Ahead of the Spanish general elections today, the foreign affairs minister of Likud, Eli Hazan, tweeted his support for Vox, a relatively new party on the scene of Spanish politics. Hazan went so far as to call it “Likud’s sister party.” Later, because of an outcry primarily from Spanish voters, he deleted the tweet and apologized for mentioning Likud when expressing his “personal opinion.”
So what, exactly, is Vox, and why was Hazan called out for supporting them?
Formed in 2013 by former members of Spain’s People’s Party, Vox gained popularity in reaction to the Catalan independence movement. Members of Vox believed that then-president Mariano Rajoy’s response to the region’s attempts to split from Spain were too “weak,” and they sued him for “dereliction of duty.” To be clear, Rajoy’s response to the Catalan independence referendum–which Spanish courts ruled was illegal–was to send more than 10,000 Guardia Civil police officers to stop the vote from happening with any means at their disposal, said means including batons, rubber bullets, and tear gas. Around 1,000 Catalan citizens were injured in the violence that ensued. This, according to Vox, was “too weak.” I’m not exactly clear on what kind of reaction they would have felt was adequate, but given the rest of their platform, I’m not sure I want to know.
Vox is a far-right, ultra-nationalist populist party. Their candidates have included Holocaust revisionists and unreformed former members of Franco’s fascist regime. They oppose non-Christian immigration, feminism, “globalization,” and “elites.” Their campaign draws on slogans borrowed from Trump (“Hacer España grande otra vez“–“Make Spain Great Again”) and on symbols of the Reconquista, the Christian “reconquest” of the Iberian peninsula that ultimately resulted in the expulsion of Muslim rule from the region (followed immediately by the expulsion of the Jews from Spain). They look back fondly on the country’s fascist past, glorifying a uniform and rigid Spanish Catholic identity at the expense of ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities.
If they’re anybody’s “sister party,” it would be Otzma Yehudit.
Why, then, does Eli Hazan support them?
This is just another round in an extremely worrying trend in today’s politics. We see it with Trump from the US, Bolsonaro from Brazil, and Orbán from Hungary on the one hand, and Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, and Ilhan Omar on the other. Support for Israel is becoming associated more and more with right-wing political movements across the globe, and less and less with the liberal left.
And instead of distancing themselves from such unsavory bedfellows, our leaders have been embracing them. Netanyahu’s gushing love for Trump is widely known. He also welcomed Orbán and Bolsonaro with much enthusiasm and affection.
To be fair, it’s not like we’re choosing these right-wing nutcases over fair-minded left-wingers who are offering unconditional support. The liberal left has been slowly abandoning us; distorted and mistaken perceptions about the nature of the Israeli-Arab conflict have been entering the mainstream, resulting in anti-Israel sentiments that sometimes border on (or cross the line into) antisemitism. In lieu of support from the left, Bibi has been looking elsewhere for allies.
So when Vox posts this article expressing support for Israel in its fight against BDS and Muslim terrorists, people like Hazan swallow that support whole without bothering to check the ingredients.
Just because someone offers us their support, doesn’t mean we should accept it. Trump may have recognized Jerusalem as our capital and the Golan Heights as being Israeli territory, but he also decided to pull out of Syria on a whim. Orbán may have said nice things about Israel, but he also said he wants to model his country’s government after those of Russia, China, and Turkey. Bolsonaro may have laid a wreath at Yad Vashem, but he has also made ominous statements about gays and showed alarming ignorance about Nazism and the Holocaust.
The Israeli-Arab conflict is a topic that people tend to react to with impulsiveness and a great deal of emotion. Why this is–especially when the person reacting has no connection whatsoever to Israel, Palestine, or Jewish or Palestinian identity–is a topic for another article. Vox is just another right-wing group capitalizing on our knee-jerk reaction to any expression of support for Israel. These people are using us. They are leveraging our desperation for allies to gain blind support for their anti-democratic, ultra-nationalist agendas. Even worse, by accepting their support, we are further entrenching the unacceptable idea that support of Israel only has a place among the political right. In a world where politics have become increasingly polarized, the last place we want to end up is in the camp with the xenophobes, racists, white supremacists, and fascists.
We must not fall into their honey traps, and we must not remain silent when our politicians get too friendly with the likes of Vox.