A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby stefano » Mon Jul 18, 2011 11:43 am

Not Europe but I found this quite interesting (excerpts, my bold):
____________________________

Islam-Baiting Doesn’t Work
It Failed in Campaign 2010 and Will Do Worse in 2012
By Stephan Salisbury

During the 2010 midterm election campaign, virtually every hard-charging candidate on the far right took a moment to trash a Muslim, a mosque, or Islamic pieties. In the wake of those elections, with 85 new Republican House members and a surging Tea Party movement, the political virtues of anti-Muslim rhetoric as a means of rousing voters and alarming the general electorate have gone largely unchallenged. It has become an article of faith that a successful 2010 candidate on the right should treat Islam with revulsion, drawing a line between America the Beautiful and the destructive impurities of Islamic cultists and radicals.

“Americans are learning what Europeans have known for years: Islam-bashing wins votes,” wrote journalist Michael Scott Moore in the wake of the 2010 election. His assumption was shared by many then and is still widely accepted today.

But as the 2012 campaign ramps up along with the anti-Muslim rhetoric machine, a look back at 2010 turns out to offer quite an unexpected story about the American electorate. In fact, with rare exceptions, “Islam-bashing” proved a strikingly poor campaign tactic. In state after state, candidates who focused on illusory Muslim “threats,” tied ordinary American Muslims to terrorists and radicals, or characterized mosques as halls of triumph (and prayer in them as indoctrination) went down to defeat.

Far from winning votes, it could be argued that “Muslim-bashing” alienated large swaths of the electorate -- even as it hardened an already hard core on the right.

The fact is that many of the loudest anti-Muslim candidates lost, and for a number of those who won, victory came by the smallest of margins, often driven by forces that went well beyond anti-Muslim rhetoric. A careful look at 2010 election results indicates that Islamophobic talking points can gain attention for a candidate, but the constituency that can be swayed by them remains limited, although not insignificant.

The impotency of anti-Muslim rhetoric was not some isolated local phenomenon. Consider this: in the 2010 election cycle, anti-Muslim Senate candidate Sharron Angle was defeated in Nevada, and the similarly inclined Jeff Greene lost his Senate bid in Florida. A slew of congressional candidates who engaged in anti-Muslim rants or crassly sought to exploit the Mosque at Ground Zero controversy also went down, including Francis X. Becker, Jr., in New York, Kevin Calvey in Oklahoma, Dan Fanelli and Ronald McNeil in Florida, Ilario Pantano in North Carolina, Spike Maynard in West Virginia, and Dr. Marvin Scott in Indiana.

Sharia has become 2012’s Mosque at Ground Zero, with about 20 states considering laws that would ban its use and candidates shrilly denouncing it -- a convenient way, presumably, to keep harping on nonexistent, yet anxiety-producing, “threats.” Since no one knows what you’re talking about when you decry Sharia, it’s even easier than usual to say anything, no matter how bizarre or duplicitous.

So be prepared to hear a lot about “Sharia” between now and November 2012.

But bear in mind that, as the 2010 election results made clear, that particular virtual reality is embraced by a distinct and limited American minority. For at least 70% of the electorate, when it comes to anti-Muslim slander, facts do matter. Failure to challenge the bogus rhetoric only allows the loudest, most reckless political gamer to set the agenda, as Ron Klein discovered to his dismay in Florida.

Attacks on the deadly threat of Sharia, the puffing up of Muslim plots against America, and the smearing of candidates who decline to make blanket denunciations of “Islamism” are sure to emerge loudly in the 2012 election season. Such rhetoric, however, may prove even less potent at the polls than the relatively impotent 2010 version, even if this reality has gone largely unnoticed by the national media.

For those who live outside the precincts where right-wing virtual reality reigns supreme, facts are apparently having an impact. The vast majority of the electorate seems to be viewing anti-Muslim alarms as a distraction from other, far more pressing problems: real problems.
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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby 8bitagent » Mon Jul 18, 2011 3:08 pm

They need the looming threat that is made up. Hence all the fake FBI sting entrapment "terror" cases.
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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby American Dream » Tue Jul 26, 2011 12:00 pm

"If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything."
-Malcolm X
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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby American Dream » Thu Jul 28, 2011 3:47 pm

Uri Avnery
July 30, 2011


The New Anti-Semitism



The Nazi Propaganda Minister, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, calls his boss, Adolf Hitler, by hell-phone.

“Mein Führer,” he exclaims excitedly. “News from the world. It seems we were on the right track, after all. Anti-Semitism is conquering Europe!”

“Good!” the Führer says, “That will be the end of the Jews!”

“Hmmm…well…not exactly, mein Führer. It looks as though we chose the wrong Semites. Our heirs, the new Nazis, are going to annihilate the Arabs and all the other Muslims in Europe.” Then, with a chuckle, “After all, there are many more Muslims than Jews to exterminate.”

“But what about the Jews?” Hitler insists.

“You won’t believe this: the new Nazis love Israel, the Jewish State - and Israel loves them!”


THE atrocity committed this week by the Norwegian neo-Nazi – is it an isolated incident? Right-wing extremists all over Europe and the US are already declaiming in unison: “He does not belong to us! He is just a lone individual with a deranged mind! There are crazy people everywhere! You cannot condemn a whole political camp for the deeds of one single person!”

Sounds familiar. Where did we hear this before?

Of course, after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

There is no connection between the Oslo mass-murder and the assassination in Tel Aviv. Or is there?

During the months leading up to Rabin’s murder, a growing hate campaign was orchestrated against him. Almost all the Israeli right-wing groups were competing among themselves to see who could demonize him most effectively.

In one demonstration, a photo-montage of Rabin in the uniform of an [] SS officer was paraded around. On the balcony overlooking this demonstration, Binyamin Netanyahu could be seen applauding wildly, while a coffin marked “Rabin” was paraded below. Religious groups staged a medieval, kabbalistic ceremony, in which Rabin was condemned to death. Senior rabbis took part in the campaign. No right-wing or religious voices were raised in warning.

The actual murder was indeed carried out by a single individual, Yigal Amir, a former settler, the student of a religious university. It is generally assumed that before the deed he consulted with at least one senior rabbi. Like Anders Behring Breivik, the Oslo murderer, he planned his deed carefully, over a long time, and executed it cold-bloodedly. He had no accomplices.


OR HAD he? Were not all the inciters his accomplices? Does not the responsibility rest with all the shameless demagogues, like Netanyahu, who hoped to ride to power on the wave of hatred, fears and prejudice?

As it turned out, their calculations were confirmed. Less than a year after the assassination, Netanyahu indeed came to power. Now the right-wing is ruling Israel, becoming more radical from year to year, and, lately, it seems, from week to week. Outright Fascists now play leading roles in the Knesset.

All this – the result of three shots by a single fanatic, for whom the words of the cynical demagogues were deadly serious.

The latest proposal of our fascists, straight from the mouth of Avigdor Lieberman, is to abrogate Rabin’s crowning achievement: the Oslo agreements. So we come back to Oslo.


WHEN I first heard the news about the Oslo outrage, I was afraid that the perpetrators might be some crazy Muslims. The repercussions would have been terrible. Indeed, within minutes, one stupid Muslim group already boasted that they had carried out this glorious feat. Fortunately, the actual mass-murderer surrendered at the scene of the crime.

He is the prototype of a Nazi anti-Semite of the new wave. His creed consists of white supremacy, Christian fundamentalism, hatred of democracy and European chauvinism, mixed with a virulent hatred of Muslims.

This creed is now sprouting offshoots all over Europe. Small radical groups of the ultra-Right are turning into dynamic political parties, take their seats in Parliaments and even become kingmakers here and there. Countries which always seemed to be models of political sanity suddenly produce fascist rabble-rousers of the most disgusting kind, even worse than the US Tea Party, another offspring of this new Zeitgeist. Avigdor Lieberman is our contribution to this illustrious world-wide league.

One thing almost all these European and American ultra-Rightist groups have in common is their admiration for Israel. In his 1500 page political manifesto, on which he had been working for a long time, the Oslo murderer devoted an entire section to this. He proposed an alliance of the European extreme Right and Israel. For him, Israel is an outpost of Western Civilization in the mortal struggle with barbaric Islam. (Somewhat reminiscent of Theodor Herzl’s promise that the future Jewish State would be an “outpost of Western culture against Asiatic barbarism”?)

Part of the professed philo-Zionism of these Islamophobic groups is, of course, pure make-believe, designed to disguise their neo-Nazi character. If you love Jews, or the Jewish State, you can’t be a Fascist, right? You bet you can! However, I believe that the major part of this adoration of Israel is entirely sincere.

Right-wing Israelis, who are courted by these groups, argue that it is not their fault that all these hate-mongers are attracted to them. On the face of it, that is of course true. Yet one cannot but ask oneself: why are they so attracted? Wherein lies this attraction? Does this not warrant some serious soul-searching?


I FIRST BECAME aware of the gravity of the situation when a friend drew my attention to some German anti-Islamic blogs.

I was shocked to the core. These outpourings are almost verbatim copies of the diatribes of Joseph Goebbels. The same rabble-rousing slogans. The same base allegations. The same demonization. With one little difference: instead of Jews, this time it is Arabs who are undermining Western Civilization, seducing Christian maids, plotting to dominate the world. The Protocols of the Elders of Mecca.

A day after the Oslo events I happened to be watching Aljazeera’s English TV network, one of the best in the world, and saw an interesting program. For a whole hour, the reporter interviewed Italian people in the street about Muslims. The answers were shocking.

Mosques should be forbidden. They are places where Muslims plot to commit crimes. Actually, they don’t need mosques at all – they need only a rug to pray. Muslims come to Italy to destroy Italian culture. They are parasites, spreading drugs, crime and disease. They must be kicked out, to the last man, woman and child.

