Article Library / 2015

2014-2015 Annual Assessment

Nationalist parties with different ideologies and goals can be found throughout Europe. The most relevant distinction that could be drawn for our purposes is between the “old far right” (nostalgic for Nazi and fascist past) and the “new far right” (threatened by Islamization), they consider Israel and the Jews allies against Islam. Drawing on the discourse analysis works of Ruth Wodak, we may classify the populist parties and movements into four general groups.10

  1. “Old far right”: These parties gain support despite ambivalence about the fascist and Nazi past (e.g., in Austria, Hungary, Italy, Romania, and France). Part of them – such as the Pegida movement and NPD party in Germany, Golden Dawn in Greece, and Jobbik in Hungary – are blatant anti-Semites that deny the Holocaust and engage in anti-Jewish and anti-Israel propagandizing. Some, such as NPD, even support militant Islam.
    For far-right populist parties such as French’s National Front, Italian’s National Alliance and Austrian’s PVO, the situation is less clear-cut because their leaders have understood that in order to ascend to power they need to shift their discourse. It is very difficult to say whether this narrative shift is backed or not by a genuine transformation of their worldviews The “new radical right” partisans are doubtful and accuse them of “being stuck in the channels of ethnic nationalism and European supremacy, petty border disputes (e.g. over Alto Adige/South Tyrol in Italy or South Flanders in France), and wasteful anti-American and anti-Israel sentiments.” We will return to this issue later.
  2. “New radical right”: Focusing primarily on a perceived threat from Islam, these organizations constitute a break with historical fascism via the adoption of (procedural) democracy. Political parties that are focusing on their opposition to Islam are notably found in Netherlands, UK, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland. A reflection of their view that a “clash of civilizations” is underway between the West and global Islam, some of these organizations have downsized their ethnic nationalism and have embraced the United States and Israel. They do not perceive the few and socially integrated local Jews as a civilizational threat and they sincerely view Israel as an ally in this struggle. Such a new-type radical rightist is the Dutch politician Geert Wilders and his Party of Freedom (PVV), now the third largest party in the Dutch parliament and the de facto support party of the current Dutch government. Wilders, a fanatical defender of all things “Western” and “Israeli,” comes from the political mainstream and has always shunned the Dutch radical right. Nigel Farage of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) who is known as an enthusiastic supporter of Israel, also belongs to this new radical right. The party even has a caucus called “the UKIP Friends of Israel.” Asked by the British Jewish Chronicle about his stance on current Jewish concerns such as attacks on kosher slaughter, Farage explained that a UKIP politician had recently investigated a kosher slaughterhouse in London’s East End and asserted that Jewish ritual slaughter methods are actually more humane than those in non-kosher abattoirs. Examples of more marginal and controversial politicians in the UK are Nick Griffin of the British National Party (BNP) and Tommy Robinson, the leader of the anti-Muslim street protest movement English Defence League (EDL). They certainly support Israel and Jews today, but many of their adherents have problematic backgrounds.
  3. Traditional xenophobic parties: In European countries such as Hungary, Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom, we see the rise of parties that restrict their propaganda to a perceived threat to their national identities from ethnic minorities. Regarding the Jews, they are divided. Italy’s Liga Nord, for example, takes a tough stance on illegal immigration, especially from Muslim countries, and terrorism. While other xenophobic groups disdain the Jews, it supports the promotion of immigration from non-Muslim countries in order to protect the “Christian identity” of Italy and Europe, which, according to party officials, should be based on “Judeo-Christian heritage.”
  4. Christian fundamentalist parties: In post-communist countries, such as Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, we observe the rise of parties that endorse a fundamentalist Christian conservative-reactionary agenda. Poland illustrated the odd paradox of endemic anti-Semitism, illiberalism, and ethnic nationalism hand-in-hand with a pro-Israel stance. Poland is among the European Union’s most culturally conservative member states and is becoming more so. Young voters form much of the support base of Janusz Korwin-Mikke, an irascible monarchist and anti-feminist zealot whose party took 7 percent of the vote in the 2014 European elections, enough to win four seats. The rightward shift of younger voters has prompted the left-of-center newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza to dub them the “strange generation.”

While nurtured with Christian anti-Semitism and often distasting Judaism, these parties admire the Jewish sovereign state that comes to be seen, in Slavoj Zizek’s words, as “the first line of defense against the Muslim expansion.” In these countries with tiny Jewish communities, the potential harm to local Jews is minor. Real-politic alliances can be built with these players in a similar way that characterizes the robust relationship between the Jewish people and the large Christian fundamentalist organizations in North America.

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