Vladimir Putin’s Fifth Column in the West

Vladimir Putin’s fifth column in the West

DOUG SAUNDERS (Globe And Mail)

When Russian President Vladimir Putin uses military force to menace Ukraine’s democracy and seize chunks of its territory, when he uses authoritarian laws to crack down on homosexuals and minorities and imprison dissidents, there are those among us, including a record number of elected politicians, who cheer.

A generation ago, Moscow’s fans and enablers would have all been on the far left. Today, with the exception of a marginal group of leftists motivated by anti-Americanism, Mr. Putin’s cheerleaders are all conservatives – some in the United States and Canada, and a record number who have just come to power in Europe.

Last week’s European Parliament elections saw a record number of Putin-admiring and Putin-emulating parties elected to Brussels. Some of these parties are anti-European Union, some are anti-immigrant, some are outright racist and anti-Semitic. They don’t tend to get along with one another, but one thing that unites them is an outspoken admiration for Mr. Putin.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the suddenly powerful United Kingdom Independence Party,used a magazine interview during the campaign to praise the Russian President, calling him the world leader he most admires. “Compared with the kids who run foreign policy in this country, I’ve more respect for him than our lot,” he said at a public event.

In words widely reported in the Russian media, he added that the EU has “blood on its hands” for supporting the democracy movement in Ukraine. Rather than posing a threat to Europe, Mr. Farage said, Russia has fallen prey to Europe’s “activist, militarist and expansionist foreign policy.”

Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front (which sent the lion’s share of French representatives to Brussels) is an even greater admirer. “I think he puts the interests of Russia and the Russian people first, so in this regard, I have the same amount of respect for him as for Ms. Merkel,” Ms. Le Pen said this week, adding that “a lot of things are said about Russia because for years it has been demonized on U.S. orders.” She, like her comrades across Europe, wants to end sanctions against Russia and restore “traditional, friendly” relations.

Geert Wilders, the mop-haired head of the Freedom Party in the Netherlands, has blamed the conflict in eastern Ukraine not on Russia but on “shameless Europhiles with their dreams of empire.” Ukraine’s democracy movement and the pro-European government it elected last week, he said, are run by “National Socialists, Jew-haters and other anti-democrats.” (In fact, extreme-right and anti-Semitic parties attracted about 2 per cent of the vote in the recent Ukrainian election.)

In the minds of such politicians, Europe’s response to Moscow’s incursions hasn’t been slow and mild; it’s been excessive. “We have always been told the European Union stands for peace,” Mr. Wilders said. “Now, we know better – the EU stands for war-mongering.”

These Westerners aren’t backing Mr. Putin out of pure Russophilia. Rather, they admire his embrace of a Christian and mono-ethnic identity for greater Russia, and his aggressive action against what they see as their enemies: European diversity and open borders, and minority groups – especially homosexuals and Muslims. Like them, Mr. Putin embraces the old conspiracy holding that Muslims are secretly plotting to take over Europe, a key plank for these parties.

That’s why North American right-wing anti-immigration activists, generally affiliated with the Republican Party and the right fringe of Canada’s Conservatives, have rushed to back Mr. Putin and the European parties that admire him.

American anti-Muslim activist Robert Spencer made a point of appearing on the Russia Today network (shortly after most of its American staff had quit and denounced it as a Kremlin propaganda outlet) to attack the United States and endorse Mr. Putin’s approach toward Muslim minorities. “Barack Obama is somebody who has been embarrassed on the world stage by Vladimir Putin more than once,” Mr. Spencer said.

And Ezra Levant, the right-wing pundit with Canada’s Sun Media,cheered France’s National Front, Britain’s UKIP and the other Putin-backing parties for their European election victories, praising their embrace of Putinist ideas: “The EU’s de facto abolition of borders … has let millions of migrants move from the poorer parts of the EU to the richer ones,” he explained, warning of “mass Islamic immigration that contains large elements refusing to accept Western, liberal values.”

Their victory is, he said, “a rejection of Obamaism, and a return to common sense, national conservatism. You could say it’s a bit of Stephen Harperism.”

To be fair, Mr. Harper has never endorsed such ideas. It is actually a bit of Vladimir Putinism.

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(via. Loonwatch)

Associated Press Interviews Marine Le Pen

Associated Press interviews Marine Le Pen

She calls herself the “voice of the people,” the anti-system candidate who will ensure social justice for the have-nots and purify a France she says is losing its voice to Europe and threatened by massive immigration and rampant Islamization.

She wants to drastically reduce the number of immigrants – to 10,000 a year – and, a top theme, to crack down for good on what she claims is the growing footprint of Islamic fundamentalists in France. “They are advancing in the neighborhoods. They are putting pressure on the population. They are recruiting young boys” to train for jihad, she said.

Le Pen insisted that fighting so-called Islamization won’t breed a mass killer such as Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-Muslim extremist who is now on trial in Norway after confessing to killing 77 people. The fight must not stop “out of fear of a crazy man,” she said.

Le Pen cites as proof of the Islamist threat in France the case of Mohamed Merah, a young Frenchman of Algerian origin who last month killed three French paratroopers, a rabbi and three Jewish schoolchildren before he was shot dead by police trying to capture him.

She also refuses to be categorized as extreme right, saying that her party is populist.

The image Marine Le Pen projects is less linked to the extreme-right than that of her father, said Nonna Meyer, an expert on the extreme-right vote at the prestigious university Sciences Po.

“She’s younger, she’s a woman, she condemns anti-Semitism. She often says things differently than her father,” Meyer said. “She says she is tolerant, it is Islam that is intolerant … She upends the discourse. But the foundation of the program is the same. If you look at the values her party defends, it is a system at once authoritarian and rejecting of others, rejecting the difference.”

