Learning to love the Jews: the impact of the War on Terror and the counter-jihad blogosphere on European

far right parties.
By Toby Archer, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs. Prepared for the XV NOPSA conference, Tromsø, August 08. Contact: toby.archer@upi-fiia.fi

Draft version, please do not cite without authors permission


Learning to love the Jews: the impact of the War on Terror and the counter-jihad blogosphere on European far right parties. By Toby Archer, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs. Despite its ultra-nationalist discourse, the European far right has long shown some internationalism, as connections between various fascist and skinhead groups in Europe demonstrate1. But post-9/11 we have seen a new phenomenon of populist far-right parties who seriously seek wider political support being impacted upon by the originally predominantly-American originating counter-jihad discourse that both reflects and contributes to the U.S. government’s self-proclaimed “War on Terror”. Recently this discourse has produced “the Counter-Jihad” movement: a loose network of activists that has formed as an online, imagined community within the “blogosphere”. The impact of the discourse in general and the movement in particular on European politics has been to enable far-right parties to move away from their previously anti-Semitic rhetoric and replace it with an increased emphasis on the danger that Islam (and, hence, Muslim immigrants and their descendants) present to “European culture”. This is most clearly visible with Vlaams Belang in Belgium adopting a strongly pro-Israeli stance and courting Belgian Jews, whilst bringing anti-immigration politics to the heart of the Belgian political system. Similar trends have been visible to some extent in other countries such as Sweden, Denmark and the UK. This has, in turn, led to divisions in the “CounterJihad” movement, with influential right wing American bloggers breaking with their European counterparts on the basis of the historical anti-Semitism of these European populists, whilst the European anti-Muslim voices are more willing to rehabilitate far-right groups, giving parties like the Sweden Democrats and Vlaams Belang the benefit of the doubt that they have put any racist (or at least antisemitic) tendencies behind them. The paper will attempt three things: firstly, approaching it from the perspective of societal security and threat politics, to critically examine the origins and meaning of the counter-jihad discourse, and how some activists are attempting to turn the wider discourse into a trans-national political organisation. The paper will argue that populist far-right parties are using the discourse to reconstruct their own images, replacing antisemitism with Islamophobia. Secondly it will look at a number of cases of European far-right parties all of whom are now overtly supportive of Israel, and consider to what extent this policy position is necessitated by their adoption of the counter-jihad discourse. Finally it will briefly speculate on whether this can be seen as an example of transnational but sub-state political movements impacting on domestic politics in a globalized international system. This thesis is based on Ian Clark’s attempt to produce a more politically accurate description of these multi-level and multi-directional relationships. As Clark writes, for states in a globalized world: “the change induced by the end of the of the Cold War lies in the nature of the accommodation between ‘domestic’ and ‘transnational’ forces, rather than in the specifics of either. The change is relational to both rather than particular to either”2. The impact of Islam and the War on Terror on European politics can be understood well on this basis. What is the counter-jihad discourse and “the Counter-Jihad” movement? This paper will use the term the counter-jihad to describe to a particular right wing discourse that sees Islam as a threat to the west and Europe. This is more than saying that terrorism committed in the name of Islam is a threat, because it construes non-violent phenomenon such as Islamist political movements, both within Europe and beyond and, importantly, simply the presence in Europe of Muslims as immigrants or descendants of immigrants as existential threats. Until the end
1 Lowles, Nick White Riot: the violent story of Combat 18 Bury; Milo 2 Clark, Ian (1999) Globalization and International Relations Theory Oxford: Oxford University Press (p.5)


