Like many other far-right political parties and groups, Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) is also known for its neo-nazi and antisemitic overtones.
Founded in 2013, AfD is the largest right-wing opposition party in the parliament and the only grave threat facing the German democracy, internally. A recent two-year investigation by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has recommended putting the party under surveillance for violating the constitution and posing a serious threat to Germany’s political system.
The party enjoyed huge support from right-wing groups and organizations worldwide, including the Middle East Forum (MEF) and Daniel Pipes.
MEF, an Islamophobic think tank based in Pennsylvania, is headed by Pipes, who often receives flak for his xenophobia, bigotry, racism, and hate-mongering. The rabidly Islamophobic MEF has been called by Southern Poverty Law Center as well as the Center for American Progress as the hub of anti-Muslim misinformation.
The organization claims to support “American interests and works to protect Western civilization from the threat of Islamism, promote close relations with Israel and other democracies as they emerge, work for human rights throughout the region, seek a secure supply and low oil prices, and promote the peaceful resolution of regional and international conflicts,” according to its website.
It’s funny, therefore, that a pro-Israel, pro-Jewish think tank supports a party that has Nazi overtones. MEF wrote praises of AfD, to quote Daniel Pipes, AfD “indicates a healthy means for Europeans to protect their mores and culture.”
Endorsing Antisemitic Leaders
A quick look at MEF and its archives reveals how much they like quoting Alexander Gauland. Gauland, a leader of AfD, angrily rejected an 80,000 signature petition launched by a Holocaust survivor, who called for Victory in Europe Day to be made a national holiday in Germany.
The day commemorated to celebrate the surrender of Nazi Germany and the victory of Allied Forces across Europe with demonstrations and ceremonies is a holiday in countries like France, Russia and Norway.
However, Gauland called the day a national shame. He said:
“You can’t make May 8 a happy day for Germany. For the concentration camp inmates, it was a day of liberation. But it was also a day of absolute defeat, a day of the loss of large parts of Germany and the loss of national autonomy.”
Gauland once spoke against the dismissal of an antisemitic leader, Stephan Brandner from the German Parliament. In early November, Brandner was strongly denounced by the whole political spectrum, for tweeting that singer Udo Lindenberg, who was conferred the coveted Federal Order of Merit by Germany, received a “Judas reward” for his very outspoken stance “against us [the AfD].” Gauland is reported by the Jerusalem Post as suggesting this to be an insult to democracy: “I don’t know where the scandal is… This [dismissal] is an affront to democracy.”
Gauland must now be immune to allegations of antisemitism, which seems to be the situation with the group as a whole, having notoriously mocked the Holocaust as’ just a speck of bird shit in 1,000 years of successful German history.’
AfD has also brought back usage of Nazi-era terminology, such as Volksverräter (“traitor of the people). An AfD leader, Stefan Räpple, referred to German party peers as “Volksverräter” or “traitor of the people.” Seen as a legal charge against opponents in the Nazi days, the phrase is now tossed around at campaigns, protests, and political demonstrations against immigration policies and such. For eg, right-wing protestors taunted Merkel’s deputy chancellor in August by calling him “Volksverräter.”
“Völkisch” (“of the People”) is another word they brought back. That word was used by Hitler and his lieutenants to describe a racially pure population. AfD has gone as far as suggesting some groups of people should be entsorgt (disposed of), another Nazi-era terminology brought back into the German lawmakers’ mouths.
Bjorn Höcke, an AfD member has pushed for a “180-degree turnaround” in the manner Germany views its past. In his speeches, he frequently uses words such as “degenerate” or “total victory” although he understands well what grim chapter of German history he conjures up as a former history instructor.
MEF shared Raymond Ibrahim’s article defending a controversial painting shared by the AfD, and wrote in support of the AfD’s message and use of the painting. The 1866 painting features turban-wearing men scrutinizing a naked fair-skinned woman. The poster urges Germans to vote AfD “so that Europe doesn’t become ‘Eurabia.’”
Pipes calls the ideas promulgated by AfD and other far-right parties “the future of Europe.”
