An Unholy Alliance

The "alt-right" and Israeli settlers have a shared fervor for ethno-nationalism, Islamophobia, and racism.

US president Donald Trump with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January 2017. Prime Minister of Israel / Flickr

Capitalism is a flurry of contradictions, and one of its strangest is the burgeoning alliance between the antisemitic forces of the “alt-right” and Israeli settlers.

This alliance is not exactly new. For some time, the far-right parties of Europe have been outspoken in their support of Israel, all while courting hardline nationalists who often hold racist and antisemitic views. Even in the United States, this alliance has been around for a while. In the 1970s, Richard Nixon — a severe antisemite — provided significant financial and military support for Israel, allowing the country to prevail in the Yom Kippur War.

What is different now, however, is how closely the two are working together — and how willing the Israeli right has been in embracing these unlikely bedfellows.

The alt-right is antisemitic. This point should not be controversial. We can see it when Milo Yiannopolous referred to a reporter as a “thick-as-pig shit media Jew” or when the Trump administration released a statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day that failed to mention Jews (or any other targeted group, for that matter). Antisemitism has been central to the alt-right’s program. When they speak of “global special interests,” they are really just rebranding the old antisemitic trope of a global Zionist conspiracy.

Moreover, it should also be obvious that the recent rise in antisemitic incidents in the aftermath of both Trump’s election and the Brexit vote are a direct consequence of the increased acceptability of white nationalism in public discourse. These threats, which include bomb threats and cemetery desecrations, are serious.

Despite all this, the Israeli right, ever quick to denounce the smallest critique of Israel as antisemitism, has largely embraced the alt-right.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been possibly Trump’s biggest cheerleader among foreign leaders. After Steve Bannon officially became Trump’s chief strategist, Alan Dershowitz, the outspoken defender of Israeli apartheid, eagerly spoke out to shield him from accusations of antisemitism. (This is the same Steve Bannon, mind you, who said he didn’t want his daughters going to school with “whiny brat” Jews.)

Israeli backing for Trump is easy to understand: they gladly welcome the increased support from their greatest ally at a time when the rest of the world is beginning to wise up to their system of apartheid. But the alt-right’s affinity for Israel is a bit stranger.

Trump has vowed to be the best friend Israel has ever had and has floated the idea of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer has actually praised Zionism for helping inspire the ethno-nationalism that he has made his own.

Herein lies the key to understanding this alliance. The state of Israel was founded at the end of World War II, when the major powers sought to redraw the world map in a way so that (nearly) every minority got their own country. This way, there would be no minorities. In order for Israel to become a Jewish state, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had to be ethnically cleansed in what is now known as the Nakbe.

This ideology — that ethnicities should be separate and that minorities should be expunged — is precisely what is driving the alt-right. This allows us to understand why the alt-right can simultaneously hate Jews and love Israel. The alt-right is fine with Jews, as long as they’re over there, far away from the United States.

And because they consider Jews “more white” than Arabs, the alt-right is happy to use them, through the state of Israel, to keep those uppity Muslim states in check. This has been Israel’s historical role. It was the case in 1956, when France and Britain entreated Israel to invade Egypt in order to stop Gamel Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal.

More recently, the Mossad has also helped the United States assassinate Iranian scientists and otherwise sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The alt-right is happy to give support to the state it sees as the West’s first line of defense against the dreaded Muslim invasion.

As shocking as it might seem to see orthodox Jews eagerly jump into bed with rabid antisemites, we should really know better than to be surprised. What the alt-right and Israeli settlers (and their supporters) have in common is a shared fervor for ethno-nationalism and a strong inclination towards Islamophobia and racism.

Israel is useful to the alt-right both as a tool for wreaking havoc in the Muslim world and as an ideological fellow traveler, willing to support their nationalist and chauvinist policies. Without acknowledging this, we cannot hope to understand either movement. The Left must be vigilant in opposing this alliance and refuse to let the alt-right’s support for Israel be a cover for their extreme antisemitism.