt) identifies me, in the mind of most people with my Jewish heritage of which I am proud. This associa- tion, which seems so evident, is the symptomof the lack of knowledge and the corresponding lack of understanding which has allowed the fate of a minisculepart of theworldpopulation (0.2%) to en- gender somuch hate, jealousy and rejection. The potential consequences are imbedded in the current geopolitical template, when added to the challenges of poverty, climate change, the econ- omy, or demography, are cataclysmic. It is imper- ative not to overlook the responsibilities of those in charge of these overriding priorities who, through their deliberate manipulations, often enflame their public opinion to obfuscate their own weakness (Iranian Mullahs, Turkish President Erdogan) by exacerbating the growingdiscordbetweennations. Ignorance is man’s worst enemy, destroying the very fabric of society and inparticular universal val- ues that are key to world peace, development and solidarity. That is why we cannot allow “commu- nication” wars that spread “fake news” to shape our destiny. The resurgence of anti-Semitismis just one example fueledby these symptoms, alongwith the deliberate spreading of blatant lies and unre- stricted violence. Inhis course on “Judaism”, Father Rademakers S.J. of the Collège Saint-Michel in Brussels introduced his lecture with the phrase: “Where there are two Jews, there are three opinions!” This quipapplies perfectly to the questionbeing ad- dressed. Indeed, “Jews” donot agree among them- selves on the definition of the “Jew”. For some, “Jewishness” is conferred by being born of a Jewish mother. The origin of this rule results most probably from the isolation and dispersal of Jewish communities givinghardly anyopportunity to subservient women to pursue extramarital rela- tions, especiallywith foreigners; on the other hand men, often tradesmen, travelled continuouslyoffer- ing far more occasions to sire illegitimate children with non-Jewesses. Modern values, including equality between men and women, make such a definition obsolete. Additionally, this conditionwouldmakemanyde- scendants of prestigious European aristocrats “Jews”, ifwe refer to all thosewho - often to restore their dilapidated fortunes - marriedwealthy “Jew- ish” heiresses. On the other hand, descendants of Jews with names such as my own, Cohen, or Levi, who may have married “non-Jewish” women would beget children whose “Jewishness” would be denied them! For others, specific conditions must be met, such as circumcision for males. This is, of course, unverifiable in normal interpersonal relations.At the same time, for purelyhygienic rea- sons, circumcision has been extended far in excess of the world’s “Jewish” male population. It be- comes therefore a necessary but insufficient condi- tion to define a Jew. For still others, practicing a religionother than Judaismexcludes the possibility of being considered as “Jewish”; not tomention the quarrels between different denominations of Ju- daism(fromHassidic toReformists) that donot rec- ognize each other. If Jews find it difficult to define themselves, how can we expect others to do so? Is it a race? Scientific progress has sufficiently demonstrated the inextricable intermingling of lin- eages of the human species capable of reproducing withone another, provingby theway, thanks to the study of DNA, that Homo sapiens procreated with Neanderthals. It renders racist theories outdated and pure figments of the imagination. On another level, attempts have beenmade (e.g. by the Nazis) to define the “biometric” characteristics of the “Jew”, but to no avail. It is worth recalling that, during the war, the king of Denmark wore a “yellow star” as a distinctive marker to identify with his fellowDanish Jewish subjects and under- score the imbecility of the occupier’s regulations. Is it a specific religious practice, “Judaism”? Such a definition is of course acceptable but only if it de- nies the character of “Jew” to all those who are ag- nostic or practice other religions. Is it a question of belonging to a “community”? In the course of history, Jewish communities born of a diaspora dating back to antiquity have been sub- jected to discriminations of all kinds, notably in the earlydays of Christianitywhen the two faiths com- petedwith eachother.After the overwhelming suc- cess of Catholicism, anti-Semitism developed in various forms such as imposed living quarters (ghettos), restricted professional occupations and limited civil rights. This enforced isolation has en- couraged the maintenance of privileged links be- tween Jewish communities - often geographically distant. This distinctive