of the Cold War, most thinking within the discipline of Security Studies consider the security of states, but the complex politics of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact states brought ideas of the security of the nation, or society, to the fore. This suggests that the security interests of the people of one country, or indeed sub-national groups within a country, maybe different or even conflicting of the state – the governing institutions of the country. This is what Buzan and Waever call “societal security”, where what is to be secured is the “we identities”3. The counter-jihad discourse is an attempt as securitizing current, white-majority European nation-states, against the “threat” of Islam which is realised in the form Muslim immigration. This, for example, sets apart the counterjihad discourse from leftwing writers and bloggers who, whilst very critical of many cultural representations Islam and of Islamist politics, tend to take overtly take anti-racist stances and therefore are clearly separated from the counter-jihad by their attitudes to immigration. Within the UK, journalists like Nick Cohen at the Observer, Martin Bright of the New Statesman and the blog Harry's Place most prominently represent this left wing anti-Islamist trend. These writers are essentially critical of Islam because of what they believe to be the limits the religion puts on individuals, and it is in the individual where moral worth originates in this, a cosmopolitan normative position. Contrarily, the counter-jihad is a communitarian stance, seeing moral value in the collective: in this case the collective being an arguably romanticized image of European nationstates of the modern era. The counter-jihad was a name adopted at a series of meetings of right wing European and American bloggers, activists and politicians in Copenhagen in April 20074, more prominently in Brussels in October 20075, and again in Vienna in May 20086. This attempt, still ongoing, to produce a political organisation out of the wider discourse it what I refer to as “the Counter-Jihad” movement, but the name, without capitals and quotation marks seems appropriate to apply to the larger phenomenon beyond the individuals who attended these specific events. There is no real membership criteria for the movement, as one of the central organisers “Baron Bodissey” (the pseudonym of the writer of the “Gates of Vienna” blog) wrote clearly reflecting the academic discourse on al-Qaeda: “we are a network of networks”7. This has already caused a major rift in wider counter-jihad blogosphere, what some bloggers have called a “civil war”8, over which European political parties are suitable allies in the countering the jihad. The ideology of the counter-jihad If there is a central ideology to this discourse it has been provided by the work of British-Swiss historian Bat Ye'or who argues that we are witnessing the gradual and wilful take over of Europe by Islam – the “Eurabia” thesis9. Yeor argues that this was begun by the French in the 1950s with the idea of creating an axis between Europe and the Arab world as a way of counterbalancing the power of the USA and USSR, and that the EU has become fundamental to this. She accuses the elites in all the European states of being sympathetic to the Eurabian plan: they celebrate Islamic and Arab
3 Buzan, B. Waever, O. de Wilde, J. (1998) Security: A New Framework for Analysis Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner (p.120) 4 “The UK and Scandinavia Counterjihad Summit” The Gates of Vienna April 14, 2007 (http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2007/04/uk-and-scandinavia-counterjihad-summit.html accessed 15 July 08) 5 “Counterjihad Brussels 2007: European Conference Resists Islamization” The Brussels Journal (http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/2575 accessed 15 July 08) 6 “Counterjihad Vienna 2008” May 12 2008 Gates of Vienna (http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2008/05/counterjihad-vienna-2008.html accessed 15 July 08) 7 “The UK and Scandinavia Counterjihad Summit” op. cit. 8 “Podcast Implodes” (http://podcast.shirenetworknews.net/:entry:tuatara-2007-10-30-0002/ accessed 18 July 08) 9 Ye'or, Bat (2005) Eurabia: the Euro-Arab axis Fairleigh Dickinson University Press; U.S. (part 1); for a critical perspective on Ye'or see Carr, Matt (2006) “You are now entering Eurabia” Race and Class Vol. 48(1), SAGE; New Delhi, Thousand Oaks, London


culture and allow the mass migration of Muslims to Europe in order to change the demographic balance. The Eurabia thesis sees various European-Arab cultural exchange and assistance programmes as the central organisations in carrying out this plot. Ye’or also argues that the Eurabian plot accounts for what she believes is Europe’s perceived inherent antipathy toward Israel. The position of Israel and Jews more widely is important – Ye'or herself was born in Egypt in a Jewish family that fled Egypt after the Jews were expelled in response to the formation of Israel. Much of Ye'or's academic writing has been on the concept of dhimmi – a classical Islamic law concept for other ‘people of the book’ - Jews and Christians - who were allowed to live and worship in Islamic countries under certain restrictions, such as by paying additional taxes. This can be seen both as a form of second-class citizenship based on religious discrimination (as Ye'or argues10), or as a far more enlightened way of dealing with religious minorities than existed in any European state during the same era. Historically there can be said to some truth and some myth in both perspectives11. Ye’or has taken the concept of dhimmi and applied it to the modern West, claiming that modern political leaders are bowing down before both Muslim states and also before Muslim minorities within Western countries12. Why the Jews? Ideology or political expediency? The counter-jihad discourse emphasises the “dhimmitude” of the perceived elites: political leaders who they believe are committed to multiculturalism and the marginalisation of the “native” - i.e. white populations; the “mainstream media” who they claim deliberately distort the news to favour the multicultural agenda; academics and universities; local authorities and even police forces. All are seen as caving in to Muslim pressure. Therefore Israel becomes seen as a countervailing example – a small states that has repeatedly resisted what the discourse sees only as “Muslim” attacks – thus essentialising the politics of all Mid-Eastern states to religion and particularly to the doctrine of Jihad. Bat Ye'or's work has been taken seriously on the right in the United States in the post-9/11 era. After the brutal attacks on New York and Washington huge suspicions of Islam spread through society. Additionally, through 2002 as momentum built toward the invasion of Iraq, many Americans wanted an explanation for why many Europeans did not see deposing Saddam as an important battle in the “Global War on Terror” - as it was believed to be by the majority of Americans. The bruising trans-Atlantic debates of that period: Donald Rumsfeld's division of “old” and “new Europe”, accusations of moral cowardice, military incompetence and willful blindness in comparison to America's moral clarity all helped to create an environment where the Eurabia thesis would make more sense than might otherwise have been the case. The Second Intifada, that began in 2000, had led to much criticism of Israel in Europe, in comparison to the United States that for many decades had been more supportive of the Jewish State than most European countries. The U.S. now also saw Israel as a fellow victim of Jihadi terrorism as the Hamas and other groups repeatedly used suicide bombings to devastating effect within Israel. As the decade progressed it has also become more widely recognised that Europe has a problem with Jihadi violence both internally – the Madrid and London bombings most notably – and with European Muslims “exporting” it. Not only had the 9/11 ringleaders met and planned in Germany, many other terrorist plots aimed at U.S. Interests have been stopped by security forces in Europe, whilst European Muslim have been arrested and killed fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like many other conspiracy
10 Ye'or, Bat (1985) The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam Fairleigh Dickinson University Press; U.S. (chp. 2) 11 Lewis, Bernard (2006) “The New Anti-Semitism” The American Scholar Vol. 75 No. 1, Winter 2006, pp. 25-36 (available online at http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/21832.html accessed 15 July 08) 12 “Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis - An interview with Bat Ye'or” 9 June 05 oldSpeak (http://www.rutherford.org/Oldspeak/Articles/Interviews/Bat-Yeor.html accessed 16 July 08)