I always considered Italians easygoing, loveable people. Even during the Holocaust, they behaved better than most other European peoples. Benito Mussolini became a rabid anti-Semite only during the last stages, when he had become totally dependent on Hitler.

Yet here we are, barely 66 years after Italian partisans hanged Mussolini’s body by his feet in a public place in Milan - and a much worse form of anti-Semitism is rampant in the streets of Italy, as in most [or “many”?] other European countries.


OF COURSE, there is a real problem. Muslims are not free of blame for the situation. Their own behavior makes them easy targets. Like the Jews in their time.

Europe is in a quandary. They need the “foreigners” – Muslims and all – to work for them, keep their economy going, pay for the pensions of the old people. If all Muslims were to leave Europe tomorrow morning, the fabric of society in Germany, France, Italy and many other countries would break down.

Yet many Europeans are dismayed when they see these “foreigners”, with their strange languages, mannerisms and clothes crowding their streets, changing the character of many neighborhoods, opening shops, marrying their daughters, competing with them in many ways. It hurts. As a German minister once said: “We brought here workers, and found out that we had brought human beings!”

One can understand these Europeans, up to a point. Immigration causes real problems. The migration from the poor South to the rich North is a phenomenon of the 21st century, a result of the crying inequality among nations. It needs an all-European immigration policy, a dialogue with the minorities about integration or multiculturalism. It won’t be easy.

But this tidal wave of Islamophobia goes far beyond that. Like a Tsunami, it can result in devastation.


MANY OF the Islamophobic parties and groups remind one of the atmosphere of Germany in the early 1920s, when “völkisch” groups and militias were spreading their hateful poison, and an army spy called Adolf Hitler was earning his first laurels as an anti-Semitic orator. They looked unimportant, marginal, even crazy. Many laughed at this man Hitler, the Chaplinesque mustachioed clown.

But the abortive Nazi putsch of 1923 was followed by 1933, when the Nazis took power, and 1939, when Hitler started World War II, and 1942, when the gas chambers were brought into operation.

It is the beginnings which are critical, when political opportunists realize that arousing fear and hatred is the easiest way to fortune and power, when social misfits become nationalist and religious fanatics, when attacking helpless minorities becomes acceptable as legitimate politics, when funny little men turn into monsters.

Is that Dr. Goebbels I hear laughing in hell?


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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby American Dream » Fri Jul 29, 2011 7:23 pm


...AMY GOODMAN: Our guest right now in Spain is Johan Galtung. He’s a Norwegian sociologist, principal founder of peace and conflict studies, author of the book The Fall of the U.S. Empire—And Then What? We’re talking about this issue of how to avoid, stop these kind of attacks in the future. And then, following up on Juan’s question, your second answer, Johan Galtung?

JOHAN GALTUNG: His ideology, OK, we have to go into it. And it doesn’t help anything, as I said, to call him a "terrorist." We have to try to understand him. So I identify three features very quickly. Point one, a civil war in Europe between deep Christianity, which is his essentially as Catholic, and Islam. And a civil war has been going on and is going on. Point two, Islam is penetrating on a road greased by multiculturalism, tolerance, and key proponents of this tolerance are the builders of that road, which he finds in what he calls "cultural Marxism" and social democracy. And point three, debate is impossible. You cannot end the Norwegian democracy and have a debate about this, because people are deaf and dumb. The Islamists, as he calls and would refer to all Muslims, will not listen; they are just pursuing their cause. In other words, the only possible response, horrible as it is, is violence—terrible, but necessary. There you have three features.

And that makes me immediately ask the question, what does it remind me of? And I have one simple answer and one horrifying answer. I will take the simple answer first: it reminds me of Nazism. There’s a civil war in Europe between Jews and Aryans—also a very basic tenet of Hitlerism, Nazism. And the Jews are of two kind: the Bolshevik Jews in Moscow and the plutocratic money Jews in London. Point two, there is something greasing the way for them, and that is miscegenation, racial mixing, marriages between Jews and Aryans—the worst crime imaginable. And point three, these people have their minds set; there is no dialogue possible. The only thing one can do is to expel them. You might even reward them for expelling them. And if not, the alternative is to execute them. Now, that last point was picked up by Breivik. I don’t think he had it from Nazism, but his idea was that each Muslim family in Norway should be paid 25,000 euro to leave, back to their own country. And if they rejected that, the alternative was execution—exactly the same as the Nazis did under the famous Transfer Agreement during the 1930s, when 60,000 Zionist German Jews were given not only the permission, but encouraged to leave for Palestine. Well, I can call this ideology neo-fascism, and it’s an updating, where instead of being anti-Semitic, it’s anti-Islam, and instead of miscegenation being the fantasma, it’s multiculturalism. So Breivik talks cultures where the Nazis talked race. But otherwise, the similarity is almost point to point.

But you see, then, when again you ask the question, "What does it remind you of?" there is a horrifying answer, which will be very difficult for Norway to process. This is exactly the ideology of the Washington-led attack on Muslim countries. There’s a civil war in Europe. It’s called "clash of civilizations," the idea that came from the Princeton professor Bernard Lewis and was taken by Samuel Huntington’s publishers and put as title of his book, and I think wrongly attributed to Sam. But that doesn’t matter; that’s a small detail. The road is greased by failed states and by local groups taking command those failed states, so that in these failed states, the local groups, be they Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, these groups can launch decisive attacks on the Christian Western mainland, and particularly then U.S. And 9/11 is then interpreted in that context. And point three, makes no sense to have any dialogue. These people, you cannot talk with them. Terrible as it is, the only language they understand is violence. Well, my country, Norway, is a part of that: sharpshooters in Afghanistan killing Taliban.

I had talked to a number of Taliban. I feel very deeply touched by that. They are human beings. They are fighting for their country. Some are what we would call "extremists," most of them are not. I think their ideology has essentially three points. Point one, they stand up for Islam, but know they have made—know very well they have made mistakes, particularly with regard to women. Point two, they hate Kabul as the landing platform for foreign invaders. And they hate being invaded. I have no difficulty accepting those three points. I have great difficulties, or I cannot—I simply reject the Norwegian government signing up with the U.S. effort to try to quench what they see as a rebellion of people with whom they cannot talk.

And then you have Norway in Libya, F-16s, 535 sorties, throwing 501 bombs on what they call military targets. OK, Breivik could say, "My bomb killed very few, and it was on the target." The target was the center of decision making. The parallel is disgusting. And the point about it is that, suddenly, my little country Norway stands as victim. We are mourning today. There are beautiful ceremonies. And I must reach out to the Prime Minister, saying his words are extremely well chosen. He does it beautifully. And at the same time, Norway, under the leadership of Washington, is doing exactly the same thing, only on a much larger scale: perpetrator—victim and perpetrator.

Well, I hope my country will be able to process that. And I think the way to process it, there’s only one road, and that is to point to positive openings, both in Norway, in Europe, and in the world. So, as a mediator, I’m working on that and have a couple of small things to say.

AMY GOODMAN: We only have a few minutes to go, and I wanted to ask—you have said that you don’t compare this to Timothy McVeigh blowing up the Oklahoma City building or to 9/11, but to the Nazis.

JOHAN GALTUNG: Exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: Your father was captured, is that right? Held by the Nazis.

JOHAN GALTUNG: That’s correct. He was in concentration camp.

AMY GOODMAN: That comparison that you make and those you reject? And then I’d like you to end by reading a portion of the letter from your granddaughter, who was on the island when Breivik started shooting.

JOHAN GALTUNG: Now, you want me to read, or you will read?

AMY GOODMAN: No, no, if you would, but if you would just start by that comparison, the ones you’re rejecting, to 9/11 and Timothy McVeigh, and the one you think is most appropriate.

JOHAN GALTUNG: My granddaughter ends her letter to all her relatives, and I do not have her permission to circulate this in any detail, but she ends with a very important sentence. "I want you all to know that if I haven’t answered to all the expressions of compassion that I have been reading by now, it’s because I have tried to think, and I have tried to think of one thing: how can we prevent movements like the movement Breivik participated in?" I find that very wise. And the question is, what are the answers?

Let me give one answer immediately. Challenge these people on the extreme right in debate. Get them out in public space, in the open. Challenge them. Let me only say one thing. If you want to challenge them, you should have been well prepared. These people are well prepared. Don’t underestimate them—point one. This has to happen all over Europe. It is not a question of just identifying cells. It’s a question of going to them personally. Get them out. Invite them into the best of our society, the open, free debate. But—and then comes the difficult point—it’s difficult to do that unless you are willing to open for the same possibility in dialogues and debates with Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda. And I can only say, having done it, it’s very, very easy. But you have to understand them. That doesn’t mean you have to accept them, but you have to go your portion of the way.

And I can add to that one point. The mourning today in Norway is in churches and in mosques. How about a joint ceremony? A joint ceremony would be beautiful. We haven’t quite come to that stage yet, but we could be close. And the closest place in Europe would be the Mezquita in Córdoba, which was a mosque and was destroyed partly. They were trying to make a cathedral, and now is some kind of mix. Well, the Muslims in Spain have suggested to have, let us say, Muslim ceremonies on Fridays, Christian on Sundays, and I could add, how about joint ceremonies on Saturdays? It’s been rejected by the local clergy. And then I turn my face on the map to Turkey. OK, you had a big, big cathedral in Constantinople, and it was turned into a mosque. How about doing the same there? How about doing the same? You have Premier Erdogan in Turkey, Zapatero, and they have made the Alliance of Civilizations. What a fantastic symbol this would be, leaving these rightists behind, saying, "You are not a part of our history. You belong to the past. You belong to the past. Come and join us in this endeavor. Talk with the Islamic people you are so afraid of." And you will find them 99.99 percent very, very reasonable.