Associated Press, 18 April 2012

Don’t Be Fooled. Europe’s Far-right Racists are Not Discerning

French politician Marine Le Pen is among European far-right figures courting the Jewish community. Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images
French politician Marine Le Pen is among European far-right figures courting the Jewish community. Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images

A good piece, reconfirming what we have been saying all along:

Don’t be fooled. Europe’s far-right racists are not discerning

(The Guardian)

On Saturday, in the Danish city of Aarhus, a Europe-wide rally organised by the English Defence League will try to set up a European anti-Muslim movement. For Europe’s far-right parties the rally, coming so soon after the murders in south-west France by a self-professed al-Qaida-following Muslim, marks a moment rich with potential political capital.

Yet it’s also a delicate one, especially for Marine Le Pen. Well before the killings, Le Pen was assiduously courting Jews, even while her father and founder of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was last month convicted of contesting crimes against humanity for saying that the Nazi occupation of France “wasn’t particularly inhumane”. Marine must disassociate herself from such sentiments without repudiating her father personally or alienating his supporters. To do so she’s laced her oft-expressed Islamophobia (parts of France, she’s said, are suffering a kind of Muslim “occupation”) with a newfound “philozionism” (love of Zionism), which has extended even to hobnobbing with Israel’s UN ambassador.

Almost all European far-right parties have come up with the same toxic cocktail. The Dutch MP Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigrant Freedom party, has compared the Qur’an to Mein Kampf. In Tel Aviv in 2010, he declared that ”Islam threatens not only Israel, Islam threatens the whole world. If Jerusalem falls today, Athens and Rome, Amsterdam and Paris will fall tomorrow.”

Meanwhile Filip Dewinter, leader of Belgium’s Vlaams Belang party, which grew out of the Vlaams Blok Flemish nationalist party, many of whose members collaborated with the Nazis during the second world war, has proposed a quota on the number of young Belgian-born Muslims allowed in public swimming pools. Dewinter calls Judaism “a pillar of European society”, yet associates with antisemites, while claiming that ”multi-culture … like Aids weakens the resistance of the European body”, and “Islamophobia is a duty”.

But the most rabidly Islamophobic European philozionist is Heinz-Christian Strache, head of the Austrian Freedom party, who compared foreigners to harmful insects and consorts with neo-Nazis. And yet where do we find Strache in December 2010? In Jerusalem alongside Dewinter, supporting Israel’s right to defend itself.

In Scandinavia the anti-immigrant Danish People’s party is a vocal supporter of Israel. And Siv Jensen, leader of the Norwegian Progress party and staunch supporter of Israel, has warned of the stealthy Islamicisation of Norway.

In Britain EDL leader Tommy Robinson, in his first public speech, sported a star of David. At anti-immigrant rallies, EDL banners read: “There is no place for Fascist Islamic Jew Haters in England”.

So has the Jew, that fabled rootless cosmopolitan, now suddenly become the embodiment of European culture, the “us” against which the Muslim can be cast as “them”? It’s not so simple. For a start, “traditional” antisemitism hasn’t exactly evaporated. Look at Hungary, whose ultra-nationalist Jobbik party is unapologetically Holocaust-denying, or Lithuania, where revisionist MPs claim that the Jews were as responsible as the Nazis for the second world war.

What’s more, the “philosemite”, who professes to love Jews and attributes superior intelligence and culture to them, is often (though not always) another incarnation of the antisemite, who projects negative qualities on to them: both see “the Jew” as a unified racial category. Beneath the admiring surface, philozionism isn’t really an appreciation of Jewish culture but rather the opportunistic endorsement of Israeli nationalism and power.

Indeed you can blithely sign up to both antisemitism and philozionism. Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik described himself as “pro-Zionist” while claiming that Europe has a “considerable Jewish problem”; he saw himself as simultaneously anti-Nazi and pro-monoculturalism. The British National party’s Nick Griffin once called the Holocaust the “Holohoax”, subsequently supported Israel in its war “against the terrorists”, but the day after the Oslo murders tweeted disparagingly that Breivik was a “Zionist”.

Most Jews, apart from the Israeli right wing, aren’t fooled. They see the whole iconography of Nazism – vermin and foreign bodies, infectious diseases and alien values – pressed into service once again, but this time directed at Muslims. They understand that “my enemy’s enemy” can easily mutate into “with friends like these …”.

The philozionism of European nationalist parties has been scrutinised most closely by Adar Primor, the foreign editor of Haaretz newspaper,who insists that ”they have not genuinely cast off their spiritual DNA, and … aren’t looking for anything except for Jewish absolution that will bring them closer to political power.”

Similarly Dave Rich, spokesman of the Community Security Trust (CST), which monitors antisemitic incidents in Britain, told me that far-right philosemites “must think we’re pretty stupid if they think we’ll get taken in by that. The moment their perceived political gain disappears they revert to type. We completely reject their idea that they hate Muslims so they like Jews. What targets one community at one time can very easily move on to target another community if the climate changes.” Rich’s words, spoken before the murder of Jews in Toulouse, now sound chillingly prescient. The president of the French Jewish community, Richard Pasquier, judges Marine Le Pen more dangerous than her father.

French Muslim leaders rallied round Jewish communities last week. Next week sees the start of Passover, a festival celebrating the liberation of Jews from slavery in Egypt, when Jews often think about modern examples of oppression. Let’s hope that French Jewish leaders use the occasion to rally round Muslim communities, and to remember that ultimately, racism is indiscriminate.

• This article was amended on 28 March 2012. It originally referred to the Community Security Trust as the Community Service Trust. This has now been corrected