theories, all these disparate issues, when not studied in depth, 'make sense' within the narrative of the Eurabia thesis13. But Counter-Jihad discourse, based on the Eurabia thesis, was attractive in Europe as well as to the U.S. but for differing reasons. For Americans conservatives it fitted with the “War on Terror” concept and explained perceived European weakness in the face of terrorism, but in Europe rightwing bloggers seemed more attractive to the criticism of immigration contained within the Eurabia idea. This where political expediency comes into the picture. If the Counter-Jihad had remained a large but mainly self-referencing circle of blogs then it probably would have remained of marginal academic interest. But it has become an ideological underpinning for the Islamophobic discourse that has been adopted by populist right wing parties across Europe. This is providing such parties with, at least on the simplest of levels, a non-racist way of criticising immigration into Europe – instead of focusing on the colour of ethnicity of immigrants, rather they focus on the religion claiming that this is what is contrary to “European” or “Western values”. Instead of attacking immigrants or an ethnic minority for something they cannot change – like the colour of their skin, instead you criticise their religion – calling it an ideology – with the implicit assumption that anyone can reject or change a belief. This allows far right parties to position themselves as more mainstream, moving away from overt racism. This is also where there new thinking on Israel and Jews begins. As argued above, the counter-jihad discourse began as a predominantly American phenomenon. Within the United States there have been traditionally antisemitic tendencies on the right, but progressively these have been banished to ever more marginal positions – normally now amongst fringe neo-Nazi groups and the more eccentric voices of the so called “Paleo-conservative” movement. Instead, steadfast support of Israel has become the norm from both the religious right, who see the return of the Jews to the Holy Land as important in their end-time theology and amongst Republicans with an interest in foreign policy (both neo-conservatives and realists) who, as well as seeing Israel as the only democracy in the region, also originally saw Israel as a bulwark against Soviet influence in the mid-East and now in the same role against Iranian power in the region. Amongst the American Counter-Jihad bloggers, support for Israel is uncritical, and many readily identify themselves as Likud supporters or further right. To a certain extent the coherence of the discourse relies on this unlimited support of Israel because it is seen to be standing against Islamist expansionism, as well as always being singled out in the rhetoric of Jihadi groups. Hence populist right parties in Europe that have adopted a pro-Israeli position ensure logic of the counterjihad discourse and, in doing so, it has provided them with a number of advantages. Firstly they have constructed a new, non-race based anti-immigrant politics whilst shielding themselves from the most obvious criticism leveled at the far-right in the past – that of antisemitism and being seen as a legacy of Nazism and, hence, connected to the destruction that Nazism wrought on the continent. In disavowing antisemitism, they are reconstructing themselves as more mainstream parties within the European context, whilst gaining electoral advantage by criticising Islam which has become a concern of many in Europe14. It has also provided these parties with allies across the Atlantic, and with greater distance from the street level of European politics they have found less critical access to more mainstream conservative media and opinion formers in the United States than has been the case in Europe.

13 See for example “The emerging 'Eurabia'” Washington Times 17 February 2005 (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2005/feb/17/20050217-084155-2847r/ accessed 10 June 2008) 14 The extent to which Islam really does or does not represent a threat to Europe is of course debatable, but there is clear evidence that many Europeans believe that it does. See for example: World Economic Forum (2008) Islam and the West: Annual Report on the State of Dialogue WEF; Geneva


Populist and far-right European parties and the Counter-Jihad: case studies Below are a number of case studies of European far-right parties who are using many aspects of the counter-jihad discourse. They have been selected for a specific reason of illustrating different ways in which political parties relate to the blogosphere phenomenon of the “Counter-Jihad” as an increasingly organised political movement. The British National Party is radically trying to reconstruct itself as an Islamophobic but non-antisemitic party, but so far the “Counter-Jihad” believes they are beyond the pale due to their past Jew hatred. Vlaams Belang and the Sweden Democrats, have directly associated themselves with the “Counter Jihad” movement and as a result split the anti-Islam blogosphere. In Denmark and the Netherlands, the Danish People's Party and the Party for Freedom use fear of Islam as central campaigning themes and have both had electoral success. The Party for Freedom's leader, Geert Wilders, is a star of the counter-jihad discourse but he is careful about associating with some other parties who share the same view of Islam as him. Wilders, like the Danish People's Party have not been directly involved in the “Counter-Jihad” movement. Italy is another country where a former fascist party, the National Alliance, has radically rethought its views on Israel and Jews in line with the counter-jihad discourse, but it is not directly involved in the movement. The United Kingdom The UK makes an interesting case in the attempted mainstreaming of a far-right party and new attitudes to Jews via the logic of the counter-jihad because it has happened so quickly and because the party concerned, the British National Party (BNP), has such a mountain to climb. On the BNP's own website they discuss this directly by saying “[d]redging up quotes from 10, 15, 20 years ago is really pathetic... the BNP is in no way anti-Semitic nor do we deny the Holocaust”15. Picking ten years is important as it was 1998 when BNP leader Nick Griffin was convicted for distributing material likely to incite racial hatred – the magazine in particular was promoting holocaust denial; nevertheless Griffin was still insisting in 2002 that the number of deaths in the Holocaust had been inflated from a more accurate 3.5 million16. The BNP has always been against immigration from the Indian sub-continent, the origin of the majority of British Muslims, but even up to the major riots across Northern England in the summer of 2001 where BNP activism played a catalytic role, the rhetoric was still focused on race not religion. But by 2002 – after the attacks on New York an Washington and the invasion of Afghanistan – Griffin was quoted as saying: “'We can put up with the blacks. The question of Islam is another matter. They convert the lowest groups wherever they go. As things stand now, we are going to end up with an Islamic republic some time in the future”17. In 2004 the BNP had their first (and only) Jewish local councilor elected in Epping Forest, Essex, who said that 9/11 had driven her towards the BNP18, yet nevertheless in 2005 Griffin was taking an agnostic line when he told Robert Locke, and American journalist and writer for the extremist “Think Israel” website that: “the Middle East is simply not our problem or our business”19.

