In an article by our Berlin correspondent, Sebastiano Canetta, from Sept. 27, we read that the German neo-Nazi or Nazi-like party, the AfD, had absorbed a group that had named itself, especially for the occasion, “Jews for Germany.”
One can be outraged by this, but one shouldn’t really be surprised, if we realize that these people—whatever their background may be—are quite obviously interested in supporting the most aggressive and destructive policies of Netanyahu and Lieberman, and spreading hatred against Turks, Arabs and people of the Muslim faith.
One should always remember that an intolerant and xenophobic Right has been governing Israel for 40 years, almost without interruption, and that on the Palestinian issue, they have been committed for a long time to measures that are even worse than colonialist, amounting in substance to apartheid. Since birds of a feather stick together, the extreme right in Germany cannot help liking such policies.
Also in Italy, for someone to declare themselves “a friend of the Jews” often amounts to lining up unthinkingly, as if by Pavlovian reflex, without any objection or analysis, behind the policies of what is nowadays an ethnocracy, but—according to a widespread platitude—is said to be ”the only democracy in the Middle East.”
If there are some on the Left—and, certainly, such people do exist—who, under the mask of anti-Zionism, or under the cover of opposition to the policies of the Israeli government, are hiding a despicable strain of anti-Semitism (this is indeed the old “socialism of fools” that keeps coming back to life, which Bebel spoke about long ago, condemning the anti-Semites disguised as anti-capitalists), the converse is also true.
An anti-Semite fails to distinguish between notions that must be distinguished, such as “Judaism,” “Zionism,” “the State of Israel” and “Israel’s government,” and conflates them, believing them to be interchangeable. Thus, the anti-Semite attacks one of these and is convinced he is denouncing and fighting all of them. But this is exactly the principle behind the actions of those people who (as if in a mirror image of the former) call themselves “friends of the Jews,” claiming to be so for the sole reason that they are already uncritically committed to supporting Israel’s current government and its current policies.
The unconditional support, to the point of outrageousness, given to Israel’s government by Donald Trump is actually perfectly consonant with the fact that today in Berlin, “Jews for Germany” can declare themselves part of the AfD without anyone batting an eye. For those resentful of the present order and nostalgic for fascist violence, and for the compulsive liar inhabiting the White House, it would be difficult to find a more fitting issue for these groups to rally behind.
But is there also a “liberalism of fools,” which is incapable of seeing these parallels and understanding their meaning? Or which is led to simply ignoring this phenomenon? The right-wing rulers in Israel have been laying the groundwork for this for a long time, pushing the same confusions made by the anti-Semites to their most extreme argumentative forms: according to Netanyahu and Lieberman—as well as their allies and sycophants—whoever criticizes the actions of the Israeli government is by default an anti-Zionist, an enemy of Israel and of the Jews, even a friend of terrorists, and ultimately is likely a Holocaust denier. It is as if the ministers of a particular Israeli government could actually proclaim themselves the exclusive heirs and custodians of the Shoah, at the same time as they profane and debase the meaning of that tragedy by turning it into a political blunt instrument.
Used as a weapon, such accusations are lethal, and can mute any opposing voice, make anyone seem like a reprobate and paint anyone as a despicable anti-Semite. On this deadly dynamic, which has become an everyday commonplace, Idith Zertal has written a remarkable book, which has unfortunately made too little of an impact in Italy: Israele e La Shoah. La nazione e il culto della tragedia (“Israel and the Holocaust: The nation and the cult of tragedy,” ed. Einaudi, 2007). He writes at one point that the memory of the genocide has gradually become, in its usage by the ruling classes, “a figure of speech, an instrument ready to use” which is now “interchangeable for any aspect of history being argued about, even if it is completely different.”
One should keep all this in mind before merely deploring the sad condition of those German Jews who have chosen to put on the brown shirt.