Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Gaza War Rattles European Politics from the Left 

This photograph taken in Paris on June 3, 2024 shows a campaign poster of French socialist party (PS) lead candidate Raphael Glucksmann next to a graffiti reading "free Gaza" on an electoral panel ahead of the June 9 European elections in France. (AFP)
This photograph taken in Paris on June 3, 2024 shows a campaign poster of French socialist party (PS) lead candidate Raphael Glucksmann next to a graffiti reading "free Gaza" on an electoral panel ahead of the June 9 European elections in France. (AFP)
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Gaza War Rattles European Politics from the Left 

This photograph taken in Paris on June 3, 2024 shows a campaign poster of French socialist party (PS) lead candidate Raphael Glucksmann next to a graffiti reading "free Gaza" on an electoral panel ahead of the June 9 European elections in France. (AFP)
This photograph taken in Paris on June 3, 2024 shows a campaign poster of French socialist party (PS) lead candidate Raphael Glucksmann next to a graffiti reading "free Gaza" on an electoral panel ahead of the June 9 European elections in France. (AFP)

Nadir Aslam, a German of Moroccan-Pakistani heritage, had been planning to vote Green in this week's elections to the European Parliament. Instead, he will throw his support behind Mera25, a start-up leftist party with a clear pro-Palestinian stance.

Aslam, 33, told Reuters it was a speech last November by a Green leader doubling down on German support for Israel, even as the Gaza death toll neared 9,000, which "destroyed" his support for the ecologist party, a member of Germany's ruling coalition.

This shift in support, echoed across Europe, represents the latest threat - this time from the left - to mainstream political parties whose project to deepen European integration is already under attack from the far-right.

The trend is not only among the EU's Muslim communities but also among left-leaning voters who see a double standard in Europe's condemnation of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel but failure to call out Israel for its military assault on Gaza which has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians.

"We have a rise in radical right and radical left parties, (which will) reshape the policy landscape in Europe, the balance of power of several parties," said Samira Azabar, a sociologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands. This could have consequences for the bloc's position on Israel and also drive policies granting more decision-making power at a national level, she said.

EU members Spain and Ireland have recognized a Palestinian state, as has Slovenia's government, pending parliamentary approval.

POLARIZATION

While the popularity of the far-right has been rising in recent years, surveys show minorities have been voting more for the radical left as mainstream parties drift rightwards on issues such as migration and cultural values. Polling last month by Ipsos showed the far-right set to make the biggest gains in the June 6-9 elections, with the Left group in the EU assembly gaining six more seats - both at the expense of the Social Democrat, Green and Renew Europe blocs.

In France, far-left La France Insoumise (LFI) has centered its campaign on a pro-Palestinian stance in a bid to win Muslim and radical-left voters, said Blandine Chelini-Pont, a historian at Aix-Marseille University.

It seeks an arms embargo, sanctions on Israel, recognition of a Palestinian state and - in contrast to other left-wing groups - refrains from calling Hamas a terrorist group. Among Muslim voters in France it polls at 44% support compared to its 8% share of the electorate as a whole.

"Some will say we are surfing on an electorate but who are we speaking about? These are citizens of this country who do not have a racist vision of society," LFI lawmaker Sebastien Delogu told Reuters.

France's Socialists also seek recognition of a Palestinian state but do not share LFI's stance on Hamas. "LFI has a relationship with violence that is not okay," lead Socialist candidate Raphael Glucksmann told Reuters, who says his rise in the polls to third place at 14% is in part due to his choice to distance himself from LFI.

HISTORICAL FACTORS

In Germany, pro-Palestinian startup parties are eroding support for the German Greens and Social Democrats, two of the mainstream parties which have maintained a staunch support for Israel due to Germany's historical responsibility for the Holocaust.

Aside from leftist Mera25, other pro-Palestinian start-ups include socially conservative groups like DAVA and BIG and the euroskeptic party BSW - which wants an arms embargo on Israel while pushing anti-immigration policies.

Supporters of BSW, which is polling at 7%, are 50% more likely to recognize a Palestinian state than the overall German electorate.

In Spain, where tensions with Israel date back to the Franco dictatorship, government recognition of a Palestinian state is shoring up support for parties in the ruling coalition, the Socialist Party (PSOE) and far-left Sumar.

"The Palestinian issue has become central to the political debate in Spain," said David Hernandez, professor of International Relations at the Complutense University of Madrid.

Rima Hassan, candidate for the European elections on the list of La France Insoumise (LFI), poses for a selfie with a young woman at a pro-Palestinian gathering in central Paris, France, May 29, 2024. (Reuters)

MOBILIZING THE MINORITY VOTE

Voter turnout could be key.

Radboud University's Azabar noted that turnout was often lower among ethnic minorities than for the general population in EU elections, but the Gaza war may be a motivation this time.

Foreign policy issues have a track record of impacting the ethnic minority vote. In 2016, Germany's Social Democrats lost some 100,000 Turkish voters after recognizing the Armenian genocide of the First World War, said Teyfik Özcan, chairman of DAVA, a new party targeting Turkish diaspora voters.