15 “The Truth About the BNP!” 28 February 08 (http://www.bnp.org.uk/2008/02/the-truth-about-the-bnp/ accessed 16 July 08) 16 “Flying the flag” The Observer Magazine 1 Sept 2002 (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/magazine/story/0,11913,783675,00.html accessed 16 July 08) 17 ibid. 18 “I'm no 'fig leaf' insists BNP's first Jewish candidate” The Times 11 May 2004 (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article420930.ece accessed 15 July 08 19 Locke, Robert “The British National Party (BNP) goes straight” (http://www.think-israel.org/locke.bnp.html accessed 14 July 2008)


But in recent years the BNP has become vocally pro-Israel as it has focused more and more on the threat of Islam. Ruth Smeed, of the Jewish Board of Deputies was quoted in the Guardian as saying: “The BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web - it goes further than any of the mainstream parties in its support of Israel and at the same time demonises Islam and the Muslim world. They are actively campaigning in Jewish communities, particularly in London, making a lot of their one Jewish councilor, their support of Israel and attacking Muslims. It is a poisonous campaign but it shows a growing electoral sophistication”20. The BNP's new found 'common cause' with the Jews has so far had little effect, it would seem that British Jews are not willing to forgive and forget, with many actively pointing out the BNP's cynicism21. The utter cynicism of the BNP's position was laid out by Griffin himself in a 2007 essay where responding to American whitenationalists critics who were claiming the BNP were being used by “the Jews”: “ 'May or may not contain some elements of truth,' [that Mossad is really behind some terrorist attacks blamed on Jihadis] I said. Is that too cynical for the purists? Then they need to wake up to the rules of real life politics rather than settling for last place every time. It’s better to be a little cynical on this issue and stand a chance of winning than to fret about which bunch of liars are lying in this particular instance and in so doing miss a great political opportunity to surf our message into the public mind on the back of a media tsunami of ‘Islamophobia’.” He continues, after asking the question why the British media is now turning against Islam and Muslim immigrants: “Frankly, who cares? We don’t have the media clout ourselves to swim against the tide, but as it’s running in our favour in terms of boosting public rejection of mass immigration and the multi-cult, why should we even want to? Instead of wasting time worrying about it, we should - to mix metaphors - be organising to make hay while the sun shines.”22 The BNP has not found any support from the “Counter-Jihad” movement, indeed the mere suggestion that it was involved in a Vlaams Belang-organised event, something that was subsequently denied by VB, was enough to make one of the most prominent “Counter-Jihad” figures say he would have no further dealings with the Belgium party23. Despite using the language of the counter-jihad discourse, it appears that the BNP's pro-Israel stance is still judged from within the movement to be political expediency rather than deep seated belief. Belgium The case of Vlaams Belang (VB) in Belgium is interesting as an example of one of Europe's farright parties that took an overtly pro-Israel position relatively early. In the summer of 2005 the most prominent of the VB leadership, Filip Dewinter, was telling Israeli journalists that he was Israel's “no. 1 Belgian friend”, this was despite the fact that he had not been officially invited to Israel, nor were there contacts between VB and the Israeli embassy in Brussels as they deemed the party to be racist24. In 2005 Dewinter was actively courting the Jewish voters of Antwerp in preparation for running to be mayor of the city in 2006, a race that he subsequently lost25. At the time there was
20 “BNP seeks to bury antisemitism and gain Jewish votes in Islamophobic campaign” The Guardian 18 April 2008 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/apr/10/thefarright.race accessed 13 July 08) 21 Grunwald, Henry “Overlook BNP at our own peril” TJ.com 19 December 2007 (http://www.totallyjewish.com/news/special_reports/?content_id=7867 accessed 14 July 2008) 22 Griffin, Nick “By their fruits (or lack of them) shall you know them” 10 Nov 2007 (http://www.bnp.org.uk/2007/11/by-their-fruits-or-lack-of-them-shall-you-know-them/ accessed 5 May 08) 23 “Vlaams Belang allies with British National Party” Jihad Watch 20 January 2008 (http://jihadwatch.org/archives/019648.php accessed 12 July 08) 24 Schwartz, Adi “Between Haider and a hard place” Haaretz 28 August 2005 (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=617761 accessed 15 July 08) 25 “Rightist Leader Defeated In Antwerp” The Jewish Week 20 October 2006 (http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c41_a8161/News/Short_Takes.html accessed 15 July 08)


