(JTA) — Germany’s most influential far-right political party is fast gaining in popularity, and a group of Jews wants to add its voice of support.
A association of Jewish supporters of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, will announce its incorporation with an event on Oct. 7, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, or FAZ, newspaper.
The news — following polls showing the AfD as Germany’s second most popular party — came in a letter to the daily, the newspaper reported. The letter’s authors were not named.
Mainstream Jewish organizations and community leaders have condemned the AfD for its xenophobic views. In addition, some of its politicians have relativized the Holocaust and flirted with neo-Nazi groups while claiming to be pro-Israel.
Apparently, among some Jews, fears of Nazism in the AfD are eclipsed by concerns over new anti-Semitism among the more than 1 million Muslim refugees who have come to Germany since 2015.
News of a Jewish AfD club was met with swift condemnation from the nonpartisan Jewish-German Values Initiative, which in a statement expressed “surprise and concern.”
“We believe that any involvement in this party is wrong, because it uses its alleged Jewish or Israeli friendship in particular to gain legitimacy for its agitation against Muslims,” according to the statement, which called the party’s failure to criticize its extreme right wing tantamount to an endorsement of neo-Nazism.
The new Jewish group would merely be used as “a fig leaf for coarse AfD racism,” the statement warned.
Most Jews would avoid association with the AfD, Sergey Lagodinsky, a Green Party politician and member of Berlin’s Jewish Community Council, told JTA.
“Though there is a high level of anxiety among Jewish communities, there is still a high moral threshold preventing formal forms of engagement” with a far-right party, Lagodinsky, who is running for a seat in the European Parliament, said in an email.
Just because the party has managed to woo some Jews “does not mean that they have managed to fool all Jews in Germany,” Lagodinsky said.
In fact, most Jews empathize with refugees from war, persecution and economic hardship, as Josef Schuster, head of Germany’s Jewish umbrella organization, frequently has said. But Schuster and others have insisted that newcomers must embrace democratic values and eschew misogyny, homophobia, anti-Semitism and other anti-modern views if they want to stay in Germany.
Meanwhile, popular anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel for her liberal refugee policy appears to be bearing fruit for the AfD.
A new Deutschlandtrend poll suggests that the AfD is taking voters from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, becoming Germany’s second-strongest political party. The poll was conducted by the public broadcaster ARD.
An AfD spokesperson told FAZ that new members would be kicked out if they make anti-Semitic remarks.