The old Nazi slogan “The Jews are our misfortune” adorned the pages of the antisemitic propaganda magazine “Der Stürmer;” the new Nazi slogan “Israel is our misfortune” has been on display in recent weeks wherever the German far-right party “Die Rechte” campaigned for the European Parliament elections.
While the tiny neo-Nazi party seems to have only a few hundred members and has been unable to garner more than a few thousand votes in elections since it was established in May 2012, the determined campaigning for this weekend’s European Parliament elections paid off with 24.430 votes. Thankfully, this amounted only to an irrelevant 0,1% of the votes cast in Germany. Shortly after the results were announced, a fairly downbeat assessment on the party’s website vowed continued efforts to organize a “broad resistance front” and emphasized the importance of attracting media attention, crediting the “anti-Israel agitation” with some success.
The fact that the party welcomes media attention shouldn’t tempt us to ignore its brazen efforts to get away with reviving Nazi rhetoric while posing as a victim of “anti-democratic” measures whenever their vile hate propaganda is challenged. It also shouldn’t be overlooked that “Die Rechte” is cleverly using the (far-)left’s argument that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism.
A revealing example of the obscene strategy employed by “Die Rechte” can be found in a recent complaint posted at the party’s website. The post is pompously labeled as a “press announcement” and the title prominently highlights that “THE RIGHT condemns the incitement” against its “Israel-critical campaign poster” and demands constitutional protection from legal authorities.
The poster that garnered quite a bit of negative attention in the German media shows the Israeli flag as a background for a big red square that displays the message “Israel is our misfortune!” The text printed in smaller letters on top of it says “Stop Zionism”, below is: “Put an end to it!”
Numerous tweets show the poster at various recent campaign events of the party. While none of these events seems to have attracted more than a handful of people, party activists had a moment of pride when they hung the poster on a signpost that marks the location of the destroyed synagogue in the German town of Gelsenkirchen. The sinister text of a tweet that boasted about this feat alluded to fantasies of lynching: “Now they also hang at the synagogue… our posters!” What the party activists may not know is that there was an eerie echo of history, because in 1937, the street where the synagogue stood was renamed for the Nazi magazine “Der Stürmer.”
The “Israel is our misfortune” poster was also used by the party to contribute to social media campaigns calling for a boycott of this year’s Eurovision song contest, which was just held in Tel Aviv. Party leader Sascha Krolzig boasted of representing “the anti-Israel original”, and some of these tweets included the slogans #FreePalestine and #intifada.
This is just one illustration that the party’s claim to represent “the anti-Israel original” doesn’t prevent it from enthusiastically supporting the copycats on the opposite end of the political spectrum. The previously mentioned post complaining about the undemocratic “incitement” against the “Israel-critical campaign poster” includes a suggestion to turn the taking down of one of the posters into a fundraising opportunity for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that targets Israel.
According to the post, a ladder that was used to take down the poster was brought from a nearby synagogue, and as far as “Die Rechte” is concerned, justice now requires that this crime “tool” should be confiscated by the police and then auctioned off to benefit BDS. Pledging 200 Euros as a starting offer for the auction, the post provides a link to the German BDS website and hails the movement as a transnational civil society initiative dedicated to efforts “to isolate the Zionist aggressor state” politically, economically and culturally in defense of “the rights of the Palestinian people.”
It would be wrong to dismiss this as a disingenuous attempt of the far-right to gain legitimacy by latching on to a cause that is popular among the supposedly progressive left. The fact of the matter is that the slogan “Israel is our misfortune” provides a pretty accurate summary of the core message promoted in BDS activism. If your activism focuses laser-like on casting the world’s only Jewish state as the despicable Jew of the nations – an illegitimate “settler colonial” entity that is guilty of unspeakable crimes including “apartheid” and “genocide” – every Jew-hater will hear tunes that sound pleasantly familiar.
To be sure, whereas the far-right is happy to openly embrace far-left anti-Israel activism, the far-left will eagerly disavow their fellow-Israel haters on the far-right – at least in public. In private Facebook groups, it’s a different matter: as we know from years of endless revelations about antisemitism in the British Labour party, Holocaust deniers, white supremacists, and peddlers of assorted antisemitic conspiracy theories can be cherished members of supposedly progressive “pro-Palestinian” groups as long as outsiders don’t know about it.
It apparently doesn’t matter that by now there are not only countless articles but also several excellent books that document and analyze the kind of left-wing antisemitism that the far-right is all too happy to support. Anti-Israel activists will ignore all this and insist that it’s just a regrettable misunderstanding if the far-right supports their “anti-Zionism” that has nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism.
Inevitably, this denial benefits the far-right: if it’s not antisemitic to demonize the world’s only Jewish state as a monstrous evil that has to be eliminated to make the world a better place, there’s nothing wrong with the “Israel is our misfortune” poster. Replace the bottom banner that advertises “Die Rechte” with an advertisement for BDS, and this not-at-all-antisemitic poster that conveys so well what BDS is all about can be hung at the signpost marking Gelsenkirchen’s destroyed synagogue without offending any reasonable person. After all, it’s just one of those unfortunate coincidences that the Nazi-slogan was “The Jews are our misfortune” and that nowadays, so many “progressives” feel that the world’s only Jewish state is our misfortune.
To its credit, the German parliament doesn’t think much of such coincidences and recently condemned BDS as antisemitic, noting that BDS campaigns “recall the most terrible phase of German history.”