significant tension between Antwerp's orthodox Jewish community and Muslims in the city, including violent attacks on Jews26, linked to the Second Intifada in Israel/Palestine. VB was trying to capitalize on these fears. Vlaams Belang is the successor party of Vlaams Blok, which was disbanded in 2004 after being found guilty of contravening Belgium's law against racism and xenophobia. Vlaams Blok was, like VB remains to today, a Flemish nationalist party primarily, interested in defending the rights of the Flemings within Belgium, and arguing for the dissolution of the Belgium with Flanders becoming an independent state. Although Vlaams Blok had policies from its formation in 1979 that could be seen as far-right, such the expulsion of migrant workers, it was only in the 1980s that immigration and other populist right policies became central themes27. Although leaders like Dewinter claim the party has never been antisemitic, many prominent Belgian Jews do not agree28 and in 2001, the then vice-president of Vlaams Blok gave an interview where he stated his revisionist views on the Holocaust29. Additionally Dewinter himself is, or at least was, personally close to Jean Marie Le Pen, long-time leader of the French neo-fascist Front National30. The other parties in Belgium have put a cordon sanitaire around VB and, despite its electoral success making it one of the biggest parties in the country, it has not been invited into coalition government either nationally or within the Flemish regional parliament. Nevertheless, the electoral success of VB has been instrumental in pushing the Belgium mainstream political parties further to the right, particularly on issues around immigration31. Since 2001, VB have increasingly focused on Islam and Muslim immigrants as the greatest threat to both Flanders and the West more generally, as opposed to all types of immigration. With Dewinter having said “Islam is now the No. 1 enemy not only of Europe, but of the entire free world”32, it is no wonder that VB have become heroes of the Counter-Jihad blogosphere; but VB have done more than just accept these accolades, they have instead actively taken part in trying to turn this collection of bloggers from around the world into a more concrete organisation. In October 2007, the party hosted the “Counter-Jihad Brussels 2007” conference at the European Parliament and Flemish Parliament in Brussels, which brought together around eighty counter-jihad supporters from around the world in an attempt to turn the discourse into a serious political movement. Attending were anti-Islamic bloggers from both sides of the Atlantic, along with political figures including Filip Dewinter and Philip Claeys MEP from VB; the UK Independence Partly (UKIP) MEP Gerad Batten; and Arieh Eldad, a member of the Israeli Knesset and head of the new rightwing Hatikva party. A local organiser of the Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats) from Lund, Ted Ekeroth, represented Sweden whilst Lars Hedegaard, president of the Danish Free Press Society, and Jens Tomas Anfindsen, who works for the controversial Norwegian Human Rights Service, demonstrated the Scandinavian interest in the Counter-Jihad. Keynote speeches came from
26 Ain, Stewart “The Season Of Dewinter?” The Jewish Week 9 December 2005 (http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P31016327271.html accessed 15 July 08) 27 Laible, Janet (2007) 'Back to the Future' with Vlaams Belang? Flemish Nationalism as a modernizing project in the a post-modern European Union Paper presented at annual meeting of American Political Science Association Aug. 30-Sept.2 2007. 28 Schwartz, Adi (op. cit.) 29 “Belgium's far right party in Holocaust controversy” The Guardian 9 March 2001 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/mar/09/worlddispatch.thefarright accessed 17 July 08) 30 “Three to Watch: Populists of the Hard Right” The New York Times 21 April 2006 (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E00E4DF1F39F932A15757C0A960958260&sec=&spon=&page wanted=print accessed 9 November 07) 31 “Belgians agree on one issue: foreigners” IHT 9 October 2007 (http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/10/09/news/belgium.php accessed 10 Oct. 07); “ Country Briefings: Belgium – Political Forces” Economist.com (http://www.economist.com/countries/Belgium/profile.cfm?folder=ProfilePolitical%20Forces accessed 15 June 08) 32 Schwartz, Adi (op. cit.)


