The secular jihadi two-step

In a previous post, I argued that the extreme Right has rebranded itself as a “secular jihad” against “Eurabia” to appeal to the liberal hawk/”decent left” tendency. Where once the New York Times‘s op-ed pages wrung hands and wagged fingers against the rise of Haider and Le Pen as a renaissance of anti-semitism, now Melanie Phillips flirts with the Vlaams Belang as strugglers for Western civilisation.

Blogistan reports that the BNP is trying to make nice with the Jewish Chronicle over an article, ironically by Melanie Phillips, which accused them of being anti-Semitic and allies of Hezbollah. (One wonders exactly how.) Amusingly, she quotes the Communist Morning Star‘s pointing out that BNP leader Nick Griffin has both supported Israeli military action in Lebanon and crazy Eurabia propagandist Bat Ye’or as evidence that the Left is anti-Semitic and so is the BNP. The only logical route to this proposition is that “the Left criticise the BNP for being pro-Israel, therefore the left is anti-Semitic because all criticism of Israel, or even the Eurabia mythos, is anti-Semitic by definition” – something which a lot of JC readers would have been outraged by had it been made explicit.

The further leap, that the BNP is really anti-Semitic despite its explicit and noisy support for the Israeli hard right, is based on a statement by some BNP “theorist” that the party needs to stop being obsessed by Jews. At some point here, clearly, we have slipped the surly bonds of logic and sailed off into the pure air of propagandist ravings. This is an example of using a point in debate that means the exact opposite of what you wish to say. There is absolutely no doubt that the BNP *is* anti-Semitic, in that many if not most of its members are and much of its past history is. But it is very significant that its leadership and its “theorist” are trying to retarget its hatred onto Muslims.

Phillips’ mental model is founded on the assumption that a) the CPGB is representative of all leftwing opinion, a highly noticeable step, and b) not only is criticism of Israeli policy equivalent to Nazism, but this protection extends to the Eurabia meme, rather as “extended deterrence” was held to protect Western Europe as well as North America.

This kind of ideological acrobatics is usually a signal of a big realignment a-coming. It is reminiscent of the good communist who had to believe in the necessity of war against fascism up to the moment he or she learnt of the Nazi-Soviet pact, then of the essential non-dangerousness of Hitler, and then the exact opposite immediately on hearing the morning news on June 22, 1941. After all, precisely the people in Europe who believe in the Eurabia meme are…the BNP and Co. And if it is now the acid test of fascism, then Melanie Phillips can’t logically avoid lining up with Nick Griffin.

Slight update: I recall that a few years ago, the “Loyalists” in Northern Ireland were reported to have started adopting Israeli iconography, and the Republicans had begun to wave Palestinian flags in response. No doubt part of the reason is that the colours were roughly right for Glasgow Rangers, but still. The BNP, C18, NF and Co are known to have contacts with the “Loyalist” paramilitaries.

12 thoughts on “The secular jihadi two-step

  1. It is kind of interesting that in Europe the extreme right is secular or neopagan. Can anyone explain that?

  2. Zionism is a contemporary of the extreme 20th century ideologies of extreme nationalism, fascism and a good helping of communism.

    There are many semblances between these ideologies, they have never changed much and it’s natural that they would eventually overcome their aversion and band together for the (hallucinated) fight.

    Since fighting enemies and following basic instincts like hate is all that these people want.

  3. While there is little doubt that the BNP hierarchy/ “ideologists” are deeply antisemitic, it has been many decades since any significant element of the British far right has used antisemitism as a key part of its appeal to the public: largely because it isn’t a vote-winner.

    (The last leader of the BNP, John Tyndall, openly admitted as much “he was disappointed at how little interest there was in `the Jewish Question’ (in the constituency), after the 1994 byelection in Dagenham”. )

    The BNP (and, indeed, even the “less respectable” NF that it grew out of) has long sought to inflame the sort of prejudices (previously more against south Asians, “Irish terrorists”: more recently eastern Europeans, asylum seekers, “travellers”, Roma) that get stoked up on a regular basis by certain elements of the national and local press (not least some of the organs Ms Phillips herself writes for on a regular basis), and which, moreover, one hears expressed in grubby nooks and crannies of British society: ie exactly those prejudices which could form the basis for significant electoral support.

