The Israelis Who Cultivate Connections to Europe's Fascists

Misguided right-wing Israelis have convinced themselves that anyone who spouts hatred about Muslims is their ally.

It’s not only the most sought-after Purim costume, it’s an epidemic. On Wednesday, the Netherlands holds its general election. Why do we even care? Because of the “Dutch Trump,” another politician with a filthy mouth, bleached platinum-blond hair and an Islamophobe to boot – in short, a political hit. Oh, and he’s a “great friend of Israel,” of course.

The truth is, Geert Wilders should be collecting royalties from U.S. President Donald Trump. Wilders was there first, and he co-owns the copyright for this new, loud, dirty politics that’s sweeping the world. And after its resounding success in the United States, Wilders now hopes to cash in. But even if he doesn’t head the next government, he’s succeeded in dominating the election campaign. He’s also had a pan-European effect: French National Front leader Marine Le Pen is a pussycat compared to him.

Impassioned citizens across the continent are urging their politicians to “be more like Wilders.” What fun it is to proclaim, without shame, “There are too many Moroccans here.” How liberating it is to say whatever comes into your head, like “Mohammed is a pedophile.” Inciting hatred? Neo-Nazi behavior? What do you mean? We certainly aren’t Nazis! After all, Wilders only declared that “Mosques are Nazi temples,” and that the Koran is a Nazi work “like ‘Mein Kampf,’” which is why its distribution should be prohibited.

Overall, the Netherlands is in good shape. Growth is up, unemployment is down, investors are streaming in and the standard of living is one of the highest in the world. What’s wrong? Immigration? Note to the demagogues here and there: the real reason for immigration is not imaginary European liberalism. The Dutch simply have fewer children, natural growth is low, and so it needs immigrants to do the hard jobs and to shore up the collapsing pension systems of an aging continent. Even with the immigrants, population growth in the Netherlands is very limited – 0.4 percent last year, compared to 2 percent annually in Israel, for example. Those are the facts. Naturally, Wilders – like many in the Netherlands – knows this.

By the way, he’s the last person who should be opening his mouth about immigrants. His mother is from Indonesia, his father fled Germany and his wife is from Hungary. But he’s not your typical racist and xenophobe. He’s “just” against Muslims, who in his eyes are all murderous soldiers of jihad.

So, you may ask, is there no risk of terrorist infiltration or a danger of immigrant groups being radicalized from within? Of course there is. Whoever ignores the danger of Islamic extremism and the phenomena that have already hit Europe is a fool, or worse. But the danger posed by Wilders and his ilk is greater. Wilders is the biggest collaborator to Islamic radicals fighting against integration. He and his sweeping, racist generalizations, dripping with poisonous hatred and incitement, are pushing more and more alienated young people into the arms of the extremists.

Official Israel is still boycotting the extreme right in Europe. Not because the Israeli government really has a problem with these parties – on the contrary, they are the ones the government most resembles – but out of consideration for those countries’ Jewish communities, who fear the rise of fascism and anti-Semitism.

Many Israelis, including journalists and experts, don’t understand this. They think the world is divided by a single test: who is “for the Arabs” and who is against them? Therefore, if the extreme right in Europe is against Muslims, it’s good for the Jews, no? It means they support us. So how can it be that Jews are afraid of Wilders, Le Pen or Trump? It must be because those Jews are self-hating “Yids” – and, of course, leftists.

That’s why more and more Israelis, including lawmakers, ministers and right-wing groups, are forging ties with European fascists. These, in turn, boast of their Israeli friends who cleanse them of all allegations of anti-Semitism.

They are enjoying each other so much, it isn’t clear who is spreading the epidemic and who is sicker.

Published in "Ha'aretz"

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