Opinion |

Yair Netanyahu, Twitter Buddy and Hero of Germany's Nationalist Right

The battle against the 'Other' unites the son of Israel's prime minister with the anti-Semitic AfD party. It comes after his father forged alliances with patently anti-Semitic leaders

Mati Shemoelof
Mati Shemoelof
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Last week, Yair Netanyahu said he hoped the 'evil' European Union, that 'enemy of Israel,' would die.
Last week, Yair Netanyahu said he hoped the 'evil' European Union, that 'enemy of Israel,' would die.Credit: Moti Milrod
Mati Shemoelof
Mati Shemoelof

When you’re marking the 75th anniversary of the victory by the Allies and the Soviets over the Nazi regime, it’s impossible to ignore the ties that have been forged between Israel’s far right and the far right in Europe in general and Germany in particular. It’s no accident that the racist, nationalist far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party retweeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair.

Last week, Yair Netanyahu said he hoped the “evil” European Union, that "enemy of Israel," would die. He also accused it of funding and supporting the alternative, joint memorial event for Israelis and Palestinians that is held every year on Israel’s Memorial Day.

Joachim Kuhs of the AfD created a poster featuring quotes from Yair Netanyahu’s tweet (minus the description of the EU as “evil”) along with his picture. He then shared it on his Twitter account and even hashtagged Yair.

Yair Netanyahu tweeted back, “Please act with your colleagues to stop this insanity!” along with a link to the website of the NGO Monitor organization, about German funding of Israeli and Palestinian nonprofit groups. This organization views itself as responsible for documenting the sources of funding for left-wing and human rights groups in Israel. But in practice, it seeks to destroy Israel’s civil society and freedom of expression.

The younger Netanyahu’s hatred for Palestinians coincides with AfD’s hatred for Muslims. The battle against the Other thus unites the Jew with the anti-Semite, Islamophobe and xenophobe.

Yair Netanyahu, son of Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyah, in September. Dangerous support for AfD that disregards processes that happened in Germany in the past.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

“Schengen zone is dead and soon your evil globalist organization will be too, and Europe will return to be free, democratic and Christian!” Yair Netanyahu wrote of the EU in his original tweet, without even considering what Europe was like before the Union. That Europe was indeed united, but through hatred of the Other.

AfD’s main efforts now are aimed at expelling migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from Germany so as to maintain its white, Christian, privileged identity. But it’s well known that the party also contains many neo-Nazis (like Björn Höcke) who seek to remove what they term the “monument of shame” – the monument erected in central Berlin in memory of the Holocaust.

A unified Europe without the values of civil society, like Israel without a civil society, would be a nationalist society in which the Other would be the enemy and would be ceaselessly persecuted. A Christian Europe in the multicultural, multinational, multi-ethnic era would be a radical white Europe ruled by white supremacy.

Yair Netanyahu’s dangerous support for AfD takes no account of processes that happened in Germany in the past. Indeed, one can discern a clear thrust in the behavior of the far right there: The Chemnitz riots; the murder of pro-immigration politician Walter Lübcke; attacks on and death threats against other politicians who support immigration; the attack on the synagogue in Halle; the election in the state of Thuringia of a premier with the joint support of liberals, conservatives and the radical right; and the terror attack in Hanau, which was aimed at migrants.

Germany's far-right National Democratic Party, which was identified with neo-Nazis, was AfD’s predecessor. Years ago, I saw posters by that party targeting migrants from the Middle East, featuring an image of a monkey and a Muslim couple.

AfD only reveals the tip of the iceberg, sunk in the depths of the ocean. Even before the party's rise, there was a scandal in which members of the neo-Nazi terrorist group NSU murdered Turkish migrants.

For his part, Kuhs claims he isn’t anti-Semitic and cites his visit to Israel last August as proof. But his AfD colleague Dimitri Schulz was also in the delegation that visited Israel, and that hasn’t stopped him from applauding neo-Nazi statements.

Another example of the danger AfD poses is Dr. Maximilian Krah, the party’s deputy chairman in the state of Saxony, who also wrote on Twitter that Yair Netanyahu was right. Krah recently tweeted, “According to the police, there were 60 incidents of rape in Chemnitz this year alone. 56 of them were committed by migrants!”

The Saxony police responded, “That’s not precisely accurate. From the start of the year, there have been 14 rapes in Chemnitz. Three of the suspects were not Germans.” In other words, the tweet constituted severe incitement against refugees. Does this remind you of Benjamin Netanyahu’s comment that “the Arabs are flocking to the polls in droves”?

Krah is a lawyer, as well as a member of the European Parliament on behalf of AfD. A decade ago, he chose to represent the Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, who claimed that Jews weren’t murdered in gas chambers at Auschwitz, that the Holocaust is all lies, and that Jews invented it to make the rest of the world bow down to them and approve their new state, Israel.

A protest against Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany party, on March 3, 2020. One banner reads "No to Nazis and racists in our midst." Credit: Hannibal Hanschk/Reuters

AfD even supports the Syrian regime, and some of the party’s members met with Syrian President Bashar Assad to explore the possibility of repatriating Syrian refugees. It’s no surprise that Germany’s secret service is keeping tabs on entire subsets of the party (whose extremist wing comprises about 40 percent of it).

Former Israeli left-wing politician Zehava Galon was correct when she tweeted about the connection between Yair Netanyahu and his father, saying it’s no wonder that Yair Netanyahu maintains ties with an anti-Semitic party in Germany when his father forged alliances with patently anti-Semitic leaders – from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who waged an anti-Semitic campaign against Jewish philanthropist George Soros, to President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines – despite the protests of local Jewish communities.

Yair Netanyahu plays with fire, while his father legitimizes the worst regimes.

Today, 75 years after the victory over the Nazis and Germany’s emergence as a democracy, the prime minister’s son wants to return Europe to those dark days. There is no such thing as a free, democratic and Christian Europe; that’s a euphemism for a Europe dominated by anti-Semitism and Islamophobia – an entire region where persecuting the Other unites all the forces of white supremacy.

These forces are growing in Europe. And, to the astonishment of historians, there are Jews like Yair and Benjamin Netanyahu who support them, thereby endangering the Jews who live on that continent.

Mati Shemoelof is an author and poet.

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