Europe’s far-left is normalizing antisemitism, report co-authored by ADL warns

Eclipsed by neo-Nazi hostility, radicals on the other side of the political divide are bringing Jew hatred mainstream, the US group and four European partners say

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias arrives at the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, Spain, January 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias arrives at the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, Spain, January 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

The entry of a far-left party into government in Spain is allowing antisemitism to return to mainstream platforms, the Anti-Defamation League said Tuesday.

The assertion appeared in a report on left-wing antisemitism published by the Anti-Defamation League and partner organizations in France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain.

The report focuses on a phenomenon that is often eclipsed in reports about antisemitism in Europe, which many associate primarily with neo-fascists.

In the section about Spain, the ADL singled out Podemos, which it termed “a radical neo-Marxist party,” along with its “Communist associates.” The coalition in 2020 allowed Podemos to enter government, which “disrupted the post-war exclusion of antisemitism from mainstream platforms, and antisemitism is now making inroads in the pro-independence Basque and Catalan parties,” the report said.

ACOM, a pro-Israel group in Spain that is a local partner of the ADL, wrote in the report that “60 years ago, before the democratic era, antisemitism maintained its classical forms and was clearly a right-wing issue in Spain, as in the rest of Europe. Today, anti-Israel antisemitism of the political left accounts for the overwhelming share of antisemitism, while the Spanish right is almost entirely pro-Israel and guards against antisemitism.”

Podemos has been at the center of multiple scandals involving antisemitism, including the assertion in 2020 by Sonia Vivas, a Podemos politician, that Jews should be held accountable for supporting Israel’s government, which she said “constantly violates the fundamental rights of Palestinians.”

In the United Kingdom, the former leader of Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, signaled to antisemites on the political establishment’s left-wing fringes that they were welcome in the party, the CST watchdog on antisemitism wrote in the joint report with ADL. But Keir Starmer, his centrist successor, has taken significant steps to reverse this, the authors added.

Former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks at a protest rally in central London on March 11, 2023. (Susannah Ireland/AFP)

In France, the far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon is harnessing and mainstreaming antisemitism, according to K., the Paris-based French Jewish magazine that authored the France segment of the ADL report.

Melenchon has made multiple statements widely condemned as antisemitic. In 2019 he vowed never to accede to the “arrogant dictates” of CRIF, the umbrella of French-Jewish communities. In 2014, he defended Arabs who stormed and torched synagogues in France and called Jewish supporters of Israel “citizens who decided to rally in front of the embassy of a foreign country or serve its flag, weapon in hand.”

In Germany, “the debates on the political left are normalizing antisemitism and shifting the baseline,” Amadeu Antonio Stiftung, an anti-discrimination group, wrote in the segment dealing with that country of the ADL report. What once was “considered an extreme position a few years ago is now a centrist opinion in the wider discourse,” it said.

There is a lot the US Jewish community can learn from the experience of Jewish communities across Europe, the ADL added: “Anti-Zionist rhetoric and terminology popular in European left circles are increasingly utilized by some in U.S. political far left” circles.

Illustrative: Sen. Bernie Sanders (left) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib at St. Ambrose University, Jan. 11, 2020, in Davenport, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The report recalled how, in a 2021 letter, Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and several other members of Congress referred to Israel’s policies in the West Bank as settler colonialism, “language that seeks to equate Israel with the colonialist policies of European governments” and label “the Palestinians as the sole indigenous population,” thus attempting to “cement the notions that Jews have no claim to or history in the land.”

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