AMY GOODMAN: Johan Galtung, we want to thank you very much for being with us, Norwegian sociologist, called the father of peace studies, author of the book, among others, The Fall of the U.S. Empire—And Then What?. His father was taken by the Nazis, was considered a mayor of Oslo, was a doctor. His granddaughter was one of the survivors of Breivik’s shooting on the island...



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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Jul 29, 2011 7:36 pm

Islamophobic Conspiracy Theorist Frank Gaffney Advising Michele Bachmann On Foreign Policy

By Ben Armbruster on Jul 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm

The New Republic yesterday published a lengthy piece by Washington Times reporter Eli Lake highlighting how the “Republican foreign policy consensus has collapsed” and that the GOP contenders for the 2012 presidential nomination are, as the article’s title says, “all over the map.” Lake notes that there’s an internal strife within the GOP over whether Muslims pose a threat to America — with some neocons and conservatives like Grover Norquist embracing mainstream Islam and others, led by Islamophobic conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, believing that, as Gaffney often says, the nation is close to instituting Sharia law.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is running for president and she is currently surging in polls. However, Bachmann isn’t exactly a foreign policy aficionado and she doesn’t talk too much about her views on international relations. Lake writes that when he started asking around about where she stands, he repeatedly was told to “talk to Frank Gaffney“:

Gaffney himself stressed that he had no formal relationship with Bachmann as an adviser. But he did say that he had contact with several of the GOP candidates. And, of Bachmann, he said this: “She is a friend and a person I admire. I hope she is getting the best counsel she can.” He added, “We are a resource she has tapped, I’m assuming among many others.” When I asked him whether Bachmann had been briefed on the Team B II Report, he replied, “We’ve spent hours, over several days with her. I think she’s got the bulk of what we would tell her in one of the more formal presentations.”

So it’s safe to assume that Bachmann is getting a regular dose of Gaffney’s crazy anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. Gaffney’s Islamophobia is well-documented. Last year he released a report purporting to document the threat posed by Islamic law in the U.S. (no Muslims actually contributed to the report). Among the report’s wild accusations, one was that members of the Obama administration are part of the “Iran lobby.” Gaffney thinks the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to infiltrate the American conservative movement. Before her confirmation to the Supreme Court, Gaffney claimed Elana Kagan would impose Sharia law on America. He even accused Gen. David Petraeus of “submission” to Sharia and thinks the president is secretly Muslim.

But Gaffney’s baseless far-right views aren’t limited to his Islamophobia. In addition to flirting with birtherism, as late as 2009, he claimed to have evidence of al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq “collaborating on all kinds of things.” He has even said Iraq was complicit in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Gaffney also once said that repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would lead to reinstating the draft (hasn’t so far) and he claimed the DADT repeal would force some “radical” LGBT “agenda” on the U.S. military.

More recently, Gaffney said Obama’s policy on Israel (which is basically the same as all of his predecessors) will “catalyze the next Middle East war.” He even said Obama might order a military attack on Israel.

This is Frank Gaffney, currently Michele Bachmann’s primary foreign policy adviser
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby StarmanSkye » Fri Jul 29, 2011 8:51 pm

"But Gaffney’s baseless far-right views aren’t limited to his Islamophobia. In addition to flirting with birtherism, as late as 2009, he claimed to have evidence of al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq “collaborating on all kinds of things.” He has even said Iraq was complicit in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Gaffney also once said that repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would lead to reinstating the draft (hasn’t so far) and he claimed the DADT repeal would force some “radical” LGBT “agenda” on the U.S. military.

More recently, Gaffney said Obama’s policy on Israel (which is basically the same as all of his predecessors) will “catalyze the next Middle East war.” He even said Obama might order a military attack on Israel.

This is Frank Gaffney, currently Michele Bachmann’s primary foreign policy adviser."

Just when i thought things couldn't be more perverse, idiotic, absurd and outrageous ...

HOW is it possible for anyone to not understand that those who engage in such outrageous, completely unwarranted claims are extremists, far more dangerous than the evil 'enemy' their fevered imagination has conjured up to alarm the naive masses? Or are people so desperate to avoid realizing how their nation has been betrayed, exploited and misled by members of their own party that they'll believe ANYTHING said about the other side?

MANY people of this nation are, if anything, even more naive, uninformed and just plain stupid than they were even 20 years ago when the Reagan/Bush gang engineered the Central American wars and brokered the Iranian 'October Surprise' to confound Carter's re-election bid.

Maybe some subconscious inkling of their being played, or suspicion that so much of what they 'know' is a con-job lie, makes people eager to continue being witless dupes since that helps them avoid responsibility for not being better informed and skeptical, or holding officials they inherantly trusted to account. They can act like they're one of the popular crowd, safety and security in numbers, abdicate initiative and resolve. If so, I'd expect that to be a psychological calculation the psyop public-opinion-managers take into account and plan for.
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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby American Dream » Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:03 am

http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles ... 030861.htm

ANTI-IMMIGRATION POLITICS: BARBARISM WITH A HUMAN FACE

Slavoj Zizek
(FIRST POSTED 26 JUL 2011)

Image


Recent incidents - such as the expulsion of Roma, or Gypsies, from France, or the resurgence of nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment in Germany, or the massacre in Norway - have to be seen against the background of a long-term rearrangement of the political space in western and eastern Europe.

Until recently, most European countries were dominated by two main parties that addressed the majority of the electorate: a right-of-centre party (Christian Democrat, liberal-conservative, people's) and a left-of-centre party (socialist, social-democratic), with smaller parties (ecologists, communists) addressing a narrower electorate.

Recent electoral results in the West as well as in the east signal the gradual emergence of a different polarity. There is now one predominant centrist party that stands for global capitalism, usually with a liberal cultural agenda (for example, tolerance towards abortion, gay rights, religious and ethnic minorities).

Opposing this party is an increasingly strong anti-immigrant populist party which, on its fringes, is accompanied by overtly racist neo-fascist groups. The best example of this is Poland where, after the disappearance of the ex-communists, the main parties are the "anti-ideological" centrist liberal party of the Prime Minister Donald Tusk and the conservative Christian Law and Justice Party of the Kaczynski brothers.

Similar tendencies are discernible, as we have witnessed, in Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Hungary. But how did we get to this point?

After decades of hope held out by the welfare state, when financial cuts were sold as temporary, and sustained by a promise that things would soon return to normal, we are entering a new epoch in which crisis - or, rather, a kind of economic state of emergency, with its attendant need for all sorts of austerity measures (cutting benefits, diminishing health and education services, making jobs more temporary) is permanent. Crisis is becoming a way of life.

After the disintegration of the communist regimes in 1990, we entered a new era in which the predominant form of the exercise of state power became a depoliticised expert administration and the co-ordination of interests.

The only way to introduce passion into this kind of politics, the only way to actively mobilise people, is through fear: the fear of immigrants, the fear of crime, the fear of godless sexual depravity, the fear of the excessive state (with its burden of high taxation and control), the fear of ecological catastrophe, as well as the fear of harassment (political correctness is the exemplary liberal form of the politics of fear).

Such a politics always relies on the manipulation of a paranoid multitude - the frightening rallying of frightened men and women. This is why the big event of the first decade of the new millennium was when anti-immigration politics went mainstream and finally cut the umbilical cord that had connected it to far-Right fringe parties.

From France to Germany, from Austria to Holland, in the new spirit of pride in one's cultural and historical identity, the main parties now find it acceptable to stress that immigrants are guests who have to accommodate themselves to the cultural values that define the host society - "it is our country, love it or leave it" is the message.

Progressive liberals are, of course, horrified by such populist racism. However, a closer look reveals how their multicultural tolerance and respect of differences share with those who oppose immigration the need to keep others at a proper distance. "The others are OK, I respect them," the liberals say, "but they must not intrude too much on my own space. The moment they do, they harass me - I fully support affirmative action, but I am in no way ready to listen to loud rap music."

What is increasingly emerging as the central human right in late-capitalist societies is the right not to be harassed, which is the right to be kept at a safe distance from others.

A terrorist whose deadly plans should be prevented belongs in Guantanamo, the empty zone exempted from the rule of law, and a fundamentalist ideologist should be silenced because he spreads hatred. Such people are toxic subjects who disturb my peace.

On today's market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol. And the list goes on: what about virtual sex as sex without sex? The Colin Powell doctrine of warfare with no casualties - on our side, of course - as warfare without warfare?

The contemporary redefinition of politics as the art of expert administration as politics without politics? This leads us to today's tolerant liberal multiculturalism as an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness - the decaffeinated Other.

The mechanism of such neutralisation was best formulated back in 1938 by Robert Brasillach, the French fascist intellectual, who saw himself as a "moderate" anti-semite and invented the formula of reasonable anti-semitism.

"We grant ourselves permission to applaud Charlie Chaplin, a half Jew, at the movies; to admire Proust, a half Jew; to applaud Yehudi Menuhin, a Jew; ... We don't want to kill anyone, we don't want to organise any pogrom. But we also think that the best way to hinder the always unpredictable actions of instinctual anti-semitism is to organise a reasonable anti-semitism."

Is this same attitude not at work in the way our governments are dealing with the "immigrant threat"? After righteously rejecting direct populist racism as "unreasonable" and unacceptable for our democratic standards, they endorse "reasonably" racist protective measures.

Or, as today's Brasillachs, some of them even Social Democrats, tell us: "We grant ourselves permission to applaud African and east European sportsmen, Asian doctors, Indian software programmers. We don't want to kill anyone, we don't want to organise any pogrom. But we also think that the best way to hinder the always unpredictable violent anti-immigrant defensive measures is to organise a reasonable anti-immigrant protection."

