Riding the Tiger: Zionism, Israel and the Far Right
Much has been made in recent years by defenders of Israel of the purported estrangement of the political Left from the cause of Zionism. This perceived anti-Israelism, borne out of the Leftist view that Israel is a fundamentally unjust and inequitable colonial-settler state, is argued to extend further from an ideological animus to one of racial hostility; a state of affairs which has been expressed as “the Left’s Jewish problem”. One of the key manifestations of this hostility is claimed to be a putative alliance between the Left and political Islam. Jewish and Israeli critics have written perplexedly about a union between the “illiberal Left and political Islam”, and other times of the Left’s “hypocritical embrace of Islamism”. However, these critics are somewhat muted and even silent about the links between pro-Zionist Jewish organisations and individuals with extremists of the political Far Right. Further, Israel has developed alliances and arrangements with several European parties of the Far-Right, a phenomenon that is redolent of the agreements reached between some within the Zionist movement and the totalitarian regimes of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy prior to World War Two. These contemporary alliances with nationalist movements, many of which are overtly racially conscious and in most instances, avowedly anti-Muslim, raise three key problems. First, is that such collaborations carry with them the risk of legitimising racist attitudes and philosophies. Secondly, it brings into sharp focus troublesome parallels between political Zionism and white nationalist aspirations, and, thirdly, it can be argued that they contribute to facilitating the creation of a climate of racial and religious intolerance, which will in the long run produce negative, unintended consequences for Jewry.
“In working for Palestine, I would even ally myself with the devil.”
- Vladimir Jabotinsky
The rise of nationalist sentiment has historically being a thing of concern for Jewish diaspora communities. The inevitable emphasis by nationalist movements on having a shared cultural identity and what often tended towards an inevitable insistence on racial exclusivity, left Jews vulnerable to being designated as an alien people upon whom fear, hostility and contempt could be focused.
For instance, during the interwar years of the 20th century, many European countries experienced a surge in the numbers of political parties espousing nationalistic ideologies which were defined by anti-Semitism. The anti-Republican alliance prior to and during the Spanish Civil War was marked to a degree by anti-Jewish attitudes. And while Spain had a relatively small Jewish population, the larger Jewish communities in eastern Europe were victimised during a period of increased influence of Fascist parties such as the Iron Guard in Romania, the Arrow Cross Party in Hungary, as well as the ultra-nationalist parties which emerged in Poland after the era of the philo-Semitic Marshal Pilsudski. In Fascist Italy, the promulgation of the leggi razziali in 1938 followed the template set by the Nuremberg Laws three years earlier by Nazi Germany. These developments were, of course, part of the prelude that led to the catastrophe that befell European Jewry during World War Two.
Today, nationalism and white identitarian-thinking is on the rise in both Europe and North America. Among the pot-pourri of political parties, pressure groups and media outlets are those designated as the ‘alt-right’ who espouse philosophies such as biological determinism, and who pronounce political agendas that aim to create white-only ethno-states. They are usually anti-immigration and invariably anti-Muslim. Some are avowedly anti-Jewish. Yet, while they are universally judged to fit into the far-Right of the political spectrum, there are significant links between many of these movements and Jewish individuals, Jewish organisations and the Jewish state of Israel.
While the record of historical and contemporary alliances and accommodations with extremist movements may ultimately be construed as a survival strategy for a people who have long perceived themselves as being constantly imperilled by the threat of periodic outbursts by other peoples who seek their destruction, these connections require scrutiny, not least because of the moral contradictions which they reveal.
What is more, the rationalising by some of the efficacy of such accommodations as the prudent exercise of pragmatism may come to be seen in hindsight as short-sightedness in circumstances where links can be made with situations where Jews as individuals and communities are harmed. For instance, if Jewish individuals or organisations co-operate with or otherwise give succour to white nationalist organisations on the basis of each having a shared hatred for Islam and its adherents, to what degree should there be a residual responsibility for acts directed at Jews in a climate of fomented hate?
