Oy Europe! Its official arm, brave and mighty, was extended to us in the form of the dozens of firefighters and firefighting aircraft dispatched to battle the Carmel blaze. Its other arm - the outcast, disobedient one - came to ignite fires whose damages cannot be predicted. These took the form of the very unholy alliance between figures on Israel's right and extreme nationalists and even anti-Semites in Europe that is gaining momentum in the Holy Land.
The first of the pyromaniacs, the Dutch MP Geert Wilders - almost a permanent guest in Israel - was invited by MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union ) to persuade us that Jordan is Palestine. In 2008, Wilders made headlines when his film "Fitna" drew a connection between the Koran and Islamic terror. He often compares the Koran to "Mein Kampf" and calls for taxing Muslim garments, "which pollute the Dutch landscape." During his visit here, he voiced innumerable pearls of wisdom such as "Without Judea and Samaria, Israel cannot protect Jerusalem."
Another European expert in starting fires is the Belgian politician Filip Dewinter, who was invited to attend another conference held here as well, this one initiated by former Yisrael Beiteinu MK Eliezer Cohen. Annoyed that Eldad had "stolen" Wilders from under his nose, Cohen brought to his own convention on Islamophobia a roster of racists who made the Dutch populist look like an innocent lamb.
Dewinter is a leader of Vlaams Belang party, a successor to the Flemish National Movement, many of whose members collaborated with the Nazis. Among its current members are a number of Holocaust deniers. Dewinter himself moved about in anti-Semitic circles and has ties to European extremist and neo-Nazi parties. In 1988, he paid his respects to the tens of thousands of Nazi soldiers buried in Belgium, and in 2001, he opened a speech with an oath used by the SS.
The honor of lighting the torch goes to the brightest jewel in this racist crown - Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria's Freedom Party. If Jorg Haider was "Hitler's spiritual grandson," then Strache is his extremely illegitimate great-grandson. His grandfather was in the Waffen-SS, and his father served in the Wehrmacht. As a university student, Strache belonged to an extremist organization from which Jews were banned, hung out with neo-Nazis and participated in paramilitary exercises with them. Commentators in Austria say that Strache is trying to copy Haider but that he is less sophisticated and ultimately more extreme than his role model. (A selection of Strache's brilliant comments were published in his interview with Haaretz in March. )
The organizers of these visits believe they have tamed this bunch of extremists they brought over from Europe, who after trading in their Jewish demon-enemy for the Muslim criminal-immigrant model are now singing in unison that Samaria is Jewish ground. Soon they'll be sprouting beards and wearing kippot. But they have not genuinely cast off their spiritual DNA, and in any event, they aren't looking for anything except for Jewish absolution that will bring them closer to political power.
Joining the list of those who have brought shame onto this country for hosting these characters are the Ashkelon Academic College, which gave them a platform; MK Nissim Zeev (Shas ), who received them in the Knesset; Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara (Likud ), who expressed his delight at meeting "lovers of Israel, whom we must strengthen,"; and the Israel Air Force, which tainted its reputation by permitting Cohen, a veteran of the force, to give this gang an exclusive tour of an F-15 squadron.
The Austrian press reported this week that the whitewashing undergone by Strache here in our Land of Milk and Honey could well pave his way to the chancellor's office. And, as they say: "To the glory of the State of Israel."
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