    None the less, overall, I think that Melanie Phillips is too sophisticated and nuanced a thinker just to line up with the BNP. Her views on religion and morality, in particular, or on education, are worlds apart from even the smart booted-and-suited face of the bovver boys.

    None the less I agree that, objectively, the opinions frequently expressed by MP (not to mention the loonatic fringe who like to quote Bat Ye’Or) are absolutely exactly those that are likely to help the neo-fascist far right (ie the BNP and their ilk) in future years.

    It is absolutely shameful that elements of the “decent left” et al give the time of day to such arguments. Haider or Vlaams Belang should not even hypothetically be regarded as allies of any progressive, or indeed any democrat.

  4. I recall that a few years ago, the “Loyalists” in Northern Ireland were reported to have started adopting Israeli iconography, and the Republicans had begun to wave Palestinian flags in response. No doubt part of the reason is that the colours were roughly right for Glasgow Rangers, but still. The BNP, C18, NF and Co are known to have contacts with the “Loyalist” paramilitaries.

    I’m moderately certain in fact that it happened the other way round – the Republicans adopting Palestinian (and also Basque) symbols first – as part of the more “internationalist” outlook of the republicans (and also reflecting links between elements in the IRA and elements in the PLO). You cam still see clear evidence of this in many strongly republcan neighbourhoods – murals on the Falls Road, Palestinian flags in the Bogside, etc, today. (Sometimes quite inappropriately – there is a mural of a veiled Palestinian Muslim woman on the outside of a betting shop in Derry, for example…)

    The adoption of Israeli symbols by Unionists never took off to anything like the same degree (although of course the former Northern Irish flag does contain a Star of David, surmounted by a red hand, in any case).

  5. I’d still like to know how the “Eurabia” panty-piddlers can deal with the fact that something like three percent of the EU’s population is Islamic. Imagine how they’d fare in the United States, where the Latin American share of the population is a hell of a lot higher than three percent. They’d all probably drop dead from sheer fright.

  6. It is kind of interesting that in Europe the extreme right is secular or neopagan. Can anyone explain that?
    Posted by Oliver at November 26, 2006 6:29 PM

    Because Europe is actually part of the Eurasian culture. Paganism is what has been practised here since the stone ages. In India the Paganism morphed into Hinduism and so on. Christianity is just a Roman replacement concocted from pagan tales all over the Roman Empire plus a bit of jewish philosophy.

    So when the extreme right is “neo-pagan” they’re really trying to feel their ancient roots or something. Many (most) neo-pagans don’t subscribe to hate at all, but the whole thing is highly irrational.

    The secular extreme right are just trying to gain political power by any means, basically the Hitler career. Use group hate etc to organize a mob and take over.

  7. The extreme right is only neo-pagan, IMHO, in Germany, Scandinavia and the UK. Southern European fascism was usually explicitly Catholic, as it was in Central Europe (Croatia, Austria, Poland, south Germany) and also Belgium.

    French extreme-rightists were also usually clerical-fascist; Le Pen’s rebranding as a defender of Republicanism is quite recent, which is why it interests me.

  8. Still a large part of Europe. The phenomenon is still remarkable.

    France is not exactly a southern country. It has a very strong anticlerical streak. Was Le Pen ever explicitely catholic? Is this more than just a tactical shift of emphasis? Furthermore everybody is wisely shifting a bit to the nationalistic (eg. the left’s rejection of the EU constitution out of economic and social nationalism). Le Pen has to rebrand.

  9. I don’t think anyone claims that “criticism of Israel” is anti-Semitism. This is simply a straw man.

    The extsreme, exaggerated, and fevered condemnation of Israel that’s de rigueur among European leftists goes well beyond “criticism of Israel,” however. Comparing Zionism with fascism is one example of this phenomenon. Another is the unwillingness to denounce or even recognize the anti-Semitism that has become endemic in European Muslim communities.

