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The New Philosemitism: Exploring a Changing Relationship Between Jews and the Far-Right

The New Philosemitism: Exploring a Changing Relationship Between Jews and the Far-Right
10th November 2020 ICSR Team
In Reports

The full report can be accessed here. An overview of its findings can be found here.

Please read on for the Executive Summary.

About this Report

  • This report views emerging cooperation and changing attitudes of the populist radical right towards Jews as a new wave of Philosemitism.
  • This new wave of Philosemitism is not a genuine and sincere positioning, but a strategic tool used by the far‑right in order to present itself as liberal and mainstream, gain support and engage in a ‘divide and conquer’ tactic among minority communities.

Far‑right Reframings of Jewishness

  • A shift from antisemitism to philosemitism has originated from a fundamental re‑imagining of Jewishness, where Jews and Judaism are understood through far‑right framings in order to legitimise existing ideologies. For example, by seeing Jews as European, pro‑Israel and anti‑Muslim, the far‑right allows itself to align philosemitism to its own interests.
  • In this way, deliberately positive sentiments of Jews based on stereotypes are rooted in the same processes as antisemitism, whereby the two phenomena are two sides of the same coin.
  • Strategies of ‘Collective Action Framing’ are used to impose a Christian‑derived framing of Jewishness onto Jewish people
    • ‘Frame Extension’, in the case of the radical right’s understanding of Israel as a European frontier against the Arab world, is used to expand far‑right ideology beyond its primary interests in order to appeal to a wider audience.
    • ‘Frame Bridging’ sees Jews as anti‑Muslim and therefore an ally in the war against Muslims.
    • ‘Frame Transformation’ has generated a shift from ethnic to cultural nationalism.

Towards a New Wave of Philosemitism

  • A new era of far‑right relations with Jews has emerged in a specific political context, where the growth of identity‑based politics has generated a new notion of nationhood, based on the concept of a shared culture, which includes Jews as part of an imagined Judeo‑Christian civilisation.
  • As collective consciousness of the Holocaust emerged towards the end of the 20th century, it has been necessary for the radical right to attempt to distance itself from historical antisemitism and avoid association with Nazi and neo‑Nazi elements in order to achieve relevance. Four coping mechanisms can be identified: guilt comparison, victim reversal, Holocaust revisionism, and erasure.
  • Processes of reciprocal radicalisation – shared understandings of Israel as European, anti‑Muslim and militaristic between the far‑right and the far‑left and Islamist ideologies – have resulted in the entrenching of pro‑Israel narratives into the far‑right.

Exploring Jewish Support for the Philosemitic Far‑Right

  • An increase in support among Jewish communities for the far‑right can be shown, despite the continued existence of antisemitic sentiments alongside philosemitism. Jewish ‘wings’ of far‑right parties are used to deflect accusations of racism, where far‑right individuals point to their Jewish supporters as evidence for supposed liberalism.
  • Jewish support for far‑right groups is a result of processes of collective identity, where the reasons behind Jewish individuals’ far‑right ideology is often the same as that of the wider population.
  • ‘Identity Salience’ processes account for the ways in which Jewish people prioritise some aspects of their identity over others. For example, many populist radical right groups’ strong and vocal support for the Israeli government leads some Jewish individuals to place pro‑Israel collective identities higher in identity salience hierarchies.
  • Strategic decision‑making and rational choices made by far‑right Jews are in themselves a result of collective identity processes and existing ideological positionings.
  • Although there is continued antisemitism in these parties, Jewish people choose to lend their support not despite, but because of their collective identity.

The Impact of Far‑Right Philosemitism

  • Populist radical right parties, individuals and ideologies have achieved mainstreaming by using Jewish people as a shield against accusations of racism. This buffer has permitted the election of many such parties to legislative bodies and the implementation of far‑right policies under the guise of liberalism.
  • Anti‑Muslim sentiment has therefore been popularised, facilitated by the cloak of legitimacy which the far‑right believes pro‑Jewish and pro‑Israel measures provide it.
  • Support for far‑right groups and ideologies has not only begun to drive a wedge between communities, but within them as well.

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