Strange bedfellows: new nexus between Israel and far Right

My following essay appears in today’s Crikey:

Amid the acres of commentary on the exchange of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, one comment stands out: “Let the WORLD know about Israel’s humanity and the terrorists’ inhumanity”‰—”‰SHARE this one with EVERYONE you know, friends!” What makes it noteworthy is that it featured on the “Geert Wilders International Freedom Allinace”…  Facebook page, where supporters of the far-Right Dutch politician gather, one of many messages of fanatical pro-Israeli commentary.

The growing appeal of Israel to the world’s right-wing community has been developing for some years. Nevertheless, some examples are eye-popping. In July 2011, a Russian neo-Nazi delegation travelled to Israel, after an invitation by far Right Israeli politicians and an editor of a pro-settler news service. The Holocaust deniers visited Israel’s Holocaust centre, Yad Vashem, despite being photographed previously giving Nazi salutes and publishing songs celebrating Adolf Hitler on their website.

The pair was interviewed on Israeli TV. One said that the idea of the Jewish state “excites me” because it involves “an ancient people who took upon itself a pioneer project to revive a modern state and nation”. The TV journalist then asked how a neo-Nazi could now embrace Zionism. The other Russian quickly responded by explaining the common enemy they both faced: “We’re talking about radical Islam which is the enemy of humanity, enemy of democracy, enemy of progress and of any sane society.” In December 2010 a much larger delegation of European far Right politicians, including a Belgian politician with clear ties to SS veterans and a Swedish politician with connections to the country’s fascist past, also paid their respects at Yad Vashem. They were welcomed by some members of the Israeli Knesset and agreed to sign a “Jerusalem Declaration”, guaranteeing Israel’s right to defend itself against terror. “We stand at the vanguard in the fight for the Western, democratic community” against the “totalitarian threat” of “fundamentalist Islam”, read the document.

The signatories were some of Europe’s most successful anti-immigration politicians who long ago realised that backing Israel was a clever way to guarantee respectability for a cause that risked being framed as extremist or racist. One Israeli politician who met the delegation, Nissim Zeev, a member of ultra-Orthodox, right-wing party Shas, embraced the group: “At the end of the day, what’s important is their attitude, the fact they really love Israel.”

Yesterday’s anti-Semites have reformed themselves as today’s crusading heroes against an unstoppable Muslim birth-rate on a continent that now sees Islam as an intolerant and ghettoised religion. These increasingly mainstream attitudes have marinated across Europe for at least a decade”‰—”‰most starkly expressed in the writings of the Norway killer Anders Breivik, who slaughtered nearly 70 young left-wingers on Utøya island in late July this year.

Breivik’s interest in Israel wasn’t an accidental quirk of his Google search terms. It was reflective of years of indoctrination from that fateful September day in 2001 onwards. None of Breivik’s right-wing heroes openly praised his killings”‰—”‰politically speaking, half-hearted condemnations were the order of the day”‰—”‰because their vision of open war with Islam was arguably even more clinical. They cheered as America and Israel used the vast power of the state to attack, bomb, drone, kidnap, torture and murder literally countless Muslim victims in the past decade in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine, Somalia and beyond.

Breivik’s admired this Israeli “can-do” attitude but equally dismissed left-wing Jews who supported Palestinian rights. “Were the majority of the German and European Jews [in ’30s Europe] disloyal?” he asked in his “2083” manifesto. He went on:

“Yes, at least the so-called liberal Jews, similar to the liberal Jews today that opposes nationalism/Zionism and supports multiculturalism. Jews that support multiculturalism today are as much of a threat to Israel and Zionism (Israeli nationalism) as they are to us. So let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists. Conservative Jews were loyal to Europe and should have been rewarded. Instead, [Hitler] just targeted them all.” (p 1167)

Breivik mirrored the familiar separation of “good Jews” and “bad Jews” that appear in Western dialogue over the Israel/Palestine conflict. The nationalistic, Arab-hating Jew who believes in the never-ending occupation of Palestinian land is praise-worthy but the questioning, anti-Zionist Jew is a threat that must be eliminated. The commentators, journalists and politicians who receive mainstream acceptance and appear regularly in our media such as Daniel Pipes, who calls for the bombing of Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, are welcomed into the club of popular Islamophobes because they speak the language of domination and violence reflected in our media and political discourse on a daily basis.

My enemy’s enemy is my friend

Breivik’s conviction that he was a friend of Zionism created a moral challenge for many of those he had quoted in his manifesto. It was not a challenge many faced well. One of the more notorious, American blogger Pamela Geller, condemned the killings as “horrific” but not so subtly in the same post reminded readers that the young students who attended summer camp at Utøya were actually witnessing an “anti-Semitic indoctrination training centre”. How? Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store had visited the camp and called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, apparently making him an anti-Semite by definition. Regular Jerusalem Post columnist Barry Rubin simply called the youth camp, “a pro-terrorist program”.

Geller was further incensed that he even called “Palestinians” Palestinian, because for her and her fellow travellers the Palestinians aren’t a real people deserving rights or a homeland. “Utøya camp was not Islamist,” Geller assures us, “but it was something not much more wholesome.” Thus Islamophobia seamlessly morphed into blind and racist Zionism.

In Australia likewise, the Israel lobby skirted around this uncomfortable reality, both publicly repulsed by the murders but they remain on the record as arguing for boundaries on Middle East debate. Others simply denied that Breivik’s sympathises for right-wing Zionism was irrelevant to understanding his crimes.

Of course this was absurd. Exaggerating a clash of civilisations has become the bread and butter of countless keyboard warriors in the past decade, with ever-more brutal Israel placed at the forefront of this struggle. Demonising Muslims and calling for their death on a regular basis has consequences. Muslims replacing Jews as the supposed enemy aiming for world domination will come with a price.

Israelophilia in the service of Islamophobia

The message emanating from the Zionist crowd was at times conflicted yet clear; Breivik could be forgiven for thinking that Israel was striving for racial perfection. The Jerusalem Post provided clarification after the attack in a startling editorial. It claimed multiculturalism had failed in Europe, Muslims were a threat to societal harmony and clearly implied that an ethnocracy, such as Israel, was the ideal global model:

“While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatised or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right.”

The Post seemed to defend the mindset, if not the actions, expressed by Breivik, as a common and understandable attitude of simply wanting to “protect unique European culture and values”. These values did not include Islam or being proud of a racially diverse land. (A week later, the paper issued an apology editorial after a massive backlash against its position. Belatedly, the editorial noted that “Jews, Muslims and Christians in Israel and around the world should be standing together against such hate crimes”.)

Anders Breivik’s real motivations may never be fully understood but his love for Israel didn’t appear out of the blue. It was because Zionism and its closest followers have cultivated an image of a country that can only survive without integration, peace with its Arab neighbours or an end to the occupation. Racial domination is the dream. Breivik took this call to a devastating conclusion and his manifesto makes clear that his support for Israel is couched in the language of survival against an unforgiving, intolerant and high Muslim birth-rate world.

You can hear these views on any day of the week on Facebook, on Twitter”‰—”‰and in the Israeli Knesset.

*This is an extract from an essay in On Utøya: Anders Breivik, right terror, racism and Europe, edited by Elizabeth Humphrys, Guy Rundle and Tad Tietze, an ebook to be published on October 26. The book will be launched by Senator Lee Rhiannon and Antony Loewenstein , 6.30pm Wednesday, October 26 at the Norfolk Hotel, Cleveland Street in Surry Hills, Sydney.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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