This vision of the detoxification of one's neighbour suggests a clear passage from direct barbarism to barbarism with a human face. It reveals the regression from the Christian love of one's neighbour back to the pagan privileging of our tribe versus the barbarian Other.

Even if it is cloaked as a defence of Christian values, it is itself the greatest threat to Christian legacy.



Slavoj Zizek is the International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London, and one of the world's most influential public intellectuals. His most recent book is Living in the End Times (Verso, 2010).
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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby American Dream » Thu Dec 01, 2011 3:07 pm

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/moore291111.html

Deconstructing the Foundational Myths of Israel
by Jay Moore

Shlomo Sand. The Invention of the Jewish People. Verso, 2009.


By this time already, after 60-plus years of heatedly arguing the topic back and forth, is there anything new and insightful to be said that might have a bearing on the Israel-Palestine conflict and help to bring some political and intellectual closure at long last -- at least for those who have an open mind? Yes, in fact there actually is! And the left-wing Israeli-born historian Shlomo Sand, the son of Holocaust survivors, has said it in his book, The Invention of the Jewish People, a book that first came out in Hebrew in 2008 and which has now been translated and published in English by Verso Press. Shlomo Sand goes right to the heart of the matter. He attacks and dismantles the foundational myths of the State of Israel that have provided the Zionists with rationalizations for taking over and occupying the homeland of the Palestinians, driving a stake right through them. The terms of the discussion should never be the same again, once people have read and digested Prof. Sand's book.

The basic foundational myths (of a verifiable historical variety) are twofold: Firstly, that Jews were expelled from the Holy Land by the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and then dispersed to various geographical locations around the Mediterranean and beyond. Secondly, that the present-day Jewish citizens of the State of Israel are by and large the descendants of those early Jews. Thus, according to the logic of the apologists for the establishment of a settler state in Palestine, Jews are simply (and justly) re-inhabiting the land from which they originally came, thus finally bringing to a close a long and painful exile. On the surface, this argument might seem to have validity -- even if we cannot buy into the chauvinistic foundational religious myth that Jews are the Chosen People of God and that the deed to the Promised Land, which they have kept with them all through two thousand years of their absence, was awarded to them through Abraham and Moses by the Great Jehovah himself.

First of all, as Sand points out, while the Roman Empire did brutally put down Jewish revolts in A.D. 70 and A.D. 135, the Romans were not in the business of ethnic cleansing. Taxes and tribute could only flow into Roman coffers from people who were continuing to work the land and otherwise laboring. In any case, even if they were so inclined, the Romans did not have the technological means to accomplish such a dastardly thing. So where did the Jewish diaspora come from? Sand's answer is simple and logical and backed up with ample evidence from the primary and secondary sources: While it is not so today, Judaism at that time was a proselyting religion (like Christianity and, later, Islam). The Jews living elsewhere are mainly the descendants of converted peoples. Ashkenazi Jews (Jews in Eastern Europe) are mainly descendants of Khazars whose King converted in the 8th Century. Sephardic Jews (on the Iberian Peninsula and north Africa) come from converted Berbers.

Most of those original Jews who remained in Israel under the Romans (and after them) converted -- either for pragmatic or religious reasons -- to Christianity or Islam. Thus, it follows -- if it matters -- that the closest genetic descendants of these Jews today would be the Palestinians who have lived there all along -- not 20th century immigrants from Germany, Poland, Russia, Morocco, or Brooklyn. The notion of the "wandering Jew," as Sand shows, was concocted by early Christians who saw this as divine punishment for the so-called "Christ killers" who had refused conversion to their new faith. Somewhat oddly then, given its profoundly anti-Semitic origins, it was taken up later by the Zionists.

For Sand, Jews are not a single "People." Jewishness is not an essententialized, ethno-national identity. Rather it is a religious affiliation (just like Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.). Judaism in that sense has proved attractive in the past to a variety of different peoples. Accordingly, Jewish communities, in terms of their cultural, non-religious practices, have differed a lot from place to place. Sand draws from the work of Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner on European nation-building during the 18th and 19th centuries to show how the founders of Zionism like Theodor Herzl, aided and abetted by an array of historians and intellectuals, invented an "imagined community" to foster their nationalist project that they thought would save European Jews from anti-Semitism. They invented what had never existed before -- a Jewish People. Today, as Sand illustrates in his opening chapter with a series of sad and convoluted stories about persons of his own acquaintance, trying to define who is truly and genuinely Jewish and thus entitled to citizenship in Israel leads to all kinds of absurdities. In Israel, this determination is left to religious authorities, but being a Jew by faith is not sufficient, or in some cases, as with many of the recent immigrants coming from Russia, necessary.

Sand has nothing but contempt for the repeated efforts of Zionist scientists to identify a "Jewish gene" held in common by Jews regardless of their diverse cultural backgrounds. In an afterword to a new English-language paperback edition, Sand declares:

This attempt to justify Zionism through genetics is reminiscent of the procedures of late nineteenth-century anthropologists who very scientifically set out to discover the specific characteristics of Europeans. As of today, no study based on anonymous DNA samples has succeeded in identifying a genetic marker specific to Jews, and it is not likely that any study ever will. It is a bitter irony to see the descendants of Holocaust survivors set out to find a biological Jewish identity: Hitler would certainly have been very pleased! And it is all the more repulsive that this kind of research should be conducted in a state that has waged for years a declared policy of "Judaization of the country" in which even today a Jew is not allowed to marry a non-Jew.

Sand deconstructs one further myth, a contemporary falsehood used to justify the state of Israel, which is the notion that Israel is a democratic state -- supposedly the only one existing in the Middle East. If this is a democracy, Sand notes wryly, it is a rather unusual democracy with special rights, such as the Right of Return, for its Jewish citizens and not for the 20% who are Palestinians (not to mention the populations of the occupied territories, non-citizens who are daily subjected to all kinds of humiliating abuses and land-grabs). (Since the book was written, laws considered by the right-wing-controlled Knesset would move Israel in an even less democratic direction -- e.g., criminalizing any discussion of a boycott against Israel or calling into question the Jewish nature of the state.) Sand takes what has come to be known in recent years as a "post-Zionist" position, maintaining that, while the State of Israel is a given after so many years since its 1948 founding, it must turn itself into a modern secular state equally representing all of its citizens, regardless of their religious or ethnic backgrounds. However, how such a transformation might happen, he does not spell out in any detail.

Shlomo Sand's book, with its well-documented historical truth-telling, has stirred up a substantial amount of controversy in Israel. Hopefully, with this translation, it will do so now in the English-speaking world, especially among those liberal Jews and Gentiles who continue to think it makes good rational sense to support the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East -- thereby enabling with their monetary donations and through their political sway in Washington Israel's egregious violations of Palestinian rights and the system of apartheid that has been growing up there. While it might be hoped that Sand would have taken a straightforwardly anti-Zionist position, as does his fellow revisionist Israeli historian Ilan Pappé (the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine) who now lives in exile because of it, The Invention of the Jewish People is a book of great and timely importance. It needs to be on the must-read-soon booklist of every right-thinking and caring person.


Jay Moore is a radical historian who lives and teaches (when he can find work) in rural Vermont.
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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby American Dream » Tue Feb 07, 2012 2:26 pm

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-0 ... -says.html

French Minister’s Comments Evoke Nazis, Opposition Lawmaker Says
February 07, 2012

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- French government ministers and ruling party lawmakers walked out of a National Assembly session after an opposition member said recent comments by Interior Minister Claude Gueant echoed Nazi ideology.

“You bring us back to the European ideologies that created concentration camps,” Serge Letchimy, an independent affiliated with the Socialist Party, told Gueant in the chamber today. Letchimy cited “Nazi” ideology as ruling lawmakers and ministers stood up and left the assembly in a loud protest. The weekly question time was subsequently suspended.

Gueant, who was President Nicolas Sarkozy’s chief of staff until last year, told a student conference last week that “contrary to what the relativism of the left says, for us all civilizations are not equal.”

Gueant also said that “those that defend liberty, equality and fraternity, seem to us superior to those that accept tyranny, the subservience of women, social and ethnic hatred,” according Agence France-Presse.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon said that “some comparisons shame those who say them,” according to a statement he issued after the spat today. “The martyrdom of World War II victims cannot be overused for partisanship.”
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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby American Dream » Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:26 pm

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/25/ ... h-history/

APRIL 25, 2012

The Real Democratic Deficit
Fareed Zakaria: At War With History

by GREGORY HARMS


Political commentator Fareed Zakaria, in a recent Time magazine article entitled ”A Region at War with Its History,” ponders the question, “Why does it seem that democracy has such a hard time taking root in the Arab world?”

For insight, Zakaria turns to a recent academic paper examining the “democratic deficit” in the Middle East and its link to the ongoing Arab Spring. The paper, written by Harvard economist Eric Chaney, argues that this deficit happens to correspond with the areas originally conquered by the Arab armies following the Prophet Muhammad’s death: the Middle East and Central Asia from Palestine to Pakistan, and most of North Africa. The usual suspects of religion and culture are ruled out as obstacles to democratic change. Instead, the culprit is history.

The correlation between medieval Arab movement and the region’s democracy deficit is never identified, by either Zakaria or Chaney. Zakaria, writing for a general audience, states that “there was something in the political development of the Arab imperial system that seemed to poison the ground” against pluralistic directions. Chaney, writing for an academic audience at the Brookings Institution, laments that the “data limitations preclude an investigation of the precise channel(s) of causality,” but observes that “historic control structures have left a legacy of weak civil societies where political power is concentrated today in the hands of military and religious leaders that work to perpetuate the status quo.” The region’s democratic deficit, Chaney summarizes, is the product of its “unique political equilibrium.”

