No Cooperation with Right-Wing Populists
The political umbrella organizations for Jewish communities and institutions in Germany and France—the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF)—have for decades upheld the fine tradition of working across party lines. We have consistently been in contact with all parties in respective parliaments.
This changed in France with the increasing success of the Front National. With the entrance of the right-wing populist AfD into the German Bundestag, we are confronted with a new situation, which requires rethinking as well as prompting us to distance ourselves from old practices.
The Jewish organizations in Germanyand France value political pluralism in a democracy. Precisely for this reason, we see no possibility of working with the AfD or the Front National. Jews, due to their traumatic history, have extremely sensitive sensors regarding attempts by populists to discredit democratic values, divide society, and attack minorities. History has given us bitter lessons about the course this takes when for years the public is deceived into thinking that a specific minority is the cause of the country’s problems.
However, the AfD and Front National do exactly this. They incite hatred against Muslims in general and refugees in particular. In Germany, the AfD has used refugees for the past two years as a topic to foment jealousy and fear amongst the population. Even in the face of an increasing number of attacks on refugee homes, their speech has no constrains. . Individual AfD politicians do not shy away from using Nazi-era language when they speak of “Umvolkung” [an invented term used to describe the loss of German language and origin) or plead to make “völkisch” [a description of German ethnicity) a positive word again.
The AfD incites without respect for the principle of equality or for the fundamental law guaranteeing the inviolability of human dignity and religious freedom. For us it is crystal clear: For now, the AfD takes aim at Muslims. Sooner or later, the same can happen to us Jews. The AfD already has a ban on Shechita in their party program.
There has already been a party in German history that presumed to define what counts as German and what does not, who may live and who may not. Never again will we allow a similar development, no matter which minority is affected!
In France, the extreme right-wing sows hatred, using methods such as lies and deceptions. The Front National dares to do everything, promises everything, and does not hesitate to assert that everything is possible, as well as the opposite, in order to reach its political goals. The right-wing extremists continue a tradition of hostility towards Jews. They question Jewish life in France, talking about whether wearing a kippa, the Jewish head covering, in public, and Shechita, should be forbidden.
The Front National plays with people’s sorrow and anxieties. They invent scapegoats to make them the target of hatred. They don’t solve any of society’s problems but spread the deadly poison of distrust and discord. They try to divide our society into “true Frenchmen,” who give their vote to the National Front in promise of being considered a “national priority,” and “new Frenchmen” or “dual citizens,”, awakening terrible memories from the darkest chapters of history. We Jews are always affected when someone begins making lists…
It is unthinkable for us to associate with politicians who call for an end to a “cult of guilt” or demand recognition for the accomplishments of German soldiers during the Second World War. Right-wing populists eagerly posit themselves as friends of Israel or Jews because they hope to have us believe that Muslims are our common enemy. They wave the Israeli flag at demonstrations or make public trips to the Jewish state.
However, these are all highly transparent maneuvers they are using to try to fish for Jewish voters. It is therefore all the more important for us as Jewish umbrella organizations to make clear: the AfD and Front National are not partners for us but a threat to Jewish life in Germany and France.
The alarm bells have long been ringing in the French and German Jewish communities. This should serve as a warning signal for others. So as we, the Jews in Germany and the Jews in France, stand against right-wing populism, so too should the whole of Europe take up the fight against right-wing populist parties, which are forces that threaten our European values, our community, and ultimately our freedom!