Israel has no moral right to judge U.S. President Donald Trump over his forgiving remarks about the neo-Nazis in his country. First, Israel wasn’t really shocked by what he said. After all, it is willing to accept anything from anyone who supports the Israeli occupation. That’s axiomatic at this point. Whether it’s a Hungarian fascist or an American neo-Nazi, as long as they support the occupation – even if they secretly hate Jews – they are considered friends of Israel and moral people.
The best of the “friends of Israel” today are fascists and evangelicals, xenophobes and Islamophobes. What’s most important is that they support the occupation. It’s only opponents of the occupation who are anti-Semites, and we will mount a special effort to combat them. We will forgive everyone else.
But there is also another reason for Israelis’ silence. It recalls the Yiddish saying about betrayal of one’s own guilt – that the thief thinks his hat is on fire. Neo-Nazis? We have a lot of our own “Made in Israel,” Hebrew equivalents of neo-Nazis, and the opposition to them in Israel is less than to neo-Nazis in the United States. A resolute counter-demonstration was organized by liberals in the face of the march in Charlottesville. What about here?
The sacred symmetry that Trump tried to create between attacker and attacked, between assailant and defender, between incitement and protest, between justice and evil – that was invented in Israel. Here we have the occupier and the occupied, a violent and at times even murderous right wing and a left wing that has never murdered, but they are deemed comparable.
Any assault by settlement thugs on Palestinian farmers on their own land is deemed a “clash.” Any Palestinian protest against the violence of the occupier is considered a “disturbance of the peace.” It’s a symmetrical brawl between the two peoples’ shepherds. After all, there are good and bad people among the settlers – just as Trump said with regard to his “alt-right.”
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There is today a movement in Europe, identified by political scientist Cas Mudde as the populist radical right, which is growing in power and influence right across the continent. This movement most explicitly targets “the political class”, the established media, globalisation, the EU as a supranational body, immigrants, Muslims and Roma, but has a complicated relationship to European Jewry and to Israel.
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.