German Right and Left United in Attacking Israel

Sabine Beppler-Spahl reports from Germany, that left and right are singing from the same song sheet when it comes to anti-Semitism and attacks on Israel.

German Right and Left United in Attacking Israel
German neo-Nazi organizers in Dresden. (Lina Marie Schulenkorf/YJI)

Last Sunday, neo-Nazis marched through Dresden, as part of their annual spectacle to commemorate the 1945 bombing of the city. And, as every year, there were big counter-demonstrations, organised by Antifa and other left-wing groups. Nothing new one could think. Except that this year, a banner of the far-right fringe party Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschland (NPD) attracted the attention of journalists. It read:

Yesterday Dresden–today Gaza: bring Genocide to justice
Neo-Nazis try to show strength in Dresden - Youth Journalism International
But right-wing groups are vastly outnumbered

The fact that a right-wing neo-Nazi group is speaking out against the bombing of Gaza is likely to have put some of its left-wing opponents in a bind. But once again, a point many had been making for a while can no longer be ignored; when it comes to Israel and anti-Semitism, left and right sing from the same song sheet.

That some journalists were surprised is astonishing. Anti-Semitism, after all, has always been part of the DNA of Germany's far-right. At the end of October last year, the magazine Stern ran an article titled:

How German neo-Nazis are trying to capitalise on the attack on Israel

Almost all far-right groups–ran the message of the article–were expressing solidarity with Palestinians. It also quoted a statement by the NPD youth organisation in which it defended the 7/10 Islamist attacks against the Jewish civilian population, by claiming that the Hamas attacks were preceded by:

oppression, occupation and Israeli mass murder in violation of international law
Wie deutsche Neonazis versuchen den Angriff auf Israel für sich zu nutzen
Im Dortmunder Nazikiez wehen Palästina-Flaggen und Rechtsextreme jubeln auf Telegram über Terrorangriffe. Wie Neonazis versuchen den Krieg für ihren Antisemitismus zu nutzen.

Of course, those on the left who have been using the very same words when talking about Israel would reject any association with the NPD. One argument they make is that the neo-Nazis are not concerned with the welfare of the Palestinians, and that they have not just been criticising Israel, but also promoting a racist form of anti-Semitism. That is most certainly true.

And the Stern article also made reference to a banner that was confiscated by the police in Dortmund, in October last year, which read:

Israel is our misfortune

This is a variation on a well-known quote from the 19th century German historian and nationalist, Heinrich von Treitschke, who infamously coined the phrase:

The Jews are our misfortune

In quoting Treitschke, the right may have gone further than the left, but it still remains true that both sides share a hatred for the world's only Jewish state.

The Left Has More Influence

But worryingly there's another, more sinister aspect to all of this; if the far-right believes it can capitalise on the attacks of 7/10, then it's only because others have been paving the way for them to do so.

The extreme NPD has always agitated on the fringes of society, and last Sunday's march was attended by only about 800 people. But the broader anti-Israel left has been able to exert far more influence. Not the far-right, but the anti-Israel left has been agitating against Israel in universities and other institutions.

Take the example of a talk that was meant to take place last week at Berlin's Humboldt University. Because the Israeli Supreme Court judge Daphne Barak-Erez was part of the panel, radical pro-Palestine activists launched a loud and threatening protest, which resulted in the event being cancelled.

Similarly, a Hannah Arendt "read-a-thon" in a prominent Berlin museum was called off, after protesters had begun to disturb the event.

Museum Hamburger Bahnhof: Hannah-Arendt-Lesung nach propalästinensischem Protest abgebrochen
Propalästinensische Aktivisten haben in Berlin eine Veranstaltung zu Hannah Arendt gestört. Das Museum und die Bundesregierung verurteilten die Aktion.

And when, earlier this month, demonstrators gathered in Berlin, for what was–ironically–meant to be a pro-democracy and anti-right wing demonstration (it was directed against the far-right AfD), a group of activists chanted anti-Israeli slogans. One protestor carried a banner saying:

Fight fascism everywhere from Berlin to Israel–free Palestine

Everyone knows that the far right relativises fascism and the German past. But since 7/10, it can no longer be denied that significant parts of the left are doing the same. Their anti-Israel agitation differs only in nuances. It’s time to oppose both because if we don't, Germany will once again fall into a dark place.