They may also raise an uncomfortable analysis of a coherence in philosophies between the ideologies of groups deemed to be objectionable and that of the state which much of organised Jewry is pledged to preserve and protect. After all, it was Richard Spencer, an intellectual leader of the ‘alt-right’ who proclaimed his “great admiration” for Israel’s recently passed nation-state law. “Jews”, Spencer tweeted, “are, once again, at the vanguard, rethinking politics and sovereignty for the future, showing a path forward for Europeans.”
The implications of Spencer’s praise are not lost to the objective bystander. They speak of an ideological affinity which he has consistently alluded to. It was Spencer who while informing an audience at the University of Florida in October 2017 of the states from the past to the present which had influenced his thinking, offered a conclusion that “the most important and perhaps most revolutionary ethno-state, the one that I turn to for guidance, even though I might not always agree with its foreign policy decisions (is) the Jewish state of Israel.”
Spencer’s views about Israel and its state ideology were echoed by the far-Right Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, who in praising the passage of Israel’s nation-state law as “fantastic” and an “example to us all”, called on his countrymen to “define our own nation-state, our indigenous culture, our language and flag, define who and what we are and make it dominant by law”.
Many were simultaneously perplexed and repulsed by the presence of Israeli flags at rallies of Pegida, the German nationalist movement which is stridently anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant. This is a phenomenon repeated at rallies by offshoot groups in countries such as Britain and Australia where the flag of Israel has been waved alongside banners identifying with neo-Nazism and neo-Fascism. The blue hexagram and blue stripes of Israel have also been flown at demonstrations and meetings of the far-Right English Defence League (EDL), which for a period of time had a Jewish Division led by Jewish individuals respectively of Brazilian and Canadian origin.
In Germany, some members of the Jewish community offer vociferous support to the far-Right Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party. And as was the case with the EDL, it formed its own Jewish wing in October of this year headed by a female Jewish physician of Uzbek origin. The aims of the Jewish component is revealing.They are against the immigration of “Muslim males with anti-Semitic views”, and consider the AfD to be “defenders” of German Jews and Israel.
Some months ago, it was revealed that the Middle East Forum (MEF), a hardline pro-Israel think-tank had helped fund the legal expenses of Tommy Robinson, a former leader of the EDL, as well as the the costs of organising protests which had taken place in support of him while he was in jail for contempt of court.
The MEF issued a statement explaining that it had helped Robinson “in his moment of danger” in “three main ways”. These were firstly, by using “monies to fund his legal defence”, secondly, by “bringing foreign pressure on the UK government to ensure Mr. Robinson’s safety and eventual release”, and thirdly, by “organising and funding” a rally held on June 9th, 2018.
The MEF along with the David Horowitz Freedom Centre, which describes itself as a “right-wing Conservative foundation”, were both recently involved in attempts to organise a speaking tour of the United States by Robinson. Robinson is also employed byRebel Media, which is run by Ezra Levant, a Jewish-Canadian who is often at pains to emphasise the boundaries between the sort of civic nationalism he purportedly represents and the race-based nationalism of white identitarians. Yet, what these Israel-supporting entities have in common alongside individuals such as Debbie Schlussel, Laura Loomer and Melanie Phillips is a raison detre to stoke up anti-Muslim sentiment. It is an objective that is consistent with an overarching aim of political Zionism.
Stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment has been an avowed goal of Israel for many decades. The rationale behind this strategy is based on the desire to reframe the conflict with the Palestinian people and the wider Arab world from one between a colonising power and a people with genuine grievances about being dispossessed of their land, to that of a conflict between two antithetical philosophies with Israel purportedly reflecting the Western value system that is ‘democratic’ and ‘tolerant’, and the majority Muslim Arabs reflecting ‘tyranny’ and ‘intolerance’.
In other words, it is intended to create a climate in which the injustice of dispossessing the Palestinians of a substantial portion of land upon which they lived for centuries is overshadowed. A corollary of this is to legitimise the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from what land they have left in the militarily occupied West Bank, which many Jews, regardless of their ideological inclinations or level of religious observance believe is the God-given land of what they refer to as Judea and Samaria.
