After Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s referendum victory, the Western media were full of critical analyses: The century of the Kemalist endeavor to secularize Turkey is over; the Turkish voters were offered not so much a democratic choice as a referendum to limit democracy. However, many reactions contained a subtle ambiguity recalling the ambivalence of Donald Trump’s politics towards Israel: While he stated that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, some of his supporters are openly anti-Semitic. But is this really an inconsistent stance? A cartoon once published in a Viennese newspaper depicted two Nazi-looking Austrians, one of them holding a newspaper and commenting indignantly, “Here you can see again how a totally justified Anti-semitism is being misused for a cheap critique of Israel!”
This reversal of the standard argument against critics of the policies of the State of Israel resembles the thinking of Christian fundamentalists who support Israeli policies and reject critiques of those policies as leftist. And remember Anders Breivik, the Norwegian anti-immigrant mass murderer, who was both anti-Semitic and pro-Israel, since he saw in the state of Israel the first line of defense against Muslim expansionism. Mr. Breivik thus embodies the ultimate paradox of the Zionist anti-Semite. Traces of this lead back to Reinhardt Heydrich, the mastermind of the Holocaust, who praised the Zionists in 1935 for their “strictly racial concept.”
Today there is a new version of this Zionist anti-Semitism: Islamophobic respect for Islam. The same politicians – from Mr. Trump to Vladimir Putin – who warn of the danger of Islamization of the Christian West, respectfully congratulated Mr. Erdogan on his victory. Apparently, an authoritarian regime is okay for Turkey but not for us. Today, the cartoon might read, “A totally justified Islamophobia is being misused for a cheap critique of Turkey!”
This weird logic is a reaction, a false cure, to the great malady of contemporary society, Huntington’s disease. St. Vitus’ dance, as it used to be called, can initially appear as a general restlessness, with minor, unintentional movements and a lack of coordination. Doesn’t the rise of brutal populism look quite similar? It begins with apparently random violent excesses against immigrants, uncoordinated outbursts that express a general unease and restlessness apropos “foreign intruders.” But it gradually grows, even explodes, into a well-coordinated and ideologically grounded movement. What another Huntington – Samuel – called “the clash of civilizations.” What is usually referred to under this term is effectively the Huntington’s disease of today’s global capitalism.