Just read this on Bartholomew’s indispensable blog: the English Defence League, an islamophobic (they resent that assertion though) tinpot sect adding to the acronyms on the lunatic fringe of the British extreme right wing, is said to have taken part in a pro-Israel demonstration organised by the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland in front of the Israeli embassy in London on June 2, in support to the Israeli government’s handling of the Gaza flotilla affair:
There were about 2000 of us, including the EDL, JewishEDL set up by the wondrous Joe Bloggs who set up the LGBT EDL. (Juniper in the Desert)
The Jewish Chronicle denies this however:
Rumours that the English Defence League were planning to attend the demonstration appeared to be unfounded. One EDL member was spotted by protesters on the other side of the street but he did not join the throng (…) Israel Connect’s David Cohen expressed his relief that the EDL did not make an appearance, saying: “We wouldn’t have stood for it, and nor would the police or the CST.”(The Jewish Chronicle)
While the EDL’s participation in that particular demonstration is not averred, they otherwise bend over backwards to make public their devotion to Israel – mind you, even the neo-nazi BNP has made vociferous, pro-Israel noises. Their advances have been rejected by the mainstream Jewish organisations, however.
Nothing really new: they’re fond of Israeli flags (oddly enough – not many nationalist movements raise foreign flags) - for instance in Birmingham last September at on the rooftop of the Dudley mosque in April this year.
Well, if one is to judge by the haircut of their most enthusiastic supporters, some incredulity as to the EDL’s protestation against being labelled a racist and extreme right-wing party might be called for:
The English Defence League, which started in Luton last year, has become the most significant far-right street movement in the UK since the National Front in the 1970s. A Guardian investigation has identified a number of known rightwing extremists who are taking an interest in the movement – from convicted football hooligans to members of violent rightwing splinter groups.
Thousands of people have attended its protests – many of which have descended into violence and racist and Islamophobic chanting. Supporters are split into "divisions" spread across the UK and as many as 3,000 people are attracted to its protests.
The group also appears to be drawing support from the armed forces. Its online armed forces division has 842 members and the EDL says many serving soldiers have attended its demonstrations. A spokeswoman for the EDL, whose husband is a serving soldier, said: "The soldiers are fighting Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and Iraq and the EDL are fighting it here … Not all the armed forces support the English Defence League but a majority do." (The Guardian)
The Guardian’s thorough investigation is damning – a must-read.
This recent phenomenon of extreme right-wing flirtation with Israel is a growing trend in Europe. The first populist and xenophobic right-wing politician to discard any hint of anti-semitism or fascist nostalgia and to openly embrace Israel was probably (1) Netherland’s Pim Fortuyn, who set the tone for the current trend: he was openly gay, secular, paid lip-service to gender equality and limited his xenophobia to Muslim immigrants. He’s been joined now - after his death - by his fellow countryman Geert Wilders and his PVV, Danish Pia Kjaersgaard and her Dansk Folkparti, while Filip Dewinter and his Vlaams Belang (formerly Vlaams Blok) and Jimmie Åkesson and his Sverigedemokraterna have had more trouble distancing themselves from a murkier past.
For these right-wing parties and politicians to embrace Israel – apart from the fact that it might reflect a personal choice – has of course the desirable effect of shielding them from electorally and mediatically lethal comparisons with their garrulous predecessors. Anti-semitism being the most universally rejected form of racism in Western Europe, being linked to the old ways of fascism is a considerable drawback for any party taking electoral competition seriously. France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen might be the odd (2) here, but even he made a few moves towards Israel and the Jewish community – to the extent that the former chairman of the CRIF, the French Jewish community’s umbrella organisation, Roger Cukierman, hailed Le Pen’s stupendous score at the 2002 presidential elections as a "message" to France’s Muslim community "to keep quiet"…
My previous posts on this subject:
- Quand l’extrême-droite scandinave soutient Israël ("When the Scandinavian extreme right-wing supports Israel);
- Le Vlaams Belang invité en Israël: “ "Still, Israel is in a crucial struggle and can’t be choosy with allies now” " ("The Vlaams Beang invited to Israel: "Still, Israel is in a crucial struggle…");
(2) Austria and Germany are other obvious exceptions.
Filed under: actualité internationale, Falastin, politique Tagué: | belgium, carl i hagen, CRIF, dansk folkeparti, english defence league, europe, extreme right-wing, filip dewinter, france, geert wilders, israël, jean-marie le pen, jimmie åkesson, netherlands, norway, palestine, pim fortuyn, roger cukierman, sverigedemokraterna, sweden, UK, vlaams belang, zionist federation