British Jews say ‘no thanks’ to nationalist group’s support
Britain First, a far-right party that opposes ‘Islamization’ of UK, claims to be dismayed that Jews are considering leaving the country
Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.
The far-right nationalist group Britain First is reaching out to support the UK Jewish community, but British Jews are not keen to accept the gesture.
Britain First decries what it calls the Islamization of the UK and describes itself as “a patriotic political party and street defense organization.”
In late January the group conducted a “solidarity patrol” in support of Jews living in Golders Green, a northwest London neighborhood in the borough of Barnet with a large Orthodox Jewish community. In a video made by the organization to document the patrol, its leaders cited anti-Jewish passages from the Quran and expressed their “heartbreak” over the fact that rising anti-Semitism is causing increasing numbers of the 300,000-strong British Jewish community to consider emigrating.
According to the results of a poll released just prior to the “solidarity patrol,” almost half of British Jewish respondents said they fear they have no long-term future in the UK or Europe. Another survey showed that anti-Semitic views were common among British citizens. Earlier this month, the Community Security Trust, an organization monitoring anti-Semitism in the UK, reported that 1,168 anti-Semitic incidents took place in 2014 — more than double the figure from the year before. Another 500 incidents involving anti-Israel hostility occurred over the past year.
As distressing as the statistics may be, representatives of the organized Jewish community in the UK have said unequivocally that the offer from Britain First is unwelcome.
“They are a far-right, nasty, racist group that intimidates minorities, especially Muslims,” Dave Rich, a spokesman for the Community Security Trust told The Times of Israel.
“The Jewish community should and will not have anything to do with them,” he said.
Britain First leader Paul Golding said in an interview with The Times of Israel that his party merely wants to support the Jewish community in the face of “a sustained attack by Islamization.”
“It’s quite scandalizing how the Jews have been treated,” he said.
Golding claimed that there are Jews among Britain First’s ranks and that the party has more activities planned to demonstrate solidarity with the Jewish community. Golding, however, would not share details about these plans, citing a “need-to-know-only” policy regarding dissemination of such information.
“We are kind of like the army in that way. It’s like how the soldiers don’t know the battle plans, only the generals do,” he said.
The party’s “battle plans” have included those for “mosque invasions” whereby uniformed Britain First members enter mosques uninvited and hand out Christian leaflets and army-issue Bibles to Muslim worshipers in what they call a “Christian crusade.”
Britain First’s founder, Jim Dowson, reportedly left the party in July 2014 over his opposition to these “mosque invasions,” which he called “provocative and counterproductive.”
According to Rich, the Community Security Trust consulted to the Bradford Council for Mosques following “mosque invasions” in Bradford last spring. Last year, the council made a donation that helped save the city’s only synagogue.
While Bradford MP George Galloway has called Britain First a “neo-fascist gang of fanatics,” Golding prefers to label his party as “loyalist.”
Britain First was founded in 2011 by former members of the British National Party, Golding included. Both parties are staunchly anti-immigration, and both advocate the voluntary resettlement of immigrants back to their ethnic homelands.
When asked about whether Jews, most of whose families immigrated to the UK, might be targeted by Britain First’s mission to rid the country of immigrants and non-Christian influences, Golding insisted that his party had no problem with Jews.
“Jews don’t cause any problems,” he said. “The only community that is not willing to integrate into British society is the Islamic one.”
But Rich doesn’t buy this. He claims Britain First does not really like Jews and is just using the Jews as a way of “winding up the Muslims.”
“Other right wing groups like the English Defence League and the BNP have tried this kind of thing before, but we can see right through it,” he said.
Simon Round, spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, echoed this position.
“We are appalled — but not fooled — by the attempts of the far right to curry favor with our community. Our principled opposition to all forms of racism includes both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Such attitudes have no place in our inclusive society,” he said.
Sydney Faber, who made aliya to Israel from the UK six years ago, is one of the Jews whose emigration Britain First claims to regret.
Faber told The Times of Israel he doesn’t see a future for Jews in Britain and is concerned when he visits friends in London who show no indication of leaving.
“The rise of the Muslim population is problematic. The writing is on the wall,” he said.
This, however, does not mean that Faber believes that Britain First is sincere in its concern for Jews.
“Most right wing movements in the UK over the years have been anti-Semitic. I don’t believe they are really siding with the Jews,” he said.