A dangerous and irresponsible alliance

Israel must choose its friends more carefully, and give thought to the messages it is sending, at a time when the country is becoming increasingly isolated from mainstream international opinion.

Glenn Beck, alongside MK Danny Danon. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Glenn Beck, alongside MK Danny Danon.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
In recent years, a dangerous alliance has grown between the radical Left and Islamic extremists. Elements on the radical European Left have made common cause with Hamas and Hezbollah, since both sides share a desire to see the elimination of Israel. Yet there is another alliance that should also concern Israelis. This is the dangerous and irresponsible flirtation between the Israeli Right and extremists in Europe and the United States.
Politicians such as Danny Danon and Ayoub Kara of the Likud have been quick to forge ties with parties and personalities with deeply questionable backgrounds, simply because of their apparent support for Israeli policies.
Danon and Kara cannot be dismissed as a fringe element, as both wield influence within the Likud. Kara is deputy minister for the development of the Negev and the Galilee, and is said to be close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, while Danon is a deputy speaker of the Knesset and chairman of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs.
Kara met in December with the leader of Austria’s far-Right Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, causing great anger and dismay among Austria’s Jews. The head of Austria’s Jewish community, Ariel Muzicant, later claimed in a letter to Netanyahu that by meeting with Strache, Kara had “stabbed Austrian Jews in the back.”
Kara and Strache share a hatred of Islam. It is interesting that Kara justified his meeting with Strache on the grounds that his party was not anti-Semitic. Even if this were true, the subtext of this claim is that it is fine to befriend xenophobic politicians, as long as their hatred is directed at Muslims and other minorities, rather than Jews. According to this logic, Hungary’s extremist Jobbik party can also look forward to winning respectability among Israelis, once it ditches its openly anti-Semitic platform.
The same rule applies to the embrace of populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party. Wilders, who was invited to Israel by Arye Eldad of the National Union, can hardly be described as a true friend of the Jewish people. His party played a significant part in the prohibition of Jewish ritual slaughter of animals in The Netherlands, effectively banning the provision of kosher meat.
The flirtation of the Israeli Right with xenophobic European politicians causes difficulties for many Jewish communities in the Diaspora that are deeply uncomfortable with anti-immigration policies. However, one would not expect Eldad and like-minded politicians to dwell too much on the concerns of Diaspora Jewry: After all, it has been an article of faith for many on the Israeli Right that Jews belong in Israel and not in Europe.
In Britain, the leader of the right-wing British National Party, Nick Griffin, has claimed that his party was the only one to support Israel during Operation Cast Lead. The even more extreme English Defence League displays Israel’s national flag at its rallies. These organizations exploit the Jewish state’s struggle against the terrorism of Hamas and Hezbollah, as part of their broader campaign against Islam. This is absurd, since most jihadist terrorism, whether in Afghanistan, Chechnya or Kashmir, is unrelated to Israel’s struggle against Islamic extremism. Unfortunately, Israeli politicians such as Kara have endorsed the simplistic ideology of the far Right. This plays into the hands of the country’s detractors, some of whom claim that Israel serves as a recruiting sergeant for jihadists the world over.
By enlisting Wilders and Strache to their cause, certain Israeli politicians run the risk of dragging the country into crude xenophobic campaigns that the European far Right has launched against its own Muslim population. Kara has stated openly that since right-wing leaders are “fighting our enemies, we should back them.” This reckless posturing can have unpredictable consequences. Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto included a claim that Israel was a “frontline citadel” in the campaign against Islam. Is it really in Israel’s interest to win friends like Breivik, and encourage them in this way?
Since both the Dutch and Austrian leaders are a growing political force in their countries, it is in Israel’s interest to open a dialogue with them. However, Kara’s insistence on meeting with Strache, against the advice of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, was based purely on the Austrian’s hatred of Muslims.
What is one to make of Danon’s foolish support for American broadcaster Glenn Beck, who is not even an elected politician? This is a man who has alienated large swathes of American Jewry with his unsophisticated attack on the US Reform Movement. Danon’s support for Beck is based on his ardent support for Israeli settlement of the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Is the Israeli settler movement so desperate for friends that it needs Beck’s support? It is troubling that Netanyahu has effectively acquiesced to the reckless activity of his Likud colleagues, by his lack of leadership on this issue.
Israel must choose its friends more carefully, and give thought to the messages it is sending, at a time when the country is becoming increasingly isolated from mainstream international opinion.
The writer is a researcher, analyst and writer on international affairs .