feature enabled this small population to survive local persecutions, often by emigrating and spreadingwidely across the globe. Theminoritynature of these groups,wherever they settled, favored their designation as “scapegoats”, blamed for numerous calamities; they were aban- doned to popular vindictiveness and the authori- ties, would, in some cases, organize these “pogroms” themselves inorder to appropriate their wealth. (The king of France did the same with the Knights Templar). Moreover, after the French Revolution, which fa- vored the emancipation of Jews and their progres- sive integration into various national communities, tieswere severedwith a growingnumber of former Jews through secularization, religious conversion and interfaithmarriages. Today, the “Jewish community”, estimatedat some 15million individuals (or up to 23million depend- ing on the definition of who is a Jew!), has settled mainly in Israel (6million), theUnitedStates (5mil- lion) andFrance (500,000), with the remainder scat- tered around the world. With the exception of Israel, they constitute everywhere an infinitesimal minority (0.2%of theworld’s 8 billion population). When comparedeitherwith the religionswhosedi- vinity they share (People of the Book), Christians (2.6 billion), Muslims (2.3 billion), it is hard to be- lieve that this community has become a central el- ement in world geopolitics, and the subject of so much continued controversy over the centuries. However, a strong sense of solidarity, cultural her- itage and values has survived and permeates a sig- nificant proportion of the descendants of these ancient communities, including thosewhohavedis- tanced themselves from Judaismand their origins. The unspeakable tragedy of the Shoah during WWII was the result of the Nazis’ exacerbation of anambient “anti-Semitism” basedon racist theories that haddeveloped inEurope and theUnitedStates after 1850. After the SecondWorldWar, this led to the creation of the State of Israel, conceived as a refuge for the “Jews” who had been demanding since the endof the 19th century, a landwhere they could live in safety. This creation, ratified by the UN in 1947, opened a new chapter in the history of the “Jewish people”. It has proved to be just as uncertain and chaotic as the twenty centuries since their exile imposed by the Roman Empire. The choice of the Palestinian territory, then under British mandate, in addition to its historical foundations, enabled the interna- tional community to offload the “Jewishproblem”, inherited from the Shoah, onto the backs of the Palestinianswho - represented by the GrandMufti of Jerusalem - had supported the Nazi aim of total Jewish eradication. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whose ins and outs are widely commented on by the world’s media, has further complicated andblurredperceptions of the definition of a “Jew” and the use of this word in everyday life. Its latest iteration, currentlyunder- way in Gaza, is the harbinger of a third chapter in which “the Jew” will find itself at the center of a confrontation that couldbecome planetary. It could call into question the disappearance of Israel, if not the eradication of all Jews (fulfilling thus Hitler’s dreams), but also the endof democracy itself. These ambiguities are deliberately exploited by Israel’s enemies to steer public opinion, unprepared for the subtleties of language and therefore easily misled. For example, the State of Israel has promulgated the conditions for Aliyah (right of return) that a Jew mustmeet inorder to immigrate. The frequent sub- stitutionof theword “Jew” for “Israeli” contributes to the confusionbetween the concepts of nationality and identity. They are not interchangeable: indeed, many “Jews” have no intentionof immigrating and when they do, many choose to retain their nation- ality of origin to become bi-nationals, as evidenced by the current imbroglio surrounding the hostages held by Hamas. It is also common to blame the “Jewish State” or “the Jews” for events - certainly reprehensible - for which the responsibility lies with successive gov- ernments; today it is Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government who are criticized by amajor- ity of the Israeli population for failing to protect the country adequately. These misnomers (like those which attribute Putin’s crimes to the Russians or Russia, or to Mali the abuses of the military, etc.) contribute heavily to the exportation of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict to third countries, where the de- bate is derailed to focus on ideology, religious doctrine, home politics and the safeguard of do- mestic values. The