The center-right parties of Central-Europe may play a major role in Europe in the future, Viktor Orbán in particular, who has a vision about Europe — says one of the most important experts on Middle East policies. However, he also has some less complementary things to say about these parties. An interview with Daniel Pipes in Budapest.
Mr. Pipes is a 69 years old American-Jewish historian, writer, publicist, Middle-Eastern expert and researcher, founder-president of the Middle East Forum, son of the world-famous historian Richard Pipes. He is also expert in middle-ages and modern Islam, who tries to warn Western-European societies of the dangers of the spread of radical Islam.
Than self-defined as neo-conservative, now he likes more to be defined as conservative, Pipes was appointed as one of the heads of United States Institute for Peace by President George W. Bush in 2003. As former aid and advisor to Rudolph Giuliani’s presidential campaign, Pipes is a strong critique of Donald Trump and after Trump won the primaries, Pipes left the Republican Party altogether.
He is author of 16 books, his work, titled “Conspiracies” was published in Hungarian in 2007.
You wrote last year in The Washington Times, that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán can be a model for Europe, at least as far as his policies toward and stopping of immigration from Muslim countries are concerned. Fidesz and its right-wing fellow parties in Europe, though celebrated victories in the EU elections lately, yet were not able to make a true break through. How do you see Orbán’s role for the future?
There is a clear growth of resistance towards uncontrolled immigration and Islamization in Europe. This was not the case few years ago, but it is now. There is a growing trend, I think civilizational parties and those that cooperate with them will dominate in Europe. This is, of course, a long process, last time they got 20, this time around 25 percent.
Hungary is unique in a way that a party with such policies got to power on its own and with winning two thirds of the vote. Similar parties made coalitions with conservatives in Austria and with left-wing parties in the case of Italy. I believe that the German CDU/CSU will also change its view about migration.
There are many ways to call these parties: anti-immigration, Eurosceptic, nationalist and so on. You call them “civilizational parties”. It was proven more than once, in Hungary, in Poland and most recently in Austria, that they do not hold such principals as the rule of law or no-corruption as necessary basis for civilized societies.
I call them civilizational because I think that their ultimate goal is to uphold the western values. I would not call, therefore, the British Brexit party so, because it focuses practically on one single issue.
But if Europe does not do something with the issues of migration and Islamization, it soon will look more like North-Africa. There are many who want this, but in Europe there are many who don’t.
On the other hand, Fidesz, the German AfD, the French National Assembly are problematic in many ways, I agree to that. I do not defend them if the abuse the judiciary system, if they manipulate the banks and the financial institutions, if they are corrupt or have Russian-friendly policies.
You do defend them when it comes to the issue of migration, is that because you are anti-Islam?
I am certainly not anti-Islam. I am only against Islamism and radical forms of Islam. I have many arguments about this with the civilized parties. But I do see progress in those parties. As they come closer to power and governing, they do tend to be less protest-like and take the real issues more serious.
The Austrian FPÖ has something to learn from the “Ibiza scandal” and that is: you just simply cannot do such thing! The leader of the party cannot talk like that to a total stranger Russian woman. However, we also have to acknowledge, that other parties are not necessarily any better.
Do you see a double standard?
Clearly. Let’s take freedom of speech as an example: there issues with how it is violated in Hungary. But there are also cases when freedom of speech was abused in Holland or in the UK, where people were thrown into jail simply for something they have said (Editor’s note: Pipes refers to the case of radical activist Tommy Robinson). Another example: the Swedish left calls the Swedish Democrats Nazis and although they do come from the far right, however in the thirties and forties the Swedish social democrats did collaborate with the German Nazis.
Therefore, I say we should criticize the civilizational parties when necessary, but we should talk with them, learn from them and educate them as well.
Educate them so that they should not be against Islam per se, but against the radical ideology of Islamism. We should not ban the Koran, the mosques or hijabs, because that would be simply ridiculous and also unethical.
What do you think about the fact, that the parties that you call civilizational, except for the Polish PiS, all maintain good relationships with Putin’s Russia?
I wish they wouldn’t.
Does this not push them further from western civilization as opposed to bringing them closer?
