Many people are feigning shock at the fact that Hungary’s centre right (some would say solid right) populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has become a friend of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Far from shocking or aberrational, this development is fully in line with the last several decades of Israeli propaganda. In short, Israel has pivoted its national brand to seduce the western right, against the western right’s own interests, while turning Israel’s old ally on the left against itself.
Prior to the creation of Israel in 1948, those who favoured Zionism in the west were often though not always on the left. This was because they saw self-described Zionist Jews as a minority and traditionally the solid left and far left advocated for the political causes associated with ethnic, religious and other minorities.
By contrast those on the traditional right tended to favour the politics of the state which generally meant the cultural, social and religious consensus of the national majority. In this sense, to 19th century minds, a Zionist Jewish minority was no different than a Czech minority being disliked by the Germanic rulers in Vienna or a Polish minority being disliked by the Russian Tsars in Moscow.
During the early decades of Israel’s history, this trend generally continued with the traditional right taking a disinterested or agnostic approach to a conflict between Jewish Europeans and Levantine Arab Palestinians, two peoples which neither were a majority in the west and therefore of little interest to the western right.
The left tended to support Israel early on although after the expanding occupation of Palestinian land and repressive policies against Arabs, many on the left began to change this view.
There were always exception to this rule, especially on the far-right, the most notorious being when Hitler’s National Socialist Party of Germany signed the Haavara Agreement with German Zionists in 1933.
Today however, the traditional roles have changed and not just among neo-cons who favour any pro-western militarist state (which Israel is a prime example of) but also among more pragmatic conservatives in the west, men like Viktor Orban and Donald Trump.
The reason such men have become pro-Israel isn’t out of any great knowledge of Jewish or Zionist history, but due to a misunderstanding of contemporary world affairs that Israel has done a great deal to promote, especially under the Israeli Likud party.
Politicians like Orban and Trump are generally speaking traditional conservatives. Socially they favour unity over sectarianism, tend to oppose the agitations of minority politics at home and are opposed to the influx of immigrants as the ultimate representation of ‘otherness’.
Politicians like Orban and Trump and also like Marine Le Pen who has a far more ambiguous relationship with Israel, tend to oppose the concept of ‘otherness’. They seek to keep their homelands free of foreign influence and foreign agitation. This is exactly what Palestinians want!
Palestinians want sovereignty over their native soil and they do not want outsiders coming in willy-nilly except with the permission of a Palestinian sovereign state. In the Levant Palestinians are the natives and nativists and Israelis are literally the immigrants, the ‘others’.
How then has Israel convinced such people whose views are actually in line with those of Palestinians who have had their land occupied and stolen by a foreign ‘other’, to instead side with Israel, a country literally built on the most militant immigration policy the world has ever known?
The answer lies in Israel’s calculated appeals to the right-wing’s decimated position in the west. Over the second half of the 20th century, the pervasiveness of social-democracy, communism (in Eastern Europe) and neo-liberal corporatism starting in the 1990s in all of Europe and North America, has made traditional conservatives feel marginalised.
Where in the 19th century, many conservatives would seek other states to be weak with a poor military so as to reinforce their own superiority, today, out of desperation, disenfranchised conservatives look to any strong militaristic state with a kind of envy.
The only problem is that while Israel is certainly militaristic, it is the opposite of nativistic. Imagine, a group of Salafist Muslims or extremist Hindus demanding to take over half of Hungary, getting UN approval to do so, changing the laws to fit with the Salafist/Islamist or Hindutva political agenda and later annexing the rest of Hungary.
Conservative Hungarians like Orban would not like that one little bit. But this is exactly what Zionists did to Palestine. If one needs any proof that this theory is true, just look at the general European reaction when Turkey’s Islamist President Erdogan says that Europe should accommodate political Islam, let alone be taken over by it. The reaction from Europe has been one of strident opposition.
Israel has therefore succeeded in convincing the traditional western right to support Israel even though Israel is doing that which western conservatives would never tolerate in their own countries.
The often foolish argument that the reason that some conservatives have embraced Israel is due to a mutual dislike of Muslims at an ideological or visceral level, does not carry water either. Leaders like Trump and Orban do not especially dislike Muslims, but merely mention them more than other groups of ‘others’ because the issue has become more prominent ever since the neo-cons and neo-liberals of the west started supporting radical Salafist terrorism in the late 1970s.
It is not the right that has made Islam an issue but it is the so-called centre left from Zbigniew Brzezinski to Barack Obama who have fomented radical Salafist terrorism for the gain of the so-called 1% in the west. It is only natural to lump neo-cons in with ‘centre-leftists’ like Brzezinski and Obama in such matters.
Thus, Muslims are disliked by Orban and Trump because of their ‘otherness’ rather than their Islam per-se. While it is true that the anti-Islamic sentiments of such leaders are more sophisticated than those harbouring hatred of a black man due to his appearance being the opposite of white, it is far less sophisticated and ideologically driven than old fashioned ideological Jew hatred. In other words, The Protocols of the Elders of Mecca hasn’t been written and probably never will be, even by the most ardent opponents of Islamic immigration to western countries.
Meanwhile, the solid/old left with its traditional advocacy for the oppressed have generally moved from a pro-Zionist position to a pro-Palestinian position. Because of this, Israel has generally stopped trying to woo most (though not all) on the left and instead tries to smear them as hating all Jews. The left, for all its faults, certainly does not hate Jews, it simply sides with the oppressed in any situation whether it be the blacks and so-called ‘coloureds’ of Apartheid South Africa or the Palestinians in contemporary Israel. However, many on the left have been sent into a state of cognitive dissonance over the issue. In this sense Israel and the Israel-Palestine conflict has gone a long way in neutralising leftist opinion on such matters.
The traditional left has therefore lost its use to Israel, but the traditional right, in their desperation have become useful idiots.
If the western right want to reclaim a position of consistency, they ought to go back to having an agnostic position on the Israel-Palestine crisis. It is not the problem of Hungarian conservatives in 2017 that the British Empire stole Palestinian land and then illegally gifted that stolen land to European Zionists. Likewise, it is not America’s job to choose a side in such a foreign conflict, even though the idea that America would change its entrenchment on the issue is still the stuff of dreams.
But for the conservative movement that has rejected intervention in the rest of the Middle East, rejected Obama style meddling in Asia, rejected mass immigration, rejected the sectarian politics of ‘otherness’ and rejected the radical left’s hatred of conservative Russia, it beggars belief that some of them should take such a strident and outlying position on Israel. It is literally the elephant in the room.
It seems that the Israeli neo-con right is still far more intelligent than the western conservatives they have fooled so spectacularly, dragging them into an issue that is of no concern to them and never has been.