One of Bibi Netanyahu’s closest Likud associates, MK and deputy minister Ofir Akunis, recently held a meeting in the prime minister’s office with members of the Belgian anti-Semitic party, Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest). Akunis’ job is to be chief liaison between Netanyahu and the Knesset. In U.S. or UK terms, he’s the chief whip, a job that requires the highest level of trust between the two men. So we can assume when Akunis held this meeting, he did so with Bibi’s blessing.
Akunis triumphantly posted a picture on Facebook of the meeting (above), but conveniently neglected to name the particular party or individuals with whom he met. The Belgian party supports Flemish secession from Belgium. Its anti-immigrant, racist and anti-Semitic views are in accord with those of other far-right Euro parties like the EDL in Britain and Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France. Neither the Belgian Jewish community or the Israeli embassy will meet with VB inside Belgium. That seems to be of no concern to Akunis and his boss, PM Netanyahu. They seem to pursue a foreign policy of their own independent of the Diaspora or even their own foreign ministry.
This isn’t the first time either: in 2010 Austria’s successor to Jorg Haider, the leader of its far-right Freedom Party, visited Israel and held similar meetings with key government officials. Both of these trips were organized by two settler leaders who play key powerbroker roles in the national Likud party and primaries. They are Gershon Mesika and Yossi Dagan. Dagan in his youth was a disciple of former IDF chief of staff and minister, Rehavam Zeevi, an ultra-nationalist transferist, who was assassinated by Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Both are senior leaders of the Samaria Regional Council, which is a government body that represents the interests of Israeli settlements both inside Israel and abroad.
Mesika and Dagan are the Boss Tweeds of the Likud Party. If you’re an MK and don’t want to be consigned to electoral Siberia in the next party primary, you have to pay obeisance to Tweedledee and Tweedledum. As the Hasidic rebbes of Brooklyn do for the New York Democratic Party, they deliver thousands of votes cast by settlers registered in the Likud primaries:
Mesika, a Likud activist from the party’s “national camp,” has in the past few years signed up many settlers as Likud members, in a bid to move the party further to the right. Many Likud Knesset members say privately that if they don’t cooperate with Mesika they risk being left out of the party primaries.
So despite the fact that some MKs may understand how toxic these anti-Semites are, they do as they’re told. It’s not that different in the case of Aipac and its Congressional water-carriers. Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein and other surely know that the pro-Israel pablum they’re offered by Aipac is largely a charade. But they dance to the music because if they did otherwise they’d face well-financed primary opponents and the wrath of the Israel Lobby’s well-connected donors. It only takes one Charles Percy or Cynthia McKinney being ridden out of Congress on a rail to teach this lesson to the 535 others who remain.
Mesika and Dagan aren’t content to confine their political muscle to domestic political affairs. Here, an Israeli settler publication notes that they met in Washington with 20 members of Congress to express their strong opposition to the Kerry peace talks. While Kerry comes to Israel to broker a peace deal, they go to DC to undermine one. They might as well have their own embassy as Peter Bergson (aka Hillel Kook) did during the Holocaust when he established Herut’s Hebrew Embassy in Washington. Other articles note the close political relationship Mesika and Dagan have developed with the Christian Zionist community which has brought bountiful coverage on CBN, the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Mesika is in high dudgeon about the Haaretz article linking him to anti-Semites. Here is how Barak Ravid described the brouhaha:
…The Samaria Regional Council said Flemish Interest is accused falsely of being anti-Semitic, adding that it is very friendly toward Israel and the Jewish community. The statement accused leftist elements in Israel of trying to denigrate the party, noted that Mesika’s family were Holocaust survivors and that two of his brothers were murdered in Nazi death camps, and expressed regret for the participation of Haaretz in the attempt to besmirch the reputation of its political rivals. The council said it would consider taking action against this newspaper for violating anti-libel laws.
Apparently, having relatives murdered by the Nazis 70 years ago means one wouldn’t possibly consort with European neo-Nazis today, even for the good of Greater Israel. Hopefully, the foolishness of this statement is self-evident. As for threatening a libel suit, that’s rich. What will the Council claim? That Vlaams Belang isn’t anti-Semitic? Even pro-Israel bloggers like Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs rail at the party’s patent anti-Semitism. That’s going to be a tough line of argument to support.
The two meetings I describe above aren’t the only ones between senior MKs and European anti-Semites. I posted about this meeting between two senior pro-settler MKs (one of whom is Druze!) and Russian neo-Nazis–in the the MKs’ Knesset offices! Despite the fact that the Russians were Holocaust deniers, they received the VIP treatment in a tour of Yad Vashem. Imagine the souls of the 6-million spinning in their graves as they were forced to watch that spectacle! This is how I described members of the delegation:
The two Russians have been photographed giving Nazi salutes, celebrating Der Fuhrer’s birthday, and they published songs of praise to Adoph Hitler on their website.
It’s important to note why Israel can now make common cause with European anti-Semites and neo-Nazis. Because they both have a common enemy that they view as more dangerous than each other: radical Islam. In using that term, it’s also critical to understand that for neither Israel nor for the anti-Semites is there much, if any difference between Islam and radical Islam. They rarely bother to make a distinction.
Even when they identify “good” or “moderate” or the latest term, “progressive” Muslims, they’re either secularists or so alienated from their Muslim community that to call them mainstream Muslims is laughable. We’re talking about individuals like Qanta Ahmed, Zuhdi Jasser, Tawfiq Hamid and the like.
There should be one lesson from Israel’s cozying up to such anti-Semitic rabble: that we can no longer allow Israel to claim to speak for Diaspora Jews on any matter. The interests of Israel and the Diaspora have diverged (if they were ever consonant). What is good for Israel, at least for this Israeli government, is not good for Jews. What is good for Jews is not good for Israel. This turns the classical Zionist narrative on its head. That posits that the Diaspora and Israel are, if not united, at least complementary. That the two parties cannot exist without each other (at least until Israel swallows up the Diaspora, which will wither away).
This Israeli government is driving a wedge between itself and Jews abroad. A wedge no classical Zionist, even Jabotinsky, could ever have imagined. This is quite an achievement: you have Israel’s ultra-nationalist government preferring to curry favor with Christian Zionists over the ‘secular left-wing’ American Jewish community. This turns Zionism, at least as it was taught to me, on its head. It leaves world Jewry divided. It leaves Israel with allies who hate Jews and are miscreant scumbags. This is not our fathers‘ Israel.