Israel’s relations with far-Right governments in Europe is based on harnessing the fears and misgivings that they have about Islam to the disadvantage of Palestinian interests. Thus it is that Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s current prime minister, sees the Right-wing governments of Poland and Hungary as key allies among the member states of the European Union who are useful when it comes to blocking policies and initiatives which are favourable to the Palestinians.
It is an alliance which Israel has strenuously sought to preserve despite misgivings over the overt anti-Semitism that plays a part in the policies followed by the ruling parties of both countries, as well as the historical legacy of eastern Europe as the repository of the most virulent forms of anti-Semitism.
Indeed, the Christian nationalist anti-Semitism of Poland’s Law and Justice Party and Hungary’s Fidesz Party, both purveyors of what has been termed “Zionist anti-Semitism”, forms the basis of a consensus ad idem with the Jewish state. The mentality of Zionist anti-Semites, whose ranks have included the Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Breivik, is to consider Israel to be the first line of defence against the Muslim hordes who in their thinking are primed to expand into Europe.
Netanyahu has praised Hungary for its abstention from the United Nations General Assembly’s overwhelming rejection of the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It had, along with the Czech Republic and Romania, blocked an EU statement criticising America’s decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
But such alliances with anti-Semitic, far-Right and other extremist states and organisations are not new to adherents to the cause of Zionism. There is a well-documented history going all the way back to the deeds of the modern founder of Political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, as well as key Zionist figures such as Vladimir Jabotinsky and Avharam Stern.
Herzl, the founding father of modern Zionism, reached out to Vyacheslav von Plevhe, the Tsarist minister of the interior who is said to have been the brainchild behind the pogrom in Kishenev, Bessarabia during the Easter of 1903. Herzl’s goal was to convince Russia’s influential ministers to use the taxes collected from its Jewish subjects to fund emigration to Palestine and to finance any forms of negotiation with the Ottoman Empire over the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
Eighteen years after Herzl’s meeting with von Plevhe in August 1903, Vladimir Jabotinsky met with Maxim Slavinsky, the ambassador of the pogromist Ukrainian leader, Symon Petlura in Prague. The idea was that Jabotinsky, the founder of the Haganah (the precursor of the the Israeli Defence Force), would organise a Zionist police force which would guard Jewish populations found in territories that Ukrainian nationalists could manage to reclaim from the Bolshevik Expeditionary Force which had run Petlura’s short-lived government out of Kiev.
Jabotinsky’s Ukrainian Pact of 1921 earned the scorn of many Jews who were aware that Petlura’s armies had been responsible for about half of the deaths of an estimated 60,000 Jews murdered in Ukraine between 1917 and 1921. But while his agreement had brought the disapprobation of members of the World Zionist Organisation, Jabotinsky, whose efforts on behalf of the allied cause during World War 1 had rendered him in the eyes of many Jews as an associate of the dreaded Tsarist government, would appropriate the words of Giuseppe Mazzini and boldly state “In working for Palestine, I would even ally myself with the devil.”
A deal with the devil is how many perceived -and still perceive- the agreement reached between elements within the Zionist movement and Nazi Germany. The Ha’avara (or Transfer) Agreement was achieved because of a coincidence of interests: The National Socialist aim of removing the Jews from Germany somewhat mirrored the Zionist goal of persuading German Jews to leave. And to Nazis such as Adolf Eichmann and Reinhard Heydrich, there appeared to be an inexorable logic to refer to themselves as “Zionist”.
Heydrich, a prominent leader of the SS is claimed to have remarked to his associates: “As a National Socialist, I am a Zionist”. And in a conversation with one Anny Stern, a survivor of Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, Eichmann, after ascertaining that Stern was a Zionist, told her “I am a Zionist too. I want every Jew to leave for Palestine.” Eichmann was quoted in a 1960 Lifemagazine article as informing Jews with whom he had dealings that if he had been a Jew, “I would have been a fanatical Zionist”.
