Far Right, far Left, Middle Eastern strongmen and Sunni and Shi’ite Islamists

THEY ARE right-wing also. The Iranian regime celebrating its missiles (photo credit: REUTERS)
THEY ARE right-wing also. The Iranian regime celebrating its missiles
(photo credit: REUTERS)
When you analyze the social media output of white supremacists, you expect to find antisemitic tropes, glorifications of Hitler and images of swastikas. But what you don’t necessarily anticipate is lavish praise for a dictator of a Middle Eastern country.
Among the postings on the now-defunct Facebook page of James Alex Fields Jr. – the man charged with murder after he rammed a car into a group of counter- protesters at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – was an image of Syrian regime president Bashar Assad in full military uniform with the caption “undefeated.”
Over recent months, Assad has become somewhat of an icon among the far Right, after former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who appeared at the “Unite the Right” rally, in a series of tweets in March praised Assad as a “modern day hero standing up to demonic forces seeking to destroy his people and nation.”
Richard Spencer, another avowed white supremacist, who coined the term “alt-right” and helped organize the “Unite the Right” march on Charlottesville, also expressed support for the dictator. The white nationalist, previously an outspoken supporter of US President Donald Trump, broke with him over his decision to launch air-strikes against the Syrian regime following a chemical weapons attack in April. The same month, Spencer tweeted a flattering image of Assad with his wife Asma under the hashtag #StandWithAssad.
It was therefore not entirely surprising to find advocates of the Syrian dictator among marchers at the rally in Charlottesville. Protesters asserted that “Assad did nothing wrong” and celebrated the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian regime, dropped indiscriminately on schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure.
At first sight, white supremacists in Virginia might have little in common with a mass murderer in Damascus, but the far Right has long had a soft spot for strongmen that share their deep-rooted antisemitic sentiments.
The Ba’athists, a pan-Arab nationalist movement spearheaded by Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Bashar Assad in Syria, are ideological antisemites. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who visited Syria in 2005, is a known admirer of Assad’s vicious opposition to the state of Israel and viewed him as a bulwark against Zionist influence in the region after the war in Iraq in 2003, which Duke believes America waged at the behest of Israel. During his visit to Damascus, Duke vowed that Washington, DC, and New York are “occupied by the Zionists,” a notion prominent among far-right movements in the United States.
The collusion doesn’t stop here. Assad’s Syria is a traditional client state of Russia and since the outbreak of the civil war six years ago, the regime in Damascus has been on life support from Moscow. Together, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Assad, who is a member of the Syrian Alawite minority, have presented themselves as the good guys in the fight against Muslim extremism, a narrative readily swallowed by the far Right.
The white supremacists’ knowledge of the complex situation in Syria, however, is so superficial that, clouded by their hateful prejudices, they don’t realize that they support a regime that is not only propped up by Russia, but also by Shi’ite terrorist group Hezbollah and its masters in Iran, the country that since 1979 has run the prototype of an oppressive Islamic state, long before al-Qaida and Islamic State appeared on the map.
But since all the mentioned parties are united in their hatred for Jews, details become just a myriad of useless words. What really interests the white supremacists of Charlottesville is not Iran’s support for Islamic terrorist organizations, but its perfection of Holocaust denial.
The regime denies the Holocaust and regularly calls for the elimination of the State of Israel. During annual al-Quds Day rallies, the Israeli flag is burned and chants of “Death to Israel” fill the streets. The country also hosts an annual Holocaust denial cartoon, mocking the death of the six million Jews who perished in the Nazi genocide.
IN 2006, Iran organized a so-called “scientific” Holocaust denial conference in Tehran, where it hosted cast of established genocide deniers and implacable foes of Israel, including David Duke, former French academic Robert Faurisson, and an associate of the British author David Irving. They would have fitted perfectly in the crowd of white supremacists in Charlottesville waving the Nazi flag and chanting “Jews will not replace us,” an open declaration of genocidal intent.
And as if that was not enough of an unholy alliance, the vicious cycle is complemented by the hard Left, which shares the far Right’s dislike of Jews, as well as their admiration for Russia and Middle Eastern strongmen that oppose the West’s “neo-colonial” policies.
The Ba’athists movement in Syria has deep roots in socialism and Assad’s father, Hafez Assad, was a key Middle East ally of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
You find that phenomenon at the highest level of power. In the UK, the Labour Party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been a longstanding supporter of Russia and appeared multiple times on state television Russia Today. He previously led the hard-left Stop the War Coalition, which has sided with Russia in Ukraine and Syria and, despite claiming to be “anti-war,” is known for condemning US military action while turning a blind eye to the crimes of the Syrian regime and its Russian backers. Corbyn has also been a client of Iran, which paid him $27,0000 to appear on its state television Press TV, and in the past called terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends.”
The far Right, far Left, Middle Eastern strongmen, and Sunni and Shi’ite Islamists are not your everyday bedfellows. But they form a toxic cocktail, mixed together by their joint contempt for liberalism and suspicion of minorities, that threatens the fabric of our societies.
The author is a senior adviser at The Israel Project in Washington, DC, and a director at The Human Security Centre in London. She tweets @MsJulieLenarz.