Why Do Neo-Nazis Adore Bashar al-Assad?

Ever since the infamous riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalists and supremacists could be counted on to support Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

James Fields, who mowed down a crowd of anti-fascist protesters with his car, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others, posted on his Facebook page a picture of Assad in full military uniform with the word “undefeated” inscribed underneath, while three men who participated in the rally praised Assad’s use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons against his own people.

“Israel (with American approval) is, of course, attacking the civilized, European societies–the people who *should* rule in the region,” tweeted white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, praising the Assad family even after Syria again used nerve gas against its own citizens, murdering at least 42 adults and children, while injuring hundreds more.

Perversely, it makes sense that white supremacists support Assad because of his hostility toward the Jewish state. But classifying him as a white European? At first glance, it seems strange that white supremacists would view Assad, an Arab Alawite, as one of their own. But it is not unprecedented.

In Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, history professor Jeffrey Herf highlights how Nazi officials took great pains to reassure Arab diplomats that Nazi ideology and policy were directed against Jews and not toward non-Jewish Semites. Nazis responded to questions from the Egyptians by saying that the Nuremberg racial laws did not apply to them, while the German Foreign Ministry reassured the Iranian embassy in Berlin of the racial kinship between Germans and Iranians.

“Nazism viewed Arabs and Muslims as different but, in clear contrast to the racial hierarchy presented in Mein Kampf, not as racially inferior,” writes Prof. Herf.

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