European Jewry’s choice
Europeans – both Jewish and not – must be careful not to lose sight of the principles of liberalism and tolerance embedded in democratic thought as they confront the challenge presented by Muslim extremism in their midst.
French National Front leader Marine Le Pen Photo: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
For a European Jew, it can be tempting to support right-wing – even quasi
fascist – political movements.
Like Jews elsewhere in the Diaspora,
European Jewry has been tremendously successful at integrating into their host
countries’ societies. They speak the language, are well-versed in the culture
and understand the mentality. Inevitably, they are likely to share with other
Europeans the same negative views toward the large and rapidly growing Muslim
populations in cities such as Brussels, Copenhagen, Marseille, Amsterdam and
Malmo that are often openly hostile toward European culture and stubbornly
refuse to integrate into European society. This is particularly true considering
the fact that Muslim extremists have become the principle perpetrators of
violent anti-Semitic attacks in Europe.
Politicians on the Right who are
the most vocal critics of the Islamization of Europe are often strong supporters
of Israel. Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom comes to mind, as does
Filip Dewinter, the leader of Belgium’s Vlaams Belang party who visited Israel
at the end of 2010 and expressed his solidarity for the Jewish state and for
settlements in Judea and Samaria.
This pro-Israel stance articulated by
Wilders, Dewinters and others such as Britain’s English Defence League leader
Tommy Robinson, who has repeatedly supported Israel’s right to defend itself,
contrasts sharply with the far-left’s penchant for forming alliances with
Islamists against Israel. Even more moderate left-wing political parties tend to
be more critical of Israeli policy than those on the Right. And many extreme
right-wing political parties – such as the Vlaams Belang party – and politicians
– such as France’s Marine Le Pen – have adamantly denied harboring anti-Semitic
sentiments or ties.
Still, European Jews must be cautious. The xenophobia
and intolerance directed at Europe’s Muslims can easily be turned against Jews.
Le Pen’s suggestion last week that Jews should be banned from wearing kippot in
public places is a case in point.
In an interview with Le Monde, the
leader of the National Front called for a ban on head scarves and veils in
public places. (“Ostentatious religious signs” are already banned in France’s
public schools, as is the burka in public places.) Asked if the ban would
include kippot as well, Le Pen responded, “Obviously, if the veil is banned, the
kippa [should be] banned in public as well.”
In a follow-up interview on
French TV, Le Pen repeated her statements, adding, “Jewish skullcaps are
obviously not a problem in our country,” but “what would people say if I’d only
asked to ban Muslim clothing? They’d burn me as a Muslim-hater.” Le Pen
has no qualms about trampling on the right to religious expression of both Jews
and Muslims to advance her xenophobic and intolerant agendas.
Jewry cannot rely on politicians such as Le Pen. And Le Pen is not the only
right-wing disappointment. Wilders’s Party for Freedom has reportedly
included in its platform a prohibition of ritual slaughter – both Muslim and
Jewish. And Dion Graus, a parliamentarian from the party, intends to continue
efforts to ban the import of ritually slaughtered meat. Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi
Yona Metzger has written to Wilders asking him to reconsider.
both Jewish and not – must be careful not to lose sight of the principles of
liberalism and tolerance embedded in democratic thought as they confront the
challenge presented by Muslim extremism in their midst. Throughout history the
litmus test for the level of freedom enjoyed by any society is how it protects
the rights of Jews. And this remains true today.