The Ha’avara Agreement observed the following modus operandi: A German Jew would deposit money into a specific account in a German bank. The money would then be used to buy German goods for export, usually to Palestine. The Jewish emigres to Palestine would then receive payment for the goods which they had previously purchased after their final sale.
This occurred at a moment in time when the majority of world Jewry was embarked on a trade boycott against the Nazi regime, and the German Zionist-Nazi trade agreement arguably served to undermine this. It split the Zionist movement, and one consequence was the 1933 assassination of Chaim Arlosoroff in Tel Aviv soon after his return from negotiations in Germany.
While Jabotinsky had opposed any dealings with the Nazis and had sneered at Mussolini’s Fascist movement in the 1920s, as the 1930s progressed, he warmed to Italian Fascism which he began to perceive as “an ideology of racial equality”. In fact, he made an alliance between his Betar youth movement and the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini by establishing a naval training academy at Civitavecchia, a naval base north of Rome. Mussolini himself would tell David Prato, who later became Chief Rabbi of Rome that “For Zionism to succeed you need to have a Jewish state, with a Jewish flag and a Jewish language. The person who really understands that is your fascist, Jabotinsky”.
Another Zionist leader who counternanced forming an alliance with Fascist Italy was Avharam Stern. Stern was the leader of the terror group known as Lohamei Herut Yisrael (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel), which is better known today by the British designation ‘The Stern Gang’. The group was formed after Stern’s release from British custody in 1940 and was an offshoot of the Irgun, the main Zionist terror group in Palestine.
While other Zionists suspended operations against the British for the duration of the war against Nazi Germany, Stern refused to do this unless the British recognised the claim for a Jewish state on both sides of the River Jordan. In his thinking, only the defeat Britain in the Middle East by an outside power would bring about a Jewish state. To this end, he sought a pact first with Fascist Italy, and, after being rebuffed, he pinned his hopes on forming an alliance with Nazi Germany.
Stern was contemptuous of liberal democracy and imbued with a volkish-like racism. The proposed pact with Nazi Germany referred to the “establishment of the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis” in a new order in which there would be “cooperation between the new Germany and a renewed Volkish-national Hebrium”. The 1941 document, which was discovered among files in the German Embassy in Ankara, offered to “actively take part in the war on Germany’s side.”
That is the history. And the state which came into being in 1948 has continued to nurture alliances with a range of politically extreme forces. Apart from Israel’s arrangement with eastern European Christian Nationalist parties, there is evidence of links to far-Right groups in Ukraine and a long relationship with a litany of Islamist groups.
The United States-sponsored Maidan coup which culminated in the overthrow of the elected government led by Viktor Yanukovytch, involved the use of far-Right and ultra-nationalist proxies, most, if not all of whom were Banderovsti, the name given to contemporary disciples and worshippers of Stepan Bandera, the nationalist figure whose organisation was behind the slaughter of Jewish and Polish communities during the Second World War. During that conflict, Banderites were members of specially composed Ukrainian Waffen-SS units such as the Galician, Nictengall and Roland Divisions.
Yet, Israel supplies arms to the Ukrainian military which is composed of significant elements who honour Bandera’s legacy, and whose members are unabashedly anti-Semitic in attitude and ideologically neo-Nazi. According to the founder of the militia, Andriy Biletsky, who is now a Ukrainian member of parliament, “(Ukraine’s) historic mission at this critical juncture is to lead the final march of the white race towards its survival. This is a march against sub-humans who are led by the Semite race.”
Pictures of members of the Azov Battalion, a former volunteer militia that has since been incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard, posing with Israeli-made weapons incensed Israeli human rights groups who filed a petition seeking a court injunction to prevent arms exports to Ukraine. This is not the first time that the government of Israel has armed an anti-Semitic regime. Back in the 1970s, it supplied arms to the Argentinian military Junta which was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews.
It is also worth noting the involvement of Israeli citizens during the Maidan coup. Five Ukrainian Jewish emigres, who were former Israeli Defence Force soldiers, led a group of 40 street thugs in battles against the security forces of the Yanukovytch government. These street fighters belonged to the ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party whose leader Oleh Tyahnybok had in the past spoken about liberating Ukraine from what he described as the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia”. An article in April 2013 carried by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported a cadre of Svoboda thugs wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Beat the kikes.”
