Strange Affinities: Netanyahu and the Far Right!

FAR-RIGHT political movements and parties across Europe have exploited popular discontent to gain political power, emboldening some of the most racist, xenophobic and reactionary formations in the process.

And now, in the U.S., Donald Trump’s has ridden right-wing populism all the way into the White House, over the opposition of not only millions of people who despise his bigotry, but a majority of the American capitalist class and political establishment.

But there is one country where the political establishment welcomed Trump’s victory: Israel.

Unfazed by the virulent anti-Semitism of some of Trump’s closest advisers and supporters, nor even the open connections to fascism of Europe’s far-right parties, the predominant right wing in Israel and its supporters around the world are delighted with the rise of the far right. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has eagerly built alliances with far-right groups such as the neo-Nazi Freedom Party of Austria.

Why is this? Israeli leaders recognize that the anti-Semitism of today’s far-right parties and political figures is secondary to their Islamophobia and their support for Israel in the war on Arabs and Muslims.

Thus, for Israel, the rise of these reactionary movements is an opportunity to reverse its growing economic and political isolation internationally–due in large part to the success of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, particularly in Europe–while it continues to expand illegal settlements and intensify apartheid laws against Palestinians.

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Education Minister and member of the right-wing Likud Party, hailed Trump’s election as the end of any possibility of a Palestinian state. Bennett said he hoped Trump would fulfill his campaign promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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In the U.S., Zionist organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Zionist Organization of America will see Trump’s win as a green light to step up anti-BDS legislation, along with the targeted harassment of pro-Palestinian activists, particularly on campus.

For right-wing extremists, Israel’s pivotal role in policing the Middle East and protecting U.S. interests makes it a natural ally. They also see Israel as a model of the type of white ethno-nationalism that they wish to emulate in their own countries. The state is built around protecting and extending the rights of Israelis at the expense of Palestinians, both within the borders of Israel and outside it in the Occupied Territories.

These policies enjoy enormous popularity among Israeli Jews. A recent Pew opinion poll found that nearly fourth-fifths of Jewish Israelis support the apartheid system and nearly half openly embrace ethnic cleansing.

In fact, many on the Zionist right see the combination of anti-Semitic and pro-Israel views as a win-win for the Jewish state.

In a recent opinion article for Ynet, Yaron London, a prominent Israeli journalist, wrote: “A worldview which supports white supremacy matches our government’s interests. If Trump’s people are more disgusted by Arabs than they are by Jews…we have struck a good deal.”

London went on to say that the anti-Semitism associated with far right groups should be actively embraced by Zionists as a tool for increasing Jewish emigration to Israel: “Masses of Jews leave their place of residence only when their economic situation and physical safety are being undermined,” London wrote, concluding: “To put it more sharply, anti-Semitism is the generator and ally of Zionism.”

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SUCH VIEWS will be shocking to many people, but they can’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the history of Zionism.

As Annie Zirin wrote in an article for the International Socialist Review, alliances with anti-Semitism flow “quite logically from Zionism’s basic assumptions about Jews. Zionists accepted the 19th century view that anti-Semitism–in fact, all racial differences–was a permanent feature of human nature.”

The founder of the modern Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl, referred to European Jews as parasites, germs and social diseases, and blamed Jews for “carrying the seeds of anti-Semitism” everywhere they went. If violence against Jews was inevitable, then the only solution was for Jews to create an ethnically pure state of their own.

Netanyahu echoed this sentiment last year when he gave a speech in France following the terror attacks in Paris at the end of 2015, calling on French Jews to return “home” to Israel.

Although Herzl believed he was speaking for all Jews, the majority of European Jews, many of whom were influenced by Marxism, rejected Zionism and believed it undermined the struggle for Jewish liberation.

As Chaim Zhitlovsky, a member of the Russian Social Revolutionary party at the turn of the 20th century wrote in response to Herzl: “[W]e will not renounce the paths upon which we have embarked–the path of revolutionary struggle against the Russian government, which should also lead to the freedom of the Jewish people.”

The rise of the Nazis in Europe led to the destruction of Jewish revolutionary groups and the death of many of their leaders. As Zirin wrote, this decimation “meant that Zionism has been able to claim that it represents the unified voice of the Jews throughout the world and therefore, anyone who opposes them is an anti-Semite.”

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Israel’s embrace of neo-Nazis and other reactionary forces has sharpened the dividing line between forces on the right and the left. As a result, liberal Zionists will find it even more difficult to reconcile the contradictions of supporting Israel and human rights at the same time.

If the left is going to build an effective opposition to the far right, in the U.S. and in Europe, then anti-Zionism must be part of the battle against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The BDS campaign, which calls for equal rights for Jews and Palestinians, is a key component of building such a movement.

The BDS campaign has the ability to connect struggles against U.S. imperialism, Israel’s settler-colonial apartheid state and the oppression suffered by racial, religious and ethnic minorities within the U.S.–as the example of solidarity between the pro-Palestinian movement and the Black Lives Matter movement shows.

If the BDS movement is going to continue to grow, it must build on these connections and expand solidarity with labor and other social justice movements.