The Similarities In Far-Right Islamophobia And Anti-Semitism
Dr Alan Waring is a retired risk analyst and former Visiting Professor, now Adjunct Professor, at CERIDES (Centre for Risk and Decision Sciences) at the European University Cyprus.
Anti-Semitism in the West has a long and awful history stretching back centuries. However, although the wholesale anti-Semitic extremism and murderous excesses across Europe during the twelve years of Nazi rule in Germany in the 1930s and 40s may have passed, the ugly genre is still active in many guises, as analyzed in Ruth Wodak’s 2018 book.
For example, in Britain, the various reports of the IJPR, Campaign Against Antisemitism, and others show an inexorable increase year after year in reported anti-Semitic incidents. A similar picture emerges across Europe. Nevertheless, over the past twenty years at least, there has also been a huge increase in anti-Muslim incidents and general Islamophobia which has gained greater attention by governments, anti-radicalization programs, civil society campaigners against ethno-religious extremism, far-right researchers, and the media.
This article seeks to highlight the fact that, far from being two separate, distinct and independent phenomena, contemporary Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are closely analogous and linked products of a single, artful far-right narrative. However, whereas the more recent far-left narrative closely mirrors that of the far-right in its anti-Semitism, it differs markedly on Islamophobia.
The Far-Right Narrative on Muslims and Jews
The EU mass migration crisis and terror attacks by Islamic extremists have added to populist paranoia and assisted the far-right’s anti-Muslim propaganda and its claim to be patriotically justified. For example, Lukinykh examines the far-right characteristic of biasing its anti-Muslim language to convey hidden messages, including the fusion of evocative imagery and false assertions; generalization of ‘them’ as a hegemonic and demonic Islamic monolith; an ill-defined ‘patriotism’ based on a blood-and-earth claim; dogmatic falsehoods and characterizations aimed at provoking Islamophobia and hatred of Muslims; protection of Christianity and the West from an alleged Islamic threat.
However, the far-right’s anti-Islamic narrative is strikingly similar to its traditional anti-Semitic stance. For example, most of Lukinykh’s observations above apply readily to longstanding far-right anti-Semitism simply by replacing the words ‘Muslims’, ‘Islamic’ and ‘Islamophobia’ by respectively ‘Jews’, ‘Jewish’ and ‘anti-Semitism’. The analogy of patriotic far-right ‘antigens’ fighting both Muslim and Jewish ‘pathogens’ is echoed by Allchorn’s observation about the similarity of anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic forms of cultural and biological racism.
Far-right disparaging stereotyping of Jews and Muslims has gone further by promulgation of anti-Semitic theories that allege a high-level conspiracy between prominent Jews and Muslims to harm the native populations of Europe. For example, the leading US far-right activist David Duke has asserted that Jews are prominent among global elites orchestrating the mass immigration of Muslims into Europe, with the aim of destroying Europe’s white Christian culture and its various national economies. In this regard, the international investor and philanthropist George Soros, (who is Jewish), has become the far-right’s whipping boy by being characterized as the instigator of a combined and terrifying Jewish-Islamic threat.
In a resurrection of the longstanding alleged Jewish financial conspiracy to control countries and regions, Soros is portrayed by Hungary’s Premier Viktor Orban as a financial and economic abuser who, in addition, is undermining Europe through orchestrating Muslim migration as David Duke asserts. In a further example of the alleged Jewish-Islamic common purpose, since 2001 far-right anti-Semitic conspiracy promulgators have repeatedly alleged that Jews were closely engaged in facilitating the Al Qaeda ‘9/11’ terrorist attacks on the US. Dyrendal found that in Norway conspiracy stereotypes of Jews and Muslims were closely linked to general xenophobia and measures of social distance, and that belief in such conspiracy theories was more frequently found among far-right adherents.Looking to make a difference? Consider signing one of these sponsored petitions:
Differentiating the Far-Right and Far-Left on Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
From the 1930s up to 2000, many British Jews traditionally had a close affinity with socialism and socialist parties, which had long-standing policies against anti-Semitism. However, after 2015 when instances of alleged anti-Semitism inside the Labour Party began to surface and became widely exposed and discussed, Jewish assumptions about long-term protection came into question.
Anti-Semitism within the Labour Party membership of over 500,000 has never been prominent, or even noticeable until relatively recently. There is no evidence of a higher prevalence of anti-Semitism within the party’s members and supporters than in the general population. The contemporary anti-Semitism scandal within the party appears to be associated with the idiosyncrasies of its constitution and procedures that have facilitated a developing power struggle by the hard-left Momentum group for control of the party. Whether the new party leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has promised to eradicate anti-Semitism in the party, will succeed where his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn failed, remains to be seen.
Momentum’s numbers are estimated to be no more than 10% of the party membership, although they hold many important and key posts and are reputed to be ruthless and even tyrannical. There is evidence that Momentum seeks to establish de facto control of the party. Momentum and its supporters are adherents of Marxist-Leninist theories i.e. that capitalism is the root cause of evil in the world, especially enslavement of and detriment to the proletariat, which only revolutionary socialism can defeat. Both Marx and Hess (both of whom, ironically, were Jewish) commented pejoratively on alleged Jewish characteristics, although Marx was harsher than Hess.
Why is all this relevant to the current anti-Semitism crisis in the party? I speculate that the hard-left in the Labour Party have been embracing anti-Semitism because they believe it both fits the original Marxist perspective and is expedient and advantageous from a contemporary neo-Marxist-Leninist hard-left perspective. They have long-term revolutionary ends to meet, which to them justifies their shorter-term means, however egregious. The irony of propagating ‘Jewish conspiracy theories’ no different to those of the far-right registers no concern among them.
Further, the far-left refuses to recognize, much less accept, that their anti-Israeli/anti-Zionism as a political position does not justify or sanctify their much broader anti-Semitism as an ethno-religious/cultural prejudice (my emphasis). They confuse and conflate the two with relish and claim moral justification for their stance. Moreover, their anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli and anti-US prejudice, coupled with their pro-Palestinian, pro-Islamic stance (in contrast to the far-right), makes potential sense in terms of an amoral calculation of electoral advantage. The British Jewish population is some 337,000 and the British Muslim population is 3.37 million. If the far-left in the Labour Party believes (rightly or wrongly) that significant numbers of Muslims are anti-Semitic, then perhaps Momentum calculates that it should adopt an anti-Semitic profile in order to gain extra votes for the party – and thereby strengthen Momentum’s grip which will assist in attaining its longer-term revolutionary objectives.
Of course, this hypothesis is speculative and based on inferences from the conduct and statements of leading Momentum activists on this matter and their proclaimed long-term agenda. However, it provides a plausible potential explanation for the mystery of the sudden upsurge in anti-Semitism confined to a minority sector of the Labour Party. Others may well disagree with this explanation and, indeed, alternative hypotheses should be aired
The far-right’s Islamophobia shares many characteristics with its traditional anti-Semitism, both of which are on the increase. Far-right anti-Semitism has focussed on alleged character defects of the Jewish race, and alleged harmful global conspiracy by Jewish financiers. However, more recently the far-right has alleged that swamping of Europe by Muslim immigrants is part of an alleged Jewish conspiracy, which demonstrates an artful cosmetic sophistry characteristic of how far-right leaders periodically reformulate anti-Semitic assertions and arguments.
In addition, far-right egregious characterization and assertions about Jews and Jewish objectives is now shared by the far-left but for motives that differ from those of the far-right. Further, the far-left do not share the same Islamophobic beliefs of the far-right, largely owing to political positioning deemed advantageous to the far-left.