A leading European rabbi has warned Israeli leaders not to cosy up to the far-right, despite nationalist groups’ stated love of the Jewish state.
Conference of European Rabbis (CER) president Pinchas Goldschmidt issued the caution this week while in Israel, as he announced the creation of an ambassador role specifically aimed at countering the resurgent far-right threat.
Goldschmidt said the attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue by a man with far-right sympathies showed that American Jewry was no longer immune, but said some Israeli politicians still hadn’t grasped the danger.
“We heard very responsible statements from President [Reuven] Rivlin and Speaker [Yuli] Edelstein, but there are some in the Knesset who say ‘OK, even though they’re racist, it’s not our problem, let’s support them and see if we can get their support.’”
Political parties with a far-right agenda have gained ground in elections across Europe in recent years, milking discontent from the migration crisis and targeting Muslims. Many have been at pains to express their love for Israel and Jews.
“The reason they want our support is not because they need our votes, with less than 1.6 million Jews in Europe today,” said Goldschmidt. “They want our support for one reason only – to make them acceptable. By Jews moving to them, endorsing them, we say ‘OK, we accept your policies.’”
Those policies are often racist, against freedom of religion and against the core values of a liberal democracy, he said. “As Jews, we lived as religious, racial, ethnic minorities for thousands of years in other countries, so we should be extremely careful who we do endorse.”
Edelstein said Israelis should not forget far-right parties’ foundations, with the Freedom Party in Austria founded by Anton Reinthaller, a former Major-General in the SS, and Front National in France founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen, a convicted antisemite.
However, Goldschmidt said: “I don’t think most Israelis are aware of the challenges we face in Europe these days. They’re very much aware of the Islamist threat, in common with Jews all over the world, but the threat from the far-right has not been on their horizon.”
He added: “In the last 200 years the number of Jews killed by far-left or Islamist terrorists in Europe is around 50. The far-right killed six million. Let’s not forget it.”