If you have clicked on this article, it is likely that you have read previous op-eds of mine. Hopefully you will have enjoyed them enough to be reassured of the following: amidst widespread treachery, hypocrisy and bad faith, there are a few Europeans who genuinely appreciate and support the Jewish state.
A few years ago, when my expectations about human nature and "European values" flew higher, I was thrilled that so many rightwing Europeans championed the cause of Zionism and denounced the hatred and violence to which Jews are subjected to in the name of Islam. The rise of the rightwing nourished my illusions that the ethical values and political goals of Europeans and Zionists would eventually align.
I no longer believe any of this. The war of Putin against Ukrainian self-determination and sovereignty made it clear that rightwing Europeans today, still share the reverence for power and violence of their grandparents. With almost no exceptions, all populist rightwing politicians proved themselves aspiring epigones of Vidkun Quisling and Marshall Pétain. How else are we to read the fact they sided with Putin's Russia in its war of aggression against Ukraine?
There is legitimate room to question the wisdom of EU and NATO policies vis-à-vis Russia and Ukraine. Yet none of this self-examination justifies Russia's bombardment of hospitals and schools, deportation of Ukrainian children and denial of democratic Ukrainian aspirations to chart an independent foreign policy course. And yet, rightist politicians in Europe like Eric Zémmour and Marine Le Pen in France, Alice Weidel in Germany and Matteo Salvini in Italy have all condoned the rape of Ukraine.
Unfortunately, a few Jews have done so too. Yet whereas the Jewish people do have historical grounds to hate, resent and fear Ukrainian nationalism, Germans, French and Italians have none.
So why do rightist politicians in Europe condone Putin's war? One reason is that populist rightwing parties have benefitted from Putin's largesse. It is therefore quite possible that their solidarity with the Kremlin is motivated by mammonism and fear of Russian blackmail. Ironically, venality and corruption are the most charitable interpretation of populist rightwing positions vis-à-vis Putin.
The depressing truth is that most voters of these populist rightwing parties may genuinely admire Putin's regime. The reason is that Putin is the world's authoritarian champion of state-sanctioned homophobia. Most Putin fans will not admit this and will instead wax with lyricism about his defense of Christianity and traditional values.
Alas, if these motivations were honest, such fans would be repulsed by the staggering abortion rates and the un-Christian worship of Stalin and other Communist criminals in Putin's Russia. The sad truth is that Putin's homophobic policies (together with Orban's), viewed as victories over "globalism" and "wokeness", motivate most of this admiration. The stupidity of this admiration is hard to match. In fact, Putin's actions have done more to boost the cause of globalism and wokeness than anything Soros, HRC and Obama could have ever contrived.
Elsewhere I have not minced words to assail the hypocrisy and extremism of contemporary woke activism and LGBT lobbies in the Western world. Nevertheless, defending state-sanctioned homophobia in Russia amounts to justifying the humiliation, abuse and discrimination of harmless individuals with pretexts similar to those used yesteryear to target Russian Jews. Those of us who oppose wokeness in the West out of commonsense and respect for human dignity cannot in good faith endorse the abuse of human dignity in Russia (or for that matter in China, Iran and Saudi Arabia).
With hindsight it is clear that rightist European professions of love for Zionism and the Jewish people were always a sham. Their words of admiration for Judaism and Israel were almost always placed next to statements that attack Islam and Muslims. The AfD in Germany, for example, champions in its charter the defense of "Judeo-Christian" values. Nevertheless, the term "Jewish" is only added in paragraphs of the charter that criticize Islam. Elsewhere, the AfD just vows to defend traditional "Christian" values. In a similar vein, Matteo Salvini in Italy is stridently "pro-Israel" and at the same time enjoys the friendship and company of the leaders of Casa Pound, a neo-fascist organization honoring the pro-Nazi and antisemitic American poet Ezra Pound.
In the end, these "friends of Israel" demonstrate that they admire the Jewish State due to the same image that pushes leftist Europeans to abhor it: That of a racist and ethno-nationalistic society that lives by the sword. Those of us who know the real Israel know that this image of Israel is a fabrication of anti-Semites. The fact that populist rightists do not denounce this image, but rather respect and admire it, explains why in the same breadth they claim to support Israel, they also admire Putin and miss the ‘good old days' of white Christian supremacy.
Given Israel’s justified frustration and anger at incessant libels and attacks by leftist Europeans, and the hypocrisy of center and center-right politicians who pay lip-service to Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, while subsidizing Abu Mazen and his murderous gang, Israel may be tempted to court these populist rightwing parties. Eldad Beck, the correspondent in Berlin for the Israel Hayom daily, explicitly recommends this course of action.
Personally, I am strongly opposed to Israel doing so. Unlike the Israel of yesteryear so desperate for international recognition and assistance to make Faustian bargains with immoral politicians, nowadays Israel is strong enough to vet its friends. Just like Israel's failure to recognize the Armenian Genocide is a sign of weakness and vulnerability vis-à-vis the Islamist Erdogan, running after xenophobic Putin-lovers in Europe will convey the message that Israel lacks moral scruples and self-respect.
All in all, Israelis both on the left and the right, should expect next to nothing from Europe and Europeans. Antisemitism, anti-Americanism and anti-colonialism are so deeply-seated in the continent, left, right and center, that honest concern and support for Israel will increasingly be dependent on practical economic and security interests. To expect Europeans in the 21st century to support Zionism out of love and respect for Jewish scriptures, a post-Holocaust historical sense of duty and responsibility toward the Jewish people or out of appreciation and gratitude for the good Israel does in the world, is a chimeric hope.
Rafael Castro is a political analyst who graduated from Yale and Hebrew-University. Rafael is a Noachide and lives in Berlin. He can be reached at [email protected]