Tyahnybok would in the latter part of 2013 given a pledge to the Israeli ambassador that his party was no longer anti-Semitic. Similar assurances were given in February 2014 by the neo-Nazi Pravy Sektor group to the ambassador when its leader claimed that it had rejected xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
As to what motive Israel would have beyond financial gain and diplomatic influence in Ukraine, it may be that such support is predicated on a trans-generational Jewish antipathy towards Russia, a country with which it maintains a complex relationship. But as with its links to Polish and Hungarian ruling parties, it raises the disturbing issue of the Israeli state supporting governments which seek to minimise and even deny the historical role of their nations in the calamity that befell Jews in the 20th century.
Israel has also cultivated links with Islamic extremist groups. From funding the nascent Hamas organisation so that it would serve as a counter-weight to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), to funding, arming and medically treating militia men linked to al-Qaeda who are fighting the secular government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Israel has sought to bolster its geopolitical objectives.
While such scheming may be justified on the rationale that it operates on “strong survival instincts”, it again opens up the legitimate criticism of the policies of the Zionist state being prone to short-sighted expediency and to moral contradiction.
It accuses Hamas, a group elected to power in Gaza, of being a “terrorist” body when in fact it bears a huge responsibility for its genesis into a political and military force. Israel’s role in building Hamas was admitted to by Brigadier-General Yitzhak Segev, a military governor of Gaza in the 1980s.
Its support of Islamist groups in Syria, which was recently revealed not to be limited to those located near the Golan Heights, has helped prolong a particularly cruel conflict.
The initial position that it was offering medical aid to jihadists professing the ideology of those who are said to bear responsibility for the September 11 attacks for humanitarian reasons, was exposed as patently untrue. When Efraim Halevy, a former head of Mossad, asserted that it was always useful to “deal with your enemies in a humane way”, he was challenged as to whether Israel would support the treatment of wounded Hezbollah fighters. To this, Halevy responded that while Israel has been targeted by Hezbollah, it had not been “specifically targeted by al-Qaeda.”
It should also be noted that during the Soviet-Afghan War, Israeli military intelligence was responsible for arming and training the guerillas of Herzb-i-Islami Mujahideen, one of the most hardline of the anti-Soviet Islamist groups of that war. Led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the group splintered after the war and its remnants merged into al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
From the time of its creation, Israel has worked tirelessly through multifarious channels to ensure that it has the political, economic and military backing of the United States. It has an extremely well-funded and aggressive lobby working on its behalf. One of the most critically important alliances forged by Jewish organisations and the government of Israel in the realm of American politics is that with conservative Christian Christian evangelicals.
In Christian Zionism, political Zionism again has formed an alliance with an ideological partner which ultimately is antithetical to Judaism. For while many such as John Hagee, chairman of Christians United for Israel, pledge a love for Israel, the eschatological doctrine is premised on the belief that the Jews, who rejected Jesus, will be given a final opportunity to accept Christ as their saviour and will be put to the sword if they refuse.
Arthur Balfour, whose letter to Lord Lionel Rothschild, the leader of Britain’s Jews, provided a critical step towards the creation of a Jewish homeland, was what would be termed today a Christian Zionist. Such homeland made perfect sense to a man who recoiled from the idea of Britain accepting more Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe. Modern leaders of the pre-tribulationist, pre-millennial dispensationalists of the pro-Israel Christian Right have on occasion betrayed anti-Jewish sentiment. For instance, Pat Robertson, the founder of the strongly pro-Israel Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) once referred to the Jewish founder of the US Military Religious Foundation as a “little Jewish radical” for promoting secularism in the American military. Robertson had earlier claimed that Jews were too busy “polishing diamonds” to do weekend chores. His contemporary, the late Jerry Falwell once stated that “most evangelicals believe the antichrist will, by necessity, be a Jewish male”.
