Islamophobia: Bad For The Jews

Continuing on the subject of Eli’s last post, it might be worthwhile to examine in more depth the burgeoning alliance between right-wing supporters of Israel and the European far right. The importance of this topic was driven home by the publication of a new Gallup poll on Americans’ attitudes towards various religions. The poll, which found that over half of Americans view Islam unfavorably, also found that “the strongest predictor of prejudice against Muslims is whether a person holds similar feelings about Jews.”

While the poll deals with the American rather than the European context, it is a reminder that Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have typically gone hand in hand. This is worth remembering when looking at the rise of European far-right leaders like Jean-Marie Le Pen of France and the late Jorg Haider of Austria. Hostility to Muslim immigrants forms the centerpiece of their political stance, but their parties have also tended to espouse anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial — a reminder of their neo-fascist roots.

But this anti-Semitism has quite naturally prevented them from making common cause with neoconservatives and other right-wing Zionists in America, whose militant stance towards “Islamism” (very broadly defined) would otherwise make them natural allies of the European far right. Hence we have seen in recent years that the savvier of the European far right leaders — such as Filip Dewinter of the Flemish separatist party Vlaams Belang (VB) — have dropped the explicitly anti-Semitic elements of their platforms and doubled down on Islamophobia. They realize that by portraying themselves as staunch supporters of Israel and allies in the war against Islamofascism, they can acquire a new set of influential and well-connected supporters in America — the likes of Daniel Pipes, Mark Steyn, Frank Gaffney, etc. (Eli, Ali and I wrote about the connections between Wilders, his U.S. supporters, and the VB this past February.)

While focusing on Islamophobia rather than anti-Semitism is certainly a savvy move, whether it is sincere is another question. The VB, for example, is a successor to the Vlaams Blok, which disbanded in 2004 after being convicted of “repeated incitement to discrimination”; its fall was precipated by top VB official Roeland Raes’s widely-publicized Holocaust denial on Dutch television. Despite the VB’s claims to have cleaned up its act since the Raes scandal, the Belgian Jewish community isn’t buying it. They maintain that, regardless of whatever philo-Semitic noises the top leadership makes in public, the group has a clear pattern of associating with anti-Semitic and neo-fascist elements. (Right-wing apostate Charles Johnson has in recent years provided the most thorough coverage of the devil’s bargain that the American Islamophobic right has made with the European far right.) Similarly, although Wilders himself does not come from the neo-fascist milieu, there can be little doubt that his base of popular support contains many of the same elements as Le Pen’s and Haider’s.

All this is to say that Daniel Pipes and his compatriots are playing with fire when they embrace Wilders and other European Islamophobes. While the European far right has proven increasingly willing to say the right things about Jews for tactical reasons, all indications are that hatred of Muslims frequently goes hand-in-hand with hatred of Jews.

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Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.

11 Comments

  1. And please fix your software so it doesn’t capitalize every word.

  2. Daniel,
    I would describe myself as someone strongly committed to a legit Palestinian state, opposed the Iraq war from the outset, and in favor of toning down the anti-Muslim rhetoric that drives much of the neocon world view and indeed American foreign policy.
    At the same time, it seems to me that European “natives” have a perfectly legitimate right to worry about the scope of Muslim immigration, and to try to freeze it in order to attempt assimilate their existing Muslim populations. It’s certainly unfortunate that far right parties have been the first to take up this cry. But because Le Pen or someone says the earth is round does not mean that the earth is flat.
    I’ve met you, we know several people in common–and I don’t want to get attacked as some sort of neo-fascist sympathizer. But in your opinion (and I respect your opinion) is their a legitimate political space for people who are for justice in Israel/Palestine, against the neocon/neolib foreign policy project, but still opposed to a cultural revolution in Europe caused by immigration. It seems to me a perfectly sensible point of view.