Bat Ye’or and Robert Spencer, a very prominent American writer of anti-Islam books, media commentator and editor of the influential JihadWatch website.33 Additionally, Vlaams Belang has been involved in other European level cooperative ventures. They are central to the “Cities Against Islamisation” campaign, that aims to bring sub-national political leaders together from across Europe to protest such things as the building of mosques34, and the VB MEPS were founding members of the short-lived far-right “Identity Tradition and Sovereignty” (ITS) group in the European Parliament35. Vlaams Belang have, along with the Swedish Democrats, become central to the “civil war” within the counter-jihad blogosphere – this conflict will be examined in detail below in the Sweden section. Sweden Another far-right party to have become involved in the “Counter-Jihad” movement whilst also adopting a more positive view of Israel are the Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna SD). SD come out of milieux of the Swedish fascist movement, but have in recent years tried to make a break with this past, now describing themselves as: “nationalist democrats [who] dissociate ourselves from all forms of totalitarianism and racism. Our party have declared that we consider the UN universal declaration on human rights as fundamental for our politics”36. SD's vote has increased in Sweden, in the 2006 general election it reached 2.9 percent, although this was not high enough to have any MPs elected so they remain considered as a minor party. Yet like other far-right parties in Europe they are using the fear of Muslim immigration to attract votes. As noted above, one SD member, Ted Ekeroth, attended the “Counter-Jihad Brussels 2007” conference. Ekeroth, the SD treasurer in Lund, is also Jewish and has been an outspoken pro-Israel voice in Sweden in the past37. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of Counter-Jihad Brussels, an major disagreement emerged between some of the most prominent counter-jihad blogs and websites over the involvement in the conference of the Sweden Democrats and Vlaams Belang. A longstanding and conservative (arguably neoconservative) American blog “Little Green Footballs”, owned by Charles Johnson and influential due to its very significant readership, has been central to questioning the background of the VB and SD parties, arguing that their neo-Nazi links in the past make them unsuitable partners for pro-Israel counter-jihadists. The defence of the two p38arties has been lead in particular by the Gates of Vienna blog, the author of which was central to organising the Counter-Jihad conferences. The right wing, Eurosceptic, “Brussels Journal” website has also been active in the defence – particularly of Vlaams Belang. The editor of the Brussels Journal, Paul
33 “Counterjihad Brussels 2007: European Conference Resists Islamization” Brussels Journal 19 Oct 2007 (http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/2575 accessed 15 July 08); “CounterJihad Brussels 2007 Presentations” 28 October 2007 (http://counterjihadeuropa.wordpress.com/2007/10/28/39/ accessed 15 July 08); “Brussels: Counter Jihad Resistance” 19 October 2007 (http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2007/10/onefor-the-age.html accessed 15 July 08) 34 “Press release: Conference 'Cities against Islamization' 18.01.2008” (http://www.citiesagainstislamisation.com/En/3/2 accessed 18 July 08) 35 “Who's who in EU's new far-right group” BBC 12 January 2007 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6249513.stm accessed 16 July 2008); “MEPs cheer collapse of far-right ITS group” The Parliament 14 November 2007 (http://www.eupolitix.com/latestnews/news-article/newsarticle/mepsnbspcheer-collapse-of-far-right-itsnbspgroup/ accessed 16 July 08) 36 “Presentation: Sverigedemokraterna” (http://www.sverigedemokraterna.net/int_text.php?action=fullnews&id=225 accessed 10 May 08) 37 “LGF, Ted Ekeroth and Sverigedemokraterna” (http://elderofstockholm.blogspot.com/2007/11/lgf-ted-ekeroth-andsverigedemokraterna.html accessed 18 July 08) 38 “About Vlaams Belang and Sweden Democrats” 24 October 2007 (http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=27674_About_Vlaams_Belang_and_Sweden_Democrats&only accessed 20 July 08)


Beilin, is a long time supporter of the party and married to one of their MPs. The leadership of the Sweden Democrats have not publicly taken part in this debate, and SD's defence has mainly come from Ekeroth and his supporters outside of the party. Conversely the leadership of VB have actively courted support, and have sought to persuade the sceptical of the philosemitism, outside of Belgium. This has led to an interesting and unexpected phenomenon of right wing bloggers on both sides of the Atlantic, and even American politicians, suddenly taking an interest in the Belgian constitutional crisis and the supposed inequity of the tax transfers from the Flemish to the Walloons. It also became known that Charles Johnson's source for some of the information on the European far-right parties have been anti-fascist researchers like Øyvind Strømmen39. This in turn has led to attacks on them from VB's and SD's supporters, often claiming the activists are communists and therefore can not be trusted40. At the time of writing, this dispute continues with no evidence that either side believes anything said by the other. Denmark and the Netherlands The situation of Denmark and the Netherlands is slightly different from the countries considered above. Both have populists right-wing parties that with parliamentary representation. In Denmark although the Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti DF) is not in the governing coalition, the government relies on their votes for a majority. The DF uses the fear of Islam as a central campaign theme41 and benefited significantly from domestic fallout of the Muhammed 'Cartoon Crisis' of 2005-6. In the Netherlands Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom (formerly Group Wilders) is the fifth biggest party in parliament and the third largest of the opposition. The banner of the English language homepage of the Party for Freedom's proclaims “Stop the Islamization of Netherlands”(sic)42 and this, along with strong policies against immigration, are central to the party's platform. Wilders has become internationally famous for releasing the short anti-Islam film “fitna” in 2008 which created fears of violence across Europe. Wilders is well known for being a regular visitor to Israel with many friends and contacts there, and the preeminent advocate for the country within the Dutch Parliament43, he has even suggested the non-violent transfer of the Palestinians out of the West Bank, which he believes Israel has the right to claim, to Jordan saying “there is space and place enough there and many Palestinians already live there”44. The Danish People's party have focused on domestic politics and seem less interested in building an international reputation than some of their European colleagues, but their leader, Pia Kjaersgaard, recently met Wilders where they reportedly discussed building links between likeminded parties in Europe45. The DF have been criticised as selling out to “the Zionists” from the fascist right; for example one Swedish neo-Nazi site claims “The Danish Peoples Party... only drinks Israeli wine at their meetings and demands more money to be allocated for protecting Jewish interests in Denmark”46. Possibly referring to the same events, the DF were noted by the Stephen Roth Institute at Tel Aviv University, that monitors global anti-Semitism, for in 2002 demonstrating
39 40

