Far-right European parties winning over some Jewish voters, top rabbi warns

Jewish leader says far-right parties in some European countries are winning over Jewish voters by exploiting fears about militant Islamists.

June 1, 2016 07:34
2 minute read.

A man wears a kippa. . (photo credit: REUTERS)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


VIENNA - Far-right parties in some European countries are winning over Jewish voters by exploiting fears about militant Islamists and mainstream parties must do much more to address Europeans' security concerns, a Jewish leader said on Tuesday.

Boosted by Europe's migrant crisis, Norbert Hofer of Austria's anti-immigration Freedom Party only narrowly lost the country's presidential election on May 22. He would have been the first far-right head of state in the European Union.

"I understand that, most probably, a not insignificant part of the (Jewish) community here voted for Hofer for the presidency," the head of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), Pinchas Goldschmidt, told Reuters in an interview.

Goldschmidt, who is also the chief rabbi of Moscow, said he had received reports of a similar shift among French Jews towards supporting the anti-immigration National Front ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next year in France.

"When God gave out intelligence, not everybody stood in line. And so when those parties come with a populist message to the Jews and say 'We're going to save you from the Muslims' ... propaganda is effective," he added.

Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem in April - a gesture rich in symbolism, given the Nazis' role in Austrian history and the flight or murder of most Austrian Jews following the country's annexation by Adolf Hitler in 1938.

"Not only from the Freedom Party in Austria but also from the side of, for example, the National Front in France ... and also (Geert) Wilders in Holland, they all seem to want us Jews to say they are acceptable," Goldschmidt said.

Today Austria is home to an estimated 15,000 Jews and more than 500,000 Muslims.


The security threat posed by Islamist militants has become much clearer after last year's Paris attacks and must be tackled, Goldschmidt said, adding that Europe's Schengen area of passport-free travel made that more difficult.

"I think that since the populist right-wing parties raised real concerns of people, unless the mainstream parties of Europe are going to address those issues, they're going to lose."

Goldschmidt, who was in Vienna for a gathering of the CER, suggested measures including the creation of a European anti-terrorism task force, improvements in border security and more effective integration of refugees.

He also condemned what he said was the tendency of far-right parties to conflate ordinary Muslims with Islamist militants.

"(The) moderate Muslim is our natural ally. They are as much the victims of radical Islamism as we Jews. It is the populism, the generalization, which is dangerous and destructive."

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Rabbi Isaac Schapira
May 19, 2019
The struggle to respect, preserve and protect Europe’s Jewish cemeteries