|Norwegian mourners lighting memorial candles July 25 outside the Domkirke Cathedral in Oslo for the July 22 attack victims in their country. Alex Weisler|
For decades after World War II, far-right political movements in Europe stirred up for Jews images of skinheads and Nazi storm troopers marching across the continent.
But in recent years, as European xenophobia has focused on the exploding growth of Muslims on the continent, right-wing anti-Semitism has been replaced in some corners by outreach to Jews and Israel. It’s part of an effort in far-right movements to gain broader mainstream support for an anti-Muslim alliance opposed to the notion of a multicultural Europe.
Indeed, in the anti-Muslim manifesto attributed to Anders Behring Breivik, the accused perpetrator of the July 22 deadly attacks in Oslo and the nearby Norwegian island of Utoya, the pseudonymous author expresses sympathy for Israel’s plight and cites numerous critiques of the Palestinians.
“Aided by a pre-existing anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, European media have been willing to demonise the United States and Israel while remaining largely silent on the topic Eurabia,” the author writes in his manifesto, titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence.”
Later, he lists four potential political allies among Israel’s political parties: Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, and National Union.
Breivik’s apparent proto-Zionist viewpoint is shared by a number of far-right leaders around Europe.
“The Arab-Israeli conflict illustrates the struggle between Western culture and radical Islam,” Filip Dewinter, the head of Belgium’s far-right, anti-immigrant Vlaams Belang Party, said last December during a visit to Tel Aviv.
“Israel is of centr al importance to us,” German Freedom Party head Rene Stadtkewitz told JTA last year. What Israelis do to fight terrorism, he said, “is what we would have to be doing here. And I am very thankful that they are doing it.”
But after the deadly attacks in Norway, which authorities say left at least 76 people dead, some Jewish figures are saying that the dangers of making common cause with movements where extremists like Breivik can find an ideological home and where some supporters are known for being violent is all too clear.
“A large-scale hate crime attack such as the one in Norway demonstrates the clear and present danger of incitement against political, ethnic, and religious groups,” said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations. “Hate crimes are among the most insidious of dangers to democracy.”
To be sure, Breivik is an extreme example of the anti-multicultural tide rising in Europe, and far-right leaders say they eschew the killing of innocents in their crusade to restore Europe to its pre-heterogeneous state. But some watchdog groups say that European far-right movements provided the ideological underpinnings to Breivik’s attack and they must be held to account.
“Breivik was clearly influenced by an ideological movement both in the United States and Europe that is rousing public fear by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith,” warned the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman.
The fact that Breivik attacked those he viewed as collaborators with Muslims rather than Muslims themselves shows just how dangerous extremist ideology can be, the ADL suggested in a statement.
Jewish leaders in Europe, who in recent days have taken pains to distance themselves from Breivik’s proto-Zionism, long have warned that even far-rightists who do not espouse anti-Semitism are dangerous for the Jews.
Far-rightists “want a Sweden for the Swedes, France for the French, and Jews to Israel,” Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, told JTA last October.
“Islamism certainly is a danger to the Jews and to Western democracy,” Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told JTA last year. “The way to fight [Islamists] is not, however, to demonize and ostracize all Muslims.”
Not all Jews have gotten the memo, however. Polls show that a small minority of European Jews support some far-right parties, and a few far-right figures have gained a certain measure of respectability among some Jews.
When firebrand Geert Wilders, the leader of Holland’s Freedom Party, spoke at an event in Berlin last year, former Israeli Knesset member Eli Cohen of the Yisrael Beiteinu party was one of the featured speakers.
Wilders also has his Jewish fans in America. One is Daniel Pipes, a columnist and director of a think tank that warns of the dangers of domination by radical Muslims, or Islamists.
In a column last year for The National Review titled “Why I Stand with Geert Wilders,” Pipes called the controversial Dutch political figure “the most important European alive today” and the man “best placed to deal with the Islamic challenge facing the continent.” [Editor’s note: The article also appeared in this newspaper.]
Pipes’ writing was quoted extensively in Breivik’s manifesto. Reached this week by JTA, Pipes declined to comment.
As for Wilders, he was quick to condemn last Friday’s attacks in Norway.
“That the fight against Islam is conducted by a violent psychopath is disgusting and a slap to the face of the global anti-Islamic movement,” Wilders said in a statement. “It fills me with disgust that the perpetrator refers to the [Freedom Party] and me in his manifesto…. We fight for a democratic and nonviolent means against the further Islamization of society and will continue to do so.”
Of course, not all far-right parties in Europe are trying to make common cause with Jews. Many, like Jobbik, a far-right movement in Hungary, lump Jews with Gypsies, Muslims, and others as undesirables.
Far-right parties in Europe have varying degrees of support, but polls show their political backing is rising across the continent. It’s still not clear how the deadly attack in Norway will affect Norwegian politics, much less the rest of the continent. That will depend on how well far-right parties are able to draw a sharp distinction between Breivik’s violent attacks against multiculturalists and their own opposition to immigrants, Muslims, and multiculturalism.
JTA Wire Service