  10. However deranged the left’s anti-Israel rhetoric might be, anti-Semitism per se may not be at the root of it all. Some other faulty theories that end up with Israel as the bad guy:

    1. Israelis are generally much richer than Palestinians, which slots into the ‘zero-sum economic exploitation’ theory, that if two groups of people of divergent income interact, the rich group must somehow be acting to enrich itself at the expense of the poor group, and that this is exactly what causes the poor group’s poverty.

    2. Israel is also identified with the West in general, and the US in particular, in a way that Palestine is not. This triggers the ‘West vs rest’ theory, turning Europe’s colonial rampage of the late 19th century into an all-inclusive explanation of how the world works (cf ‘cultural imperialism’ and so on). This idea is particularly strengthened if you think of the West Bank and Gaza as ‘colonies’ of Israel, which was probably a fair description prior to the Oslo accords, or you compare the seizure of abandoned Palestinian property in 1948 to the seizure of native-inhabited ‘Terra Nullius’ in the Americas etc in earlier times.

    3. Israel has a powerful conventional military, whilst Palestine has no official armed forces, and Palestinian militants are less well-equipped and use unconventional means. However grisly such means are in practice, guerillas still conjure up the romantic image of the ‘freedom fighter’, ‘socialist revolutionary’ and so on for those leftists who are fond of revolutionary mythology. By comparison, the left tends to be extremely negative about any conventional military hierarchy, seeing the military as bastions of conservatism, reaction or fascism.

    4. Israel identifies itself as the Jewish state, and has measures to preserve this status, such as discriminatory immigration policies. This upsets the multiculturalist left, who don’t think states should be committed to a particular ethnic group, whichever the ethnic group in question. But then again, the Palestinian cause can be seen in equally ethnic terms, so multiculturalists are probably left simply dismayed at the attitudes of both sides, and at the impossibility of a one-state solution. They’ll still likely blame Israel for this state of affairs though, for the other reasons mentioned.

  11. “The extsreme, exaggerated, and fevered condemnation of Israel that’s de rigueur among European leftists goes well beyond “criticism of Israel,” however. Comparing Zionism with fascism is one example of this phenomenon.”

    Zionism is a product of the same ethnic-essentialist nationalist movements that predominated in central and eastern Europe at the same time. It has good features, and it has bad features. These bad features increasingly place Israel in a marginal category of these consequent democratic states–compare Serbia, say.

    As one example, consider the Israeli state’s denial of the right of civil marriage within Israel’s borders to Israeli citizens. One thing that the debate on same-sex marriage in Canada made quite clear was that marriage matters, that the permissibility or non-permissibility of a type of marriage contracted by a certain demographic related quite directly to the acceptability of said demographic. Countries which don’t like non-heterosexuals discourage same-sex marriage; countries which don’t like certain racial minorities discourage inter-racial marriage; countries which don’t like religious minorities discourage inter-religious marriage.

    Yes, you might point out, civil marriage contracted outside Israel are recognized, but the fact that two people would have to leave the country in order to legally establish a relationship relatively unpopular with their peers can only be recognized as a concerted effort to discourage these marriages. What’s worse, the Israeli electorate–like other electorates elsewhere in the Middle East, true but beside the point–shows no interest in lifting the monopoly. But then, why would it, when denying civil marriage reinforces the control of blood-and-soil nationalists and conservative clerics over their subject populations?

  12. 1. Destroying somebodies property is not zero-sum economic exploitation’ theory

    2. Not colonies, bantustans of Israel. Which makes a big difference.

    3. I assume you mean with left everybody who isn’t agreeing with you otherwise this simply doesn’t make any sense as everybody, but especially the right, likes guerillas (especially those who are victorious).

    4. This is something you can defend for non-natives but the Israeli’s have this policy on the natives.

Comments are closed.