See Eurofascism.info (http://www.hagatekst.no/underdom/eurofascism/ accessed 20 July 08) “Why Does LGF Lend Credibility to Eurabia Deniers?” (http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2007/12/why-does-lgflend-credibility-to.html accessed 16 July 08) 41 “Covering Up” Economist 29 May 2008 42 (http://www.groepwilders.com/groupwilders/website/default.aspx?ID=4 accessed 18 July 08) 43 “Far-right Dutch politician brings his anti-Islam rhetoric back to Jerusalem” Haaretz 11 January 2008 (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/943764.html accessed 20 July 08) 44 “Belgian Right-Wing Politician Calls Zionism as Bad as Islamism” 29 June 2008 (http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/3375 accessed 15 July 08) 45 “Forza Europa: Wilders and Danish People’s Party Discuss Cooperation” 3 June 2008 (http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/331016 accessed July 08) 46 “The French National Front: A Quasi-National European Party”


“its support for Israel by defying an anti-Israel boycott and serving Israeli produce at its annual convention”47. Both the Danish People's Party and the Party for Freedom are both careful not to associate with far right parties, Pia Kjaersgaard, leader of DF rejects accusation of racism and comparisons to Le Pen in France48, and DF member of the European Parliament is part of the “Union for Europe of the Nations” group49, and had nothing to do with the ITS group mentioned above in relation to Vlaams Belang. Likewise Wilders has said “my allies are not Le Pen or Haider... We'll never join up with the fascists and Mussolinis of Italy. I'm very afraid of being linked with the wrong rightist fascist groups”50. Possibly due to these fears, Wilders has stated that he had no contacts with Vlaams Belang51. Wilder's reticence shows that clearly there are limits to the attractiveness of the counter-jihad discourse to politicians who still carry out their politics within a national context. Wilders is a star of the counter-jihad bloggers – after releasing “Fitna” he can do no wrong. Yet, he clearly has some reservations about allying with Vlaams Belang. Wilders is consciously modeling himself on his Dutch forerunner Pim Fortuyn52, who was murdered in 2002. Fortuyn was openly gay and a flamboyant politician who was highly critical of Islam, saying it was incompatible with Dutch Liberalism. Wilders wants to associate his anti-Islamic politics with the same defence of liberal values which puts him somewhat at odds with the social conservatism of many of the other populist right parties. Italy Focus so far has been on populist and far-right parties from Northern Europe. Italy has a very different and extensive history of political extremism, both on the right and left, but has not remained isolated from the trends observable to the north. An early act of the new mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, who comes from the ‘post-fascist’ National Alliance party of Gianfranco Fini and has a history of political violence himself, was to raise the Israeli flag above Rome’s town hall53. Fini has followed a policy of supporting Israel, having made his first official visit in 200354, and has taken this to such extremes that it has caused political scandal such as in May 2008 when he said that Italian leftists who burnt the Israeli were worse than Neo-Nazis thugs who beat and killed a young man on the same day55. Alemanno courted the Jewish vote carefully in Rome, and it may well have been crucial to his success56. Despite electoral success of pro-Israeli, right-wing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim politicians, Italy
47 “Denmark 2002-3” Stephen Roth Institute Annual Report (http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw20023/denmark.htm accessed 19 July 08) 48 “AP Interview: Nationalist leader says Danish identity under threat from Muslim immigrants” IHT 23 November 2007(http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/11/24/europe/EU-GEN-Denmark-Nationalist-Leader.php accessed 17 July 08) 49 http://www.uengroup.org/home.html 50 “'I don't hate Muslims. I hate Islam,' says Holland's rising political star” The Observer 17 February 2008 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/17/netherlands.islam accessed 16 July 08) 51 “Wilders Looks for European Allies, Suggests Reuniting Flanders and Netherlands” Canada Free Press 14 May 2008 (http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/3070 accessed 18 July 08) 52 “'I don't hate Muslims, I hate Islam',...” op. cit. 53 “Italy: Israeli flag raised in historic gesture in Rome” AKI 8 May 2008 (http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/Politics/?id=1.0.2143361000 accessed 19 July 08) 54 “Profile: Italy's post-fascist hopeful” BBC 18 November 2004 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1751457.stm accessed 18 July 2008) 55 “Italian Rightist Sparks Outrage” Time 6 May 2008 (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1737829,00.html accessed 17 July 08) 56 “Fascists and Jews united for Rome mayor” Financial Times 4 May 2008 (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4d07386e19fd-11dd-ba02-0000779fd2ac.html accessed 17 July 08)


