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The ‘Great Replacement’: Why far-right nationalists love Israel

April 1, 2019 at 1:25 am

A vigil for the victims of the terror attack on New Zealand mosques in London, UK on 15 March 2019 [Tayfun Salcı/Anadolu Agency]

The link between Israel and budding far-right movements around the world is not a mere random phenomenon, inspired by common hate for Islam and Muslims.

Moreover, the common understanding that this problematic relationship – between Israel and the global far right – only concerns the common cause between Israel and white supremacist movements is no longer sufficient to address the much wider network which now spans from India to Brazil, and from Europe to Australia.

In other words, this phenomenon is no longer confined to Zionism or white supremacy, but is being actively redefined as a sinister marriage between various ultra-nationalist governments, political movements and groups all around the world, all united by their hate for immigrants, refugees and Muslims.

Per this logic, Brentan Tarrant, the Australian national who murdered 50 Muslims and injured dozens more in the small town of Christchurch in New Zealand was not a ‘lone wolf’ terrorist as some would want us to believe. Even if he was single-handedly responsible for the mass murder of those innocent people, he is a member of a large ideological, militant network that is dedicated to spreading hate and racism, one which sees immigrants – especially Muslims, as ‘invaders’.

In his ‘manifesto’, a 74-page document that he posted online shortly before he carried out his heinous act, Tarrant references the far-right, the racist ideologues who inspired him, along with fellow “ethno-soldiers” – like-minded murderers who committed equally horrific acts against civilians.

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It was not by accident that Tarrant named his document the “Great Replacement”, as it was framed after a similarly named conspiracy theory made popular by a strong Israel supporter, Renaud Camus.

Camus is an infamous French writer, whose “Le Grand Remplacement”, an even more extreme interpretation of the Francis Fukuyama’s Clash of Civilizations, envisages a global conflict that sees Muslims as the new enemy.

The Great Replacement, along with other such literature widely popular among the far right, represents the ideological foundation for the, till recently, disorganised and disconnected efforts by various ultra-nationalist movements around the world, all united in their desire to address the “Muslim invasion.”

For the purported ‘invasion’ to be repelled, far-right ideologues moved beyond their national borders to expand their outreach, while challenging the common framing of their movements as Neo-Nazi or Neo-Fascist.

To move out from the stage of theory into action these movements laboured to win greater legitimacy to influence election outcomes as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Marine Le Pen in France, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Viktor Orban in Hungary have done to various degrees of success.

A woman lays flowers to pay tribute at Linwood Ave public vigil, close to the Linwood Mosque shooting area, for victims who lost their lives during twin terror attacks in New Zealand mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 17, 2019. [Peter Adones - Anadolu Agency]

A woman lays flowers to pay tribute at Linwood Ave public vigil, close to the Linwood Mosque shooting area, for victims who lost their lives during twin terror attacks in New Zealand mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on 17 March 2019 [Peter Adones/Anadolu Agency]

The fact that Muslim migration to Hungary or Brazil, for example, hardly represents a pressing ‘problem’ seems to be of no relevance to the hate-filled statements of Orban and Bolsonaro. But these leaders’ anti-Muslim and pro-Israel stances remain the highlights of their foreign policy because that is the only path towards greater integration with the far-right alliance worldwide.

Great Replacement enthusiasts argue that Islam and the Islamic civilisation are “ethnically replacing” other races and that such a supposed phenomenon must be stopped and violently if necessary. Unsurprisingly, they see Israel as a model country that is succeeding in fighting against the “Muslim menace.”

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Gradually, Israel emerged as the common denominator between these groups, which are traditionally known for hating Jews as much as everyone else. To ensure the success of their global brand these far-right movements began exploiting other conflicts involving Muslims, from Burma to India. The likes of the Hindu Sahmati movement, known for its anti-Muslim bigotry is essential to this new global brand. And per the same disturbing logic, hating Muslims, then, becomes synonymous with loving Israel. Therefore, it was not a complete surprise to see tens of thousands of Hindu nationalists rallying in Calcutta in February 2018 in what was described by its organisers as “the largest pro-Israel rally” in history.

It is as if the unconditional and blind support for Israel has become a precondition for being embraced by the global far-right movement and its bizarre breed of pseudo-intellectuals.

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Israel is a model of resistance,” Camus himself tweeted in December 2017. He called on his supporters to “make Europe a ‘greater Israel’”, by, of course, duplicating the Israeli racist, apartheid model.

The rapport between the hate of Muslims and the love of Israel by these ultra-nationalist Islamophobes becomes even clearer when we examine the names of some of the main supporters of the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident (PEGIDA). The latter is an anti-Muslim movement with global networks that started in Germany in 2014 under the title “Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes”.

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One of PEGIDA principal backers, Dutch MP, Geert Wilders, called on the “brave patriots” of Europe to “take an example from Israel, to fight against the Islamic darkness.”

The former leader of the English Defense League, Tommy Robinson, another strong supporter of Israel, believes that “Jews also suffer from the Muslims” and are “threatened by them.”

It should come as no surprise that both Wilders and Robinson have reportedly received money from the pro-Israel think-tank, the Middle East Forum, to offset their legal costs as they were charged with incitement and racism.

Italy’s Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, who is also a close friend of Netanyahu has been linked repeatedly to PEGIDA as well, most notably last year by German Newspaper, Der Spiegel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) on 21 January 2019 [Mehahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) on 21 January 2019 [Mehahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images]

Salvini learned of the importance of befriending Israel shortly before the Italian general elections in March 2018. Salvini launched his election bid during a visit to Israel two years earlier. “Israel embodies the perfect balance of different realities while ensuring law and order. It surely is a role model for security and anti-terrorism policies,” he said from Tel Aviv.

These suspect ties in mind would explain Salvini’s offensive comments following the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand. “The only extremism which should be carefully addressed is the Islamic one,” he said during an official visit to the Italian city of Napoli.

But a few examples of this sinister alliance are as clear as that of American pro-Trump conservative commentator, Candace Owens, Tarrant’s greatest inspiration according to his manifesto.

While in Jerusalem, Owens derided Democrats for not taking part in the celebration of the US embassy move last May. “Amazingly, not a single elected Democrat is here to celebrate this historic event in Jerusalem, a bonafide signal that they do not stand with Israel,” she tweeted. “This snub will not soon be forgotten – not in America or abroad.”

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The list of these far-right ideologues is long and constantly expanding. But their hate-filled speech, disturbing ‘theories’, along with their fascination with Israeli violence and racism would have been assigned to the bins of history if it were not for the high price of violence that is now associated with this movement.

Commenting on the trial of Darren Osborne, who drove his van into a group of Muslims leaving Ramadan prayer in London, on June 19, 2017, the Islamic Human Rights Commission said: “The court heard how Osborne had been brainwashed and radicalized into hating Muslims by far-right social media spewed out by Tommy Robinson and Jayda Fransen.”

The same pattern was repeated many times including recently in Canada, when Alexandre Bissonnette killed six worshipers at the Grande Mosquée de Québec on January 29, 2017. Palestinian journalist, Ali Abunimah, described Bissonnette as a “fan of the Israeli army and other ardent Zionist groups such as ‘United with Israel’.”

According to Israeli sources, Brentan Tarrant visited Israel in 2016 for nine days. The fact that Israeli authorities refrained from disclosing the reasons behind the Australian terrorist’s visit opened up a Pandora’s Box regarding a possible link between Tarrant and Israel.

However, the connection between Israel and far-right ideologues, politicians and their “ethnic soldiers” requires no Israeli validation. It is the uncontested truth.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.