Funding to AfD’s Mouthpiece Journalistenwatch
This is not the extent of MEF’s support of neo-Nazis and anti-semites, they also aid the extreme right-wing German online news site called Journalistenwatch, essentially a mouthpiece for AfD. According to CORRECTIV, a fact check organization operating in Germany MEF funds Journalistenwatch. After becoming a tax-exempt entity, Journalistenwatch has been advertising on its website: “Support Jouwatch, save taxes!” – a veiled reference suggesting “Jewwatch”
In 2017, MEF published on its website that 75 “groups and individuals” – including Journalistenwatch – receive two million US dollars annually. If the 2 million from the MEF funding were distributed equally among everyone on the list, Journalistenwatch receives around 26,600 US dollars a year.
An essay by Max Erdinger, who is part of the editorial team at Journalistenwatch, was posted on November 9, 2017, the occasion of the Night of Shattered Glass in 1938. Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, also called the November Pogrom, was a “turning point” pogrom against Jews carried out by Nazi forces and civilians throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938.
The piece in Journalistenwatch targeted Jews in Germany including the former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and Charlotte Knobloch, former Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress, for her stand opposing neo-Nazis at large and the AfD in particular.
Erdinger also met Pipes in March 2019, where MEF President told him that “civilizationist parties will prevail in Europe, but only after a long period of blood, sweat and tears.”
Journalistenwatch also actively promoted an event where a convicted neo-nazi — who tried to blow up the Jewish Community Center in Munich — spoke against an anti-fascism conference.
With such notorious views of the AfD and Journalistenwatch, it’s absolutely baffling to note Pipes’s support for them.
According to The Guardian, the Middle East Forum had earlier funded a British right-wing extremist Tommy Robinson with $60,000.
In 2019, right-wing groups held a rally with Robinson’s supporters when he was arrested in violation of a court order. MEF announced their support for this violent rally via a press release titled “MEF Organizes 25,000 Strong Protest in Support of Tommy Robinson; Plans Additional Rallies”.
The June 9, 2019 demonstrations to free Robinson took a violent turn and ended with several arrests after police were attacked by several far-right demonstrators. Supporters of Tommy Robinson were photographed offering Nazi salutes at rallies advocating for the release of the far-right offender from jail.
In Whitehall, London, a man holding a banner that read ” F*** Islam” was filmed constantly performing the Nazi gesture, while another supporter was captured in Belfast performing a Nazi salute.
Lisa Barbounis, a Former Director of Communications at the Middle East Forum who was coordinating the ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ campaign was also photographed at one of those rallies.
The MEF also sponsored the trip of Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, a pro-Trump Republican, to travel to London for the Robinson rally. Gosar is a well-known anti-semite. In reference to a rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, where the protestors raised slogans like “Jews will not replace us”, Gosar falsely claimed that George Soros had funded the march.
He further went on to say that the Jewish billionaire had, “turned in his own people to the Nazis.” Six of Gosar’s siblings wrote an open letter calling out his anti-Jewish bigotry.
“It is extremely upsetting to have to call you out on this, Paul, but you’ve forced our hand with your deceit and anti-Semitic dog whistle.”
Gosar’s brother David went on to say that he had “helped feed the anti-Semitism that just resulted in the murder of 11 people in a Jewish synagogue and an attempt on Mr. Soros’s life.”
Funding to Organizations with Neo-nazi Links
Another organization funded by MEF is the Centre for Security Policy (CSP), headed by Frank Gaffney. According to the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University, in 2015, MEF provided research grants worth $100,000 to CSP, which has a long-standing relationship with the International Free Press Society in Denmark, an anti-Muslim group whose senior executives are associated with the Vlaams Belang, a neo-Nazi Belgian party.
At a CSP-sponsored forum at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2016, Gaffney welcomed British white nationalist Paul Weston. Weston headed the British Freedom Party, a nationalist party composed of supporters of the right-wing English Defense League and former neo-Nazi British National Party members.
MEF also funded the far-right Canadian website Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant. Between 2014-15, Rebel produced a series of cross-branded videos, one of these ‘satires’ was in defense of Holocaust deniers titled “10 things I hate about Jews.”
MEF receives funds from DonorsTrust, an organization that funded about $3.1 million to anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ groups in 2018, including $715,000 to groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designates as hate groups.
