Israel and the Jews, two separate entities to Europe’s radical right
The continent’s radical populist right has adopted its forerunners’ views on minorities, while Israel is a courageous vanguard in ‘the war against Islam.’
It is spreading further, it seems, than its counterparts of the early 20th century – to which some of these modern parties are linked through a national socialist history and to which the whole movement is linked via populism, an old-new ideology which pits a virtuous people against dangerous “others.”
Similarly, parties such as the Dutch Party for Freedom and the Danish People’s Party belong to a new populist right, albeit one which lacks a national socialist past. Miroslav Mares of the Department of Political Science at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic says that this new populist right can be categorised as national liberal, with liberalism only for “whites” or traditional Europeans within “Fortress Europe.”
As socialism presented a conceptual framework for racist policies during the last century, neo-liberalism is a socially accepted ideological vehicle for today, and the adoption of some of its concepts partly explains the success of national socialist parties such as the Sweden Democrats.
For example, Mudde writes that liberal ideas, notably free speech and gay rights, were not adopted by radical populists until they became useful tools for attacking Muslims. The same goes for some parties’ recent emphasis on a Judeo-Christian culture, rather than a Christian, secular or Völkisch-pagan Leitkultur (defining culture).
The movement not only takes the form of political parties which occupy seats in several European parliaments, but also that of a zeitgeist, one that permeates areas of the so-called mainstream.
An examination of pieces that appeared in the German media following the publication of a controversial book by the former Bundesbank official Thilo Sarrazin, in which he claims that Muslim immigrants to Germany are unable to integrate, and in the Swedish media after the general elections in September of this year, in which the Sweden Democrats gained a foothold in parliament for the first time, confirm philosopher Slavoj Zizek’s claim that comments which were unimaginable in polite society a decade or so ago are now socially acceptable.
In Die Welt for instance, one was able to enjoy management consultant Reinhard K. Sprenger’s world view and leadership advice. On October 10, 2010, Sprenger wrote that like the relatively poor countries in Europe and risk-taking banks, Muslims are parasites. (Sprenger actually uses the impersonal “das Parasitäre,” or the parasitical.)
Islam, he asserts, is foreign and will always remain foreign, and instilling fear is the only healthy way to deal with the parasitical. Only when it lives in fear of exclusion is it able to assume responsibility.
Thus, Sprenger claims, Germany is in need of a strong leadership that embraces the politics of separation, which Sprenger sees as a prerequisite for the politics of integration.
Zizek claims that what he calls the far-right is setting the general agenda: While mainstream actors condemn the movement, they adopt its perceived problems as real problems. Mares also believes that it is the established parties who take on the policies of the populist right, after a limited success of extremist parties.
Zizek calls the movement the only real political opposition, a description shared by its advocates. In a sense this observation appears to be correct: The populist radical right is anti-establishment, anti-liberal democracy and pro-the “Voice of the People” – this voice of course being the voice of the movement, and such views are certainly in opposition to fundamental tenets of modern Western democracy, such as the division of power, the protection of minorities and the post-war centrality of human rights. In a populist democracy, the “Voice of the People” holds primacy over individual rights. The populist radical right, however, respects procedural democracy, at least for now. In today’s Europe violence is not a road to political success.
On the populist stage, the so-called People is the primary actor. Like the Aryan of yesteryear, the People is seen as one body with one will, or as the mould in which all loyal nationals must be cast. Those who disagree are branded “cowards,” “traitors of the People,” “anti-democrats,” “multi-culti lovers,” “Muslim-huggers,” “the politically correct lobby” and so forth.
Against the People are pitted aliens of various descriptions. Some are considered to be outside of the nation, but inside of the state. Among them are grouped into ethnic or cultural sectors, each of which is stereotyped much in the same way as the People, i.e. as one body with a fixed set of characteristics and aspirations.
In contrast to the perceived identity traits of the aliens, the identity of the People is presented as morally and culturally superior. It is interesting to note that the ideal type has changed since last time around. The physical strength and beauty of the hard-working Aryan is almost gone from the imaginary world. The People is hard-working, in order to maintain the economic machinery in which physical strength is no longer of great importance. Health is still emphasized, however, since one of the positive characteristics of the People is that it is not a burden on the welfare system.
Three of these perceived enemies inside the state and outside of the nation are the Roma, the Muslim and the Jew. The Muslim is the primary target in Western Europe, whereas the Roma and the “traditional” Jew – there are some new stereotypical Jews in the West – are primarily targeted in eastern and central Europe. In his pan-European study “Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe,” Mudde gives a concise and partly useful characterisation of these stereotypes: The Jew embodies modernity, the Roma is the barbarian living on the fringes of modernity, and the Muslim is the barbarian living inside modernity.
