Middle East Monitor / January 20, 2020
One of Europe’s most prominent far-right politicians has pledged to make radical changes in support for Israel if he is elected as the next Prime Minister of Italy. In an interview with Israel Hayom, the frontrunner for Italy’s top job, Matteo Salvini, pledged to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; criminalise the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign; adopt the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism; and make the EU more pro-Israel.
Asked if Italy would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital once he became Prime Minister, Salvini replied: “Yes. Absolutely.” He was equally empathic on whether the EU should ban BDS as “anti-Semitic”.
The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism has been weaponised by pro-Israel Lobby groups, the original drafter of the text has warned, in an attempt to shield Israel from criticism of its violations of international law and human rights. Last week’s sacking of a Jewish teacher over anti-Israel comments have highlighted concerns about the IHRA definition. According to Salvini, “Italy has been too slow in adopting it.”
The EU faced special criticism from Salvini. The head of the Northern League party, whose face has become synonymous with anti-immigration policy, denounced European institutions for what he views as an anti-Israel position. “European institutions – let alone the institutions within the UN – are no friends of Israel,” he claimed.
Throughout the interview, Salvini appeared to echo racist conspiracy theories about Muslims that are widely accepted as the main reasons for the rise of white-nationalist terrorism. The so-called Muslim takeover of Europe known as “the great replacement theory” has become the chief conspiracy amongst a rising number of extremist right-wing groups.
Despite the fact that most of Europe’s Jews were either murdered or expelled from the continent following similar racist conspiracy theories harboured by the far-right, Salvini claimed that the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe is the result of allowing Muslims to migrate to the region.
Salvini’s remarks about Israel and Muslims highlight the alliance between Israel and Europe’s far-right, despite the latter being the political descendants of those who were behind the Holocaust.
The Zionist state has become an aspiration as much as an inspiration for far-right nationalists around the world. Founded to protect the exclusivity of one ethno-religious majority over everybody else — especially the indigenous population — Israel is looked upon with envy by the likes of white nationalist Richard Spencer. The far-right extremist, who once described himself as a “white Zionist”, praised Israel gushingly following its adoption of the Nation-State Law last year, which declared Israel to be a state for the Jewish people only. The bill was criticised strongly for relegating non-Jews to second-class status in a move akin to the US or Britain declaring themselves to be “white, Christian” nations by law.