I don’t think they would leave western civilization. I see it more as a tactical move. They Putin as a string man whom they can work with. Nevertheless, the RT and the Sputnik constantly criticize these parties. This seems to be a tactical alliance that is beneficial for both sides- I certainly don’t think it is a good idea though.
The central-European parties though can, later, take leading roles, especially Orbán, who does have a vision about Europe. I like that very much.
Or he simply just wants to win elections with this topic. We hardly have any Muslim immigrants.
Well, that’s an argument against him, sure. The PiS in Poland is accused of this too. I do not agree though.
There are millions of Pols in the UK and in France, who do have firsthand experience about migration from outside of Europe. They don’t just see the multitude of migrants coming to the continent on television.
There was a large influx of migrants into Hungary not long ago, though they did proceed towards Germany, but it was chaotic, and many remember that and see it as a negative experience.
Politicians only reflected to the reaction of the people. The fear of losing control. There is one thing that the civilizational parties do see well while other parties don’t, and that is that the European way of life is in danger.
Don’t you exaggerate the danger of islamization in Europe?
Not at all. Firstly, because birth rate among Muslims is much higher than that of the majority of the society. Secondly because there is a collective guilty conscious that European history means racism, colonialism and fascism.
Lastly because Christianity as such is very weak in Europe. Churches are mostly historical sites, whereas Muslims have strong religious feelings and strong identities. This will pose great challenge to Europe.
What would be Europe’s most important task with the issue of migration? Closing the borders could be one, but does Europe have responsibility in dealing with the causes of the migration from Africa?
First the borders do have to be closed and strongly controlled. Less the Hungarian-Serbian, but more the Greek, Italian and Spanish borders. Foreign aids do not work, that we saw from experience. We can send food and blankets to the needy in those countries and money to their governments, but that alone will not make those countries prosperous.
Only the rule of law and capitalism can solve their problems.
I, of course, do support the idea of foreign investments, but I don’t think that it is a moral obligation for Europe to support Africa. Someone phrased it well when said that foreign aid is a way of the middle class helping the upper class of the poor countries.
You say, that we need secure borders. This is logical. But how would you answer to those, who claim, that Salvini’s border shut down increases’ humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean?
I think the opposite is true. If you let them in, they will keep on coming. And they will die. If we make it clear to them that the borders are closed, they will not risk the dangerous journey across the sea in the first place. I think this is the civilized and humanitarian solution. Just like in Australia: we decide who can come into our country. There are many immigrants in Australia, but the message is clear: you have to come legally, not on boats.
You mentioned the key role of central-European countries. What do you make of the great relationship that the V4 countries have with the State of Israel and with Prime Minister Netanyahu? Is it also about the local Jewish communities or only the Muslim migration that is a cohesive force?
Naturally Islam has a major part of these improved relationships. The other reason is, that right-wing parties, even if they practice left-wing economy policies, like the Polish PiS, are pro-Israel.
It is that simple: show me your policy on taxation and I know your policy towards Israel. This is a genal rule everywhere in the world. But there are of course exceptions to this as well.
There is another factor. These countries try to free themselves from accusations of anti-Semitism. Jewish communities usually are angry at those parties, they do not negotiate with them, call them anti-Semites, and these parties can in turn claim: that is not true, just look at our policies towards Israel, how we protect Israel from the rest of Europe.
What do you think is the reason that it is mostly the leftist parties who turned more anti-Israel and many times more anti-Semitic, than the far-right? Not to mention their relationships with the Islamists.
This is a global problem. It is like that everywhere except for countries with Muslim majority, like in Turkey, where if you want to vote for Islamists, you vote for the left. Apart from that it is true, that the left is the partner of the Islamists. They have common goals, such as anti-Zionism and anti-Israel policies.
Starting already in the nineties, Israel became the favorite enemy of the left. They called it aggressor, right-wing apartheid state. This took a second wind in the infamous UN conference in Durban in 2001 (Editor’s note: which gave clear way for open anti-Semitic rhetoric) and became stronger since. As you go more to the left, anti-Israel stance is stronger and stronger.
On the other hand, it is an interesting development, that the Muslim countries, that all were united in their hatred towards Israel are now split to two camps, and the Sunni Islam countries are willing to work with Israel. It is rather strange, but Israel today have better relationship with Saudi-Arabia, than with Spain.