Yet, for Israel, nurturing American evangelicals has been a beneficial task because of the importance of the Christian Right in American politics. They have exercised influence on American foreign policy and have contributed millions of dollars to Israeli groups. Their practical use for Zionism is that they economically support those in Israel’s society who are most opposed to any form of concessions to the Palestinians and encourage the colonisation of Palestinian land by the most fanatical Jewish settlers.
While it is argued that this “long, uneasy love affair” may have peaked, the American evangelical Right is still viewed favourably by the Israel. In early 2018, Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Right-wing Home Party, expressed his happiness at the relationship and was quoted as saying: “We need to use the opportunity to the best of Israel’s national interests and security.”
In Donald Trump, the current American president, Israeli interests and security are assiduously catered to. The most pro-Israel president since Lyndon Johnson has recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and has moved his country’s embassy to that city. He has abrogated the Five Plus One Treaty in which the United States and other world powers reached agreement with Iran to monitor its nuclear development programme. Indeed, Trump’s overarching objective in cultivating an anti-Iranian Middle East coalition, at the heart of which are Israel and Saudi Arabia, is clearly designed towards staging a military attack on Iran.
So lauded have Trump’s efforts being that Binyamin Netanyahu compared him to Cyrus the Great, the ancient Persian King who enabled the return of Jews from exile 2,500 years ago. Netanyahu also compared Trump to Lord Balfour and President Harry Truman, the former being the instigator of ‘The Balfour Declaration’ while the latter provided Israel with de facto recognition after its declaration of independence in 1948. Balfour’s anti-Semitism is well known, and while Harry Truman was largely thought of as being a philo-Semite, a posthumously revealed entry in his diary recorded that he found Jews to be “very, very selfish”. “When they have power”, he continued, “physical, financial or political, neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment for the underdog”.
While in Trump, the Jewish state has found an extremely supportive ally in the White House, it is also clear that he has purposefully courted those among his countrymen who are sympathetic to the cause of white nationalism. In doing this, he resorted to using what were considered as anti-Semitic tropes during his campaign for the presidency. There were numerous examples of this. For instance, his comments before a gathering of potential Jewish donors at the Republican Jewish Convention about them not supporting him “because I don’t want your money”, more than hinted at the stereotype of Jews controlling electoral candidates. So too was his delay in disavowing the endorsement given to him by David Duke, the former Klansman who now styles himself as a white civil rights activist. He also posted a twitter meme of Hillary Clinton implying that what he captioned “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” was backed by Jewish money. Then his final campaign advertisement, which juxtaposed images of Jewish figures in the financial world with rhetoric alluding to Jewish power (“global power structure”), effectively suggested that Jews were at the heart of America’s economic malaise.
Yet, this has not stopped influential Jewish figures such as Alan Dershowitz from offering Trump critical support because of Trump’s pro-Israel policies. Prime Minister Netanyahu has often voiced his support for Trump including his proposal to build a wall on the United States border with Mexico. “President Trump is right”, Netanyahu tweeted in January 2017. “I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.”
Netanyahu’s comments came after the furore caused by using Israel as an example when forcefully putting forward his case that a wall be built on the US’s southern border. Trump’s proposal was criticised as being symptomatic of the intolerant streak running through many of his policies. Yet, many of his critics do not react in the same manner when attention is turned to Israel.
Contemporary Israel is not the bastion of tolerance which many of its advocates are fond of proclaiming. The coalition government which presently governs it is by common agreement the most Right-wing in Israeli history. It is a drift which several people foresaw in 1948 when Herut, the Right-wing nationalist party headed by former Irgun leader Menachem Begin was formed. This development was met with great dismay by many Jewish intellectuals including Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt who took it upon themselves to write an open letter to the New York Times to warn that Israel would head down a path which legitimised “ultranationalism, religious mysticism and racial supremacy”.
