Europe's far-right is using the Israeli model as a blueprint for their xenophobic agenda at home. Despite rising anti-semitism in parts of Europe, Israel seems to have no qualms in cosying up to the far-right.
Israel—whether its liberal or centrist proponents like it or not—has become an ally for the European and Western far-right.
Later this month, Matteo Salvini, the far-right leader of the fascist Lega party and current interior minister of Italy, will travel to Israel to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Before winning power, Salvini had previously travelled to Israel, where he gushed, ‘Israel embodies the perfect balance of different realities while ensuring law and order. It surely is a role model for security and anti-terrorism policies’.
So what does Salvini mean by ‘security’ and ‘anti-terrorism’?
Well, during his reign as interior minister, Salvini has been a trailblazer in Europe for brutal anti-immigration policies, as well as attacking Italy’s existent ethnic and religious minorities. He recently crafted a law that essentially eliminates humanitarian grounds for granting protection to refugees and asylum seekers.
Though Lega can’t yet end its commitments to take in refugees and asylum seekers entirely, the law paves the way for such an outcome. If there are those in doubt that this is Lega’s ultimate aim, on the day the bill was passed, Lega lawmakers who had just voted it into power gathered outside to unfurl a banner reading, ‘The Salvini decree is law; the good times (for migrants) is over.’
Salvini has compounded and exacerbated the EU policy of halting all rescue operations in the Mediterranean by prohibiting NGOs from operating rescue services for migrants and docking at Italian ports.
There ought to be no doubt that Salvini and Lega have a concrete plan to change the political landscape in Italy. Salvini is slowly but surely testing the waters with his racist ideas and policies.
Conjuring chilling memories of Italy’s fascist past, Salvini called for a register of Italy’s Roma population, while he has demanded the cleansing of all ‘non-Italian’ Roma and has increased demolitions of ‘illegal houses’ used by Roma. Mirroring Nazi racial laws, he has even called for ‘ethnic shops’ to be restricted.
So how do neofascists like Salvini come to be the premier defenders and allies of the Jewish state?
It’s precisely because it is a Jewish state.
Israelis are of course perfectly entitled to self-determination, including the self-definition of their state. But the fact is that Israel has, over the past few decade–but with much greater urgency and radicalisation in recent years–become an ethnocracy defined as much by its Jewish character as its hostility to non-Jews.
European fascists like Salvini see in Israel the perfect paradigm of directly racist states. And while all states are racial states (in that they embody, in some form, ethnic majoritarianism), Israel’s policies are often brazenly crafted by a form of ethnic chauvinism unseen since the colonial period.
It has long been documented how Israel’s occupation and illegal annexation of the West Bank have led to apartheid-esque conditions between Jews and Palestinians.
However, Israel proper has always awkwardly balanced the fundamental contradiction of upholding equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and maintaining Israel as a Jewish state; that is, a state where there must be a permanent Jewish majority with an unassailable Jewish character.
Though Israel has managed to ensure equal rights for non-Jewish citizens, its recent Nation State bill, which doesn’t merely reaffirm the Zionist commitment to Israel as a state for Jews, but asserts that only Jews have the right to self-determination within Israel. This is Salvini’s self-declared ‘role model’.
This is the same idea that lies behind fascist slogans such as Italy for the Italians, Europe for the Europeans and, of course, America First.
European fascists fetishise Israel because it’s a state that openly embraces their racially divided views of the world – a world governed by the racist laws of ethnic majoritarianism. Its entire raison d’etre is to keep the Jews in their state, while, to Salvini, Italy ought to be a state only for Italians.
Israel’s main appeal to European and Western fascists is precisely that it disregards and subverts the liberal democratic order that prevails in Europe. We’ve seen a host of European fascists draw closer to Israel as an ideological and geopolitical ally.
For decades, it has crafted an ethnocracy that reduces Palestinians to second-class citizens when it isn’t perpetrating acts of mass murder against them with no recourse to law or the liberal values that Salvini and his ilk believe are killing Europe.
The relations of Israeli domination and ethnic chauvinism that govern the annexed West Bank are precisely what European fascists envision for Europe and its relation to migrants, especially Muslims.
Israel puts itself forward as a defender of ‘Western civilisation’ and Islamophobia is perhaps the strongest sinew that connects Western fascism with Israel. Salvini has openly stated that Muslims and Islam are incompatible with Italy, but, despite his embrace of Israel, antisemitism is on the increase in Italy.
This is also something we’ve witnessed with the rise of Trump in the US – an increase in antisemitic incidents - and this points to the reality that ought to simultaneously disturb yet unite us: racists, on a street-to-street level, do not discriminate.
And this growing form of ethnic majoritarianism fits nicely into the increasing authoritarian world order. We’ve seen the genocidal attack by the Burmese regime on Rohingya Muslims, and we’ve witnessed the antisemitic mass murder of Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh by an antisemitic America Firster.
We’ve seen the genocide of Sunni Muslims in Syria by a regime that openly spouts sectarian justifications for such murder while appealing to Israel-esque defences of defending Europe from the Islamic menace.
We cannot stand by and simply watch as these relations once again become a reality in the heart of Europe
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