Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, is insisting that European Jews and Israel should distance themselves from populist and far-right parties ahead of upcoming elections in general, and in particular ahead of EU parliamentary elections at the end of May.
Goldschmidt said that fear of “Islamic radical terrorism” should not lead Jews in Europe to vote for, or engage with, far-right parties, noting that some of these parties include “hard-core antisemites.”
“Saying ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend because we don’t like Muslims, therefore we’ll support them [the far Right]’ – this doesn’t always make sense,” said Goldschmidt.
He pointed specifically to the National Rally in France, formerly known as the National Front; the Freedom Party of Austria, whose chairman, Heinz-Christian Strache, has called for a ban on religious slaughter; and the AfD in Germany as parties not suitable for Jewish support.
The Freedom Party of Austria boasts a Jewish MP, while a small number of Jews in Germany formed the “Jews in the AfD” caucus last year.
In February 2018, then-Likud MK Yehudah Glick met with Strache.
“There are some Jews who are inclined to vote for the far Right, but when God gave out intelligence, not everyone was standing in line to get it,” quipped the rabbi.
“I have a problem with people who walk around with big yarmulkes who have grandparents who were Holocaust survivors and who are ready to sit down and kiss and hug people who are very proud of their Holocaust and World War II heritage,” he said.Goldschmidt declined, however, to comment on the rise of Israel’s far-right parties and the recent political alliance formed between Bayit Yehudi and the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party, a union that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly lobbied for.
Asked if it was appropriate for Israeli Jews to vote for such parties, the rabbi said that he did not want to get involved in Israeli politics.
Reflecting on rising antisemitism in Europe, Goldschmidt said that he and many European rabbis are concerned about the growth of far-right hate in particular.
“The fact that you have brown shirts marching again in the streets of Germany, with other Nazis [marching] in other cities in Europe and an empowered far Right is a significant sign for times to come,” said Goldschmidt. “Jews are worried about antisemitism in Europe. We don’t like what’s going on.”