Even After Halle Attack, Defenders of the Extreme Right Won't Relent

Participants gather around a makeshift memorial for the victims of a deadly shooting during an attack targeting a Turkish restaurant after an attempt at a synagogue in Halle, October 11, 2019.

It was the Yom Kippur of all the pens for hire – the ones specializing in shallow populism. Their two central conceptions collapsed that day.

Let’s start with the unambiguous tweet by Donald Trump: “Going into the Middle East is the worst decision ever made in the history of our country.” This explained his decision to abandon the Kurds, leaving them vulnerable to ethnic cleansing. Trump, any reasonable person will understand, is the flimsy support on which Netanyahu, in his rare diplomatic sophistication, decided to base Israel’s fate. Then along comes the president saying that there is no ally he wouldn’t turn his back on if need be, and that our neighborhood, including us, costs him too much money while bringing in too little profit, which is why he’s fed up with it.

In the disappointing light of the realization that the totally expected has come to pass, with only the blindness of the pens for hire preventing them from recognizing it, the entire past has been revealed in its nakedness: the demonstrative disdain for Barack Obama, the alienation from the Democrats and the disassociation from American Jewry.

As Trump was tweeting, Stephan Balliet tried to burst into a synagogue in Halle, Germany, during Yom Kippur services. When he failed, he shot two people dead: a woman passing by a Jewish cemetery and a worker in a shawarma restaurant. Jews, Muslims – it doesn’t really matter to the madmen who want to cleanse their country of foreign elements. This is the fourth attack by an extreme right-winger against Jews in a synagogue or Muslims in a mosque in the last year. But these numbers, it turns out, are insufficient to silence the hacks, the ideological and political defenders of the extreme right.

For several years they’ve been speaking in the name of angry white men who feel that a liberal minority, “affluent and mobile,” with international horizons and hostility toward national sentiments, are stealing their country. From the depth of their bourgeois comfort zone, they blame political elites for the decline of America and Europe and for the woes of the lower classes. In the name of these classes they are furious for the “reckless” migration policies in Europe, inventing justifications for Trump’s xenophobic hostility toward migrants. In Israel specifically, based on the same arguments, they wholeheartedly support neighborhood activist Sheffi Paz in her campaign to clear south Tel Aviv of asylum seekers.

The murderous Balliet and the participants of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville are only the more extreme and violent expression of this worldview. One can assume that this time, too, the pens for hire will not learn their lesson and modestly bow their heads, but will continue to warn us about the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement on campuses, pointing to the role of progressive liberalism in the rise of nationalism and jihadi terror brought by Muslim migrants sweeping across Europe.

How do I know this? Because when lawmaker Ayman Odeh of Hadash-Ta’al wrote in response to the attack that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia walk hand in hand, and that people who believe in democracy – regardless of their religion – should unite and send neo-Nazis back to the dustbin of history, these writers’ prominent spokesman, historian and commentator Gadi Taub, responded in his usual argumentative way: “Mr. Odeh, in Germany there are Muslim demonstrators who shout, ‘Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas chambers. Do you have anything to say to them, too?’”

One can’t tell to what extent their systematic distortion of facts will hold out. Those who justify Trump and try to impose his strategic ideologue Steven Bannon and the worldview of the entire right on our intellectual life still find a respectable venue in these pages as well. As long as there are buyers for their wares, the left, the opposition to the occupation, Muslims, refugees and liberals will continue to be portrayed in Netanyahu’s Israel and in Trump’s United States as the immediate enemy. Behind their alluring web of lies real dangers will continue to thrive, and that is something we’ll all pay for in blood.