Election advice

Like every time with elections upcoming, the Dutch Jewish scene is considering its options. Its main focal point: which political party is good for the Jews? This has come to mean: how do political parties rank when it comes to Israel, antisemitism and specific religious issues (in that order). Today, voting advice has become a very common pre-election tool, and why not one that supports jewishness. 

But soon it turns out the voting advice triggers a troubling outcome: several right wing parties which openly advocate for white supremacy, have a very favourable stance towards Israel, and hence receive a positive review. In fact, in a perfectly dialectic twist, this results in condoning and supporting political parties that are openly racist (PVV) and even bluntly anti-semitic (FvD). 

And one does not have to look far. In a deceptively neutral tone, the CIDI, a prominent Dutch Jewish organisation, selectively highlights the PVV’s unremitting support for Israel and quotes a Jewish MP who suggests that antisemitism is an Islamic problem and that voting for any party that supports refugee immigration is de facto contributing to Dutch Jewish demise. Not a word about the racist rhetoric. Not a word about antisemitism from white suprematist movements that vote for the PVV. And not a word about the PVV’s close relations with its French sister party, which is rooted in antisemitism. Reading the voting advice you might think that the PVV is a good fit for Jews. But actually, antisemitism is not mentioned even once in the PVV manifesto. 

More interesting is the apologetic tone that is raised in support of the other right-wing – self declared – boreal party FvD. The party recently exploded when openly antisemitic quotes were made public. But now this is seen by the voting advice as carrying just a slight aura of antisemitism in an otherwise pro-Israel party. Are you joking? FvD has openly flirted with QAnon and has actively contributed to mainstreaming antisemitic tropes into Dutch society. And even more than the PVV, they thrive on white supremacy movements. 

Apologising PVV and FvD for being openly racist, because they have a favourable position towards Israel is a superb act of tunnel vision and a misconception of who we are as Jews. Jews are not white, and we are definitely not seen as such by the constituencies of these parties. 

So, taking a broader view, is it not more accurate to say that what is good for Jews would be an active fighting against antisemitism in sync with the fight against all other forms of racism and discrimination? Should we then not pay even closer attention to these overtly racist parties? Not just because one could see it as a moral responsibility not to vote for racism, but also in order to dismantle the false argument that being pro-Israel means being good for Jews, or the fallacy that one can be a racist and be pro-Jewish at the same time. It makes me recall the quote by Martin Niemöller, that “first they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist. (…) And in the end they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

In thinking about racism and antisemitism in an intersectional framework, it is clear that these forms of oppressive discrimination are rooted in exactly the same white supremacist and superiority thinking. One cannot fight antisemitism and yet be comfortable with racism. How then, is it possible that Dutch Jewish organisations do not distance themselves unequivocally from these political parties? I hope jewish voters will.

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