Gregg Roman of MEF wrote a glowing op-ed in Sebastian Gorka’s favor, asking everyone to stop “smearing” him. According to a series of investigative articles, Gorka, the former deputy assistant to Donald Trump, is linked to Vitezi Rend, a Hungarian secret organization described as working with the Nazis by the State Department. In a 2007 television interview, he also backed a violent and anti-Semitic militia in Hungary. MEF-funded Rebel Media hired him shortly after this investigation came out.
This is not the first time the Middle East Forum supported a right-wing extremist. Geert Wilders, a notorious Islamophobe, who was banned from entering the United Kingdom for his problematic views on Islam in 2009, is widely appreciated and cited by MEF. Daniel Pipes went so far as to call Wilders “the most important man in Europe.”
If you’re wondering how this affects realities, a Norwegian terrorist was inspired by the venom in his 1,500-page “manifesto,” Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people in 2011, cited the Middle East Forum and its founder, Daniel Pipes, 16 times as his inspiration for committing terrorist acts.
In February 2020, the Middle East Forum put up controversial billboards in Tel Aviv as a part of its Israel Victory Project campaign featuring Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh blindfolded, holding a white flag and begging for mercy on their knees.
The caption on the billboard read: “You can only make peace with enemies who have been utterly humiliated.”
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai swung into action and called for the removal of billboards.
“The ad incites violence that is reminiscent of ISIS and the Nazis–among whom we don’t wish to be counted. Degrading the Other is not our way,” Huldai said.
Daniel Pipes was recently slammed by Jeremy Issacharoff, Israeli Ambassador to Germany, who called him an Islamophobe and neo-Nazi sympathizer.
When I am attacked by a politically motivated pseudo scholar with known Islamaphobic tendencies now backing an extremist right wing group with neo-nazi sympathies who has never met me and no knowledge of my views – this must be a badge of honour.
— Jeremy Issacharoff (@JIssacharoff) June 29, 2019
“When I am attacked by a politically motivated pseudo scholar with known Islamaphobic tendencies now backing an extremist right-wing group with neo-nazi sympathies who has never met me and no knowledge of my views – this must be a badge of honour,” he tweeted.
Links to Neo-Nazi Hindu Supremacists
In 2015, MEF Founder and President Pipes participated in IndiaIdeas event organized by India Foundation, which is headed by India’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval’s son Shaurya and founded by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Ram Madhav. A Hindu supremacist paramilitary organization founded in 1925, the RSS draws its inspiration from Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
In February 2016, Pipes was invited to an event by New Delhi-based Vivekananda International Foundation, a think tank founded by RSS with top leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party serving as its directors. Pipes is often quoted in the RSS run Organiser magazine.
VD Savarkar, leader of the RSS, the intellectual godfather of Hindu nationalism, described Indian Muslims “like the Jews in Germany” as possibly “disloyal” citizens not to be accepted. ” In the same year, MS Golwalkar, leader of the RSS, wrote that “purging the nation of the semitic race-the Jews” by Germany was “a good lesson for us to learn and benefit from in Hindustan.
Historian Audrey Truschke has been the victim of organized anti-semitic attacks (even though she isn’t Jewish) by the Hindutva troll brigade because of her stance against Neo-Nazi RSS with some RSS supporters even suggesting that they wished Hitler was alive to “kill her people”.
Organizations like MEF operate on different pretexts, in this case, the pretext of pro-Israel advocacies and protecting western civilization. In reality, their aim is to just generate hysteria and hate against Islam. There is absolutely no other reason a pro-Israel, pro-Jew organization would side with absolute neo-Nazis. Their support for the Hindutva brigade is then no surprise considering the continuous onslaught by the Hindu supremacists on Muslim minorities.
MEF then, having its own affinity for neo-Nazis, of course, fosters a great relationship with the likes of RSS. When MEF calls itself an organization that aims to ‘protect American interests and protect western civilization,’ and then goes on to support AfD, Journalistenwatch, etc, their own so-called agenda is being hurt in this process. Since when is it an American interest to support neo-Nazis? Since when does the protection of western civilization entail endorsing islamophobes and antisemites? MEF has chosen to sacrifice anti-semitism at the altar of spreading Islamophobia.
If far-right extremists are advancing Islamophobia, MEF is more than eager to help them out, even if it means advancing similar hatred against Jews.
– Mahibul Hoque is an independent journalist based out of India and the US. His articles appeared in many online newspapers. He contributed this article in The Palestine Chronicle.