Özcan, a former SPD member, said his party offered the option of a protest vote that didn't exist until now.

"Germans have the opportunity to say, 'Okay, I'm voting for the (far-right) AfD in protest.' Muslims cannot do that," he told Reuters.

A December survey by the Institute of Political Science at the University of Duisberg-Essen showed that one in three German Muslims did not feel represented by any party.

A new sense of political representation resonates for French voters too. LFI has named as a candidate French-Palestinian lawyer Rima Hassan, who is present at protests, active on social media and is petitioning the EU to suspend its association agreement with Israel.

Chama Tahiri Ivorra, a 34-year-old French-Moroccan chef, said she had never voted in a European election but would this time.

"Voting for Rima is an act of resistance," she said. "I don't know all the points on LFI's program but what she and their other members say about Palestine is just."



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Who is JD Vance? Things to Know about Donald Trump's Pick for Vice President

Trump's pick for Vice President, US Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) arrives on the first day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum on July 15, 2024 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Getty Images/AFP)
Trump's pick for Vice President, US Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) arrives on the first day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum on July 15, 2024 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Who is JD Vance? Things to Know about Donald Trump's Pick for Vice President

Trump's pick for Vice President, US Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) arrives on the first day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum on July 15, 2024 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Getty Images/AFP)
Trump's pick for Vice President, US Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) arrives on the first day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum on July 15, 2024 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Getty Images/AFP)

Former President Donald Trump on Monday chose US Sen. JD Vance of Ohio to be his running mate as he looks to return to the White House.

Here are some things to know about Vance, a 39-year-old Republican now in his first term in the Senate:

Vance rose to prominence with his memoir

Vance was born and raised in Middletown, Ohio. He joined the Marines and served in Iraq, and later earned degrees from Ohio State University and Yale Law School. He also worked as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.

Vance made a name for himself with his memoir, the 2016 bestseller "Hillbilly Elegy," which was published as Trump was first running for president. The book earned Vance a reputation as someone who could help explain the maverick New York businessman’s appeal in middle America, especially among the working class, rural white voters who helped Trump win the presidency.

"Hillbilly Elegy" also introduced Vance to the Trump family. Donald Trump Jr. loved the book and knew of Vance when he went to launch his political career. The two hit it off and have remained friends.

He was first elected to public office in 2022

After Donald Trump won the 2016 election, Vance returned to his native Ohio and set up an anti-opioid charity. He also took to the lecture circuit and was a favored guest at Republican Lincoln Day dinners where his personal story — including the hardship Vance endured because of his mother’s drug addiction — resonated.

Vance's appearances were opportunities to sell his ideas for fixing the country and helped lay the groundwork for entering politics in 2021, when he sought the Senate seat vacated by Republican Rob Portman, who retired.

Trump endorsed Vance. Vance went on to win a crowded Republican primary and the general election.

He and Trump have personal chemistry

Personal relationships are extremely important to the former president and he and Vance have developed a strong rapport over years, speaking on the phone regularly.

Trump has also complimented Vance’s beard, saying he "looks like a young Abraham Lincoln."

Vance went from never-Trumper to fierce ally

Vance was a "never Trump" Republican in 2016. He called Trump "dangerous" and "unfit" for office. Vance, whose wife, lawyer Usha Chilukuri Vance, is Indian American and the mother of their three children, also criticized Trump’s racist rhetoric, saying he could be "America’s Hitler."

But by the time Vance met Trump in 2021, he had reversed his opinion, citing Trump’s accomplishments as president. Both men downplayed Vance's past scathing criticism.

Once elected, Vance became a fierce Trump ally on Capitol Hill, unceasingly defending Trump’s policies and behavior.

He is a leading conservative voice

Kevin Roberts, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, called Vance a leading voice for the conservative movement, on key issues including a shift away from interventionist foreign policy, free market economics and "American culture writ large."

Democrats call him an extremist, citing provocative positions Vance has taken but sometimes later amended. Vance signaled support for a national 15-week abortion ban during his Senate run, for instance, then softened that stance once Ohio voters overwhelmingly backed a 2023 abortion rights amendment.

Vance has adopted Trump's rhetoric about Jan. 6

On the 2020 election, he said he wouldn't have certified the results immediately if he had been vice president and said Trump had "a very legitimate grievance." He has put conditions on honoring the results of the 2024 election that echo Trump's. A litany of government and outside investigations have not found any election fraud that could have swung the outcome of Trump's 2020 loss to Democratic President Joe Biden.

In the Senate, Vance sometimes embraces bipartisanship. He and Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown co-sponsored a railway safety bill following a fiery train derailment in the Ohio village of East Palestine. He's sponsored legislation extending and increasing funding for Great Lakes restoration, and supported bipartisan legislation boosting workers and families.

Vance can articulate Trump's vision

People familiar with the vice presidential vetting process said Vance would bring to the GOP ticket debating skills and the ability to articulate Trump’s vision.

Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative activist group Turning Point USA, said Vance compellingly articulates the America First world view and could help Trump in states he closely lost in 2020, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, that share Ohio’s values, demographics and economy.