Islamophobia has become the leading identifier of far-right groups all around the world. Fascism always requires an “other”, a demonised minority group that can be scapegoated and blamed for all the world’s ills, whether real or imagined.
In Nazi propaganda, a global Jewish plot was said to control the forces of both Bolshevism and capitalism. Neo-Nazis have continued this lying trend of Jew-hatred; such a tendency has not disappeared, as the horrific Pittsburgh massacre last year demonstrated graphically.
However, the wider far-right (of which neo-Nazis are only the most extreme) has in recent years switched their focus. Instead of Jews being their main target, Muslims are now enemy number one. Far-right groups in Britain have turned attacks on Muslim communities and “criticism of Islam” into their main recruiting tools. Such groups include the English Defence League and Britain First.
Both have agitated openly against Muslims, with the EDL doing so in a particularly violent fashion. What’s more, both groups have also happened to take an extremely pro-Israel stance. It was common, for example, to see Israeli flags during EDL street manifestations.
For some of the racist football hooligans who were part of the EDL, this may have been a simple-minded provocation. Let’s annoy “the Muslims” by supporting “the Jews” was their probable line of thought. That, of course, only betrayed their own cloaked anti-Semitism, as this twisted logic assumes that all Jews support Israel, which is not true.
For many leaders of the far-right, though, the connections are more ideological. The EDL founder Tommy Robinson has long defined himself as a Zionist, and declared recently, in an apparently drunken video, that he would even be willing to fight in Israel’s wars. Britain First too was stridently anti-Palestinian, and held up Israel as a model state.
What accounts for this? A clue can be found in one of the codes that Britain First used to sign off its statements posted on social media before their recent bans from Twitter and Facebook: “OCS” – Onward Christian Soldiers.
They saw themselves as modern day Crusaders, fighting the “savage Muslim hordes” at home and abroad. As such, Israel was viewed very much as a latter day Crusader state in the Holy Land, an outpost of “Western civilisation” among the infidels. These inherently racist ideas are closely associated with the right wing in both Israel and in the West.
They also have their adherents on the so-called Zionist left. For example, Israel’s former Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Ehud Barak once described Israel as a “villa in the jungle”.
The idea is fundamentally racist and colonialist, with the image of the “White Man” bringing “civilisation” to the supposedly animalistic Arabs in their “rough neighbourhood” of a region. The historical role played by Western imperialists in concocting numerous wars, invasions, occupations and sectarian disputes in the region are conveniently ignored in favour of Orientalist fantasies about the Arabs being inherently more violent and primitive than the enlightened “Judeo-Christian” West.
It is no surprise, then, to find that in recent years – especially since 9/11 – there has been a ramping-up of Israeli Islamophobia, well in step with right-wing movements in the West. A recent posting on the Israeli Defence Forces official Twitter account illustrated this acceleration of Islamophobia. Iran, tweeted the IDF, is “breeding in the Middle East”. The tweet included a crude image of a pregnant belly with the word “terror” stamped on it. Iran is the source of terror in the region, was the overt message.
Moreover, the posting contained a far more insidious idea; that of “terrorist babies”. In fact, it seemed to be saying, Iranians are inherently violent even before they are born. All this is classic racist ideology.
The tweet was reminiscent of an Israeli racism scandal from a decade ago; at least it was a scandal to supporters of Palestinian human rights. Veterans of Israel’s then most recent war against the population of the Gaza Strip were photographed wearing t-shirts with violently racist imagery targeting Palestinian children and pregnant women. “One shot, two kills” read the slogan on one such garment alongside a crude cartoon image of a Muslim woman in the crosshairs. The rifle was aimed at her pregnant belly.
The same message comes through in that recent IDF tweet: Muslims are inherently, irredeemably violent, and should be killed, even when children; even before being born.
This sickeningly racist ideology shows why Israel is held in high regard by anti-Muslim racists the world over. The self-declared Jewish State is indeed a light unto the Islamophobes.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.