European Jews Fret About Rising Populist Far Right

Nationalists May Get Boost in Continental Elections

Far Right: Supporter of Austria’s populist Freedom Party clashes with police during demonstration.
getty images
Far Right: Supporter of Austria’s populist Freedom Party clashes with police during demonstration.

By Reuters

Published February 28, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The European Jewish Congress fears far-right gains in upcoming European elections and believes a grouping presenting itself as simply populist and eurosceptical is just as dangerous as out-and-out extremists, the EJC’s president said.

Some analysts forecast that a group of anti-euro parties could capture 20 percent of seats in May’s European parliament elections as high unemployment, austerity and anaemic growth offer prime conditions for fringe parties to flourish.

The group, trying to work as a bloc for the first time in a bid to attract EU funds, consists of the Freedom parties of Austria and the Netherlands, France’s National Front, Italy’s Northern League, the Sweden Democrats, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and Slovakia’s National party.

The bloc explicitly rejects xenophobic and anti-Semitic views, and says it wants nothing to do with ultra rightist parties like Greece’s Golden Dawn or Hungary’s Jobbik.

EJC President Moshe Kantor said, however, he did not believe their rejections of extremism, challenging them to clean up their own ranks if they were serious.

“Make order in your own home if you are not racist or anti-Semitic. Demonstrate this in fact and behaviour but not in promises,” he said in an interview with Reuters this week.

Kantor said he believed this group, which is on track to reach a size big enough to attract EU funding, was actually more dangerous than explicit extremists.

“We don’t see a big difference. If they allow even a minority in the party to publicly express their opinion as party members, they are all as bad and as weak as the weakest link.”

Some of the parties, including Austria’s Freedom, have gone out of their way to reject anti-Semitism.

But Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache has come under fire for a series of incidents.

A cartoon posted on his Facebook page in 2012 depicted a banker with a hooked nose and Star of David cufflinks gorging himself from the hand of the government, while a figure labeled “the people” is fed just scraps.

The cartoon was altered the next day.

Strache caused a backlash when he reportedly described himself and his party as “the new Jews” after protesters heckled right-wing students at the Vienna Akademikerball.

The ball, which traditionally draws right-wing student fraternities, was held on International Holocaust Remembrance day in 2012.

A Gallup poll for Austrian paper Oesterreich this month has the Freedom party running neck-and-neck with the two main centrist parties in the European vote at around 23 percent.

In France some recent polls suggest the Front National could top the EU election with about 25 percent of the vote.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.