  3. Thank You for the blog.As chairman of Muslims for America,the last few years I have been telling our leaders in Washington DC,exactly the same thing.
    I have met so many people who dont like Muslims and feel equally prejudiced to Jews.
    In some instances I thought their comments towards Jews were really harsher than the words they used for Muslims.
    Muslims and Jews need to do more interfaith activities together and also try to teach the public at large tolerance to both Faiths.
    I am very proud of people like Daniel Pearls father because they are doing exactly that.
    To be honest I think most Americans,think Muslims and Jews are very similar.To be honest we are.Our Culture,outlook to life,faith and lifestyle is almost the same.

  4. This is a very interesting and important point. It’s quite clear that the far, far right is largely anti-semitic. On the other hand, are you saying that the Gallup poll mentioned indicates that over 50 per cent of Americans are anti-semitic? I don’t believe that’s true, even though I think anti-semitism in the U.S. is increasing.

    While U.S. neofascists are clearly anti-semitic, and while their numbers are increasing, they remain a tiny percentage of the U.S. population. The fact is that most non-Jewish Islamophobes in the U.S. are philo-semites — that is, they support Israel and do not hate Jews. The overwhelming majority of American Christians are pro-Jewish and pro-Israel, and this is especially true of especially of Christians who are right wingers.

    I am going to say one more time that it is quite possible to accept members of other “communities” (racial, ethnic or religious) as equals while at the same time wanting to maintain the cultural identity of one’s homeland. I don’t support the Zionist cause in Palestine because I believe it was wrong to deprive the Palestinians of land they had occupied for centuries. But do the Jews deserve a homeland, a place in which they can preserve and maintain their cultural heritage? I believe they do. In a world of perfect justice, that homeland would have been established in Austria or Bavaria after World War II. The victorious Allies should have forced Germany to absorb the population of one of these regions, and then turned the land over the Jews. I say this even though one of my grandfathers was a native of Bavaria.

    Possibly the Jews would have found occupying Bavaria or Austria distasteful. I would then have offered them the state of Nevada as a place to settle in, just as the Mormons have Utah. I strongly believe the Jews deserve a homeland; I just don’t think they deserved Palestine because they once lived there. After 1,300 years of occupancy the Arabs were entitled to stay on what had become their land.

    Similarly, I think the peoples of Western Europe and America have a right to maintain the cultural integrity of the lands they have occupied for centuries. While it is clearly wrong to discriminate against citizens or resident aliens of any faith or ethnicity, there is nothing inherently wrong in setting limits to immigration. While I do not believe that U.S. courts would allow policies such as Switzerland has just enacted, or that France has had for decades, I fail to see why Western countries should accept Islamization without limit. Muslim lands are immensely large, and permit the full expression of Islamic culture. Just as Westerners resident in Islamic lands must accept certain limits on their behavior, so Muslims who settle in the West should respect the culture of their surroundings. If they find themselves, for whatever reasons, unable to do so, then they should return to a Muslim land.

    “The culture of a people is the blood of its being,” Herder said. Every people, every culture has a right to maintain itself, as opposed to giving way to political correctness and the demands of others who assert overriding claims for their own culture. And a person can believe this without being an Islamophobe or an anti-semite.

  5. Which group, Muslims or Jews are conspiring to affect the foreign policy of the American and European gov’ts? Both; which group has been most effective? Israel. Does that set up Jews as a clearer target?

    I don’t know many who investigate this issue with any unbiased earnestness who think Israel is getting slighted. Even if the verdict is for isolationism, Israel looses.

    What really concerns me is that Americans have a been so propagandized that when reality rears its ugly head, I fear for the country. I don’t know if it will mean more of these surgical CIA infiltrations into foreign countries like Yemen, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Columbia, Honduras, Venezuela, Panama, Suriname, or The Phillipeans, Burma, North Korea, Indonesia, Singapore… where we leave the patient open and festering; necessitating the need to return due to structural instability.

    How will we resolve these messes? How will we unwind the American Empire? Will we blame Muslims, Mexicans, Jews, Financiers, Whitey? There are a coterie of war merchants who stand to lose their way of life, they will jealously guard their position.

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