The rise of far-right extremist parties shown by the results of European Parliament elections has led to expressions of concern by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the World Jewish Congress.
Neo-Nazi parties received nearly 10 per cent of the popular vote in Greece, almost 15 per cent in Hungary, and for the first time gained a seat in Germany.
Far-right extremist parties placed first in France, where the National Front received nearly 25 per cent of the vote, and garnered 20 per cent of the vote in Austria, while far-left parties placed first in Greece, with 26 per cent, and Italy, with 21 per cent.
The ADL voiced concern at the growing success of extremist parties, including neo-Nazi parties, in the European Parliament elections.
The “alarming” results came on the heels of the deadly attack at the Brussels Jewish Museum, in which four people were killed by an unidentified gunman in an attack authorities have described as potentially motivated by anti-Semitism.
“There is no doubt that political extremism is on the rise in Europe, and along with it anti-Semitism is rising as well,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.
“The success of extremist political parties, both on the far-right and far-left, has never been good for democracy or for Jews and other minorities. The continuing trend in Europe toward support for these parties is cause for heightened concern.”
ADL’s Global 100 Index of Anti-Semitic Attitudes, released earlier in May 2014, showed that, on average, 27 per cent of the adult population in the E.U. harbours anti-Semitic attitudes. In Greece the figure is a shocking 69 per cent, and in France, 37 per cent.
“The atmosphere for Jews in Europe is deteriorating,” Foxman said. “The murderous attacks in Brussels this past weekend and two years ago in Toulouse, and the rising number of assaults on Jews, such the attack in Paris on Saturday, are stark examples of the very real dangers facing Jews.”
“The alarming electoral successes of the extremists will only contribute to increasing that sense of insecurity,” Foxman said. “If Jewish life in Europe is to continue and thrive, it will require a serious commitment from all European governments and EU institutions to turn the tide. The choice is theirs and the time is now.”
The strong sense of insecurity among European Jews was revealed in the disturbing results of polling in Jewish communities throughout the EU by the EU’s own Fundamental Rights Agency, which highlighted the sense of fear.
“The surge of far-right and anti-Semitic parties in a number of countries is a shock and a reason for great worry. European leaders must address this problem urgently and come up with a strategy to fight extremism. The future of European Jewry is a stake if these forces are not reined in. Extremists must not be allowed to set the agenda in Europe,” World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder said in reaction to the results of elections for the European Parliament.
He urged European governments to enter into a constructive dialoguewith the WJC on this issue.
Several heads of European Jewish communities shared Lauder’s view.
“Jews cannot be expected to remain silent when radical or extremist parties that used to be on the margins of politics make it into the top three in several countries, and in the case of France even come out on top,” Lauder said, adding: “Even if they remain a minority in the new European Parliament, these parties will be able to influence the European agenda, unless they are completely isolated.
“In the wake of the Brussels and Toulouse murders of Jews, it is high time the EU leaders came up with a credible plan on how to combat anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia on the continent, and how to ensure that Jews and other minorities are protected effectively. In this, the voice of the Jewish communities must be heard and concerns about their safety taken seriously.”
WJC Vice-President Roger Cukierman, the head of the Jewish umbrella organization CRIF in France, where the far-right National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen polled 26 per cent of the vote and became the strongest party, said: “This weekend, we witnessed the deadly attack in Brussels, the anti-Semitic incident in Créteil, and the result of the European elections.
“We are very worried. While the strong result of the FN can be explained with the economic crisis in France, which must be overcome, it is also of critical importance that the mainstream republican parties re-establish trust with French citizens.”
The Golden Dawn party, which is openly anti-Semitic and whose leaders have denied the Holocaust, became the third-largest party in Greece and got its best nation-wide result ever, polling 9.4 per cent.
WJC Vice-President Benjamin Albalas, the head of the Central Board of Greek Jewish Communities (KIS), declared: “It is not only very disappointing that Golden Dawn saw a significant rise in its share of the vote, winning three seats in the European Parliament, but also that other extreme-right parties in Greece and beyond did so well in the elections.
“A great number of European citizens seem to have forgotten what happened during the Holocaust and World War 2. Racism and anti-Semitism are again hitting Europe. It is time for immediate action.”
(Photo of the Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)