Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Why Are Jews Being Drawn To Europe's Right Wing Parties?

One of Netanyahu's undeniable successes as Prime Minister of Israel is his ability to increase the circle of Israel's friends. Part of his agenda to improve Israel's ties with other countries is his outreach to Eastern Europe. For example, he has extended Israel's friendship to Viktor Orban, the far right Prime Minister of Hungary. More than pursuing some vague, abstract goal, Netanyahu's actions can be seen as an attempt to weaken the EU's hostile strategy against Israel.

For example, last December, Hungary abstained when the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly rejected the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Hungary also joined the Czech Republic and Romania to block an EU statement criticizing the US for moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

For their part, right-wing Eastern European leaders get a hechsher, "kosher certification" from Netanyahu that protects them from accusations of being Antisemitic racists.

Now it appears that this wooing of Israel manifests itself not only on a global level but on a local level as well.

In his article in The Wall Street Journal, Bojan Pancevski writes how Europe’s Right Wing Woos a New Audience: Jewish Voters, reveals how right-wing groups in Europe are getting Jews to join their ranks:
Across Europe, anti-immigration parties with ties to far-right movements have stepped up efforts to recruit supporters in the continent’s small Jewish community, often drawing on perceptions in that community about anti-Semitism among Muslims.
Based on the recent release of the EU survey on the increase in Jew-hatred and hate crime in the EU, this 'perception' has a very strong and very dangerous basis in reality. The fact that much of this Antisemitism comes from the Muslim immigrant community makes Jews natural allies of the far-right.

The article illuminates a developing trend -
  • Jewish legislators in the Swedish parliament are members of the Sweden Democrats, a party with Neo-Nazi roots (that it has renounced).

  • Austria’s parliament includes Jews who are members of the Freedom Party, which was founded by former members of Hitler’s SS.

  • Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician and vociferous critic of Islam, has a Jewish legislator in his party.

  • In France, which has Europe’s largest Jewish community, about 10% of Jewish voters are estimated to support the National Front. The party has renamed itself National Rally.

  • Right-wing political leaders Ms. Marine Le Pen, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban have all traveled to Israel, building ties with the Israeli government as well as with their local Jewish constituencies

  • Emanuel Bernhard Krauskopf and about 30 others recently founded a Jewish chapter of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), the largest opposition group in parliament, among whose members are people accused of being Antisemites and right-wing extremists.
screenshot from YouTube video
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban meets with Netanyahu.
Screenshot from YouTube video

Screenshot from YouTube video
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. Screenshot from YouTube Video

Keep in mind that this is not part of an attempt to win the Jewish vote itself. According to the Pew Research Center, the total Jewish population of Europe is a little over 1 million, far less than the growing Muslim population.

The Muslim vote is more important than the Jewish one. What the Jews do offer, through their participation in right-wing parties, is their own hechsher of these groups.

Krauskopf says he doesn't mind “being used as a fig leaf" by the AfD in order to fight the growing Antisemitism, and no doubt many Jewish members of these groups and parties across Europe feel the same way.

But suspicions of AfD persist:
  • In January, a court ruled against an AfD member and lawmaker in a libel case after he was accused of being a Holocaust denier for challenging the number of the Nazis’ victims
  • The party’s co-chairman minimized the importance of the Third Reich in 1,000 years of German history. 
In response to such events, Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the country’s biggest Jewish body, said “a party that tolerates people playing down the Holocaust cannot possibly stand for the rights of Jews.”

Sigmount Königsberg, appointed by the Jewish community in Berlin to monitor anti-Semitic acts takes a different tack in addressing Antisemitism, noting that "if we want to fight it, we can only do it together with the Islamic community.”

This reaction in Germany is likely indicative of the kinds of reactions to be found by mainstream Jewish groups throughout Europe. Clearly, not everyone agrees that the right-wing parties are part of the solution and no longer part of the problem.

Pancevski does note an example of Muslim leaders making an effort to address the rise of Antisemitism. He quotes Mohamad Hajjaj, chairman of the Berlin chapter of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, who says imams in Germany work together in their communities and in their schools to fight against Antisemitism. Since only the example of Germany is mentioned, it appears to be a very limited initiative. After all, the potential backlash Muslim leaders would face for the perception of helping Jews or for supporting some kind of normalization with Israel is obvious. Don't expect any imam-led trips to Israel in the near future.

Of course, none of this is going to affect the ongoing Jewish love affair with liberals and the Democratic party in the US. Growing accusations that Jews are white supremacists will see to that.

For now.

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