From the time Mudde’s study was published in 2007, anti-Muslim theories have reached the point of biological racism. For instance, Nicolai Sennels, a Danish psychologist, author and candidate for the Danish People’s Party, claims that, “Massive inbreeding within the Muslim culture during the last 1,400 years may have done catastrophic damage to their gene pool. The consequences of intermarriage between first cousins often have serious impact on the offspring’s intelligence, sanity, health and on their surroundings.“
There are also conspiracy theories that closely resemble anti-Semitism, although they are hitherto less complex. Demonization has gone so far towards dehumanisation that it seems highly likely that much of Europe will pass draconian anti-Muslim legislation – all in the name of democracy, individual freedoms and human rights, with which the Muslim is considered incompatible.
The Roma population of Europe has been treated with hostility ever since they arrived in what is now Romania about a thousand years ago, after their territories in northern India had been invaded.
At first, they actually represented modernisation. Their skills were so badly in demand that the Roma were actually forbidden to leave the areas in which they had settled. Today, Sweden, and France in particular, deport Roma to south-east Europe, where they are forced to live in appalling conditions, such as tin huts in dangerously polluted areas. In Hungary, the Jobbik party proposes to build permanent guarded internment camps for Roma. It is also noteworthy that their life expectancy is the lowest in Europe.
But the plight of the Roma is traditionally met with indifference. There was, for instance, no significant outrage at a piece by columnist Richard Swartz in the liberal Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter (October 2, 2010), in which the victims were partly blamed for Romaphobia, and which drew a parallel between European Jewry before the rise of Hitler and today’s non-European immigrants.
Swartz wrote that, “It is in the nature of things that such an identity is built on traditions and values, which to no small extent are in opposition to those of our society… The same was true of large segments of pre-Hitler Orthodox Judaism… [Illiterate Roma] can hardly contribute to strengthening democracy and the welfare system and will be seen by others as a burden… Europe’s ancient Roma population is here also a representative of large immigrant groups from outside Europe which resemble it more than they resemble us.”
But while the depictions of Muslims and Roma are consistent and clear-cut, “the Jew” comes in many versions, echoing trends throughout history, when a scapegoat was needed to fit one calamity or another. As Mudde writes, the Jew can today be the symbol of post-modernity, with its perceived threats in the form of global finance, the media and other phenomena that cross borders. This is a rather traditional stereotype, which parties such as Jobbik share with some leftists who most often use the code-word “Zionist.”
And within the self-proclaimed pro-Israel populist radical right of Western Europe, such as the Dutch Party for Freedom and a faction of the Sweden Democrats, there is a tendency to demand certain conditions from the Jewish population, primarily that they should support “their only defenders against anti-Semitic Islam.”
This type of ethnic-specific loyalty requirement has been propagated by Swedish MP Kent Ekeroth, who simultaneously defends his party’s anti-kosher and anti-circumcision policies and accuses Swedish Jews of demanding respect for Zionism, while not respecting what he sees as its Swedish equivalent.
The conflation of Zionism with parts of the European populist radical right is most likely the only basis for the so-called philosemitism of this branch of the movement. Israel is idealized as the prototype mono-ethnic, monocultural state and as the courageous vanguard in “the war against Islam.”
Interestingly, this image of Israel is almost identical to the extreme leftist and Islamist depiction of Israel as a racist state, planted by the West or world Jewry as a colonial stake in the heart of Arab and Muslim lands. The fact that the proportion of Israeli Muslims is greater than for instance the proportion of Swedish Muslims is disregarded, as is the fact that Israel is multicultural and that its society has withstood far more violence and hostility than Europe before resorting to populist proposals such as the loyalty oath.
More and more often, the People is identified with the Jew, this time the Holocaust victim, not the Israeli soldier. In this way, the Muslim can be identified as the Nazi threatening to annihilate the People. In this bitterly ironic inversion of Europe’s history of racism, the Jews are used to legitimise persecution of the Muslims. In a similar way, the classic Jewish scapegoat is used to whitewash populist right views. He appears in statements such as, “I have met some Jews who sympathise with the populist right. Jews cannot be Nazis. Hence, the populist right cannot be Nazi or racist.”
The Jew is sometimes brought forward as the model assimilator to which Muslims, Roma and other groups are compared and found wanting. At the same time, the Jew is suspected of being the mastermind behind multiculturalism. Like all stealthy Jews, he manipulates the institutions of power for his own interests: He wants to destroy the nation he infiltrates, but he protects the Zionist nation. This new bad Jew, who very much resembles the old bad Jew behind both Bolshevism and capitalism, appears when prominent Jews take a public stand to warn their fellow Europeans of the dangers of the new movement.
As Europe has learnt the hard way, isolation and persecution starts with one group, and spreads. When even the Wallonians in Flanders, the Sami in Sweden and the “politically correct” are excluded from the pure People, there is no reason to believe that any stereotypical or real Jew will be accepted by any fraction of the radical populist right as anything but an anti-Muslim tool – and then only for as long he is considered useful.