Would it surprise anyone that Vincent Harris, a Texas-based political consultant who helped the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD) achieve 12 percent of the vote and 94 seats in the Bundestag in the recent German election, has also consulted for the campaigns of US Senator Ted Cruz, (briefly) Donald Trump– and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in Israel.
It really shouldn’t.
Christopher Hooks writes at The Texas Observer:
Like a lot of the new right movements, the AfD is sometimes able to present a face of respectability, and it maintains a certain level of plausible deniability regarding its connection to neo-Nazi groups and their ilk in Germany. The party’s main issue is its opposition to immigrants and refugees. Its members often use violent and dangerous rhetoric, but most would no doubt object to being called fascists. It’s hard to pin down the ideology of the AfD in clinically accurate terms.
Nevertheless, the phenomenon of the AfD is much bigger than a backlash to immigration, and its rhetoric sounds a little familiar. The party prominently features leaders like Björn Höcke, who gave a speech in January in a beer hall in Dresden, a city with strong associations with Germany’s far-right, in which he told a fired-up crowd that “the AfD is the last revolutionary, the last peaceful chance for our Fatherland,” and called for a reawakening of the German spirit.
“They wanted to cut off our roots and with the re-education that began in 1945, they nearly managed,” Höcke said. “Until now, our mental state continues to be that of a totally defeated people. We Germans are the only people in the world that have planted a monument of shame in the heart of their capital.” The “monument of shame” there is the Holocaust Memorial, of course. The speech set off a firestorm in Germany, and the AfD discussed expelling him. Then, apparently, they decided not to.
More “moderate” figures associated with the party include Frauke Petry, who once offered that German police should shoot migrants attempting to enter the country, “if necessary.” Another prominent member, the 76-year-old Alexander Gauland, takes a page from American Confederate apologists by arguing that Germans should be “proud” of what rank-and-file Nazi soldiers did in World War II, because “95 percent” of German soldiers didn’t commit war crimes.
To these fine folks, Harris, a semi-respected figure in our state’s politics, brought his talents. Haaretz relates that, extraordinarily, Harris’ Texas-honed rhetoric was at times too strong for his clients — he proposed the slogan “Germany for the Germans,” which made the AfD uncomfortable. The party went with a slightly more subtle message — the image of a pregnant white woman’s belly, accompanied with the words “New Germans? We’ll make them ourselves!” The strong racial overtones of the campaign matched that of the work Harris did for the Netanyahu campaign in 2015, which received much attention in the Israeli and American Jewish media with regards to its overt “racial dog-whistling.”
Anyone with an interest in Israeli politics should watch this report by Israel’s Channel 2 about how Netanyahu and Likud won their victory in the 2015 election largely through a social media campaign of anti-Arab fear-mongering.
But like many other far-right anti-immigrant parties in Europe, AfD claims to be a great friend of Israel.
According to a wide-ranging poll commissioned by a group promoting German-Israeli relations, most AfD politicians profess to care deeply about Israel’s security, support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, reject unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state, and generally support a stronger relationship between Jerusalem and Berlin.
As with other such parties, I suspect this has less to do with any love or respect for the Jewish people than it does with a belief that Israel is a bulwark against the Arabs and other Middle Eastern types whom they see as a threat to German identity.
Interestingly, while the website of Harris’s consulting group proudly features its work for Likud (and the American Jewish Committee), as well as a number of Republican candidates and US business interests, it does not mention the work for AfD.
However it did retweet a link to an article about its work for the German party.