The German and Austrian far right is incorporating Zionism into ultranationalism to whitewash its bloody past.
by Denijal Jegic
In November 2018, a conference entitled Europe beyond anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism: Securing Jewish life in Europe, organised by Austria’s right-wing government, was held in the Austrian capital, Vienna. The one-day event wrapped up with the issuing of a final communique which stressed that Austria is committed to “fighting every form of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism” and claimed that “anti-Semitism is nowadays oftentimes manifest in exaggerated and disproportionate criticism against Israel.”
While it was acknowledged during the conference that only a few Austrians had opposed the Nazi regime and many had supported its crimes, the message the Austrian government wanted to send was that it stands by the Israeli claims that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.
This is the latest iteration of a growing trend within the far right in Austria and Germany towards historical revisionism and contortion. While far-right activists generally acknowledge the Holocaust as an historic crime against humanity, they seek to downplay Austrian and German anti-Semitic traditions and present them as a singular historical moment – an historical exception. Then they try to absolve themselves and their predecessors of wrongdoing by shifting the blame and attributing the origins of anti-Semitism to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims in general.
To solidify this idea, they actively promote the notion that anti-Semitism is not just anti-Jewish racism, but also anti-Zionism and hence any criticism of Israeli policies is anti-Semitic. By extension, they suggest that modern-day anti-Semitism is actually “imported” to Germany, Austria and elsewhere in Europe by Middle Eastern refugees and migrants.