aim is to extend responsibility for the current situation to “Jews” in general, thereby justifying their detractors’ support for Hamas terrorists, whatever barbaric acts the latter may have com- mitted. This has led to a significant upsurge in anti-Semitic incidents (over 700 recorded in France over the last two weeks). These criminal acts, conveniently pinned on the Muslim dias- pora, conceal, however, a low-key resurgence of indigenous anti-Semitism, which can be found on both the extreme right and extreme left of the po- litical spectrum. This development is one of themost disturbing fea- tures of the current situation, and constitutes ulti- mately a real danger to democracy. It is largely ignored by the general population, who wrongly believe that they are not concerned by this debate. This attitude ismirrored in the general geopolitical arena, where the majority of people feel uncon- cerned by the conflict in Ukraine, even though it will be a crucial element in the outcome of the au- tocracies’ struggle to impose a new world gover- nance based on the rule of the mightiest and oblivious to the rule of law. Conclusion I hope tohave demonstrated that there is nodefini- tive answer to the question “What (who) is a Jew?” In the interests of honesty and transparency, how- ever, I offer youmy own definition: “ A Jew is one who recognizes himself as such ” . This definition does not give the slightest justifi- cation to anyone to discriminate against a Jewish person, since every human being is equal in rights and dignity. Not wishing, however, to evade my own response in relation to this definition, I claim the right to be recognized as a Belgian national (a legal status), a practicing Catholic (a testimony to my faith) and a freethinker (a philosophy to which I adhere). This posturewill, however, never determe fromconsid- ering myself a “Jew” (like we were mostly all Americans on 9/11 (2001) or Charlies on 7 January 2015) whenever I encounter a situation in which I perceive that my interlocutor(s) is/are attempting to disassociateme frommy Jewish origins; indeed, I recognize the profound influence of Jewishvalues onmy upbringing, not forgetting the deep kinship that my Catholic faith shares with Judaism. Written on October 30, 2023 French version, see page 8 What (who) is a “Jew”? ©Freepik L a ministre des Finances, Yuriko Backes, a assisté aux réunions de l'Eurogroupe et du Conseil des affaires écono- miques et financières (Ecofin) les 8 et 9 novembre 2023 à Bruxelles. Dans le cadre du suivi régulier de la situation économique par l'Euro- groupe, les institutions ont présenté leur analyse des développements macroéconomiques les plus récents, ainsi que les éventuelles implications pour les politiques budgétaires dans la zone euro. Sur cette base, les ministres ont réfléchi aux principaux défis à venir face aux perspectives macroéconomiques et budgétaires de 2024, en vue de la dis- cussion par l'Eurogroupe des projets de budget en décembre. Sur base d'une note préparée par la Commission européenne, l'Eurogroupe a tenu une première discussion axée sur l'état actuel de la compétitivité de la zone euro. Lemaintien de conditions de concurrence équitables au sein du marché unique a été souligné comme étant la source d'un grand nombre d'opportunités. Le Conseil Ecofin a continué d'exami- ner la proposition de réforme du cadre de gouvernance économique (EGR).Au cours de ces échanges, des progrès allant dans la bonne voie ont été réali- sés, même si un travail important reste encore nécessaire, notamment en ce qui concerne les textes législatifs. De plus, les ministres ont fait le point sur l'état d'avancement de la mise en œuvre de la Facilité pour la reprise et la résilience (FRR). Ils ont notamment adopté des décisions demise enœuvre approuvant les plans de relance et de résiliencemodifiés, soumis par certains États membres. Enfin, les ministres ont échangé des points de vue sur l'état actuel des réper- cussions économiques et financières de l'agressionde laRussie contre l'Ukraine. En amont l'Ecofin, les ministres des Finances ont discuté de la situation éco- nomique avec leurs homologues des pays de l'Association européenne de libre-échange (AELE) en vue d'une meilleure coordination des politiques économiques en Europe. Yuriko Backes a également participé à un dîner informel entre les femmes ministres des Finances. Source : ministère des Finances (de g. à dr.) Christine LAGARDE, présidente de la Banque centrale européenne (BCE) ; Yuriko BACKES, ministre des Finances ©Conseil de l'Union européenne Yuriko BACKES aux réunions de l'Eurogroupe et de l'Ecofin à Bruxelles Défis macroéconomiques et budgétaires 2024