Jerusalem is worried about the results of this week’s European Parliament elections, in which far right and even neo-Nazi parties drastically gained strength, a senior Israeli official said late Monday.
“Of course it’s our business. We’re talking about rise of neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups who managed to get elected and gained institutional respectability and will be able to exert influence over policy making,” said the diplomatic official, who is intimately familiar with European affairs.
The comments to The Times of Israel were Israel’s first detailed response to the elections since results were announced Monday morning.
“Obviously it’s a matter of concern for us, because it’s going to influence the European Union’s relations to Israel and also because it affects Jews living in Europe,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
While anticipated by analysts, the rightward shift — which included a decisive win for the National Front in France and will send one member of the German neo-Nazi party to Brussels — shocked Europe, with some observers speaking of an “earthquake” that will change the face of the continent. Many Jewish leaders expressed shock and outrage as well, drawing a link between the election results and the shooting in the Jewish museum in Brussels, which killed four people, including two Israeli tourists.
“We have every reason to be concerned, but not half as many reasons as the Europeans themselves have,” the Israeli official said, refusing, however, to say what Jerusalem wishes the EU to do about the worrying election result. “It’s up the Europeans to take responsibility and to find answers to the problematic situation that has been brought about by these elections. Just as I don’t want them to tell what us to do, we will not tell them what to do. But the situation in Europe is becoming intolerable.”
While it would be an exaggeration to speak of the rise of a Fourth Reich in Europe — Israel’s Channel 2 news on Monday night accompanied its report on the elections with a graphic that showed a swastika superimposed on the European flag — the results, especially in Hungary and Greece, were worrisome, the official said.
Hungary’s anti-Semitic Jobbik party received nearly 15 percent of the vote, which translated into three of 21 possible seats. In Greece, the anti-Semitic Golden Dawn received 9.4 percent of the vote, also receiving three out of 21 seats in Brussels. Far-right and xenophobic parties also achieved high results in Austria and Italy.
The National Democratic Party of Germany, or NPD, received 1 percent, enabling it to send one delegate to the European Parliament. “But this is Germany, and you would expect to have zero votes and zero seats for a party like the NPD,” the Israeli official said. “Not that the others have excuses [for voting for neo-Nazis], but the Germans even less.”
In France, one out of four voters cast a ballot for the far-right National Front, or FN, of Marine Le Pen, the daughter of convicted Holocaust denier and racist Jean-Marie Le Pen. The FN is a “confusing party,” the Israeli official said. “It is very enthusiastically engaged in window dressing in order to appear as a modern democratic party, but that’s certainly not what it is.” Everyone who took a deeper look at the party will discover that it is “anything but democratic and it has not resolved nor retracted all the anti-Semitic aspects of its past policies and statements. Their ambiguity casts serious doubts about their self-alleged commitment to democracy.”
The British UKIP party, which nearly doubled its showing and received 27.5 percent, (24 seats) is more difficult to assess from an Israeli perspective, the official said. “It appears to be more euroskeptic than xenophobic and more simply populist than fascist,” he said. “The trouble of populism is that you always know where you start but never know where you end up. Populism is just another name for slippery slope.”
However, the election results cannot be tied to the Brussels shooting, the official warned, since the identity and the motivation of the perpetrator are still unknown.
Others were quick to draw comparisons.
“This attack and others — along with the results of the European election — demonstrate a strong turn towards anti-Semitism in Europe,” MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) told Belgium’s ambassador to Israel, John Cornet d’Elzius, Tuesday at the Knesset. “And make no mistake about it — there is a direct connection between the way European leaders speak about Israel and the rise in anti-Semitism. If your leaders speak about delegitimization of Israel and use exaggerated and even inciting terms relating to Israel’s policies, that breeds these attacks and ideologies.”
Also on Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League “voiced concern at the growing success of extremist parties, including neo-Nazi parties, in the European Parliament elections.” The group also juxtaposed the election results with the Brussels attack.
“There is no doubt that political extremism is on the rise in Europe, and along with it anti-Semitism is rising as well,” ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said. “The success of extremist political parties, both on the far-right and far-left, has never been good for democracy or for Jews and other minorities. The continuing trend in Europe toward support for these parties is cause for heightened concern.”
The “alarming electoral successes” of extremist parties will increase European Jews’ feeling of insecurity, Foxman added.
On Monday, the World Jewish Congress released a statement declaring that the “future of European Jewry is at stake” after the elections. “Jews cannot be expected to remain silent when radical or extremist parties that used to be on the margins of politics make it into the top three in several countries, and in the case of France even come out on top,” WJC president Ronald S. Lauder said.
“Even if they remain a minority in the new European Parliament, these parties will be able to influence the European agenda, unless they are completely isolated. In the wake of the Brussels and Toulouse murders of Jews, it is high time the EU leaders came up with a credible plan on how to combat anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia on the continent, and how to ensure that Jews and other minorities are protected effectively.”