European Jewish Congress
The Rise of Europe's Far-Right threatens peace on the continent. Just ask the Jews
EJC in the Media
The Rise of Europe's Far-Right threatens peace on the continent. Just ask the Jews

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” These famous words, spoken by the great statesman Edmund Burke, are more relevant today than perhaps at any time in our history. The horrors of Europe’s Nazi past were once enough to deter people from supporting the far-right, but judging from recent events in Germany our collective memory is fading.

Today, Jews of Europe may not be the primary targets of far-right hostility. However, we are not far behind and would need communal amnesia not to watch developments with trepidation. When fascism and bigotry raise their ugly heads, Jews are never far down the list of targets. And once they come for the Jews, all freedom-loving people are at risk.

On March 13, the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany, or AfD, made substantial gains in regional elections, marking a dangerous development in European politics. This is not an isolated incident. Earlier this month, the far-right People’s Party made striking electoral gains in Slovakia, and around Europe far-right parties like Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece and Marie Le Pen’s Front National in France are gaining in popularity. The NDP also won a seat in the European Parliament. Britain has so far remained immune, but must not be complacent.

The AfD’s electoral success is not as yet enough to undermine fatally the progress made by Germany since the Second World War, from the most evil of regimes to arguably Europe’s greatest supporter of minority rights. However, the lurch to the far-right does promote the fragmentation and polarisation of a political landscape that is critical to the stability of the continent on the whole. Though the AfD is unlikely to join any government—all other parties have refused to form a coalition with it—the national debate is undoubtedly being pulled to the right, and the German agenda is being refocused on divisive policies that only serve to promote hatred and intolerance.

The rise of populist reactionary politics is not just a European phenomenon; indeed, the U.S. seems to be falling prey to similar worrying tendencies, with the fear-mongering, xenophobic rhetoric dominating the Republican primaries. When you consider the extreme right-wing sentiments that allowed Marine Le Pen to dominate France’s regional elections in 2015, it may not come as a surprise that other electorates are following suit. However, this shift is dramatic when you consider that for almost 70 years German politics has been stabilized by a strong, centrist consensus that has rejected extremism and created one of the most tolerant, free and democratic nations on Earth.

This major shift in Germany marks a worrying break from the post-war Europe we fought so hard to build. If we look at the EU today, the right-wing nationalist parties may not be the largest but they are shouting loudly. They use their voices to distract debate, intimidate, instill fear and pull political dialogue to the right, ultimately seeking to polarize society into and “us and “them.” We must not let them.

The refugee crisis has presented many challenges for people in Germany and Europe as a whole, and many attribute the AfD’s success to these pressures. However, this does not diminish the severity of such a shift in voter sentiment. That Germany can now even consider supporting the far-right, given the horrors of the Holocaust signals a deeper change and it is very likely that worse is still to come.

Right-wing parties were traditionally marginalized in Germany and, unlike in many European nations, these parties played no part in government or policy formation. That the electorate is now responding so enthusiastically to right-wing populists and extremists borders on a crisis of democracy. The rejection of the mainstream parties ultimately shows the German people shunning stability in order to signal discontent. Far from being constructive, this move weakens our social fabric and presents new challenges to governing Europe’s largest economy.

It is clear that there are genuine grievances expressed by voters across the democratic world and these concerns—including economic stagnation, immigration and inequality—are certainly serious challenges that need to be addressed. A German TV poll last week found that 76 percent of the electorate thought that the main parties were “not taking their concerns about refugees seriously,” and another survey indicated a large percentage of AfD votes came from unhappy former supporters of Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats’ Union (CDU).

While the reactionary far-right parties may seem to offer an attractive alternative for some to the political status-quo, ultimately they do not propose constructive solutions and their hateful rhetoric divides peoples and encourages violence. I urge the electorates across the democratic world to heed the lessons of history. Intolerance and hatred can only lead to ruin. Just ask the Jews.

Click here to read the full article in Newsweek

Tuesday, March 22, 2016
More News
Politico:
Austria’s conservatives and right-wing populists surged to victory in Sunday’s parliamentary election, according to early projections, heralding a tectonic shift in the country’s politics after more than a decade under a centrist coalition.
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Life in Israel
  • Massive section of Western Wall and Roman theatre uncovered after 1,700 years
    Archaeologists are one step closer to solving the riddle of what took place in Jerusalem following the destruction of the city by Romans in 70 CE.

    On Friday, October 20, 2017 Massive section of Western Wall and Roman theatre uncovered after 1,700 years
  • Israel targets fashion industry over underweight models
    Israeli lawmakers want to tighten a ban on the employment of underweight models and on the undeclared digital slimming-down of fashion images, amid concern that the measures are being routinely flouted even as they are adopted abroad.

    On Friday, October 20, 2017 Israel targets fashion industry over underweight models
  • Work on Israel-Cyprus-Greece electricity link to start in 2018
    A Cypriot official said work on an electric cable linking the power grids of Israel, Cyprus and Greece is on track to start in the first quarter of 2018 after Greek and Cypriot regulators approved the project.

    On Friday, October 20, 2017 Work on Israel-Cyprus-Greece electricity link to start in 2018
  • In Israel, ultra-Orthodox women emerge as high-tech entrepreneurs
    While Silicon Valley is just beginning to confront decades of sexism and discrimination, female founders in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community say their segregated gender roles have an unintended benefit -- encouraging growing ranks of women entrepreneurs.

    On Friday, October 20, 2017 In Israel, ultra-Orthodox women emerge as high-tech entrepreneurs
  • First fully disabled-accessible synagogue opened in Jerusalem
    Construction of the first fully disabled-accessible synagogue in Jerusalem is about to be finished, giving disabled worshipers easy access to the compound, with comfortable seating arrangements for wheelchair-bound visitors, Braille bibles and more.

    On Wednesday, October 11, 2017 First fully disabled-accessible synagogue opened in Jerusalem
  • Survey: 60 percent of Arab Israelis have a positive view of the state
    A poll of Israeli Arabs has found that sixty percent surveyed said they had a favourable view of the state, while 37% said their view was unfavourable.

    On Wednesday, October 04, 2017 Survey: 60 percent of Arab Israelis have a positive view of the state
  • Israel's trade with Russia leaps by 25 percent
    Trade between Israel and Russia has grown this year by 25 percent, officials from both countries revealed, amid complications with other Russian trading partners.

    On Wednesday, October 04, 2017 Israel's trade with Russia leaps by 25 percent
  • Israel aims to double the number of people working in hi-tech
    The Israel Innovation Authority aims to double the number of high-tech workers in the country over the next decade, while encouraging companies in older industry to use more technology and become more innovative, the authority said in its annual report released on Sunday.

    On Wednesday, October 04, 2017 Israel aims to double the number of people working in hi-tech
  • 20,000 Gazan lulavs arrive in Israel
    A shipment of 20,000 date palm fronds were transported on Monday from the Gaza Strip to Israel where they were to be sold for use in a traditional Jewish religious ritual during the coming Sukkot holiday, the Defence Ministry said.

    On Wednesday, October 04, 2017 20,000 Gazan lulavs arrive in Israel
  • Israeli intelligence helped to thwart dozens of terror attacks around the world
    The Israeli intelligence community has shared information with other countries over the past two years that has helped thwart dozens of terror attacks about to be perpetrated by Islamists who were in contact with members of Islamic State and Middle Eastern factions identified with Al-Qaida.

    On Thursday, September 28, 2017 Israeli intelligence helped to thwart dozens of terror attacks around the world
President's Page Security and Crisis Centre by EJC European Parliament Working Group On Antisemitism