Thursday

23rd Jan 2020

Opinion

Left flirting with antisemitism in EU parliament

  • During the conference in the EU parliament, numerous antisemitic statements were made. (Photo: European Parliament)

Two major issues have been shaping the western world for the last decade and a half: terrorism and racism.

In spite of what is often thought, both have strong contemporary connections to the European left.

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At the end of September, the GUE/NGL - a political group uniting parties to the left of social democracy - organised a seminar in the European Parliament where both these tendencies were on display.

One of the speakers was Leila Khaled, a member of the Palestinian terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and a hijacker of two civilian airplanes.

It is outrageous that such a person is given a platform in the EU parliament, a body representing democracy and peaceful cooperation among peoples.

Furthermore, during the conference, numerous antisemitic statements were made.

One speaker argued that "some sections" of Israeli society "are more racist than the Nazis themselves" and that the Zionist movement collaborated with the German Nazi regime.

Another speaker compared the situation in Gaza to the Holocaust and then argued that Israel should be judged like the Nazis in Nuremberg.

A third statement labelled a Palestinian terrorist, who shot and murdered three Israelis, as a "martyr."

Not a one-off event

Even if it is despicable, it could be seen as a one-off event. Regrettably, this is not the case.

In my own country, Sweden, the Left party (Vänsterpartiet) has had systematic ties to undemocratic and violent terror organisations. And antisemitism is popping up here and there in the European left movement.

The British Labour party seems to be particularly hit, with a succession of seemingly antisemitic incidents causing a stir in the UK.

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone suggested that Hitler supported Zionists and others argued for the expulsion of Jewish groups from the party.

Antisemitism is one of the world's oldest forms of ethnic hatred. In his book 'Racism: a short story', US historian George Fredrickson traces its origins back to medieval Europe.

Furthermore, antisemitism is not only the racism that has taken the most brutal expression in industrialised mass slaughter, but it is also one of the 'stickiest' variations of collectivist hate - repeatedly showing its ugly face.

When Europe is overwhelmed by a populist-nationalist surge with anti-immigrant, xenophobic and racist tendencies, it is very important that other political parties display zero tolerance to similar ideas.

Regrettably, though, the European left has not been able to keep itself immune from such influences.

Last weekend, in the second largest Swedish city of Gothenburg, neo-Nazis marched in the streets.

And, in August, white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the US, chanted "Jews will not replace us". It is sad to see that the European left cannot refrain from similar tendencies.

It is clear that Europe is suffering not from one extreme political force tarnished by racism and terror, but from two such groups.

Gunnar Hoekmark is an MEP in the EPP group.

Correction: This article originally said that Gunnar Hoekmark was German, but he is actually from Sweden.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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