Europe far right courts Israel in anti-Islam drive

PARIS Mon Dec 20, 2010 10:07am EST

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PARIS (Reuters) - Far-right political parties in Europe are stepping up their anti-Muslim rhetoric and forging ties across borders, even going so far as to visit Israel to hail the Jewish state as a bulwark against militant Islam.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen has shocked the French political elite in recent days by comparing Muslims who pray outside crowded mosques -- a common sight during the holy month of Ramadan -- to the World War Two Nazi occupation.

Oskar Freysinger, a champion of the Swiss ban on minarets, warned a far-right meeting in Paris Saturday against "the demographic, sociological and psychological Islamization of Europe." German and Belgian activists also addressed the crowd.

Geert Wilders, whose populist far-right party supports the Dutch minority government, told Reuters last week he was organizing an "international freedom alliance" to link grass-roots groups active in "the fight against Islam."

Earlier this month, Wilders visited Israel and backed its West Bank settlements, saying Palestinians there should move to Jordan. Like-minded German, Austrian, Belgian, Swedish and other far-rightists were on their own Israel tour at the same time.

"Our culture is based on Christianity, Judaism and humanism and (the Israelis) are fighting our fight," Wilders told Reuters in Amsterdam last week. "If Jerusalem falls, Amsterdam and New York will be next."

While he seeks anti-Muslim allies abroad, Wilders said some older far-right parties such as France's National Front or the British National Party were "blunt racist parties I don't care for" and he would avoid cooperating with them.

CONCERN ABOUT SOVEREIGNTY

Campaigns aimed at Muslims have been gaining ground in Europe, most notably with the Swiss minaret ban last year and France's law this year against full facial veils in public, which Wilders said the Netherlands should copy next year.

Support for these steps has spread beyond anti-immigrant parties and toward the political center as globalization and the aging of Europe's population fuel voters' concerns about national sovereignty, according to a leading French analyst.

Political scientist Dominique Reynie said the financial crisis had prompted more voters to agree with the far right that their political elites were incompetent.

"Some people refuse what they see as a change in their cultural or religious surroundings," he told the Paris daily Le Monde. "These are the problems posed by mosques, burqas and the provisions of halal food."

Some on the far right see similar trends in the United States. Wilders attended a rally in New York on September 11 to protest against a mosque planned near Ground Zero and the leader of the Austrian Freedom Party, Heinz Christian Strache, has said he wants to visit the United States to meet leaders of the Tea Party movement.

Marine Le Pen, who is preparing to succeed her father Jean-Marie as head of the National Front, had in recent years toed a more moderate line before her anti-Muslim comments. She notably refused to echo the anti-Semitic views expressed by her father.

Sunday, she insisted all public subsidies for building mosques must stop. Several politicians and Muslim leaders have said Muslims often pray in the street because they do not have enough space in mosques and urged that more be built.

NEW FAR RIGHT

The rightists' Israel visits set what some analysts call the "new far right" apart from older extremists who were often anti-Semitic and backed Arab countries against the Jewish state.

Declaring support for Israel gives them an opportunity to oppose Muslim opinion in their home countries, since European Muslims are often pro-Palestinian, as well as celebrate the Jewish state as the front line against militant Islam.

"It is not Israel's duty to provide a Palestinian state," Wilders said in a speech in Tel Aviv. "There already is a Palestinian state and that state is Jordan."

A so-called "Jerusalem Declaration" issued by four other European rightists during their Israel visit also staunchly defended the country's existence and its right to defend itself "against all aggression, especially Islamic terror."

Heinz-Christian Strache from Austria, German Freedom Party head Rene Stadtkewitz, Sweden Democrat MP Kent Ekeroth and Filip Dewinter, head of Belgium's Vlaams Belang party, denied they were stoking Islamophobia with their statement.

"The Arab-Israeli conflict illustrates the struggle between Western culture and radical Islam," Dewinter said in Tel Aviv.

Strache made a similar link to Europe, telling a conference in Ashkelon -- a city that has been hit by rockets from the nearby Gaza Strip -- that Israel faced "an Islamic terror threat that aims right for the heart of our society."

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz accused the rightists of "trading in their Jewish demon-enemy for the Muslim criminal-immigrant model" and visiting Israel only to get "Jewish absolution that will bring them closer to political power."

(Additional reporting by Sara Webb in Amsterdam; editing by Andrew Dobbie)

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Comments (4)
Ralphooo wrote:
So the Le Pen crowd is switching from hating Jews to loving Jews and hating Muslims? This shows just how devoid of thought the whole racist-scapegoat politics really is. Did the Jews suddenly change so that now Le Pen’s followers can love them? No! Did the Muslims become more dangerous? No! Did Le Pen’s followers become more stupid and hateful than before? No, they were always just as stupid and senseless. They just never had such a fantastic opportunity to show what mindless fools they are.

Dec 20, 2010 11:49am EST  --  Report as abuse
anonym0us wrote:
Everything is learned in comparison. The European Far Right used to paint the Jew as their penultimate enemy. But then, after the Muslims moved en masse into Europe, it came on the rightists that the usually well educated, decent-earning Jew that tries to blend in and only wants to be left in peace is a much better neighbor than a Muslim that brings in their own lifestyle more fitting to dark ages, veiled women, polygamy and all, undereducated up to illiteracy and inability to speak local language, and vocally demanding special rights long unheard of in Europe. Their second and third wives being officially registered as single mothers and receiving all welfare benefits that come with it. Some countries learned the hard way that yarmulke-wearing Jew is much less dangerous than explosive belt-wearing or knife-wielding Muslim.
In other words, the Right now understand that Jews are an integral part of the Western civilization. Muslims are not, and never will be. There’s a very short distance from that understanding to support of Israel, and they walked that distance.
On the other hand the Anti-Semites moved en masse into the Left camp. Regular plain Anti-Semitism is not politically correct yet. But Anti-Zionism and support of Palestinian cause is. Too bad the boundary between these is too thin and ill defined, and therefore so easy to cross.

Dec 20, 2010 12:04pm EST  --  Report as abuse
anonym0us wrote:
@Ralphoo:
“Did the Jews suddenly change so that now Le Pen’s followers can love them?”
______________________________________

Yes. The Right was always fascinated with power. The stereotypical Jew of old, poorly dressed, narrow-shouldered, with bent spine, humiliated, begging to be spared, would probably make the Rightists feel nothing but disgust and hatred.
The Jew of today, broad-shouldered, standing tall and proud on the land of his forefathers he claimed back as his own, or better yet in handsome uniform atop mighty Merkava tank, is a totally different image. This one is easy to respect and desirable to be friends with from a typical Rightist point of view. And easy to hate for all the lefties.

“Did the Muslims become more dangerous?” Yes. While they were herding their sheep and camels in faraway land, who cared? When they became suddenly rich from oil, and used the proceeds to fuel global jihad, things changed. Some half century back when one thought of Arabs it was an image of exotically dressed camel rider. Now it’s the image of burning WTC towers.

Dec 20, 2010 1:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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