Rise of German far-right party causes alarm in Israel

Israelis have expressed consternation over the entry of the far-right populist AfD party into Germany's Bundestag. Prime Minister Netanyahu has warned of rising anti-Semitism, reports Miriam Dagan in Tel Aviv.

"Germany votes – the 'Nazis in ties' on their way to parliament" read the headline on one of Israel's most important news sites, Ynet. One of the two leading Israeli TV stations announced: "An earthquake: Who is the Alternative for Germany? Extreme and dangerous." The other main news broadcaster said: "This is not just a party that's against immigration and Muslims, it's also a party that wants to change the perspective on the Nazi past. It's dramatic." Despite the pronounced polarization of left and right in Israeli media, the tone hardly differed on the AfD. Right-wing daily Israel Hayom led their front page with "Drama in Germany – for the first time since 1945, the extreme right-wing enters parliament."

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Exploring the heartland of AfD support

Across the political spectrum media outlets reacted with shock, which indicates how seriously the rise of the AfD is being taken here, in a country that's used to having small parties with extreme positions in parliament. Again and again, news anchors quoted AfD candidate Alexander Gauland's praise for German soldiers during the Second World War, underlined that the AfD was now the third-largest group in the Bundestag and discussed the historical relativism expressed by party members and their denial of responsibility for Germany's Nazi past.

Read more: 'Forgotten' Duisburg voters turn to Germany's far-right AfD

Beyond headlines though, the right-wing media has tended to interpret the AfD's success in the German election as a protest vote and to downplay any danger. The newspaper Israel Hayom, which backs Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ran an interview with Gauland under a quote from the AfD politician: "The voters of Alternative for Germany and Jews in Germany have similar concerns," apparently catering to an audience that harbors sympathy for anti-immigration policies. Conservative media outlets commented on anti-Semitic currents in the European left, too.

Society | 27.09.2017