The politics of opposition


When European right-wing parties gain in polls and win elections, newspapers overflow with articles declaring the end of democracy. Following the Swedish parliamentary elections in September 2010, Newsweek''s Denis MacShane wrote the following:

"Thus the arrival of a new politics in Europe. A decade ago extremist politics was confined to fringes and street protests. It has now arrived as a parliamentary force and is beginning to change how other parties behave and speak."
When the Israeli MK Aryeh Eldad invited Geert Wilders, a Dutch MP, to speak at a conference in Tel Aviv, the Israeli daily Haaretz demanded that Israel’s political leadership stop its courting of “European neo-fascist groups”.

Israelis who continue to seek dialogue with European right-wing politicians are regularly labeled as fools or even as traitors. However, Haaretz passed no such judgment on the Israeli ambassador Yaakov Amitai who is currently attempting to open communication channels with Islamists in Egypt. Another Haaretz columnist Adar Primor referred to the visiting European politicians as Islamophobic, racist and anti-Semitic.

Why hasn’t Haaretz published a single op-ed that views the Muslim Brotherhood with such unforgiving clarity?
The Muslim Brotherhood received 36 percent of the vote and the Salafists 24 percent in the recent Egyptian parliamentary elections. When a right-wing party in Europe does well or even barely passes the electoral threshold, no one talks about the triumph of democracy. On the contrary, following a positive result for a right-wing party, many European and Israeli newspapers are painted with op-eds and headlines decrying the end of democracy.
Why should the self-proclaimed new-right parties of Europe be labeled as threats to democracy when the self-proclaimed enemy of liberal democracy, the Muslim Brotherhood is not?
Egypt has never witnessed a culture that celebrates and nurtures liberal democratic values. True Finns (Finland), Swedish Democrats (Sweden), MSI (Italy) or PVV (Netherlands) are all proponents of parliamentary democracy and individual rights. More importantly, they are all political parties born out of a liberal political culture. None of the new right parties of Europe are advocating the limiting of personal freedoms or embracing fascism. While many Europeans celebrate the rise of democracy in the Middle East, many on the continent fear simultaneously the manifestations of the democratic will of Europeans.
Now that the dust is beginning to settle following the Islamist takeover, several observers in the West who showed enthusiastic support are maintaining their views.
Perhaps many are happy about the outcome because the initial support was not really for liberalism, but rather, for the possibility of a significant decrease in American power in the Middle East.
The viability and strength of the pathological anti-Americanism within the political left is arguably stronger than any sympathy or support for the rioting masses in Cairo, Damascus or elsewhere in the Arab world. The chance to see American puppets being thrown to the wolves is a tempting scenario for many who view America as a profoundly pernicious influence on the world.

For many, resisting the temptation to give immediate support to anti-Mubarak forces, without knowing the first thing about the nature of these forces, was an impossible task. After all, Mubarak was viewed as America’s favorite dictator.

The left is willing to support Islamists in the Middle East in the name of democracy but unwilling to grant the same support to European parties and their constituents who are committed to democracy. Therefore it is possible and even likely that opposition to American influence, not love for Islamists, is behind the left’s tacit acceptance of the Muslim Brotherhood.