To be honest, it was something of a relief, a few hours after the London bombs, to leave the US for Britain. American expressions of solidarity with plucky Britannia tended to the Churchillian, not to say Shakespearean: We shall fight them on the breaches , dear friend. On the radio, some talk-show hosts played bursts of Elgar and "Rule Britannia." On arrival in London, by contrast, I found the local reaction to the terrorists, as expressed by the lads down the pub, to be rather more to the point: "Sod off, tossers."
Indeed. The sodding off of the terrorist tossers is devoutly to be wished.
But what if they don't? If one wanted to fight them on the beaches, to which beaches would one go? Despite the urge among Britain's friends across the Atlantic to present 7/7 as "London's 9/11," the label doesn't quite fit. Within 24 hours after September 11, it was clear that, somewhere, some sovereign state was going to get invaded. America simply could not afford not to respond. There's no sense of that in Britain.
Some readers may disagree, of course. The dust had barely settled on Thursday's bombings before Derrick Green sent me a congratulatory e-mail: "I bet you Jewish supremacists think it is Christmas come early, don't you? Incredibly, you are now going to get your own way even more than you did before, and the British people are going to be dragged into more wars for Israel."
Ah, the Jew is so infinitely cunning, isn't he? The Muslim world has spent decades assiduously peddling the notion that the reason a vast, oil-rich region stretching thousands of miles is mired in political deformity and other grim psychoses is all because of a tiny strip of land barely wider than my New Hampshire township. But Mr. Green is evidence of the theory's rampant post-9/11 expansion to wilder shores yet: it seems a thin sliver of sinister Zionists is now destabilizing the whole of Europe, if not the entire world.
Whatever the attractions of anti-Semitism, it tends not to work out too well for those who over-invest in it – see the Third Reich, and the loopier parts of the Arab world today. And even among my own correspondents, suspicion of the dread Jew seems to be blinding them to what last week's events may more plausibly portend: the Israelification of European life.
THURSDAY WAS an appalling act of savagery: the final death toll, in the high dozens, would have been regarded as a spectacular body count in the heyday of the IRA terror campaign; hundreds more will bear the scars of that morning for as long as they live; and thousands of other Britons – the families and friends of the dead – have had a huge gaping hole blown in their lives. Had this happened in 1975 or 1985, it would have been an act of murder reverberating through British political life for weeks and months.
And yet and yet? In the post-New York, post-Bali, post-Madrid reconfiguration of terror, it was arithmetically small beer. It lacked the searing iconic precision of using airplanes to demolish the Manhattan skyline. It added up to a bad day in Iraq, or a couple of bad days in Thailand, where far from the gaze of CNN and the BBC some 800 people have been killed by Islamic terrorists in the first six months of this year.
The British and many Continental police forces have long experience of terrorism, and are good – within the political constraints they operate under – at dealing with it. In their glory days, the IRA blew up members of the Royal Family and the British government. By the end of their campaign they were reduced to splattering grannies and expectant mothers across shopping centers. Now, as then, prestige targets will be secured against terrorism, and that will leave soft targets – in a word, you, your morning bus ride, that little restaurant you like. And, as in Israel, Europeans will get used to the idea that every so often, entirely at random, there will be days when your husband or daughter or best friend sets off for work and doesn't come home.
I say "Europeans" because, granted that in the eyes of Western intellectuals this is all the fault of George W. Bush, there are significant differences between Europe's and America's relationship with Islam. It was the late Ayatollah Khomeini who popularized the idea that the United States is the Great Satan – a shrewd shorthand in that it acknowledges not merely that the hyperpower is evil, but that he is a great seducer too. And when one contrasts the vast number of British, European and Canadian jihadists who've turned up in the thick of it in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Israel, Bosnia, Chechnya and beyond with the relatively insignificant number of American Muslims so embroiled, one begins to appreciate that the Great Satan is indeed a relatively effective seducer – at least to the extent that America seems to be doing a better job at assimilating Muslims than Europe or Canada. Of course, to assimilate you have to have something to assimilate with, and the yawning nullity of the European idea seems to be a wee bit deficient in that respect.
BUT THERE'S another difference, too, and this is what I mean by Israelification: the jihadists understand that Europe is up for grabs in a way that America isn't. Mandatory Palestine was, in the old joke, the twice promised land – hence, a Western democracy and a disaffected Muslim population exist in (for the most part) two solitudes but claim the same piece of real estate.
As it happens, that's also how more and more Muslims see Europe. And as their numbers grow it seems likely that wily Islamic leaders in the Middle East will embrace the cause of the rights of European Muslims in the same way that they claim solidarity with the Palestinians.
When France began contemplating its headscarf ban in schools, it dispatched government ministers to seek the advice of Egyptian imams, implicitly accepting the view of Islamic scholars that the Fifth Republic is now an outlying province of the dar al-Islam. As the Zionist Entity can testify, that's not a club you necessarily want to be signed up for.
Few European leaders have a clue what to do about this, but, as that French headscarf law and Britain's Incitement to Racial Hatred bill and Dutch responses to the murder of Theo van Gogh all underline, mediation between what Tony Blair called on Thursday our way of life and Muslim values has already become a central dynamic of European political culture – a remarkable achievement for a minority few Europeans were more than vaguely conscious of pre-9/11.
Meanwhile, across the borders pour not primarily suicide bombers or suitcase nukes, though they will come in the end, but ideology – fierce, glamorous and implacable.
That's the final irony of the Israelification of Europe: Distressing as it may be to Continental anti-Semites, in this scenario they're the Jews.
The writer is senior North American columnist for Britain's Telegraph Group.