Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Iran, Islam, Immigration, and Israel

In the recent elections in both Italy and the United Kingdom, the Right, both soft and hard, won a dramatic victory, and all currents of the Left lost: Elisabetta Povoledo, "Immigrant Issue Key in Italy's Elections" (International Herald Tribune, 25 April 2008); Lidia Cirillo, "Right Victorious: Italian Elections -- A First Response" (International Viewpoint, May 2008); and Richard Seymour, "London Meltdown" (Lenin's Tomb, 3 May 2008). A neo-fascist gets a seat on the London Assembly, and Rome now has a neo-fascist mayor, apparently supported by not only fascists but also the "leaders" of the Jewish community: "Sandro Di Castro, president of the Jewish community's Bene Berith association, says the present sense of danger posed to Israel by Islamists and Iran outweighs memories of the more distant and tragic past of the mass deportations from Rome by the Nazis and Mussolini's anti-Jewish race laws" (Guy Dinmore, "Fascists and Jews United for Rome Mayor," Financial Times, 4 May 2008).

The Left of the global North has yet to come up with a principled and yet popular program on the intertwined national and international questions of Iran, Islam, immigration, and Israel, and the lack of it doesn't bode well especially when economic anxiety is on the rise. The Right has a simple tool it applies to the first three: demonize and criminalize them as much as possible. The defense of Israel serves many purposes at the same time: whitewashing the Right, distancing it from anti-Semitism of fascism of the twentieth century; anti-Semite-baiting leftists for criticizing Israel; and re-branding the Right as "the defender of the Western Civilization from a new fascist menace," the Islamic Republic of Iran, or a specter of a new Caliphate re-conquering Al-Andalus and imposing Sharia on Europeans, or both. The Center Left panders to, and sometimes runs to the right of, the Right on all these issues. The Far Left is better than the Center Left on Israel and immigration, but opinions on the Far Left are very much divided when it comes to Iran and Islam.

The British and Italian elections, therefore, may very well be harbingers of worse things to come.

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