Why Israel embraces its honest friends on the European Right.
There seems to be a conundrum in Israel with regards to European nationalist parties. Top level officials at Israel’s Foreign Ministry are determined to continue the boycott of right-wing European parties, whether or not they have distanced themselves from anti-Semitism or are pro-Israel. Yet, in a recent Likud party faction meeting in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), the question was asked of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who serves as Foreign Minister as well, why officials of the Foreign Ministry are preventing Likud MP’s from meeting with leaders of pro-Israel European nationalist parties such as Heinz-Christian (HC) Strache, leader of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), and to a much lesser extent with Geert Wilders, the leader of the Netherlands Freedom Party, and one of Israel’s foremost advocates. Both Geert Wilders and HC Strache have a good chance to become prime ministers of their respective countries, and both are staunch supporters of the Jewish state.
What seems to be inexplicable is why Israel’s Foreign Ministry is willing to boycott pro-Israel right-wing parties, but not the anti-Israel European leftist parties. True, the Austrian Freedom party was once led by a neo-Nazi named Jörg Haider who had a long public record of defending the policies of Nazi Germany and of justifying individual actions during those years. That however, is not true about its current leader, HC Strache, who took over leadership of the party in 2005.
In commemoration of the International Holocaust Day in January, Strache wrote a letter to PM Netanyahu saying: “Today, my colleagues and I bend our heads down with respect for the memory of the Six Million Jews murdered by the Nazis during the Shoah.” He added that this was the most horrific crime in the history of humanity. He also wrote that as a lesson from the Shoah (Holocaust) it is imperative to wage war against all manifestations of anti-Semitism, and that “anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism is no different from anti-Semitism.”
Strache expressed his position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, saying that “Any peace agreement must include security arrangements that will insure Israel’s security and well-being.” He quoted the late Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban who described the “Green Line” as “Auschwitz Borders.” Strache has visited Israel many times and especially Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, and promises to do everything in his power to help Israel.
It would be wrong to assume that all right-wing nationalist parties in Europe have suddenly become pro-Israel and are rejecting anti-Semitism. Hungary and Greece are a case in point. The right-wing Jobbik party describes itself as a principled conservative and radically patriotic party whose fundamental purpose is protection of Hungarian values and interests. Jobbik, the third largest party in the Hungarian parliament, rejects global capitalism, European integration, and Zionism. Greece’s Golden Dawn party is a far-right nationalist political party led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos, who described his party as “racist.”
Left-wing parties in Europe have pressed for boycotts of Israel over the alleged treatment of Palestinians. In numerous EU countries, the left-wing parties and socialists in general are allied with Muslim radical interests groups in their countries. In France, the socialist party and its leftist allies led the way toward a parliamentary recognition of a Palestinian state. In Sweden, it is also the socialist leftists’ government being the first western state to recognize Palestine.
In Britain, the leftist Labor Party has been in the news over anti-Semitism pervading its leadership and rank and file, and its party leader Jeremy Corbyn is well known for his pro-Palestinian stance. Britain’s leftist Labor Party has empowered the far left for whom support for the Palestinians is uncritical. Unfortunately, the words, “That which the demonological Jew once was, demonological Israel now is” expressed by British political theorist Alan Johnson, ring true.
Roger Cohen, writing in the New York Times (March 7, 2016) about the leftist anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism, suggested that, “What is striking about the anti-Zionism derangement syndrome that spills over into anti-Semitism is its ahistorical nature. It denies the long Jewish presence in, and bond with the Holy Land. It disregards the fundamental link between murderous European anti-Semitism and the decision of surviving Jews to embrace Zionism in the conviction that only a Jewish homeland could keep them safe. It dismisses the legal basis for the modern Jewish state in the United Nations Resolution 181 of 1947. This is not “colonialism” but post-Holocaust will of the world: Arab armies went to war against it and lost.”
Alan Johnson, writing in Fathom Journal, outlined three components to left-wing anti-Semitic anti-Zionism. First, “the abolition of the Jewish homeland; not Palestine alongside Israel, but Palestine instead of Israel.” Second, “a demonizing intellectual discourse” holds that “Zionism is racism” and pursues the “systematic Nazification of Israel.” Third, a global social movement to “exclude one state — and only one state — from the economic, cultural and educational life of humanity.”
Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) pointed out in December, 2014, that, “what is fueling the rise of anti-Semitism in the UK and across the EU (European Union) is that there are many more Muslim voices, some of them are deeply critical of Israel, some of them question Israel’s right to exist.” Ostensibly, there is an unholy alliance between the European political-left and radical Muslims.
The European political-left has been calling for unlimited immigration, and for a post-national world, using the slogan “united in diversity.” Islamic terrorism throughout Europe has not fazed them in any way. They also never liked Jews in particular, so it was natural for them to work together with local Muslim communities and the Arab states.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry must carefully consider its friends and foes, and the time has come to welcome Israel’s friends in Europe, especially individuals and parties such as Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party for the Netherlands. Wilders said about Israel, “I have visited many countries in the Middle East from Syria to Egypt, from Tunisia to Turkey, but nowhere did I have a special feeling of solidarity that I always get when I land at the Ben Gurion International Airport.”
Wilders has told Dutch audiences that, “We in the West are all Israel,” and he called Israel “The first line of defense” against what he perceived to be a threat posed by Islam. He also stated that “Jordan is Palestine” echoing Ariel Sharon’s longtime slogan. He advised Israel to ignore the recent anti-Israel UN Resolution 2334.
Contrast that with the leftist Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-Israel rants. BBC-News reported on July 1, 2016 that “Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been accused by the Chief Rabbi of making offensive comments at the launch of a Labour party probe into anti-Semitism.” The former Chief Rabbi of Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks said Corbyn appeared to compare the State of Israel to the so-called Islamic State (IS), calling it “demonization of the highest order, an outrage and unacceptable.” Rabbi Sacks added, “The comments showed how deep the sickness is in parts of the left of British politics today.”
Israel today can no longer find friends in Europe’s political-left; it must therefore embrace the honest friends it has on the European political right.