In other words, both men chalk up the effect the Arab armies and the Arab-Islamic Empire had on the lands they conquered to the following: Something.

What is conspicuously glossed over in both Zakaria’s article and Chaney’s paper is Western involvement in the Middle East’s path of development. In the latter, the Ottoman Empire is mentioned once in passing, along with a brief, abstract reference to “colonizers.” But the colonizers (i.e., Britain and France), for Chaney, merely play a bit part. Both writers attempt to confine the discussion strictly to the Arab world, to the point that when an outside actor enters the situation, the behavior of that actor is subsumed and becomes part of the Arab narrative. The alien ceases to be foreign. As Chaney states:

Despite the many changes that Arab-conquered regions have undergone over the subsequent 200 years [since Napoleon's arrival in Egypt in 1798], both colonizers and native rulers … seem to have worked to perpetuate the historic concentration of political power in the hands of the ruler.”

The wording here is revealing. The “many changes” are set apart from how the region has been managed – set apart from the management that brought about those changes in the first place. At the very most, Western Europe “seems” to have simply perpetuated the problems that were already there.

This thinking is orientalist in nature and runs deep in Western culture, not least of which in the United States. Chaney is just exhibiting the sophisticated, academic version. The layperson’s variant is less genteel, but superior just the same. When one hears a person condescendingly bring up terrorists receiving virgins upon arrival in paradise, or Muhammad’s marriage to the tender-aged Aisha, or the Arab-religion-violence equation, the implication is that the Middle East is and has always been a basket case. And therefore, US-European dominance and intervention are ultimately a trifle in the broader historical scheme: the region would be a mess anyway, and for proof, look at the span of its history. Simply put, even when we do something, it still amounts to nothing.

Chaney goes on to quote esteemed Princeton historian Bernard Lewis, who abstracts the issue even further by mentioning the role of “modernization” in the region’s history – the term being code for what the “colonizers” did. Lewis, it should be noted, made a career out of de-emphasizing Western intervention in the Middle East many decades ago.

While Chaney correctly concludes that the democratic deficit is not the product of the region’s cultural, ethnic or religious characteristics, the petroleum factor is also ruled out. The reasoning is that some of the lands conquered by the Arabs were not oil rich, and that being the case, some modern Arab nation-states are oil rich and some are not. When the petroleum exporting states are removed from the analysis, the data are the same for non-exporters; that is, the effect of oil does not attribute to the overall lack of democracy. Oil states like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq are in the same boat with those states that are not rich in petroleum like Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. While this is technically correct, the bigger picture is excluded.

After World War I, the Ottoman Empire’s lands were divided up by Western Europe into nation-states. These new countries – Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq – eventually achieved a kind of independence, but the individuals and groups that ended up ruling these states had been approved by Britain and France. The Middle East was strategically valuable, and oil quickly became part of the calculation. Winston Churchill described the region’s petroleum wealth as “a prize from fairyland beyond our wildest dreams.” With this kind of real estate, the newly modernized Middle East needed to be managed appropriately. Leaders there were to satisfy those criteria consistent with European interests. Things would not be left to chance – to the “desires and prejudices” of the region’s inhabitants, as one British foreign secretary put it. And to ensure stability, states were not cherry-picked based on natural resources; the entire region became a sphere of influence.

After 1945, the United States assumed authority over the Middle East, and what the Arab Spring protesters are pushing against is a system created by Western Europe and, since World War II, preserved and superintended by Washington. The dysfunctions in the Arab world do not have ancient roots “going back over a thousand years!” as Zakaria exclaims. The dysfunctions in the Arab world go back about 90 of them.

Zakaria’s article is a good example of the more dangerous kind of dishonest journalism and scholarship. He belongs to the intellectual elite who have access to power and can (and do) influence it. In addition to Time magazine, Zakaria’s commentary and analysis also appear on CNN and in the Washington Post. He is on the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is not a cartoonish, right-wing crusader of the Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh stripe. Zakaria is polished, rational, and businesslike, and provides a glimpse into the echelons that do policy assessment. His opinions and interpretations indicate roughly where the establishment sits, and in turn helps inform the opinion of the politically articulate class, usually taken to be 20 percent of the population. To build his case in the article, as discussed, he cites the work of a fellow Ivy League academic. The Chaney paper features statistical analysis, charts, tables, calculations – the works. No bluster, no rants. Dispassionate and clinical.

What is being delivered, however – despite the erudition and refinement – is the same spurious analysis that misleads and deludes Americans, and in turn allows the creation of conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan. What Zakaria and Chaney are in fact helping to create is a democratic deficit.



GREGORY HARMS is an independent scholar focusing on American foreign relations and the Middle East. He is the author of The Palestine-Israel Conflict: A Basic Introduction (2nd ed., Pluto Press, 2008), and Straight Power Concepts in the Middle East: US Foreign Policy, Israel, and World History (Pluto Press, 2010) and the 2012 forthcoming It’s Not about Religion (Perceval Press).
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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby American Dream » Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:26 pm

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/25/ ... h-history/

APRIL 25, 2012

The Real Democratic Deficit
Fareed Zakaria: At War With History

by GREGORY HARMS


Political commentator Fareed Zakaria, in a recent Time magazine article entitled ”A Region at War with Its History,” ponders the question, “Why does it seem that democracy has such a hard time taking root in the Arab world?”

For insight, Zakaria turns to a recent academic paper examining the “democratic deficit” in the Middle East and its link to the ongoing Arab Spring. The paper, written by Harvard economist Eric Chaney, argues that this deficit happens to correspond with the areas originally conquered by the Arab armies following the Prophet Muhammad’s death: the Middle East and Central Asia from Palestine to Pakistan, and most of North Africa. The usual suspects of religion and culture are ruled out as obstacles to democratic change. Instead, the culprit is history.

The correlation between medieval Arab movement and the region’s democracy deficit is never identified, by either Zakaria or Chaney. Zakaria, writing for a general audience, states that “there was something in the political development of the Arab imperial system that seemed to poison the ground” against pluralistic directions. Chaney, writing for an academic audience at the Brookings Institution, laments that the “data limitations preclude an investigation of the precise channel(s) of causality,” but observes that “historic control structures have left a legacy of weak civil societies where political power is concentrated today in the hands of military and religious leaders that work to perpetuate the status quo.” The region’s democratic deficit, Chaney summarizes, is the product of its “unique political equilibrium.”

In other words, both men chalk up the effect the Arab armies and the Arab-Islamic Empire had on the lands they conquered to the following: Something.

What is conspicuously glossed over in both Zakaria’s article and Chaney’s paper is Western involvement in the Middle East’s path of development. In the latter, the Ottoman Empire is mentioned once in passing, along with a brief, abstract reference to “colonizers.” But the colonizers (i.e., Britain and France), for Chaney, merely play a bit part. Both writers attempt to confine the discussion strictly to the Arab world, to the point that when an outside actor enters the situation, the behavior of that actor is subsumed and becomes part of the Arab narrative. The alien ceases to be foreign. As Chaney states:

Despite the many changes that Arab-conquered regions have undergone over the subsequent 200 years [since Napoleon's arrival in Egypt in 1798], both colonizers and native rulers … seem to have worked to perpetuate the historic concentration of political power in the hands of the ruler.”

The wording here is revealing. The “many changes” are set apart from how the region has been managed – set apart from the management that brought about those changes in the first place. At the very most, Western Europe “seems” to have simply perpetuated the problems that were already there.

This thinking is orientalist in nature and runs deep in Western culture, not least of which in the United States. Chaney is just exhibiting the sophisticated, academic version. The layperson’s variant is less genteel, but superior just the same. When one hears a person condescendingly bring up terrorists receiving virgins upon arrival in paradise, or Muhammad’s marriage to the tender-aged Aisha, or the Arab-religion-violence equation, the implication is that the Middle East is and has always been a basket case. And therefore, US-European dominance and intervention are ultimately a trifle in the broader historical scheme: the region would be a mess anyway, and for proof, look at the span of its history. Simply put, even when we do something, it still amounts to nothing.

Chaney goes on to quote esteemed Princeton historian Bernard Lewis, who abstracts the issue even further by mentioning the role of “modernization” in the region’s history – the term being code for what the “colonizers” did. Lewis, it should be noted, made a career out of de-emphasizing Western intervention in the Middle East many decades ago.

While Chaney correctly concludes that the democratic deficit is not the product of the region’s cultural, ethnic or religious characteristics, the petroleum factor is also ruled out. The reasoning is that some of the lands conquered by the Arabs were not oil rich, and that being the case, some modern Arab nation-states are oil rich and some are not. When the petroleum exporting states are removed from the analysis, the data are the same for non-exporters; that is, the effect of oil does not attribute to the overall lack of democracy. Oil states like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq are in the same boat with those states that are not rich in petroleum like Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. While this is technically correct, the bigger picture is excluded.

After World War I, the Ottoman Empire’s lands were divided up by Western Europe into nation-states. These new countries – Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq – eventually achieved a kind of independence, but the individuals and groups that ended up ruling these states had been approved by Britain and France. The Middle East was strategically valuable, and oil quickly became part of the calculation. Winston Churchill described the region’s petroleum wealth as “a prize from fairyland beyond our wildest dreams.” With this kind of real estate, the newly modernized Middle East needed to be managed appropriately. Leaders there were to satisfy those criteria consistent with European interests. Things would not be left to chance – to the “desires and prejudices” of the region’s inhabitants, as one British foreign secretary put it. And to ensure stability, states were not cherry-picked based on natural resources; the entire region became a sphere of influence.