Israel maintains a brutal occupation of what is left of Palestine in the West Bank and continues the strangulation of Gaza via a blockade, showing no moral qualms when snipers of the IDF kill and maim unarmed Palestinian protesters with little chance of breaching the system of iron wiring and moats which surround them. The colonising of West Bank continues with Palestinian land being taken by force while plans for the fresh construction of settlements are given intermittently. The Jewish settlers are then given choice land on which to reside and their security as well as day-to-day living needs are catered to. For instance, they travel on roads reserved only for Jews and have access to water resources which are increasingly in short supply to the inexorably constricted Palestinian enclaves.
In contemporary Israel, which demonises African migrants as ‘infiltrators’ -a term consistently used by Netanyahu himself- a clear majority of the population oppose the accepting of refugees. African refugees, who at a peak population of 60,000 would amount to one per cent of the 8 million Israeli population, were, because they were black and non-Jewish, claimed to pose a threat to Israel’s Jewish character. According to Miri Regev, a Likud member of the Knesset who is now culture minister, they are like a “cancer in the body”. Although she offered an apology, a poll conducted soon after her statement by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) Peace Index in May 2012, found that 52% of Israelis agreed with her.
As of writing, fewer than a dozen African migrants had been granted asylum, and Israel has consistently sought ways by which refugees can be removed or otherwise persuaded to leave: by threat of jail, deportations to third party African states, and through a regulation whereby 20 percent of their wages are retained by the state until they leave the country. In 2012, set against a rise in widespread fear and animosity over migrants who were blamed for worsening the economy and crime rates, anti-black rioting broke out in Tel-Aviv. This involved acts of vandalism, looting and firebombing. No deaths were reported, but there were many injuries.
Anti-black racism has also been directed at Ethiopian Jews, many of whom live in poverty and are socially ostracised. Some years previously, it was discovered that the Israeli state had embarked on programme of secretly sterilising Ethiopian Jewish women. They are also subjected to harassment and brutality at the hands of police. In a notorious incident in 2016, an IDF soldier of Ethiopian ethnicity was captured on camera being violently assaulted by a police officer who had threatened to put a bullet in his head.
But the passage of the nation-state law, which one Arab member of the Knesset bitterly denounced as “the end of democracy”, and “the official beginning of fascism and apartheid”, is in many respects merely consolidating a long-existing state of affairs. After all, Israel’s identification as the Jewish state found quick expression through the passage in 1950 of the Law of Return. This has intrinsically meant that the needs of its non-Jewish citizens, the approximately 21 percent Arab minority, is less of a priority than those of its Jewish citizens, and, indeed, that of the Jewish diaspora. The discrimination against and the neglect of Arab-Israeli communities was acknowledged in the report issued by the Orr Commission in 2003.
The governing Likud Party, which first came to power in 1977, and which for a lengthy period of time has returned the largest number of seats in the Knesset, is an offshoot of Begin’s Herut party, the creation of which caused such consternation in the likes of Einstein and Arendt. Likud thus traces a direct line of influence to the Revisionist Zionism of Jabotinsky, who Mussolini referred to as a “fascist”.
The ‘Iron Wall’ mentality and its values permeate Israel today. After all it was, Yair Golan then deputy chief of staff of the IDF who at a speech at the Holocaust Remembrance Day in May 2016 likened “revolting trends” in Israeli society to that of pre-Holocaust Nazi Germany. And Moshe Yaalon, a former IDF chief of staff, who resigned from his position as minister of defence prior to being replaced by the hardliner Avigdor Lieberman, said that he was “fearful for Israel’s future” given this tilt to the Right.
Israel’s embrace of the global far-Right led by Likud’s Netanyahu thus cannot be characterised solely as an expedient manoeuvre that is a continuum of the Zionist mentality aiming to perform any bargain that advances the interests if its cause. There is also a marked coherence in ideology. When Netanyahu hails the electoral victory in Brazil of Jair Bolsonaro and refers to Bolsonaro as “a true friend of the state of Israel”, and the Italian far-Right politician, Matteo Salvini as “a great friend of Israel”, his gestures have not gone unrequited. Like Netanyahu, both are nationalist and xenophobic in both philosophy and policies.
