‘Should Israeli politicians be meeting with the European far right?” was a title of an article published in the American Jewish newspaper, The Forward.
Writer, Dr. Nimrod Goren, is the head of the ‘Israeli Institute for Regional and Foreign Policy’, Mitvin. To hold such a position, it should have been clear to Goren that the above seemingly innocuous question is moot. In fact, cooperating with far right, even fascist and neo-Nazi groups and political parties is an Israeli politician tradition that, although seemingly odd, is deep-rooted.
Therefore, the recent visit by Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, to Israel on July 19, to meet Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu would hardly have required much pause except that Orban has repeatedly been branded for his often racist, anti-Semitic remarks.
Hence the question: why is Orban wining and dining with the leaders of the so-called ‘Jewish State’?
The same question was raised in November 2017, when the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) hosted a gala dinner in New York City honouring Stephen Bannon, US President Donald Trump’s then-chief strategist.
That Bannon and his media outlet, Breitbart News, continue to be seen by many as anti-Semitic was of no consequence to Zionist leaders from the US and Israel, who were in attendance.
Just recently, the Israeli government endorsed the Nation-State Law which, among many racist provisions, conclusively defines Israel by its ethnic Jewish identity.
But relations between Israel, its lobby groups and racist, neo-Nazi and fascist organisations are deeper embedded than a one-off gala dinner with Bannon. In fact, in Europe, Israel is actively pursuing alliances with far-right groups and parties as state policy.
For both American and European contexts, the answer to the seemingly bewildered question does not pertain only to Orban and Hungary, but also to Israel’s attitude towards far-right movements everywhere.
Netanyahu and Zionist leaders are not only aware of the massive political shift in European politics but are, in fact, working diligently to utilise this in Israel’s favour.
On his recent visit to Israel, Orban asserted that Hungarian Jewish citizens should feel safe in his country, a strange statement considering that it was Orban and his party that deprived many Jews and other members of minority groups of any feeling of safety.
Still, Netanyahu welcomed Orban as a “true friend of Israel” and Orban called on his European counterparts to show more support for Israel.
Netanyahu had visited Budapest in July 2017, a supposed ‘historic’ visit that did nothing to change Hungary’s official discourse dotted with racism and anti-Semitism.
It is well-known that Israel and Zionist leaders are selective in manipulating the definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ to serve their political agendas, but Israel’s attitude towards the racist far-right movements in Europe takes this truth to an entirely new level.
Indeed, the ‘special relationship’ between Netanyahu and Orban is only the tip of the iceberg. For years, Netanyahu’s Israel has been ‘flirting’ with radical right movements in Europe.
The unmistakable Israeli strategy, of course, has its own logic. Israeli leaders feel that Europe’s move to the far-right is irrevocable and are keen to benefit from the anti-Muslim sentiment that accompanies this shift.
Moreover, the EU’s resolve to label illegal colony products and its refusal to heed calls for moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem is pushing Netanyahu to explore these new routes. During his previous visit to Hungary Netanyahu met with leaders from the so-called Visegrad-4, which includes Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
On that visit, Netanyahu hoped to find new channels of support within the EU by using his newfound allies in these countries. In an audio recording obtained by Reuters, Netanyahu chastised Europe for daring to criticise Israel’s dismal human rights record, illegal colony policies and military occupation.
The Israeli-far-right embrace touches practically every European country including Italy and Germany whose history of Nazism and Fascism resulted in death and misery to millions.
In Italy, the connection between Italian far-right parties and Israel goes back to the early 2000s, when post-Fascist leader, Gianfranco Fini, laboured to rebrand his movement.
Initially, Fini was the leader of the Movimento Sociale Italiano which saw itself as the “heir to the Fascist Party”.
The rebranding of the party required a trip by Fini to Israel in 2003, after changing the name of his movement to the ‘National Alliance.’ Interestingly, in his highly-touted visit, Fini was accompanied by Amos Luzzatto, the head of the Italian Jewish community.
Unsurprisingly, far-right leader, Matteo Salvini, Italy’s current Interior Minister, went through the same political baptism by Zionist Israel as both Orban and Fini by paying a visit to Tel Aviv in March 2016 to launch his political career and declare his undying love for the Jewish State.
The same scenario is being repeated in Germany where the far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), has risen in ranks to the point that it almost toppled a government coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In fact, what began as Israeli flirting with far-right racist movements is now Israel’s official policy towards Europe. It remains to be seen how Israel’s embracing of fascist Europe will bode, for both Israel and the European Union. Will the EU “shrivel and disappear” or will Israel be finally exposed for what it truly is — an ethnonationalist state with no interest in true democracy in the first place?
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London).