After 1945, the United States assumed authority over the Middle East, and what the Arab Spring protesters are pushing against is a system created by Western Europe and, since World War II, preserved and superintended by Washington. The dysfunctions in the Arab world do not have ancient roots “going back over a thousand years!” as Zakaria exclaims. The dysfunctions in the Arab world go back about 90 of them.

Zakaria’s article is a good example of the more dangerous kind of dishonest journalism and scholarship. He belongs to the intellectual elite who have access to power and can (and do) influence it. In addition to Time magazine, Zakaria’s commentary and analysis also appear on CNN and in the Washington Post. He is on the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is not a cartoonish, right-wing crusader of the Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh stripe. Zakaria is polished, rational, and businesslike, and provides a glimpse into the echelons that do policy assessment. His opinions and interpretations indicate roughly where the establishment sits, and in turn helps inform the opinion of the politically articulate class, usually taken to be 20 percent of the population. To build his case in the article, as discussed, he cites the work of a fellow Ivy League academic. The Chaney paper features statistical analysis, charts, tables, calculations – the works. No bluster, no rants. Dispassionate and clinical.

What is being delivered, however – despite the erudition and refinement – is the same spurious analysis that misleads and deludes Americans, and in turn allows the creation of conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan. What Zakaria and Chaney are in fact helping to create is a democratic deficit.



GREGORY HARMS is an independent scholar focusing on American foreign relations and the Middle East. He is the author of The Palestine-Israel Conflict: A Basic Introduction (2nd ed., Pluto Press, 2008), and Straight Power Concepts in the Middle East: US Foreign Policy, Israel, and World History (Pluto Press, 2010) and the 2012 forthcoming It’s Not about Religion (Perceval Press).
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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby American Dream » Wed Apr 25, 2012 2:40 pm

IN SHORT, THERE WERE AT LEAST FOUR DISTINCT MOMENTS THAT MUST BE APPREHENDED IN EUROPEAN RACIALISM…:

1. THE RACIAL ORDERING OF EUROPEAN SOCIETY FROM ITS FORMATIVE PERIOD, WHICH EXTENDS INTO THE MEDIEVAL AND FEUDAL AGES AS ‘BLOOD’ AND RACIAL BELIEFS AND LEGENDS.

2. THE ISLAMIC (I.E., ARAB, PERSIAN, TURKISH, AND AFRICAN) DOMINATION OF MEDITERRANEAN CIVILIZATION AND THE CONSEQUENT RETARDING OF EUROPEAN SOCIAL AND CULTURAL LIFE: THE DARK AGES

3. THE INCORPORATION OF AFRICAN, ASIAN, AND PEOPLES OF THE NEW WORLD INTO THE WORLD SYSTEM EMERGING FROM LATE FEUDALISM AND MERCHANT CAPITALISM.

4. THE DIALECTIC OF COLONIALISM, PLANTOCRATIC SLAVERY, AND RESISTANCE FROM THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY FORWARD, AND THE FORMATIONS OF INDUSTRIAL LABOR AND LABOR RESERVES.

IT IS NOW A CONVENTION TO BEGIN THE ANALYSIS OF RACISM IN WESTERN SOCIETIES WITH THE THIRD MOMENT; ENTIRELY IGNORING THE FIRST AND SECOND AND ONLY PARTIALLY COMING TO TERMS WITH THE FOURTH… THE RESULTS HAVE BEEN RATHER BIZARRE: SOME STUDENTS OF RACISM HAVE HAPPILY REITERATED THE PREMISE OF A SORT OF MASS PSYCHOLOGY OF CHROMATIC TRAUMA IN WHICH EUROPEAN REACTIONS TO DARKER-SKINNED PEOPLES ARE SEEN AS NATURAL; OTHERS, INCLUDING MARXISTS, HAVE ARGUED FOR A SIMPLISTIC ‘EMPIRICISM’ WHERE THE INEVITABLE CONSEQUENCES OF SLAVERY AND DOMINATION ARE THE RATIONALIZATIONS OF RACIAL SUPERIORITY AND INFERIORITY. IN EACH INSTANCE, THE ROOT OF THE METHODOLOGICAL AND CONCEPTUAL FLAWS IS THE SAME: THE PRESUMPTION THAT THE SOCIAL AND HISTORICAL PROCESSES THAT MATTER, WHICH ARE DETERMINATIVE, ARE EUROPEAN
.”


— Cedric J. Robinson, Black Marxism, pp 67-68
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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby American Dream » Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:49 pm

Philo- and Anti-Semitism in Germany: Interview with Gilbert Achcar

June 30, 2012

By Gilbert Achcar
and Anna Younes


Source: www.Jadaliyya.com


Anna Younes (AY): As someone who was socialized and grew up in Lebanon, it is not immediately clear why you would write a book about The Arabs and the Holocaust. Is there something particular that made you aware that the history of anti-Semitism and the Middle East conflict are intertwined?


Gilbert Achcar (GA): My first encounter with that intersection was due to an early experience in my high-school years in Beirut during the June 1967 war. I had a heated discussion on the war with a French classmate who was supportive of Israel. He told me that he sided with Israel, because he didn’t want to “end up in France working for a Jewish boss.” It was enlightening for me to see how people may be supportive of the Zionist project in Palestine because they want to get rid of the Jews in their own country.


AY: How did you respond to your French classmate?

GA:
Oh, I can’t remember. The thing that I remember very well, however, was what he said, which shocked me as something extremely negative combining anti-Semitism and contempt for the Arabs. He wasn’t a close friend, just a classmate, but I was shocked enough to have remembered it ever since.


AY: Can you say something about the German translation of your book, your audience and your position as an Arab faced now with this publication in German?

GA:
I believe that it is very important for this book to come out in German. It is a book about the diversity of Arab reactions to Nazism, anti-Semitism and the Jews since the 1920s until the present. So of course it concerns Arabs, Jews, and Germans, before anybody else. In a way, it deals with Germany’s past and present. As you know well, post-war Germany – for obvious reasons – has been uncritical towards the Zionist narrative, including its “Nazification” of the Arabs. There is a vast political and intellectual tradition in Germany that adheres uncritically to that Zionist narrative – often to the point of reproducing the racist anti-Arab clichés that can be found in it. This is what I would describe as a very wrong way for Germans to draw lessons from their Nazi past and the Holocaust, because this attitude remains stuck in the same mind frame of racism and ethnic hatred. I quoted Eleonore Sterling in my book, when she compared anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism, stressing that both have in common their inability to consider Jews as normal people. Eleonore Sterling, by the way, was a specialist of the history of German anti-Semitism, whose parents died in Nazi concentration camps. Overall, I am thus very much looking forward to the reception of my book. I expect, of course, a wide range of reactions from the very positive to the very negative, as I am already used to. In some way the issues my book deals with work like a touchstone in various contexts.


AY: Why do you think it’s important to speak about philo-Semitism in Germany? And what is your definition of philo-Semitism?

GA:
Philo-Semitism is a position of unconditional support to “the Jews,” for anything done by a collective calling themselves “the Jews,” claiming to represent all Jews – above all, the Israeli state, of course. Many Germans believe that in order to redeem their nation’s Nazi anti-Semitic past, they’ve got to be uncritically and unconditionally supportive of the so-called Judenstaat, the so-called state of the Jews: Israel. And of course, this is no real redemption at all. A real radical rejection of Nazism and anti-Semitism, should lead instead to reject all forms of racism, ethnic hatred, discrimination, predatory state behavior, expansionism, etc., in the same way as Nazi racism was not only directed against Jews, but was a much more encompassing attitude.


AY: But Germans most of the time only focus on Israel.

GA:
Well, that’s true. And why do Germans primarily only feel guilty about the direct victims of Nazism and feel no guilt at all toward the indirect victims, i.e. the Palestinians? The Palestinians are indirect victims of Nazism in the sense that Nazism led to a tremendous increase in the immigration of European Jews to Palestine – part of it, the immigration of German Jews, organized by the Zionists with the help of the Nazi security service. It is Nazism that made it possible for the Zionist project to be implemented in Palestine, and for the state of Israel to be created. And since this state came to being through an act of ethnic cleansing, the responsibility for this falls also ultimately on German history. But this was never acknowledged. The only guilt that Germany did recognize was its responsibility in the Jewish tragedy, leading it to behave as if the state of Israel represented the victims of the Holocaust. And of course, as Tom Segev put it, the very idea that the six million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis were potential citizens of Israel is all the more absurd that these were actually people most of whom refused to be lured by the Zionists to leave Europe to go to Palestine.


AY: Were there different incentives for the German state’s philo-Semitism apart from the desire for redemption?

GA:
As former Ben-Gurion University professor Frank Stern explained very well, it was a way for Federal Germany since the time of Konrad Adenauer to buy its way into the Western alliance, into the post-45 West in the geopolitical sense.


AY: And Adenauer was a pro-Zionist as well. In 1926 he joined the German Pro-Palestine Committee (PPK) and proudly declared in a private visit to Israel in 1966: “I too was a member of the Zionist movement.”

GA:
Well, the same Adenauer wrote the anti-Semitic statement about the “power of the Jews” that I quote in my book, after Stern. Germany had this kind of really ambiguous philo-Semitic attitude, which brings us back to the high-school classmate I mentioned at the beginning of our talk. It’s like Harry Truman, one of Israel’s godfathers, who also wrote anti-Semitic comments. And indeed at the same time that Federal Germany was buying its way into the West through support to Israel, it was also supporting indirectly the US war in Vietnam. Its support of Israel was part of its adherence to a broader aggressive imperialist scheme; in no way was it a qualitative break with what Nazism represented. That’s a key point. The United States did horrible things in Vietnam. And Germany helped the US financially during that time. Germany and Japan were supposed not to engage in militarization after their defeat in World War Two. But with American encouragement, West Germany re-armed and joined NATO. And it is in this context that Federal Germany supported the Israeli state. People are very much aware of the US-Israeli connection, but rarely – at least outside of Germany – know or think of the German-Israeli connection. Germany has been in the 1950s and 60s the main funder of the Israeli state, in the name of “reparations.”

