Nationalism

There is an upsurge of right-wing parties in Europe that are gaining popular support.  This includes Germany, Austria, Hungary, France and several other countries.   This is often blamed on the current immigration crisis of poor, displaced refugees from areas of conflict, particularly Muslims from Africa and the Middle East, trying to get into these countries illegally.   As many people have pointed out, there is cause for concern, because these parties are generally Islamophobic and often anti-Semitic,  However, at the same time, these countries and these parties are often pro-Israel.

The reasons for this are complex but include: 1. These countries (often from Eastern Europe) see Israel as a bulwark of European civilization against the tide of Muslim conquest and take-over.  2. Israel is a small, technically advanced and prosperous country that they can do business with and in some ways hope to emulate. 3. There are some countries and parties (particularly in Germany) that are trying to be nationalistic and yet have guilt over their terrible past and try to assuage this by being pro-Israel.

Here I would like to point out that most Israelis can be considered as nationalistic, very proud and supportive of our country Israel and prepared to defend it against all odds.  It is also true that many Americans, including Jews, are very patriotic about the USA.  My conclusion is that “nationalism” per se is not necessarily bad or wrong, as long as it does not segue into super- or hyper-nationalism, as in Nazism or Fascism, in which a party takes over a country, is convinced of its own superiority over other nationalities, and becomes militaristic.  This distinction is very important, and can be exemplified by the French National Front, that was openly anti-Semitic under its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, but his daughter Marine Le Pen who has taken over the Party has striven to modernize it and exclude anti-Semitism from its ranks (some understandably might be skeptical, but there has been a major rift between the father and daughter).

This week I am going on a visit to several European capitals with an American group.  One of the main issues raised will no doubt be, how anti-Semitic and how pro-Israel are these countries and their right-wing parties?  I hope to be able to report back on this and other issues upon my return.

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