has not figured so highly within the Counter-Jihad movement. This may be simply because the counter-jihad discourse, being mainly American in origin, has been an anglophone phenomenon and whilst most people from Scandinavia and the Low Countries speak fluent English, this is not as widespread in Italy. Nevertheless, there were Italians at the Counter-Jihad Brussels 2007 conference57 and the “Italian organization Una Via per Oriana (“A Way For Oriana”) presented an award to Bat Ye’or in honor of Oriana Fallaci”58; Fallaci was an Italian writer who in later life wrote polemically about the inferiority of Islamic culture. The sub-national-trans-national Ideas have always crossed borders, indeed it was failure of International Relations during the Cold War era to predominantly treat states as sealed vessels where the only point of contacts to the rest of the international environment were at the highest level of state power. Indeed, even the name of the discipline suggests this modernist thinking – where relations happen between states, not across societies or at other sub-state levels. But globalization is a process where the speed and ease of international politics has greatly increased – particularly because of the internet, and hence it is notable that the counter-jihad began primarily as an imagined community in the virtual world of the blogosphere. The changes brought by globalization also create instability: a sense of insecurity contrary to economic efficiency and wealth. Francois Heisbourg notes that the idea that periods internationalisation create instability was well understood over a century ago; he quotes Marx from the Manifesto of the Communist Party: “In place of the old local and national seclusion and selfsufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations… The intellectual creations of individual nations, become common property.”59 But whilst Heisbourg notes there are difference between the late 19th century and now, there are also many similarities and rightwing populism is one of them. He notes “In the 19th century, the forces of the radical rightwing populism did not take power in any of the European states. But nearly everywhere, they strongly influenced the terms of the political debate and the shape of the new consensus”60. To quote Clark again, for states in a globalized world: “the change induced by the end of the of the Cold War lies in the nature of the accommodation between ‘domestic’ and ‘transnational’ forces, rather than in the specifics of either. The change is relational to both rather than particular to either”61. The counter-jihad and its impact on European politics can be understood in this way. Firstly European nation-states are responding to the impacts of a transnational, sub-state political phenomenon of Jihadi violence, of the likes of al-Qaeda, as well as to global immigration flows. The counter-jihad discourse offers a response to these perceived threats to societal security, but being originally a predominantly American discourse, it is adapted and changed by its contact with European politics, being focused increasingly on immigration and societal security and less on terrorism and state security. This transformation of the discourse also brings odd European issues, such as Flemish secessionism, onto the fringes of the American political debate as part of a critical view of the EU. But the change, as Clark says, is relational; and so the discourse also changes domestic European politics and, as argued above, this is most clearly seen in leading European farright parties to reconstruct their images from antisemitic to philosemitic.

57 “CounterJihad Brussels 2007 Presentations” (http://counterjihadeuropa.wordpress.com/2007/10/28/39/ accessed 16 July 08) 58 “Counterjihad Brussels 2007 Conference” (http://counterjihadeuropa.wordpress.com/2007/10/23/counterjihadbrussels-2007-conference/ accessed 19 July 08) 59 Heisbourg, Francois (2007) “Foreword” in Schori Liang, Christina (2007) Europe for the Europeans: The Foreign and Security Policy of the Populist Right Aldershot, Ashgate (p.xiii) 60 ibid. (p.xiv) 61 Clark, Ian (1999) Globalization and International Relations Theory Oxford: Oxford University Press (p.5)


Concluding remarks The future of the “Counter-Jihad” movement may well be limited. As the inclusion of parties who come from the European far-right tradition that includes neo-Nazis and skinheads (regardless of whether those parties have truly now rejected this legacy) has already split the anti-Islamic blogosphere, it is to be expected that it will not gain much traction in more mainstream political circles. The author of this paper maintains a blog and has recently been discussing with the Finnish representative at the Counter-Jihad conferences, what exactly separates the policies of the Sweden Democrats from that of the British National Party62, that fact that the defenders of the SD and VB even need to make these arguments suggests that they will find it hard not to be seen as extremists in the wider public debate. The recently found philosemitism of the European right still looks more like political opportunism than conviction, regardless of the truth of the matter, although parties such as the Danish People’s Party, who have limited or no history of antisemitism, are exceptions. But even if the “Counter-Jihad” as a political movement has limited impact, the counter-jihad discourse as a way of talking about Islam as a threat to Europe has clearly made huge changes to European politics. Research carried out at Cardiff University demonstrated that in 2008 in Britain, stories describing religious and cultural difference between Muslim and ‘British culture’ for the first time outnumbered stories of terrorism carried out in the name of Islam63. This demonstrates that the idea that Islamic culture is in danger or supplanting “British”, “European”, “Judeo-Christian” or “Western” culture has gained a place in the popular imagination. This may not mean that full the Eurabia thesis has convinced many, but it does suggest that the idea of the Islamization of Europe is becoming increasingly important to many64. As argued above, the counter-jihad discourse is a reaction to the instability wrought by globalization, that as well as bringing levels of wealth and comfort to the majority of Europeans not seen before, also brings change to societies and economies and means they have much to lose. As Schori Liang writes: “Europeans have become increasingly worried. In a recent survey of 51 countries, western Europeans were the most pessimistic, with 64 percent being negative about the future. Most of them feel ‘unsafe, powerless, and gloomy’. Europeans fear radical Islamists or ending up as demographic losers in the new ‘Eurabia’, and are anxious about being left behind in the globalization process or, even worse, being governed by an outside power such as the United States or the ‘elite driven’ and ‘undemocratic’ European Commission. Seventy-five percent of West Europeans believe there will be further deterioration in the global security in the future.”65 In the face of such pessimism it would seem that the counter-jihad discourse will remain the ideology of choice for European far-right parties for some time to come.


See comments section of “No surprise: the BNP is utterly cynical” (http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.com/2008/07/bnp-and-political-cynicismself.html accessed 20 July 08) 63 Moores, Kelly; Mason, Paul; Lewis, Justin (2003) Images of Islam in the UK: the representation of British Muslims in the national print news media 2000-2008 Cardiff: Cardiff School of Journalism Media and Cultural Studies (p.3) 64 World Economic Forum (2008) op. cit. 65 Schori Liang, Christina (2007) Europe for the Europeans: The Foreign and Security Policy of the Populist Right Aldershot, Ashgate (p.1)