The bulk of those reparations were not paid to Holocaust survivors and relatives of Holocaust victims, but to the Israeli state that used this money to arm itself. There were massive and important weapons deliveries from Western Germany to Israel, the same Israel that developed nuclear weapons in collaboration with the apartheid regime of South Africa! And then, when you say in Germany that the Israeli state is racist, people look at you as if you uttered some sort of blasphemy. They forget that in 1976, when everybody was boycotting South Africa, Yitzhak Rabin’s government cordially invited John Vorster, one of the most viciously racist Prime Ministers that apartheid South Africa ever had. He visited Israel, where he was greeted as a good friend. The Israeli-South African collaboration was a very intimate one. Birds of a feather flock together.

AY: Is philo-Semitism the reason why this unconditional support for the Zionist venture worked?

GA:
At that time it wasn’t really philo-Semitism for the victors of the war. True, the Zionist movement was making the point that the victor states had a moral obligation to help the Jews build “their own state.” At the same time, however, you had the conjunction of anti-Semitism and support for Zionism that we mentioned. The war victors wanted to get rid of Holocaust survivors who were gathered in DP [displaced persons] camps in Europe. The United States didn’t want to open its doors to them. If the Holocaust survivors had been given a choice between going to North America or to Palestine, there is not the slightest doubt that they would have chosen in their overwhelming majority to go to North America. America was the real “promised land” for European Jewish immigrants since the 19th century, and it is still so for the majority of immigrants today. The “promised land” was not Palestine, or “Eretz Israel,” but was and still is North America, and not only for Jews, but for all migrants. The USA, however, would not let Holocaust survivors in, nor did the Soviet Union, or Britain or France for that matter, and that’s where anti-Semitism comes in. As you know, at the time of the creation of the state of Israel with US support, one could still find in the USA signs reading “No Blacks, Jews, or dogs allowed.” Anti-Semitism was displayed openly, it wasn’t prohibited by law. So it wasn’t a case of philo-Semitism at the time, but actually a conjunction of anti-Semitism and philo-Zionism.


AY: The non-recognition of Palestinians suffering today in Germany is then one of the consequences of German philo-Semitism?

GA:
It comes through some sense of guilt toward the Jews, often marred by psychological ambiguities, for which people make up by outbidding everybody in support for Israel. When the Israeli far right justifies what it does by resorting to the “Nazification” of the Palestinians, it gives such people the feeling that they have redeemed their parents’ sins.


AY: But the image of the Arab has changed, too. Today it’s a racist discourse waged on the ticket of “Islamism” or “radical Islam.”

GA:
The Islamophobic discourse came on top after it started increasing in the West, especially since the 1990s, and peaked after 2001. The Zionist right seized this Islamophobia and merged it into its traditional anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian discourse. One of the very blatant expressions of this combination is Benny Morris’s infamous 2004 Haaretz interview, where he says that Islam itself is anti-Semitic, and the Palestinians are barbarians who should be put in “something like a cage.” It is a Nazi-like discourse. And yet, you find people applauding such statements and believing that by doing so they are acting as “anti-Deutsch” [anti-German] and radically repudiating their country’s past. But the truth is that they are not breaking with it at all, they are actually continuing it.


AY: So why do you think the lesson that was drawn, was primarily stuck with Jews, whereas nothing similar emerged for the Sinti and Rroma, who were also exterminated, for instance?

GA:
Because the connection with the Israeli state, which is part of the global imperialist system, is something that suited West Germany’s desire to integrate the Western imperialist alliance. That obviously didn’t work with the Sinti and Rroma, who don’t have a state and have no supportive lobby in the USA. And I would also add that Germans could see in Israel their own image – with the high number of German Jews in Israel and the prominent role they played, at least in the early decades of the Israeli state. In my book, The Clash of Barbarisms, I called this “narcissistic compassion,” the empathy felt toward “people like us.” It is, of course, much easier for Germans to feel empathy with German Jews than with Sinti and Rroma, who are still the object of racist hatred all over Europe -- not to mention Arabs or Muslims.


AY: So it is the aspect of recognition? You see yourself in the other, basically?

GA:
Yes, indeed. Now, why does this particular tragedy in Europe get so much more attention than any tragedy in history? The Europeans did terrible things in the Americas, in Africa, in Asia. Native Americans in North America were wiped out through a genocide and the United States was founded on this violence. In South America you had huge mass killings. In Belgian-occupied Congo, estimates of the Black victims of colonialism are up to ten million. That was absolutely terrible, and I could go on. And yet, none of these tragedies met any comparable recognition of guilt on the part of the European.


AY: Thank you very much.

GA:
It was my pleasure. Thank you for your interest.



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Re: A New Europe: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nation-State

Postby jfshade » Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:41 pm

From a mainstream historian, in a mainstream publication.
link

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Europe on the verge of a nervous breakdown

All across the continent, economies are in a tailspin as the numbers of young, jobless men swell. Are we on the brink of repeating the catastrophe of the 1930s?

By Richard J Evans

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Greek neo-Nazi group, Golden Dawn, sing the national anthem. Photo: Getty Images

A spectre is haunting Europe: the spectre of unemployment. At the latest count, there were almost 25 million people in the member states of the European Union without a job, an increase of two million on the same point in the previous year. This is well over 10 per cent of the workforce, and in some countries the situation is much worse. At the top of the list is Spain, with 25 per cent unemployed, followed by Greece, with nearly 23 per cent. Particularly hard-hit are the young. In Greece and Spain more than half the workforce below the age of 25 is without a job. The youth unemployment rate across the EU is running at 22 per cent. And there are no signs of the upward trend being reversed.

At the same time, openly neo-Nazi parties are on the rise. In Greece, the Golden Dawn movement shot from nowhere to win 21 seats in the legislature at the May election and 18 in the rerun election a few weeks later, attracting nearly 7 per cent of the popular vote. The party’s flag is black, white and red, like that of the original Nazi Party in Germany, with a swastika-like emblem at the centre (Golden Dawn denies any resemblance and claims that the symbol is a “Greek meander”). Not only has it issued threats of violence against parliamentary deputies who oppose its policies but it has also been involved in numerous violent incidents across Greece. During the campaign, television viewers were treated to the spectacle of a party spokesman assaulting two female politicians during a live debate. In 2012, it campaigned on the election slogan “So we can rid this land of filth”.

Golden Dawn is not the only openly neo-fascist party to gain support recently. In Hungary, Jobbik, founded in 2003, uses a flag resembling that of the Arrow Cross movement, which was put in power by the German occupiers of Hungary in 1944 and butchered so many thousands of Jews that even the police, who were busy rounding up Jews for deportation to Auschwitz, complained about the dead bodies lying in the streets of Budapest. In the 2010 elections, campaigning under the slogan “Hungary belongs to the Hungarians”, Jobbik shot from nowhere to become the third-largest party nationally, securing 16.67 per cent of the vote. It has close links with the paramilitary Hungarian Guard, outlawed in 2009 by a court order that continues to be flouted. One of its policies is the revision of the Treaty of Trianon, which, under the peace settlement at the end of the First World War, reduced the size of Hungary by two-thirds to help create viable successor states. Jobbik wants much of the old territory back and condemns the mainstream parties for not taking advantage of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the break-up of Czechoslovakia and the Balkan wars to do so in the 1990s.

Anti-Semitism is one of the most obvious distinguishing features of leading members of Jobbik. One of its deputies recently raised again, in parliament, a blood-libel case from 1882 in which 15 Jews were tried for the supposed murder of a teenage Christian girl just before Passover. They were eventually acquitted, but the deputy claimed all the same: “The Jewry and the leadership of the country were severely implicated in the case.”

A female legal academic who soon afterwards won election to the European Parliament on the Jobbik ticket is reported to have responded to criticism with the following diatribe: “I would be greatly pleased if those who call themselves proud Hungarian Jews played in their leisure with their tiny circumcised dicks, instead of besmirching me. Your kind of people are used to seeing all of our kind of people stand to attention and adjust to you every time you fart. Would you kindly acknowledge this is now over. We have raised our head up high and we shall no longer tolerate your kind of terror. We shall take back our country.”
Ground control

While Golden Dawn and Jobbik are probably the most extreme of the parties that have entered the mainstream, there are many other signs that the economic crisis has helped garner support for the far right across Europe. In France, the Front National won 18 per cent of the vote in this year’s presidential election. Its platform has included at various times the reintroduction of the death penalty, the repatriation of immigrants and the introduction of customs borders, which means it wants France to leave the EU. Its long-time leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of the party’s current leader, Marine Le Pen, repeatedly referred to the Holocaust as a “mere detail” in the history of the Second World War. In Italy, the election in 2008 of the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, was celebrated by crowds chanting, “Duce! Duce!” and raising their arms in the fascist salute.

All this seems disturbingly reminiscent of the previous depression that hit Europe in the 1930s and brought Hitler to power. Commentators have not been slow to notice the parallels. National humiliation of the kind that Jobbik claims has been suffered by Hungary since the Treaty of Trianon was felt by the Nazis, too, in the harsh restrictions placed on Germany at the same time by the Treaty of Versailles. Mass unemployment was also a feature of German society in the early 1930s, the graph of Nazi electoral support rising in tandem with the graph of unemployment rates. Nazism, too, blamed the mainstream political parties for the disastrous state of the economy, and its dynam­ism also proved particularly attractive to the young – first-time voters were a large proportion of its supporters at the polls.

