AJC Ally Joins Far-right European Bloc

Jewish lobby group for the EU has yet to distance itself from a Danish party that recently aligned itself with far-right parties including those of Marine Le Pen, Matteo Salvini and the AfD

Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini poses with Olli Kotro from the Finnish ECR party, Joerg Meuthen from the the German EFDD party and Anders Vistisen from Danish ECR party, April 8, 2019.
REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

A key institute run by the American Jewish Committee, one of the largest Jewish advocacy organizations in the world, continues to maintain ties with the leader of a Danish party that recently joined a new European-wide far-right alliance.

The alliance — which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League party in Italy, Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally in France and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) — was formed in anticipation of the European Union parliamentary elections later this month.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 26Haaretz

On April 8, it was announced that the new alliance would also include the Danish People’s Party, which had until then belonged to a more moderate right-wing bloc in the European Parliament. Two days later, the AJC Transatlantic Institute, the organization’s Brussels-based office, hosted a talk show with the Danish party’s leader, Anders Vistisen.  

>> Read more: This is what happens when you stay silent as the far right rises to power | Opinion 

The fact the AJC did not immediately distance itself from Vistisen has sparked surprise — especially considering that the Jewish organization has come out strongly against the far-right German party that is part of this new alliance.

The Transatlantic Institute, headed by Daniel Schwammenthal, has hosted numerous events with the Danish parliamentarian in recent years.

Asked for comment, AJC spokesman Kenneth Bandler said his organization was looking into the matter. “AJC is now evaluating, in consultation with Denmark’s Jewish community, whether any adjustments in interactions with the DPP should be considered,” he wrote in an email.

“For AJC, the leading global Jewish advocacy group, with offices and representatives stationed in capital cities across Europe, engaging key political actors across Europe is imperative. However, the rise of certain far-right parties has made this vital work ever more challenging, and, where necessary, AJC has adjusted its approach in several European countries,” Bandler added. 

He noted that Vistisen had been invited to participate in the event hosted by the Transatlantic Institute, which was devoted to the EU’s policy on Iran, “long before” the announcement of a new European far-right alliance. He had been invited, Bandler said, in his capacity as vice chair of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee and as a member of the more moderate parliamentary bloc.

In a statement issued in September 2017, Deidre Berger, the director of the AJC Berlin office, denounced the AfD as “anti-European, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim.”

“Some AfD leaders have expressed strong support for Israel,” she said.  “However, German Jewish leaders have consistently called on community members to beware of the party as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, outwardly friendly toward Israel and hard-line on issues of terrorism, but unable or unwilling to deal decisively with anti-Semitism even within its midst.”

AJC was one of several mainstream Jewish organizations to issue a statement during the Israeli election campaign condemning Otzma Yehudit, a far-right party founded by followers by the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had successfully encouraged the religious Zionist Habayit Hayehudi party to form an alliance with Otzma Yehudit so that right-wing votes would not go to waste.