European Union star insignia painted on concrete wall. barbiez/Flickr

A Clash of Western Civilizations

Images from the refugee crisis in Europe have sparked a surge of commentary about the “two Europes” – one welcoming, one forbidding. The truth is that disagreements over whether countries should take in refugees are symptomatic of a deep rift within the Western world.

PARIS – Images from the refugee crisis in Europe have juxtaposed smiling crowds in Vienna and Munich with grim, unwelcoming faces in Budapest. The result has been a surge of commentary about the “two Europes” – one welcoming, one forbidding. The truth is that disagreements over whether countries should take in refugees are hardly unique to Europe. The contrast on display is symptomatic of a deep rift within the Western world.

The divide cuts across the United States, the European Union, and Israel – and, equally important, across Jewish and Christian communities. On one side are politicians like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, US President Barack Obama, former Israeli Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, and religious figures like Pope Francis. On the other are Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán, French nationalist politician Marine Le Pen, US Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, the Cardinal of Hungary, Péter Erdő, and legions of other Eastern European clergy.

Each of the camps shares a fundamental outlook on the role refugees play in society. The first group consists of those who consider democratic values to be more important than ethnic or national identities. In their view, anyone who abides by a country’s laws can become a full-fledged citizen and contribute to the vitality of his or her adopted country.

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