Territorial expansionism, economic protectionism, assaults on the rights of minorities, anti-Semitism, paramilitary violence and inflammatory rhetoric were all features of the Nazi Party, as they were of many other fascist parties that sprang up across Europe in the interwar years. They seem to have re-emerged with disturbing suddenness in the early 21st century as economic crisis has hit the continent.

We need to be careful about facile historical parallels. In the first place, despite superficial resemblances, the situation in Germany in the early 1930s was very different from the present one. Unemployment was far higher, with at least 35 per cent of the workforce out of a job, and while such figures meant that inevitably many of the Nazis’ supporters had no work, the real political voice of the jobless was the Communist Party, which continued to garner more electoral support in the second half of 1932 even as the Nazis began to lose it (their weakness was a significant reason why conservative politicians thought they could control them and so agreed to the appointment of Hitler as head of a coalition government in January 1933, one of the biggest political miscalculations in history).

Unemployment doesn’t translate directly into political extremism. More generally, it translates into apathy. Observers in Berlin in the early 1930s noted youths spending their time travelling aimlessly round the city’s suburban railway on the circle line, playing football all day in the parks, or sitting around listlessly at home. For a minority, political activism linked to violence became a way out, but this could be just as much on the left as on the right. In Greece today, many of the unemployed support Syriza, the dynamic new party of the radical left. Unemployment and economic crisis are eroding the base of centrist parties just as they did in the Weimar Republic, but, like then, they feed the growth of radical parties at both extremes, not just on the right.

Where extremism flourishes, political violence is never far away, and the desire for a restoration of public order can often play into the hands of right-wing politicians who, as Hitler did, promise to end the chaos on the streets, even though, like Hitler, they were one of the main forces behind it in the first place. It is no surprise to learn that a large proportion of the police force in Athens – perhaps as much as 50 per cent – voted for Golden Dawn in the 6 May election.

Yet, looking at the countries where far-right parties are now gaining support, it quickly becomes clear that a correlation with high unemployment rates is not always apparent. Where is the neo-fascist movement in, say, Spain, the country with the highest unemployment and, above all, one of the two highest youth unemployment rates in Europe? Despite continuing efforts by some to keep green the memory of Francisco Franco, the murderous dictator who ruled Spain for decades after the civil war of the 1930s, neo-fascist parties are almost infinitesimally small, and the two leading mainstream parties of the right and left still managed to win nearly three-quarters of the vote in the general election of 2011.

On the other hand, France, where the far right has been notably successful in electoral terms, has a relatively low and fairly stable unemployment rate, at roughly 10 per cent. Moreover, the electoral successes of the Front National began before the present crisis; the same can be said of post-fascist politics in Italy. Elsewhere, just as unemployment has risen, far-right parties have started to decline, as demonstrated by the example of the BNP here in Britain.

Much depends on the place of the past in political culture. History never repeats itself, and the main reason why it doesn’t is that people know what happened last time. Thus, they make adjustments to their behaviour to prevent things they didn’t like in the past from happening again. This is at its most obvious in Germany, where neo-Nazi parties have been banned and Holocaust denial is illegal. German unemployment rates are among the lowest in Europe, but even if they were not, the rise of an openly neo-fascist party to electoral success would be opposed by the majority and would probably incur a legal ban.

Where the memory of murderous conflict is relatively recent, as in Spain, the desire to avoid it happening again is very strong. The vast majority of Greeks – including those who voted for Syriza – still seem to want to stay in the eurozone, so they voted in a viable mainstream government rather than turning further to the far right in the most recent election. The central issues are not those raised by neo-fascists, but bread-and-butter challenges of austerity cuts, tax rises and job losses.
Surface level

The far right is as aware of history as anyone else, maybe even more so. It realises how easy it is for others to rob it of political legitimacy by labelling it as Nazi. As such, all the present-day movements of the extreme right, or at least those who are interested in gaining supporters, repudiate labels such as “neo-Nazi” or “neo-fascist” and adapt to the conditions of present-day democracy, at least on the surface.

Often they send a double message to voters, on the one hand distancing themselves from the fascist past in their speeches and programmes, on the other hand hinting at it in their visual imagery and public rituals. A large element of neo-fascism consists of a repudiation of the political system that its leaders blame for the present crisis, so an important part of its appeal is as protest. And what better way of protesting against parliamentary democracy and mainstream political parties than flying a flag with a symbol reminiscent of a political organisation that notoriously repudiated these things?

On the other hand, the paramilitary violence so characteristic of mass fascist movements in the interwar years hasn’t resurfaced so far on a large scale, and parties of the far right no longer regard daily mass marches of uniformed storm troopers through the streets as a central political tactic. In comparison to the post-First World War era, when every other man on the street in most European countries seemed to be wearing a uniform, we live in a predominantly civilian society, and neo-fascism has had to adjust to this.

In most European countries, neo-fascism has adapted by focusing on new issues, leaving behind the old staples of anti-Semitism, territorial expansion, militarism and corporate organisation of the economy. Occasionally they can be glimpsed in the background, but they are not the central platforms for the neo-fascist parties. For almost all of them, immigration is paramount, sometimes mixed with the assertion of Christian values against Islam (a far cry from German Nazism’s hostility to the churches) and homophobia (a far more prominent issue than it was for the fascists of the 1920s and 1930s, perhaps in reaction to the intervening legalisation of homosexuality).

At the same time, in some cases, such as Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands, far-right parties, in justifying their vilification of Muslims, whether immigrants or not, have claimed to represent core democratic values such as freedom of speech, thus turning democracy’s principles against those same values. Where Islamists can demand the censorship of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, Islamophobes can win significant popular support by claiming to speak up for western values of tolerance and openness. It’s not for nothing that Wilders’s party is called the Party for Freedom. At the same time, Wilders shows his true colours by calling for the banning of the Quran in the Netherlands, a halt to the construction of new mosques, and the ending of all immigration from Muslim countries.

As Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goeb­bels wrote after the fall of the Weimar Republic, “It will always remain one of democracy’s best jokes that it provided its deadly enemies with the means by which it was destroyed.” It is important that democracy in the early 21st century does not let itself be undermined by those who do not share its values but would cynically use its rhetoric.

Islamophobia, as the PVV’s policies suggest, is closely linked to hostility to immigration, among other things. However, immigration is not an issue in Hungary, where it has been minimal, and so Jobbik has directed its hostility instead against groups within Hungary, most notably gypsies, whom the party portrays as engaged in a crime wave. Municipalities where the party is strong have set up vigilante squads to combat “gypsy crime”, with results that hardly need spelling out. Jobbik has demanded that the gypsies be put in “public order protection camps” – concentration camps by any other name. And yet, for right-wing Hungarian nationalists, the plight of their country is above all the product of machinations by international Jewish liberals. All this offloading of resentment is not the result of particularly high unemployment (in Hungary it stands at 11 per cent, modest by present European standards). Indeed, on the whole, Jobbik’s young activists and supporters are not the destitute unemployed, but rather well educated and middle class.

The rise of the Hungarian far right is far more a consequence of the suddenness and depth of the economic depression into which the country was plunged from 2008 onwards. Before it hit, unemployment was almost unknown and there was a general atmosphere of post-Communist optimism. But as most people began to blame the left-wing government of the day for the economic collapse – more severe and more sudden than almost anywhere else in Europe apart from Iceland – the search for scapegoats quickly got under way.
Day of mourning

Thus far, mainstream conservative parties have managed to place severe constraints on the electoral potential of the far right by adopting many of their policies. In Hungary, the right-wing Fidesz government has taken the wind out of Jobbik’s sails by repudiating the Treaty of Trianon and inaugurating a national day of mourning on its anniversary. The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has been pursuing the idea of a “European gypsy strategy”, and his new, authoritarian constitution, which took effect on 1 January, has declared Hungary to be a Christian nation and defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. He has also launched a blistering verbal attack on EU interference in Hungarian affairs. All this is music to the ears of voters who might otherwise flock to the banner of the ultra right.

In other parts of Europe, where immigration is the central issue for the far right, government and mainstream opposition parties have been falling over themselves to introduce fresh restrictions and boast of their patriotism. Civil liberties have been curbed by stealth in the name of the war on terror, taking the wind out of the sails of far-right parties that see democracy as excessively weak and tolerant. History is being recruited as a tool to build an exclusive, aggressive sense of national identity that can all too easily spill over into xenophobia and that more than satisfies the demands of radical nationalists. The biggest threat to democratic values is not so much the rise of the neo-fascist right in itself, dangerous though that is, as the influence it is exerting on pushing mainstream parties in the same direction.

Fuelling all these disturbing developments has been a programme of exaggerated and unnecessary austerity, imposed on one European country after another, whether within the eurozone or – as with the UK – outside it. There seems little realisation that cutting government expenditure reduces demand and sends the economy into a tailspin, reducing tax revenues and prompting further government cuts.

That, roughly, is what happened in Germany in 1930-33. What is happening now is something related but different, a new threat for a new era. It’s not that unemployment leads directly to the rise of fascism. The social crisis that led to the present policies of austerity reaches far wider. Businesses go bankrupt, banks crash, civil servants are sacked, pay is cut, benefits are slashed, public services are shattered. It is not just the young, or the unemployed, who are affected. The whole of society is affected by it. No wonder political extremism is on the rise. Robbing people of hope for their future leads them to search for scapegoats, whether within their own countries or outside. And the hatred that this breeds can all too easily threaten to undermine the foundations of a tolerant and democratic political culture.

Richard J Evans is Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge and is the author of “The Third Reich in Power 1933-39” (Penguin, £12.99)

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