The sinister pact between Israel and Europe’s far right

The sinister pact between Israel and Europe’s far right

The sinister pact between Israel and Europe’s far right
Jordan Bardella talks to journalists in Paris, France, July 8, 2024. (Reuters)
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The surprise victory of an alliance of leftist parties, the New Popular Front, in France’s parliamentary elections on Sunday has rattled the country’s far right, which had won the first round of the snap elections a week before and was hoping to repeat its gains and form a government for the first time since the Second World War. Such a victory would have unsettled the political landscape of Europe, threatened the unity of the EU and sent an ominous message to millions of immigrants in the continent and beyond.
While populist ultranationalist parties across Europe expressed shock at the result, they were joined by the Israeli political establishment, which was hoping for a far-right victory. The head of the conservative and right-wing political party Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, said after Sunday’s results that “the victory of a radical leftist party in France means the rise of hatred against Israel and a spike in antisemitism, and I call on Jews in France to immigrate to Israel.”
Lieberman said that Jean-Luc Melenchon and many members of his France Unbowed party show pure antisemitism, as he put it. The head of the party in the French National Assembly had said that Paris would recognize the state of Palestine in the coming two weeks.
Liberman’s reaction points to the controversial ties between Israel and Europe’s far-right parties. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist coalition partners have been cheering for Europe’s far right despite its notorious antisemitic legacy.
For years, Netanyahu has been courting populist European figures such as Santiago Abascal, the leader of Spain’s far-right Vox party, and Serbia’s ultranationalist President Aleksandar Vucic. He has links with other European populist leaders, including the staunchly anti-Islam Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, the young French far-right leader Jordan Bardella and Hungary’s ultranationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The meteoric rise of far-right parties in many European countries, as indicated by the results of the recent European Parliament elections, should worry Israel’s leaders. But it does not. Netanyahu has been able to find common ground with these parties, such as Islamophobic, fear-mongering rhetoric and the apparent need to preserve a shared Judeo-Christian culture against foreign intruders, especially Muslims.
Netanyahu has portrayed Israel’s onslaught on Gaza as a war on behalf of the West, saying that Israel’s victory would be the West’s victory. He has underlined that Israel’s ability to thwart an Iranian invasion would guarantee the stability of countries like Egypt, the collapse of which would lead to millions of illegal migrants heading to Europe, in his view.
In response, many of Europe’s far-right parties have muted their antisemitic rhetoric, despite a rise in antisemitism in the West in recent years. Anti-Israel sentiments had spiked in many Western countries as a result of the war on Gaza. Still, Israel has been successful in calling on Western governments, such as Germany and the US, to equate anti-Zionism with antisemitism.
Far-right European parties and politicians have come out in support of Israel’s war against Hamas, saying that Israel had the right to self-defense and that “Islamist terrorists” — a term that Netanyahu uses a lot — were seeking to destroy Israel. Some have gone as far as rejecting any move to recognize a Palestinian state or even support a two-state solution, identifying completely with Israel’s far-right parties and government.
Wilders insisted that the Netherlands’ newly formed center-right government committed to moving the Dutch Embassy to Jerusalem at “the appropriate time.” Orban’s close relations with Netanyahu have raised eyebrows, especially since the followers of the Hungarian premier’s party are often accused of being antisemitic. But for the ultranationalist leader, preventing the supposed Islamization of Europe and protecting its Judeo-Christian heritage are a priority. In late October last year, Hungary voted against a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, in support of Israel.
Orban is also euroskeptic and opposes the EU’s immigration policies, as well as its position on the Russia-Ukraine war.
The pro-Israel trend among Europe’s far-right parties is not new. A European Coalition for Israel assessment of the European Parliament’s ninth term, which concluded this year, found that the 20 parties whose votes were most favorable to Israel all belonged to the far-right and euroskeptic groupings, mainly the European Conservatives and Reformists, including Vox and the Sweden Democrats.
One other reason the far-right parties back Israel is not publicly discussed. Europe’s persecution of the Jews did not start with the rise of Adolf Hitler. European countries persecuted the Jews for centuries, leading to the birth of Zionism in the 19th century and the search for a Jewish homeland. For far-right politicians, the survival of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians relieves Europe of its Jewish burden.
For ultranationalist leaders in both Europe and Israel, the rise of antisemitism in the West can be put to good use by encouraging European Jews to move to Israel for fear of a repeat of past pogroms. Being pro-Palestine and against Israel’s occupation policies is often described as anti-Zionism, which is conflated with antisemitism. It does not matter as long as it can be utilized to export Europe’s Jewish problem. Ironically, the far right on both sides of the equation look to benefit from this.

For far-right politicians, the survival of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians relieves Europe of its Jewish burden.

Osama Al-Sharif

While Israel is facing international isolation because of its atrocities in the Occupied Territories, it is being backed by populist leaders like Donald Trump, Argentina’s Javier Milei, India’s Narendra Modi and others. The common enemies here are Islam and Muslims. Netanyahu and his gang have managed to ride the anti-Islam wave that is the central platform of Europe’s far right.
Few Israeli politicians have raised concerns about the emerging alliance between Israel and the far right, which holds views counter to Israel’s self-proclaimed democratic values. But those that have spoken out see such an alliance as undermining Israel’s standing, especially among more liberal European parties and voters.
Israel’s current government is a far-right, fascist and supremacist body that now identifies with European parties that share the same values. While the Palestinians stand to lose support if these far-right parties ever come to power, including Trump’s possible reelection in November, the damage to the world will be much more significant. But in the short run, Israel’s radicals will find allies in the next generation of European leaders, as more voters shift to the far right to protest the status quo political establishment and the failings of the US-led Western world.

  • Osama Al-Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. X: @plato010
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