In the last century, one of the defining features of fascism in public imagination was the readiness of ordinary people to assemble in their thousands, waving symbols of hate, cheering on demagogues as they spread their bile.
For a student of history, it is not necessary to watch newsreels from the 1930s to fully understand this concept. In the twenty-first century, barely 70 years since the end of the Second World War, you only need to attend protests outside your local Israeli consulate to witness fascism in action.
In every European capital, in nearly every major state in the US and even in a country as far as Australia, thousands of people are marching through the streets in support of groups, individuals and ideas which represent fascism.
As Israel exercises its legal and moral right to self-defence, the flag of Hezbollah is being paraded around the world – a phenomenon which has been barely reported. Hezbollah are a radical Shia Islamist group which has facilitated terrorism on a global scale. They have murdered US marines in Beirut, they have murdered Israeli tourists in Bulgaria and they have massacred thousands of civilians in Syria.
Why do so many ordinary people have so much sympathy for such a vile organisation?
In a narrow sense, Hezbollah are not even a party to this current conflict. The reason why their flag is waved so avidly is testimony to the reality that most anti-Israel demonstrations are not humanitarian displays of sympathy for the Palestinian people. Instead, they are spontaneous demonstrations of support for a fascistic ideology which groups like Hezbollah represent.
Jeffrey Goldberg has best summarised the disturbing ideology of Hezbollah. It represents a ‘‘melding of…antique anti-Semitic beliefs with conspiracy theories of European fascism.’’
In Warsaw, a friend of mine was witness to Poland’s main neo-Nazi group brandishing Hezbollah flags while chanting their demand for Jews to ‘drown in the Dead Sea’ – or alternatively, ‘return to the chimneys of Auschwitz.’
You don’t need to go to Poland in order to see such unashamed exhibitions of anti-Semitism. I’m writing this blog in the south of France. In Paris last week, Trade Unionists and Islamists alike attacked two Synagogues as demonstrations quickly turned violent.
When white supremacists voice support for Islamic supremacism, when the far-right walks side by side the far-left, the only logical explanation is a common undercurrent of hatred towards Jews.
In London (where Hezbollah flags have become quite familiar), a reported 10,000 people hijacked the streets of leafy Kensington last Friday. They eagerly applauded Britain’s most famous cheerleader for Hamas, the Member of Parliament for Bradford West.
In a picture which went viral, some protesters climbed atop a traditional London bus which they had seized control of. It was a leading headline in London’s most widely circulated newspaper.
What was not reported was that a man near the centre of the picture was waving the ‘Black Standard‘ – the flag of violent Jihad, the preferred symbol of al-Qaeda.
The late Christopher Hitchens infamously saw no difference between radical Islamism and European fascism. As he put it, ‘both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind.’
In London, symbols of fascism are brandished in public without any public concern. Our MPs are too busy critiquing ‘Israeli war crimes’ in the comfort of Westminster than they are stopping intimidating displays of racism around the corner.
That man on the bus was not a humanitarian or a pacifist. He was expressing his admiration for an ideology akin to fascism.
Fascists are not humanitarian. This is such an old point, but where are the demonstrations against Assad? Where are the rallies against Putin? It is only the Jews which fascists are so disturbingly obsessed with.
Among Europe’s Hezbollah fans, anti-Israel sentiment is a matrix of hateful contradictions used to insult and defame the Jewish people.
They accuse Israel of being a Nazi state while proudly waving the Middle East’s equivalent of the Swastika.
I just don’t know what to think anymore.
I’ve had enough.