Best columns: Europe
Let others criticize Israel
The nation that perpetrated the Holocaust will never be in a position to lecture Israel on human rights, said Jan Fleischhauer. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was inundated with praise last week after he refused to cancel meetings with pro-Palestinian groups in Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed were actively working to undermine Israeli security. Gabriel’s intransigence prompted Netanyahu to cancel his own planned meeting with the foreign minister, and Gabriel’s visit ended with “mutual recriminations and a badly damaged relationship.” Yet German pundits feted Gabriel as if he had stood up to a tyrant, rather than spurned one of Germany’s most important allies. I get it: It’s frustrating when Israel doesn’t listen to us, even though they are clearly harming Palestinian civil rights. But you know what? “There are plenty of other countries that also know what Israel should do, and that don’t have 6 million Jews on their consciences.” Sure, it’s a “heavy burden” for Germans to bear, and the temptation is strong to throw it back at Israelis, to say that they, too, have sinned, so we’re off the hook. That old saying “The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz” still holds true. Gabriel, who has spoken of his shame at having a “committed Nazi for a father,” is its living embodiment.
Inheritance: the enemy of equality
Britain is supposed to be a meritocratic society, said Ian Jack. But whether you wind up rich or poor will increasingly depend on a single factor: inheritance. Today, the average inheritance is worth just 3 percent of all the other income the inheritor can expect to get in a lifetime. But that percentage is set to shoot up, thanks to the soaring rise in real estate prices in recent decades. The housing bubble means the older generation now sits on a vast stock of wealth. Britons 65 to 85 years old today own some $517 billion worth of property, according to a new study. Most of them will pass the proceeds on to their children or grandchildren, who will invest in more property. That’s great for those who inherit, but it will have a dire impact on inequality, deepening the gulf between the propertied classes and those for whom owner-occupation is an ever more distant dream. Renters accounted for 9 percent of the housing market in 1985—now they account for more than 20 percent. “We are reentering the world of the Victorian novel, in which suitable marriages, contested wills, and misplaced legacies drive the plot.” The poor, meanwhile, “press their faces against the window.”