And just as Avharam Stern contemplated an ethno-Jewish state forming a part of a New Order in the Middle East which would complement the racial New Order he expected to come to fruition in a Europe under Nazi domination, Netanyahu’s actions in highlighting the commonalities between Israel and the global far-Right provides evidence of an acceptance and welcoming of a new-era form of global ethno-nationalism.
It is something Israel has sought to impose on its neighbours in the Middle East via their balkanisation into ethnic and religious mini-states, albeit that its motivation for doing this is to promote its regional hegemony. The creation of Sunni, Shia and Christian mini-states would serve not only to weaken countries such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, but also provide a justification for Israel’s existence as an ethno-state.
The allure of ethno-nationalism to Right-wing secular and religious Jews is apparent to those in Jewish communities who have been dismayed by those Jews who offer support and succour to the extremist element of the European and North American extreme Right. Among American Orthodox Jews, the majority of whom voted for Donald Trump, there has been a noticeable spread of white nationalist sentiment. They, along with those neoconservatives such as Ben Shapiro, Joel Pollack and Dennis Prager, as well as those associated with the alt-right such as Laura Loomer who applaud and condone the typically derogatory statements directed at non-whites and Muslims by the alt-right are accused by their fellow Jews of creating the conditions which will have negative consequences for Jews.
These stances reveal a fundamental hypocrisy. For those Jewish individuals who claim to be supportive of European nationalism and North American white nationalism, so long as it is a “healthy” sort, it is often the case that they are contented only when vitriol is directed at others and not at Jews.
But even then, the support by some is not overridden by demonstrable anti-Semitism. Consider for instance the statement made by the co-leader of the German AfD who minimised the Nazi persecution of Jews when stating that the Nazi-era was a mere “speck of bird poo in over 1,000 years of successful German history”. And Ezra Levant was noticeably forgiving after Gavin McInnes, a contributor to Levant’s Rebel Media, once spoke about the Jews “ruining the world with their lies and their money and their hooked-nose bagel-eating faces”.
As noted earlier, the key reason why the embrace of the alt-Right and white nationalism by some Jews is considered to be a surprising development is because they have historically borne the brunt of attendant hatred and persecution from nationalist movements. Thus, Jewish communities have, for good reason, long being considered to be ineluctably hostile to nationalist movements, albeit that the extreme Right has traditionally maintained that leaders of organised Jewry conveniently do not extend their reservations to Jewish nationalism.
Jewish-American uneasiness about Donald Trump, whose recent statement that he was a “nationalist” was interpreted as a coded reference to the ideology of white nationalism, was expressed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) when Trump first referred to his election platform as being one of “America First”. The ADL urged him to drop his ‘America First’ campaign slogan on the grounds that it had an “anti-Semitic past”, owing to the stance of prominent members of the America First Committee such as Charles Lindbergh who asserted that Jews were pushing isolationist America towards military involvement in the European war that became World War II.
Some may be inclined to consider whether some Diaspora Jews have been lulled into a false sense of security. They have, after all, lived during an era when levels of anti-Semitism fell to record lows, are proud of their social and economic achievements, and consider themselves conservative and sufficiently distinct from the traditional extreme-Right conception of the Jew as a dangerous leftist radical. Importantly, most are white-skinned and of European (Ashkenazi) descent.
But this is, of course, not the equivalent of possessing anAriernachweis, and many would consider it to be a dangerous speculation to assume that Jewish communities will be unscathed when, amid great polarisations in society, campaigns of demonisation ensue and violence erupts.
Yet, for those Jews who support the sentiments of white nationalist hatred and contempt for non-whites, the remarks made by Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch in a sermon delivered at the Stephen Wise Synagogue after the murder of of eleven worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, present a cautionary note: “Even if we are not the immediate target of prejudice, sooner or later it will come back to the Jews anyway,” adding poignantly, “Did anyone think that an atmosphere of intolerance would bypass Jews?...that we can mark the doorposts of our house and that the angel of death can pass over us?”
They are words worth ruminating over by those Jews, whether as representatives of the Jewish state or as individuals, who enthusiastically continue to ride the tiger of white nationalism.