The continuing rise of the various right-wing parties in Europe, often derisively dismissed as “far-right” or even “neo-Nazi” by their opponents, has been a clear trend for a number of years now and is certainly a force to be reckoned with. They have many harsh critics, including some leaders in the European Jewish community, but are those critics going too far in their name-calling?
Such blanket criticism ignores the many positive aspects of this primarily anti-EU and anti-immigration movement, which is justifiably concerned about the dangerous growth of Islamic populations, Islamic influence, and yes, Islamic terrorism throughout Europe. Recent years have also seen a sharp increase in crimes such as rapes and Muslim initiated anti-Semitic attacks in European cities. This has been accompanied by demands for Sharia law - that oppressive Islamic law that would, for example, stifle any public expression of religious observance other than Islam, would legalize wife-beating, and would require cutting off the hands of shoplifters.
During a recent speaking tour in Sweden, I had the privilege of meeting in the Parliament with several leaders of the Swedish Democrats, the one party in Sweden that is active in attempting to combat
the Islamic demographic threat to this formerly peaceful, friendly country. We engaged in serious dialogue about the issues confronting our two countries and I was impressed by their deep concern for their now internally embattled country’s future. Even more so, I was struck by their sincere desire to understand the importance and the benefit of standing with a confident Israel that has returned to its biblical, historic heartland, as well as the importance of learning about the heritage and the central cultural symbols of the Jewish people – such as kashrut and circumcision – which are increasingly under attack in today’s Europe. Such genuine interest in achieving understanding and cooperation would certainly not be expressed by neo-Nazis. Positive trends like this should be welcomed and encouraged.
Yes, there is a wide range of opinion in the various right-wing parties in the European countries as it concerns their attitudes towards Israel and the Jewish people, from strongly pro-Israel to anti-Semitic, but distinctions need to be made in developing a plan for contending with these trends. In any event, the real and consistent threat to Israel comes from the European Left, which has repeatedly proven its dangerous anti-Israel leanings by shamelessly cavorting with the Islamic ideologues and other haters of Israel.
The very real concerns that have fueled the rise of the Right in Europe will not disappear and will only grow in the coming years. Perhaps it’s time that we Israelis put aside the old right-left stereotypes concerning our relations with the different movements in Europe and start focusing on building constructive relationships, to honestly confront the issues at hand. Once we make this basic conceptual shift, then we can take serious steps to steer the entire European ship to a positive relationship with Israel and the Jewish people. If that happens, it will be good for Europe, as well.