Despite justified fears of the AfD, not all nationalism is Nazism
Op-ed: With the German elections resulting in third-place victory for hard-right party, Jews are justifiably concerned, but the best way to prevent their rise in the first place is by enabling Europeans who cherish their national heritage to talk about mass immigration without fear of being branded as 'Nazis.' If they are not given their say, they will simply express it through the ballot box by electing hardliners and the people who silenced them will wonder why.
Almost immediately after the election results cleared the way for their first-time entry into the German parliament, European Jews began voicing concern, urging all moderate parties to refrain from assembling a coalition that would comprise the AfD.
For Jews, any whiff of a rightist rise is terrifying. When it happens in Germany of all places, the trepidation and foreboding are infinitely magnified. The mere sound of the word “Deutschland” uttered in any nationalistic context is enough to send a shiver down the collective spine of European Jewry, conjuring up the images as it does of Hitler violently screaming out anti-Jewish vitriol as he called for their destruction.
The rise of the AfD could be a prelude to the rise of Nazi-style anti-Semitism, some fear. Are we witnessing a repeat of the 1930s?
The simple answer is no. The AfD and the Nazi party and the reasons behind their successes are not even remotely similar.
Scarcely any time had elapsed after the electoral exit poll results were announced before Germans were marching the streets in protest calling for “Nazis out!” regardless of the fact that the AfD is not a Nazi party.
It is simply far too easy to label and stigmatize any nationalists as Nazis.
The problem is that Nazis are very real and very hateful. Their lust for violence goes far beyond the realm of baseless xenophobia. They wish to see nothing more than millions of Jews forced into gas chambers once again.
To stigmatize any form of nationalism, however rational, however non-violent, as Nazism is a gross falsification of the truth; it is to trivialize just what the Nazis perpetrated against Jews and what real Nazis are prepared to commit once again.
It is a cheap appellation which lacks any credibility and it is high time that people who are guided by the pursuit of truth rather than blind acceptance of unwarranted political rectitude banish this lie from political discourse where it has no place.
To be sure, the AfD have been exposed in the past for containing members who have signalled a willingness to open dangerous doors, particularly on discussions bordering on Holocaust denial.
Some have been expelled or forced to resign from the party and undoubtedly some of the rank and file are likely not particularly fond of Jews while some are probably virulently anti-Semitic.
But the party’s main rallying point has absolutely nothing to do with Jews and its birth stems from the fact that people in Germany, as well as elsewhere in Europe, have snapped out of their delirium and woken up to the reality that their politicians have unashamedly wrenched control of their national destiny from their hands when it comes to the demographic composition of their countries.
They have comprehensively hijacked the countries’ respective languages by snatching common and innocuous words and tenuously associating them with the most vulgar forms of racism. They have prohibited any form dialogue about mass - particularly Islamic - migration, and they have stifled Europe’s freedom to ask some fundamental questions:
Are we ok with the level of migration into this country? Are they truly bona fide refugees fleeing potential persecution or are they merely economic migrants? Can stricter checks be imposed without infringing on their human rights in order to filter out the genuine refugees from those pretending to be? Does the influx of foreign people bring to Europe, and in this case Germany, an ideology that is compatible with liberal values? If not, what can be done to facilitate a system of integration that is not constantly open to the accusation that authorities are attempting to strip minorities of their beliefs or cultures? The list goes on.
As a Jew from the UK, I fully recognize the dangers of any extreme right-wing elements, and I too shudder at the thought, particularly in Germany for obvious reasons, that the rise of any ultra-right force could be the prelude to an age in which Jews are forced to bow their heads once more.
Any Jew conscious of his or her history should always be circumspect about parties like the AfD. We should all have learned, as Europe’s leaders may or may not have yet internalized, that they cannot be indefinitely entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding Jewish security.
But to brandish the phony labels of “racist,” “Nazi,” “fascist,” and the like against all proponents of any variation whatsoever of nationalism is to jump on a bandwagon that is simply leading us down a dark and dangerous path that ends with the deprivation of free speech, the distortion of history and complete intellectual servitude.
Ultimately, those people in Germany, many of whom cannot be dismissed as bigoted Nazis, who voted for this rightist party did so because it was the only one telling them that their desire to salvage the last vestiges of the national heritage which they cherish is not inherently filthy, even if their history is indelibly stained by their Nazi past.
The AfD has told them that they do not need to sleepwalk into a future where Islam either dominates, or occupies a significant portion of, their everyday lives and the thoughts that precede their expression.
If the AfD is indeed regarded as a Nazi-style party by some, the people who ultimately bear responsibility for their ascent are the self-styled liberals who have subjugated millions of people with their unbridled browbeating, with the besmirching of the reputation of any person who dared to espouse views on racial issues contrary to their own, even when such views are clearly bereft of hate.
These same people have still not recovered from Donald Trump’s victory, but regardless of what anyone thinks of him, they put him into office.
By their very browbeating, they unintentionally but most definitely convinced millions of voters, who are neither Nazis nor fascists, that their right to freedom of speech was constantly being corroded. Consequently those same voters therefore quietly expressed their thoughts through the ballot box only to give rise to an individual who is too loud for his opponents to handle, even though those very same brow beating opponents put him there.
Similarly, that is why Nigel Farage’s UKIP party managed to gain the third largest number of the popular vote in the pre-Brexit 2015 general elections.
This is precisely what has happened with the AfD and why if the waves of migration in Europe continues unabated, we can expect their electoral popularity to rise to such levels that European Jews’ desperate pleas to moderate parties to shun it will simply be ignored.
This article is in no way intended to support the AfD or advocate for a German coalition with its inclusion. Nor is it an attempt to suggest that Jews have nothing to fear. Rather it is simply a recommendation that the most prudent way to stave off the rise of any hard-right party is to allow the people who are too often unjustly pigeonholed as racists or Nazis to have a say without fear of abuse or recrimination. If this does not happen, the prospects of success of alternative parties to which they could well turn in future ballots are far more worrisome.