BNP seeks to bury antisemitism and gain Jewish votes in Islamophobic campaign
The far right British National party is trying to shed its antisemitic past as part of a drive to pick up votes among London's Jewish community.
The party, which could get its first seat on the London assembly if voter turnout is low next month, is campaigning in Jewish areas across the capital and attempting to play on what it sees as historical enmity between the Jewish and Muslim communities.
In one leaflet, handed out in north London last weekend, the party's only Jewish councillor, Pat Richardson, is quoted along with a picture of young Muslims holding a placard reading: "Butcher those who mock Islam."
"I'm in the BNP because no one else speaks out against the Islamification of our country," said Richardson. "Being Jewish only adds to my concern about this aggressive creed that also threatens our secular values and Christian tradition."
The move has sparked a furious reaction among Jewish organisations who say the BNP is still antisemitic and racist.
The Board of Deputies, the London Jewish Forum and the Community Security Trust have launched a campaign with other ethnic minority and cultural groups and the Hope Not Hate campaign to combat the BNP threat.
Ruth Smeeth, of the Community Security Trust, said: "The BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web - it goes further than any of the mainstream parties in its support of Israel and at the same time demonises Islam and the Muslim world. They are actively campaigning in Jewish communities, particularly in London, making a lot of their one Jewish councillor, their support of Israel and attacking Muslims. It is a poisonous campaign but it shows a growing electoral sophistication."
The editor of BNP newspaper Freedom, Martin Wingfield, wrote on his blog recently: "There has been a growing dialogue between senior members of the Jewish community and the BNP and today there are an increasing number of Jews campaigning for the BNP and feeling very comfortable with their political choice." (NWN:Our emphasis)
Henry Grunwald, president of the Board of Deputies, said the anti-BNP campaign which is being run in conjunction with Operation Black Vote and Sikh and Hindu organisations aimed to underline the antisemitic nature of the BNP and ensure that all voters turned out on May 1 to see off the threat posed by the far right.
"Whatever other sources of anti-semitism there are, we are still very concerned by the threat that comes from the far right," said Grunwald. "Despite all its attempts to portray itself differently we know it is still the same antisemitic, racist party it always was." He added: "We, in the Jewish community, will not tolerate any form of racism or prejudice ... I would be thoroughly ashamed if any member of the Jewish community voted for them."
The BNP's drive to abandon its anti-semitism and cash in on what it perceives to be the growth in Islamophobia ( NWN: Cash in ? )was outlined in an essay by party leader Nick Griffin, who once said of the Holocaust: "I have reached the conclusion that the 'extermination' tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie, and latter-day witch-hysteria." In his essay last year he wrote: "It stands to reason that adopting an 'Islamophobic' position that appeals to large numbers of ordinary people - including un-nudged journalists - is going to produce on average much better media coverage than siding with Iran and banging on about 'Jewish power', which is guaranteed to raise hackles of virtually every single journalist in the western world."
Nick Lowles, from the anti-fascist organisation Searchlight, which is mobilising voters across the country through its Hope Not Hate campaign, said the tactic of appealing to different ethnic and cultural groups ticked several boxes for the BNP. "It allows them to portray themselves as being non-racist at the same time as legitimising their vicious and sustained attacks on the UK's Muslim communities."
NWN: Well I never ! Who would have thought it ?