Jews, Israel, and the right wing in Europe

The Ukraine situation, in which Israel wisely chose to take a back seat position and not join the anti-Putin hysteria in the West (the genius Prince Charles referred to him as a new Hitler. REALLY?) brought to light a traditional Zionist/Israeli dilemma: what to do and say in time of crisis, when the Jewish/Israeli interest does not correspond with that of our main allies in the West, particularly the US. By refraining from condemning Putin, we refrained from supporting the Nationalists in the Ukraine, whose great hero is Stephan Bandera, the infamous
collaborator with the Nazis, who was eliminated by the Soviets only in 1959.

The recent elections to the European Parliament, which dramatically strengthened the extreme right wing there, added a sense of renewed relevance, even urgency, in terms of dealing with this question. We must quickly form a policy which will relate to those in Europe who are definitely racist, with anti-Semitic background, and yet claim to be pro-Israel because the enemy now are the Muslims, and because Israel is the ”front line” of the Western world in its struggle with Islamist Jihadists. What a consolation for us, as just for a change, the Jews are relegated to a lower place in the hate list of European right-wingers..

Some time ago, Ofir Akunis, a Likud deputy minister, welcomed a delegation of the Flemish Vlaams Belang, an extreme right wing party, which the Israeli Embassy and many, though not all, Jews in Belgium refrained from having any contact with. The Flemish party is now a great supporter of Israel, supporting the settlements drive, in short the wet dream of many in the Israeli right wing. If you support the settlements , how bad can you really be?

So, does Mr. Akunis know that in 2001, Roeland Raes, the chief ideologue of this movement, gave an interview in which he doubted the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust?

The same questions can be asked about the Austrian Freedom Party, enjoying 20 percent of the Austrian electorate. Austria is the homeland of Adolph Hitler, Adolph Eichmann and Odilo Globotchnik, and this is the party of Jorg Haider, who proclaimed his support of the ”good deeds” of the Third Reich.

As of 2005, the new leader of the party is Heinz-Christian Strache, who is pro-Israel, pro-settlements, anti-Muslim, and, in 2010, was welcomed in Israel as part of a delegation of like-minded European politicians.

The list goes on: the French National Front; the former Italian Neo-Fascists, Gianfranco Fini and others; the new British UKIP, which just
came on top of the Labor, Conservative and Liberal parties in the British Euro elections.

While it is good to know that we are not isolated, that we do have friends in Europe and that anti-Israelism is not the bon ton there, as some people would like us to believe, some questions still linger: should we befriend such political movements with their tainted history and questionable present? Do we really have a choice as we confront so much hatred from the left wing, the BDS movement, etc.? Loaded questions indeed, which cannot be fully addressed in this piece, but still a subject which I personally will refer repeatedly to in my future blogs.

Let us start by pointing to the sad but unavoidable fact, that the majority of those who are defined as ”Liberal”, surely ”Leftists”, and particularly ”Marxists”, in Europe as well as in the US are lost to us. There are many reasons, but “Third Worldism,” anti-Americanism and pure old, traditional anti-Semitism play their role. Karl Marx, himself a self-hating Jew, wrote in 1844 a virulent anti-Semitic diatribe On the Jewish Question. It is no surprise that his followers continue this line to this day.

What follows is, that the only possible reservoir of political support for Israel can be found among right-wing conservatives, a wide definition in itself, and in countries/societies which have not been imbued with Christian anti-Semitic traditions. It is not a coincidence , for example, that
we have much friendship in Asia, in India, where the new P.M Narendra Modi is an Hindu Nationalist and strongly pro-Israel.

In the Indian reality, being an Hindu nationalist necessarily means being anti-Muslim, at least very suspicious towards them. This is where we are back in the European court. Anti-Islam is fast becoming the bon ton in the old world, and a lot, though not all of these people tend, as a matter of fact , to be more amenable towards Israel, if not outright pro-Israel. Still, in Europe , as well as in the US , we can find those who claim, that even the rise of fundamentalist Islam is the inevitable outcome of the “Zionist invasion to Palestine,” and the agitation which it created in the Islamic world.

That said, the majority of the current right-wing parties in Europe are much more disposed towards Israel than not. It is always a problem to link current political parties directly to the past — in this case, Europe of 70 years back. That is to say, that if those parties deny any Nazi roots, and disown those who claim that, we need to be more nuanced
in terms of passing judgement on them. Along these lines, I argue, some of these parties do pass my own private litmus tests, among them Fini in Italy. In 1994 when he expressed a desire to visit Israel, I wrote an article published in Yedioth Aharonot, calling on Israel not to allow him entry.

Well, Fini and his followers do not need me or anyone else to prove their reformation. The man, one of Italy’s ablest politicians, has proved in the last 20 years that he moved to the Center Right. Fascism Mussolini style? Anti-Semitism? not to be associated with him.

In England, the UKIP are not a reincarnation of the British Union of Fascists of Oswald Mosley, the would-be British Fuhrer of the 1930’s. If at all , Nigel Farage’s raw model is Enoch Powel, a forgotten brilliant Tory politician, who 40 years back predicted what is happening now in Britain and Europe. In so doing, Powel killed his promising political career.

The same applies to Holland, where Geert Wilders today, and Pim Fortuyn (before he was murdered), are by no means the political
inheritors of Antun Mussert, the Dutch Nazi collaborationist, though Wilders’ anti-Muslim rhetoric is too extreme and inflicted with a sense of religious bigotry.

However, Strache’s Austrian Freedom Party, Le Pen’s NF, the Flemish Nationalists and others still have a lot to do before we can give them the Kosher certificate, particularly Le Pen’s movement in France. They need to say, and, more importantly, do much more in order to remove
any connection between them and the pro-Nazi past of their mother parties.

How can we make these definite distinctions? How accurate can we be? Well, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, and exactly because of that, we do need to use the benefit of the doubt against those parties which we cannot be sure about. Let them prove their innocence. It isn’t our business to enhance their respectability. The right wing in Israel, also known as the ”National Camp”, should be particularly strict in going through the process of vetting the new right wing parties of Europe.

Support for settlements, rejection of boycotts of Israel and anti-Jihadism are important, and not to be discounted, but Jewish nationalists
cannot throw aside these elements in the ideology of the rising right-wing parties of Europe which confront our historic narrative, and which compromise the position of our fellow Jews in the countries where they live. Just as we have reasons to be encouraged by some political developments in Europe, we should be doubly careful not to endorse all of them. Anti-Semitism is very much alive and kicking, and we are the state of the Jewish people.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina
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