How Europe's lurch to the right emboldens Israel

How Europe's lurch to the right emboldens Israel
Comment: The security narrative is helping both the EU and Israel carry out their far-right agendas, writes Ramona Wadi.
5 min read
03 Jun, 2019
In both Israel and EU countries, the far-right have gained significant ground [Anadolu]
The EU's increasingly anti-refugee sentiment in recent years reflects a overall shift towards far right-wing politics among the European electorate.

France and Italy, along with Belgium, Hungary and Poland, have become fertile ground for far right sentiment, a trend that was borne out by last week's voting.

Even if the European far right did not manage the victory predicted in some pre-election polls, it is now in a position to influence the established and normalised European diplomacy that calls for a united Europe, but practices exclusionary politics elsewhere.

For their part, Israeli officials have been closely following developments in Europe, with one diplomatic representative declaring the colonial state hoped for an outcome "as least anti-Israel as possible."

The official, quoted in the Jerusalem Post, also gave an overview of Israel's domestic right-wing perceptions. "The more you are to the right, the more you are anti-Muslim, and the more anti-Muslim you are, the more you become pro-Israel."

Adding a more visibly far-right presence to the European Parliament will endorse diplomatic factions that overlook human rights violations in a more overt manner. In this regard, Israel and the EU have a shared outlook and one that will be mutually complementary to their agendas.

Such rhetoric picks on misconceptions about immigration that are prevalent in Europe, and assists Israel in consolidating support for its own exclusionary politics, albeit on a different level.

Israel is able to promote security and defence as a common EU-Israeli concern

While the EU allows also casts itself as a humanitarian actor - after all, peace building is the EU's political veneer - this stance is also part of the cycle of exclusionary politics.

Indeed, while the EU and its member states have no qualms about destabilising countries in the Middle East through their foreign policy, it also seeks to absolve itself of the consequences, the most visible being the migration of refugees through the Mediterranean.

Europeans have been told their governments are combating human trafficking, that militarisation is the only way to solve what is termed "the refugee problem". The ongoing spat between Malta and Italy is one such example of European humanitarianism meeting a dead end. Instead of coming together as a bloc to protect refugee lives from further peril, the EU focused on how to prevent them from reaching Europe's shores.

It is here that Israel's security narrative comes into play, echoing that of the EU. In attempting to equate refugees going to Europe with Palestinians clamouring for their legitimate rights, Israel is able to promote security and defence as a common EU-Israeli concern.

When Italy's far-right deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini visited Israel in December 2018, he accused the EU of being "entirely unbalanced" in Israel's regard.

"It has condemned and sanctioned Israel for every step it took," Salvini 
stated. "Whoever wants peace, needs to support Israel."

Salvini's statement was an overt declaration of what the EU has covertly imparted, by prioritising its relationship with Israel above its purported commitment towards Palestinian rights.

Read more: The road to Palestinian prosperity does not lead through Bahrain

Just weeks prior to the European Parliament elections, Germany declared its intent to support Israel at an international level. The official statement in part read, "Germany will always work, including in the UN to ensure that Israel's right to exist is never called into question."

Days after the announcement, the German parliament also passed a motion declaring the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) to be anti-semitic.

Lest we forget, the EU, through Federica Mogherini, chose to ignore Israel's latest bombardment of Gaza.

In one of the most blatantly pro-Israel statements, Mogherini eliminated the entire context of Israel's colonisation of Palestine to 
claim, with reference to Hamas rockets, "These attacks provoke unspeakable suffering to the Israelis and serve only the cause of endless violence and of an endless conflict."

Despite Israel's criticism of the EU, the settler-colonial state knows it has an ally in Europe

These are just a few examples of how the EU and factions within its member states prioritised Israel in their diplomacy before the European Parliament elections.

It must also be remembered that the two-state compromise - an integral part of EU foreign policy – allows the bloc utmost liberty to escape its obligations towards Palestinian rights. Knowingly promoting an obsolete paradigm is one way in which the EU continues to fail Palestinians.

Prior to the far-right shift in Europe, Israel was already reaping diplomatic and economic benefits from the bloc. A right-leaning receptive EU platform will enhance the Israeli government's possibility of garnering support for its security narrative, and use that support to bolster the ongoing violations against the Palestinian people.

During the 2019 electoral campaigns leading to the elections on 9 April, Israeli candidates brandished varying degrees of right-wing incitement, with Ayelet Shaked and Oren Hazan among the most explicit.

To say that the EU is fragmented is not an accurate representation of the politics that still hold the organisation together. The bloc is held together because right-wing politics prevail, in one form or another, across the political spectrum.

Despite Israel's criticism of the EU, the settler-colonial state knows it has an ally in Europe.

The rise of the far-right at a time when the same trend has gained momentum in Israel - and was normalised in a similar manner to the process in the EU - will guarantee Israel an easier platform to disseminate its own version of "peace".

And who will argue against it, when the far-right's concept of peace aligns itself with Israel, and when the rest of the bloc has invested years of promoting Israel's alleged democracy at the expense of the indigenous and colonised Palestinian people?

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law. 

Follow her on Twitter: @walzerscent

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.