Europe’s Right Wing Woos a New Audience: Jewish Voters

Emanuel Bernhard Krauskopf’s trips to his synagogue in the German capital have become an awkward affair.

The reason: Mr. Krauskopf and about 30 others recently founded a Jewish chapter of the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, an anti-immigrant party that is the largest opposition group in parliament—one whose members include people accused of anti-Semitism, right-wing extremists and others on the political fringe.

“I’m 69 and tired of being polite,” said Mr. Krauskopf, a retired engineer and entrepreneur. “I support a party that calls a spade a spade and really stands up for the Jews.”

Across Europe, anti-immigration parties with ties to far-right movements have stepped up efforts to recruit supporters in the continent’s small Jewish community, often drawing on perceptions in that community about anti-Semitism among Muslims.

Such concerns are widespread. A recent European Union survey found that 41% of Jews in Germany who had experienced anti-Semitic harassment blamed Muslim extremists, while 20% saw the perpetrators as having right-wing political views and 16% saw them as having left-wing views.

Muslim leaders in Germany say they work to counter anti-Semitism in their communities. “Our imams are trained and aware of the issue and they work together with schools and other religious communities to combat anti-Semitism,” said Mohamad Hajjaj, chairman of the Berlin chapter of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany. He added, “The Middle East conflict is used to spread animosity against the Jews.”

The Swedish parliament includes Jewish legislators who belong to the Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in neo-Nazism that it has since renounced. Austria’s parliament includes Jewish lawmakers who are members of the Freedom Party, which was founded by former members of Adolf Hitler’s SS.

The party of Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician and strident critic of Islam, has a Jewish legislator. And in France, which has Europe’s largest Jewish community, the pollster IFOP estimated that 10% of Jewish voters supported the National Front—whose founder once called the gas chambers a “detail of World War II history”—in the 2017 presidential election. The party has since been renamed National Rally.

To be sure, Jews in Europe have traditionally supported mainstream parties, and many Jewish leaders in Europe have condemned efforts to draw their followers to right-wing parties.

Marine Le Pen, the current National Rally leader, recently reached out to Jewish leaders to offer her support and assure them she wouldn’t tolerate anti-Semitism in her party, according to Shimon Samuels, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris, who attended the meeting.

During the 2017 election campaign, Ms. Le Pen faced criticism after claiming the French state wasn’t responsible for the 1942 roundup of Jews to be sent to Nazi concentration camps.

Nearly 60,000 French Jews have left France in the past decade, many blaming frequent assaults against Jews—including high-profile murders and terrorist attacks—by Islamist extremists, Mr. Samuels said.

Safety concerns have also prompted Jews elsewhere in Europe to emigrate or consider doing so in recent years. The Jewish population in Europe is estimated to be more than one million people, a fraction of the Muslim population.



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