France has initiated proceedings to ban the Identitarian Movement (IM). The IM has offshoots throughout Europe and in Germany operates almost nationwide. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution classifies it as a right-wing extremist group. The IM is appealing this classification in court, in part to escape state surveillance.
Identitarians do not immediately fit the stereotype of right-wing extremists. To the outside world, they present themselves as cosmopolitan, hip, and intellectual. Therefore, at first glance, their ideological orientation is not always apparent, which helps them recruit young people and new target groups.
Underneath this veneer lies a modern variant of the Völkisch ideology: Their goal is an ethnically and culturally homogeneous state. As part of the New Right, they refer to the "Great Exchange," a conspiracy theory that alleges a secret plan to replace the majority in society with Muslim, non-white immigration.
The IM avoids overt references to National Socialism as much as possible with antisemitism expressed in coded form. However, there is a clear call for renouncing the supposed "cult of guilt” surrounding Holocaust rememberance.
By intellectualizing right-wing extremism, the movement aims for a shift in discourse. But it does not stop there. The IM proclaims it is non-violent but numerous crimes committed by Identitarians refute this claim. Rather, its 600 members in Germany spread an ideology that serves to legitimize violence. There are many indications that their leadership was in contact with the Christchurch bomber. The ideological overlaps are clear.
One year after Hanau, when asking ourselves how right-wing extremist violence can be prevented, we must abandon the myth of the lone wolf and look at the right-wing terrorists’ ideological henchmen. Germany should follow France's lead and evaluate banning associations in order to combat racism, antisemitism, and their deadly consequences.
Mona Flaskamp is Assistant Director for Political Affairs at AJC Berlin.
This article first appeared in the Jüdische Allgemeine.