German Jews Establish Group Lending Support to Far-right AfD Party

Among some Jews, fears of old-fashioned Nazism in the AfD are eclipsed by fears of new anti-Semitism among the more than 1 million Muslim refugees who have come to Germany since 2015

Riot police stand by as people carry German flags during a march organised by the right-wing populist AfD in Rostock, north-eastern Germany on September 22, 2018
AFP

Germany’s most influential far-right political party is fast gaining in popularity, and a group of Jews wants to add its voice of support.

According to the influential daily newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), an association of Jewish supporters of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party (AfD) will announce its incorporation with an event on October 7.

The news – following polls showing the AfD as Germany’s second most popular party – came in a letter to the FAZ, the newspaper reported. The letter’s authors were not named.

Mainstream Jewish organizations and community leaders have condemned the AfD for its xenophobic views. In addition, some of its politicians have relativized the Holocaust and flirted with neo-Nazi groups, while claiming to be pro-Israel.

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Apparently, among some Jews, fears of old-fashioned Nazism in the AfD are eclipsed by fears of new anti-Semitism among the more than 1 million Muslim refugees who have come to Germany since 2015.

News of a Jewish AfD club was met with swift condemnation from the non-partisan Jewish-German “Values Initiative,” which in a statement expressed “surprise and concern.”

“We believe that any involvement in this party is wrong, because it uses its alleged Jewish or Israeli friendship in particular to gain legitimacy for its agitation against Muslims,” according to the statement. It called the party’s failure to criticize its extreme right wing tantamount to an endorsement of neo-Nazism.

The new Jewish group would merely be used as “a fig leaf for coarse AfD racism,” the statement warned.

Most Jews would avoid association with the AfD, Sergey Lagodinsky, Green Party politician and member of Berlin’s Jewish Community Council, told JTA.

“Though there is a high level of anxiety among Jewish communities, there is still a high moral threshold preventing formal forms of engagement” with a far-right party, Lagodinsky, who is running for a seat in the European Parliament, said in an e-mail.

Just because the party has managed to woo some Jews “does not mean that they have managed to fool all Jews in Germany,” Lagodinsky said.

In fact, most Jews empathize with refugees from war, persecution and economic hardship, as Josef Schuster, head of Germany’s Jewish umbrella organization, frequently has noted.

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But Schuster and others have insisted that newcomers must embrace democratic values and eschew misogyny, homophobia, anti-Semitism and other anti-modern views if they want to stay in Germany.

Meanwhile, popular anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel for her liberal refugee policy appears to be bearing fruit for the AfD party.

A new Deutschlandtrend poll suggests that the AfD is taking voters away from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, becoming Germany’s second-strongest political party. The poll was conducted by the public broadcaster ARD.

An AfD spokesperson told the FAZ newspaper that new members would be kicked out if they make anti-Semitic remarks.