(JTA) — A conservative pro-Israel think tank has come to the defense of a far-right German party over a campaign ad depicting dark-skinned Muslim slavers bargaining over a naked white woman.
In an article shared by the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, one of its fellows says a 19th-century painting used in the ad accurately depicts the “reality” that “African and Middle Eastern Muslims have long targeted European women.”
Neither the author of the article nor the head of the think tank, Daniel Pipes, had qualms about supporting the party — known as the Alternative for Germany, or AfD — despite concerns of some local Jewish groups in Germany. Nor were they put off by the racially charged imagery in the painting.
Here’s the timeline: Last month, the Berlin chapter of the nationalist, anti-immigration party AfD began featuring an 1866 painting called “Slave Market” in its campaign posters ahead of the European Parliament elections.
The 1866 painting features turban-wearing men scrutinizing a naked fair-skinned woman. The poster urges Germans to vote AfD “so that Europe doesn’t become ‘Eurabia.’”
The Clark Art Institute of Massachusetts, which owns the painting by French artist Jean-Leon Gerome, protested the use of the work, although it is in the public domain.
“We are strongly opposed to the use of this work to advance any political agenda,” Olivier Meslay told The Associated Press in April.
On Friday, the Middle East Forum — whose stated mission is to protect “Western values from Middle Eastern threats” — shared an essay by Raymond Ibrahim defending the AfD’s message and use of the painting. Ibrahim wrote in PJ Media, a right-wing news site, that the painting “echoes reality” of the “insatiable demand for fair women” among Muslim slavers over the centuries.
“African and Middle Eastern Muslims have long targeted European women — so much so as to have enslaved millions of them over the centuries,” wrote Ibrahim, a Judith Friedman Rosen fellow at the Middle East Forum, citing his own book, “Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West.”
“In short, outrage at the Alternative for Germany’s use of the ‘Slave Market’ painting is just another attempt to suppress the truth concerning Muslim/Western history — especially in its glaring continuity with the present,” Ibrahim wrote. “For the essence of that painting — Muslim men pawing at and sexually preying on fair women — has reached alarming levels all throughout Western Europe, especially Germany.”
Ibrahim told JTA that he had never heard of AfD before writing the article and wanted to write about the painting as a “learning opportunity” to discuss the historical relationship between Islam and the west.
But he said later that he believes Muslim migration to Europe is an “alien aggression which one is bringing on themselves.” Ibrahim suggested “curtailing migration” and accused Muslim migrants of committing a high degree of sexual assault, though he said he had not looked at data on the issue.
“In Germany, isn’t it an endemic issue, where migrants are sexually assaulting German women and raping them, etc.?” he asked, mentioning the incident in Cologne on New Year’s Eve of 2015-16, when migrants allegedly committed a mass sexual assault. “If one civilization retreats in the face of another, then they become assimilated. … What we’re seeing now is a little different because you’re seeing a culture facilitating its own demise and just being passive and giving in.”
According to a September analysis by the BBC, while crime in Germany has reached its lowest level since 1992, there is a rise in crimes committed by migrants. The article says, however, that the rise may have to do with demographics. Young men overall in Germany commit crimes at a high rate, and a disproportionate share of the migrant population is young and male. In other words, the migrant crime rate may have more to do with age and gender than with nationality or background.
Pipes, Middle East Forum’s president, vouched for the Ibrahim article and spoke in support of the far-right party it defends.
“If the painting is accurate, why should it be a problem?” Pipes told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “If it’s inaccurate, I can see that it’s a problem. But if, as Ibrahim argues, it is an accurate reflection of reality, I don’t see a problem with it.”
AfD, which has seen its fortunes rise with a resurgent German far right in recent years, has made German Jewish leaders uneasy. Last year, the country’s Central Council of Jews did not invite AfD to an official event commemorating Kristallnacht, the 1938 Nazi pogrom that began the Holocaust. This year, Charlotte Knobloch, a Jewish leader in Munich, accused AfD of “disparag[ing] [democratic] values, downplaying the crimes of the National Socialists and keeping close ties with the far-right extremist scene.”
But Pipes called the ideas promulgated by AfD and other far-right parties “the future of Europe.” He said the far-right parties have “plenty of problems” — and their anti-Muslim bigotry is one example.
But at their core, Pipes believes that Europe’s far-right, anti-immigrant parties have hit on “an essential truth.” He said their ideas are “compelling and popular and will prevail before too very long.”
Such views and frequent campaigns against what Middle East Forum perceives as the threat of “Islamization” have prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center to label Pipes’ group an “anti-Muslim think tank” — a description the organization rejects.
“For the past several decades, Daniel Pipes has promoted rabidly anti-Muslim views,” a 2018 article on the SPLC’s website says. “Pipes’ nativist and racially-tinged hysteria toward immigrants and Muslims has deepened rather than abated.”
Middle East Forum is also pro-Israel, saying that one of its goals is to “work for Palestinian acceptance of Israel.” Its programs include the Israel Victory Project, described as an initiative “to steer U.S. policy toward backing an Israel victory over the Palestinians to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict” and “to convince Palestinians that the Jewish state will endure.”
In April, Pipes called Austrian far-right parties “key to Europe remaining part of Western civilization,” saying in a Washington Times column that their stands against immigration and Islamization are more urgent than fears that they promote “neo-fascism.”
“I, too, want to maintain Western civilization,” Pipes told JTA on Friday. “I do not want Islamization. In American terms, I don’t want to replace the Constitution with the Quran.”
He added: “These parties like AfD should be engaged with, should be given a chance to learn, to grow, because, I believe, in maybe 15 or maybe 20 years, their ideas will be dominant throughout Europe.”