Europe’s odd fellow travelers

Europe’s odd fellow travelers

We will have time to return to Syria as that crisis is obviously not going anywhere soon. But for today let’s just say “enough of Syria” and look at Europe, where ugly things are happening too.

Jews and Arabs, ultimately referred to as “Semitic-speaking people,” may hate each other to the core, but those of them living in Europe are discovering that they are increasingly sharing some things, whether they like it or not.

Both are the increasingly objects of hatred for many Europeans, and are forced to resist the same things. The attempt by a court in Germany to ban male circumcision – sacred for both – is only one case in point. 

There are also increasing reports of groups like the anti-Muslim “Identitaire” in France, who are engaged in willful activities such as serving pork soup to the poor, which no Muslim or Jew will touch, in the name of charity.

Thomas Klau, from the European Council on Foreign Relations, recently told the Sydney Morning Herald, that just ‘’as anti-Semitism was a unifying factor for far-right parties in the 1910s, ‘20s and ‘30s, Islamophobia has become the unifying factor [now].’’

Klau’s remark may suggest that it is Muslims in Europe – whose numbers are obviously larger – and not Jews – most of whom were exterminated six decades ago - who should worry today. But developments seem to belie this assumption. Take the strange case of Csanad Szegedi, once billed as “a rising star” in the far-right Jobbik Party in Hungary. 

Szegedi, also a member of the European Parliament, is (or at least was until very recently) a notorious baiter of the Julius Streicher brand, feeding on anti-Semitism by accusing Jews of “buying up the country” and “polluting things sacred to Hungary,” among other things. 

Needless to say both Szegedi and Jobbik - which has deputies in the Hungarian Parliament - are also anti-Muslim, not to mention being rabidly anti-Roma. But divine retribution stepped in for Szegedi recently in a way he least expected. 

Given that even Hitler is rumored to have had Jewish blood running somewhere in his otherwise dirty veins, the thought that he or she may have Jewish blood must be the worst nightmare for any of today’s neo-Nazi supremacists. 

But this is exactly what happened to Szegedi, who now knows that he not only has Jewish blood, but is also the progeny of Auschwitz survivors. Not surprisingly Szegedi was forced to resign from his party after this embarrassing revelation. 

After his resignation Jobbik said that “they do not investigate the heritage of their members but instead take into consideration what they have done for the nation.” But this does not answer the fact that they were more than happy with Szegedi’s anti-Semitism, and only opposed him after his “heritage” was revealed. 

The Golden Dawn Party in Greece, which now has deputies in Parliament, is another case in point. This rabidly anti-immigrant party is not only anti-Muslim (and of course anti-Turkish by definition) also but also an admirer of Nazi symbols, not to mention being an avid Holocaust denier. 

Across Europe, from Norway and Denmark to Italy and Bulgaria, fascist parties are becoming part of the political environment. Many have a presence in national parliaments, which may be small today but are not negligible. Support for them could continue to increase since there is a correlation between the deepening economic crisis and their increasing popularity, as many European political scientists point out today.

Given “bourgeois sensibilities” and the fact that it is not “chic” to be identified with “the brutish Nazis,” many of these parties “sugarcoat” their fascism. They are nevertheless there to be beheld for what they really are. 

The bottom line here is that while Jews and Arabs may continue to hate each other, they are turning out to be odd fellow travelers when it comes to what they have to face in a Europe where more and more people seem little interested in the lessons of their own past.