Anti-Zionists’ new best friends: neo-Nazis

Participants demonstrate against racism and fascism in Helsinki, Finland, on September 24, 2016. (AFP/Lehtikuva/Roni Rekomaa)

On the anniversary of Kristallnacht, neo-Nazis vandalized multiple Jewish sites in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland with yellow star shaped “Jude” stickers. For the perpetrators, it was an ugly way to show how well organized they are.

It seems that the perpetrators in these cases are an anti-Zionist neo-Nazi group called the Nordic Resistance Movement, or the NRM. Between November 2016 and January 2017, the Swedish branch of the NRM organized three bombings in Gothenburg.

Recently, officials in Italy raided no less than nineteen Mafia linked neo-Nazi homes seizing a huge stash of knives and heavy firearms. How can we make sure that crime syndicate network in, let us say Sweden is not connected with the organized neo-Nazi movement of Scandinavia?

People in Finland took the neo-Nazi sticker vandalism seriously. As a response, the Finnish Orthodox Church organized a gathering where politicians and religious leaders together with ordinary citizens laid bouquets of flowers at the gates of the synagogue in solidarity with Finland’s Jewish community. It was a beautiful gesture from all participants to send a common message against anti-Jewish bigotry. In the Finnish media coverage, we saw Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians alongside with Sunni and Shia leaders in one harmony against the neo-Nazis.

Rising tide of anti-Semitism is a fact. According to last year’s CNN poll, more than one in four Europeans think that Jews have too much influence in business and finance. Only little more than a half of Europeans believe Israel has a right to exist. This is quite strange because many people explicitly demand that Israel must comply with international law. Yet Israel’s right to exist as an explicitly Jewish state is firmly based on the very same international law since the Balfour declaration and San Remo conference.

Still after a year from its publishing, I find the CNN poll findings crucial, for we must distinguish between the old anti-Semitism and the new anti-Semitism. I believe most people recognize the old time Nazi evilness easily. However, many seem to be confused about when the attitudes towards Israel cross the red line. So, we are dealing now with the concepts of anti-Zionism and Zionism. The question is, whether anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism or not. It looks to me as if it would be easier for European masses to show sympathy to Jews when they become victims of neo-Nazis than showing sympathy to Jews when Israel is attacked by terrorists.

In today’s western societies, many people are anxious about Zionism, which is why so many feel tempted to join the club of anti-Zionists. This phenomenon did not occur spontaneously. On the contrary, it is the result of long-term propaganda machinery initiated by the former Soviet Union since the late 60s.

After Israel had miraculously defeated surrounding aggressors in 1967, the Soviet Union launched a massive hate campaign, which demonized Israel as a racist and colonialist Nazi entity. As Izabella Tabarovsky, who is an expert on the Soviet Union’s state-sponsored anti-Semitism, writes, “The propaganda and disinformation campaign that the Soviets developed then, which demonized Israel and Zionism, served their specific domestic and foreign interests and was aimed both at domestic and foreign audiences. It was most likely this latter stage of Soviet anti-Zionism that forged in popular consciousness on the far-left false links between Zionism and Nazism, fascism, racism, genocide, settler-colonialism, imperialism, militarism, and apartheid.”

Moscow’s state-sponsored propagandists published hundreds of quasi-academic books and flyers. These ideas were embraced by the leftists around the world, for many of the books were translated into several foreign languages including English and Arabic.

The Nordic Resistance Movement’s Finnish branch has vandalized public places such as metro stations with stickers in which a fist crushes the Star of David with a caption, “Against Zionism” (Finnish: “Sionismia vastaan”). The Israeli embassy in Helsinki has been vandalized with a similar sticker too. (Juhani Huttunen)

Another factor in people’s involvement in anti-Zionist activism was Muslim Brotherhood’s propaganda in the early 2000s. In cooperation with UK Socialist Workers Party, the Brotherhood affiliated Muslim Association of Britain, which belongs the Brotherhood’s British network, had an active role in the formation of a far-left group called Stop the War Coalition. The coalition had three main themes, namely opposing the US-led war on terrorism, supporting the Palestinian cause, and anti-racism. In their protests, the Stop the War activists often carried signs, which one-sidedly demonized Israel as a racist ethnic cleanser, while the violence of such terrorist organizations as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas was portrayed as morally accepted struggle for “freedom.”

Following their KGB role models, anti-Zionists often compare Zionism to Nazism. Yet the reality itself speaks for the contrary, for both Hamas and Hezbollah are known for Nazi salutes and swastikas. Love is mutual here. Besides Hamas, neo-Nazis admire Iran-sponsored Hezbollah. In December 1st, the Nordic Resistance Movement’s Finnish branch published a news story about Germany outlawing Hezbollah. According to neo-Nazis, this was bad news as in their opinion, “Hezbollah does not even commit terrorist attacks.” Ironically enough, the neo-Nazis used the Times of Israel as their source.

In 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini launched a yearly hate event called Quds Day, which translates into Jerusalem Day, in support for the Palestinian cause. Quds Day is held on the last Friday of Ramadan, and it is world-widely known for promoting the annihilation of Israel. In Iran, the usual protocol of the day includes burning of the Israeli flag with accompanied chants, “Death to Israel.” In many parts of the world, Quds Day has been a violent anti-Jewish hate fest. Recent years, Quds Day has gained strange visitors and participants, as neo-Nazis in Germany have taken part in it.

Anti-Zionists often lament that alarms of anti-Semitism are just another way to silence the criticism of Israel. It is not. One is free to criticize and oppose Israeli politics. In the Knesset, that is what the opposition parties do the most. However, if this serves as comfort for leftist anti-Zionists, you are not alone. The Fifth Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a prominent American neo-Nazi David Duke feels the same. In November, the Anti-Defamation League ranked Duke’s Twitter account the number one anti-Semitic profile on Twitter.

As a response, Duke wrote, “It must not be forgotten that the term anti-Semite has become simply a blood libel to condemn anyone who dares to offer any criticism of the Jewish supremacist ethnostate of Israel.”

So, are we now clear with the red lines?

About the Author
Juhani Huttunen is a Finnish journalist who has focused on the Middle East issues. He is of a Lutheran Christian background. Views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect any official position of any agency or media company.
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