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Ian Buruma is the author, most recently, of The Churchill Complex: The Curse of Being Special, From Winston and FDR to Trump and Brexit.

When political leaders, and their admirers, claim that George Soros, the Hungarian-American-Jewish philanthropist, is pulling the strings of world affairs, we know that antisemitism is not far off. But the antisemitic nature of these claims has not stopped Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban and former U.S. president Donald Trump, along with their followers, from propagating them.

Both Mr. Orban and Mr. Trump often point to their support for Israel as proof that they are not antisemites. “No president has done more for Israel than I have,” Mr. Trump boasted in October. Mr. Orban, for his part, has cited Israel and Hungary as “models of successful conservative communities.” But he has also said that Hungarians “do not want to become peoples of mixed race,” a statement more redolent of old-fashioned racism than of sympathy for the Jewish people.

In today’s political environment, however, being pro-Israel and antisemitic is not a contradiction. In fact, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the even more radical members of his cabinet, have a great deal in common with the right-wing nationalist figures in Europe and the United States with whom they have aligned.

After all, Israeli far-right extremists are, like Mr. Orban, ethno-nationalists. Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, for example, views national identity in racial terms and has called for the expulsion of Palestinian-Israeli citizens suspected of “disloyalty” to the Jewish state. His main role model is Meir Kahane, the radical rabbi who likened co-existence with Palestinians to “co-existence with cancer.”

Is it any wonder, then, that liberal Jews worldwide feel increasingly alienated from Israel under its current leadership? U.S. Democratic Congressman Jake Auchincloss said recently that his Jewish constituents differ on many issues but are united in their concern that Israel is headed toward “illiberal democracy.” Even the staunchly pro-Zionist Anti-Defamation League has condemned the “Jewish racism” that characterizes Israel’s new government.

To be sure, some of these tensions can be attributed to political differences. The Israeli government rejects the liberal views many Jews in the diaspora hold. But the growing divide also reflects a deeper shift.

Throughout European history, ethnic nationalism has gone hand in hand with antisemitism and, in some respects, helped define it. Wilhelm II, the last German emperor, who was influenced by the fervent British antisemite Houston Stewart Chamberlain, denounced the U.S. and Britain as “Jewified.” Unlike those countries, which in Wilhelm’s view were dominated by money and granted citizenship to anyone willing to pay, all true Germans were supposedly rooted in their native soil. Adolf Hitler, of course, shared this view.

While many European and American antisemites viewed Jews as natural Bolsheviks, suspicion toward Jewish people was not limited to the right. Joseph Stalin did not subscribe to the “blood and soil” ideology, but still regarded Jews as “rootless cosmopolitans” whose loyalty was always in doubt.

Antisemites tended to associate Jewish cosmopolitanism with the multiethnic character of American society. This prejudice was frequently linked with anti-capitalism, as the pursuit of wealth was considered a trait typical of both Jews and Americans.

A recent political cartoon published in The Guardian is a perfect example of left-wing prejudice. The cartoon depicts Richard Sharp, the outgoing chairman of the BBC and a former Goldman Sachs banker, as a big-nosed, thick-lipped plutocrat carrying a box containing a squid, which is spreading its slimy tentacles and holding a puppet of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The message is unmistakable: Mr. Sharp, who is Jewish, is controlling Mr. Sunak behind the scenes.

Radical populism, mostly on the far right, but not excluding the extreme left, is partly a response to globalization and the power of banks, multinational corporations, supranational institutions, and the free flow of capital. Widespread fear of being swept away by these global currents has reignited a yearning for leaders who promise to return power to the “native” people and eradicate the corrupt “globalist” elites.

Not too long ago, these globalist villains were commonly identified by radical populist leaders as Americans and Jews. Under the influence of Mr. Trump and his acolytes, however, the U.S. itself has become a beacon for reactionaries worldwide, including Israel’s current leaders.

Although the early Zionists sought to establish Israel as a Jewish homeland, it was never intended to be exclusive to Jews. The Jews who arrived in Israel and made it their home were not native to the land, and only Orthodox religious Jews believed that it was given to them by God. Mr. Kahane, who certainly believed that, was actually born in Brooklyn, N.Y. (and in 1990 was assassinated in Manhattan). His view is largely shared by evangelical Christians in the U.S. who believe that Jews are doomed unless they embrace Christianity when the Apocalypse finally strikes.

At last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, where he was a keynote speaker, Mr. Orban met fan and fellow CPAC speaker Yishai Fleisher, the international spokesperson for the Jewish settlers in Hebron, in the West Bank. After Mr. Fleisher tweeted a selfie with Mr. Orban, he was asked about the Hungarian Prime Minister’s alleged antisemitism, to which he responded that he did not care.

He was not a “Diaspora Jew,” Mr. Fleisher said, but an Israeli. As a “fellow sovereign,” he saw Mr. Orban as an ally in the fight against “the globalist agenda which seeks to force open borders and erase national identities.” The growing rift between Israel and the Jewish diaspora could not be better described.

In 1898, Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, met Wilhelm II in Jerusalem, hoping to gain his support for a Jewish homeland. The Kaiser sat on his white horse. Herzl was standing. The Kaiser was not interested. But if he were alive today, standing in the same place, he might well be pleased by what he saw.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2023.

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