Antisemitism in Political Parties

Nigel Farage

2019: Leader of The Brexit Party

 20062009, 2010-2016: Leader of UKIP 

1999-present: Member of the European Parliament for South East England

Incidents

1. On October 30th 2017, during his regular primetime slot on popular talk radio station LBC, Mr Farage discussed with callers whether Russian influence had really aided the election of President Donald Trump. When a caller named only as ‘Ahmed’ told Mr Farage that he thought the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States was no less dangerous than alleged Russian hacking, Mr Farage appeared to agree and started talking about Jews, saying: [a] “Well the Israeli lobby, you know, that’s a reasonable point, Ahmed, because there are about six million Jewish people living in America, so as a percentage it’s quite small, but in terms of influence it’s quite big.” However, he finally conceded: “But I don’t think anybody is suggesting that the Israeli government tried to affect the result of the American elections.”

When Ahmed said that Israel has both the Republicans and Democrats “in their pockets”, Mr Farage responded: [b] “Well in terms of money and influence, yep, they are a very powerful lobby.”

Summarising the call, Mr Farage reinforced the notion that a “Jewish lobby” is at work on behalf of a foreign Government, repeating Ahmed’s claim, saying: [c] “Ahmed, new caller from Leyton, I thank you. He makes the point that there are other very powerful foreign lobbies in the United States of America, and the Jewish lobby, with its links with the Israeli Government is one of those strong voices.”

2. On 5th November 2017, it was reported that, on his LBC show, Mr Farage had attempted to row back on his earlier comments, saying that “the Jewish lobby in America is organised and powerful, but not for one moment do I think that they tried to influence the election.”

3. On or around the 20th June 2018, in an interview with Fox News, Mr Farage was asked to comment on Hungary’s ‘Stop Soros’ bill, which draws its name from Jewish billionaire George Soros. Praising Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for “the courage to stand up against [Soros]”, Mr Farage accused Mr Soros of making “an organised attempt on a huge scale…to fundamentally change the makeup…demographically, of the whole European continent”, and asserted that: “If you criticise Soros, his media friends accuse you of being an antisemite; it really is quite extraordinary, and I really feel that Soros, in many ways, is the biggest danger to the entire western world.”

4. On 8th May 2019, in an interview with Robert Peston, having been invited to respond to the proposition that “There are lots of people who say that some of the attacks on [George] Soros are disguised antisemitism”, Mr Farage replied that the suggestion was “…complete and utter tosh.” When Mr Peston persisted, saying: “You’ve got to accept that some of them are [antisemitic]”,  Mr Farage was adamant, arguing that such accusations were “clearly a way of trying to close down debate on a very important subject.”

Analysis

Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis is that Mr Farage’s actions and statements amount to breaches of the International Definition of Antisemitism and qualify as antisemitic discourse according to our methodology.

A common strand of nationalist far-right rhetoric is the notion that white, European, Christian culture is being deliberately undermined, particularly through a conspiracy to promote non-white, non-Christian immigration. This conspiracy theory is often referred to as “Great Replacement”, “White Replacement” or “White Genocide”. It was cited as the motivation for the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and the 2019 San Diego shooting and is most often expressed in antisemitic terms, with Jews in general, and Jewish individuals such as George Soros, being accused of orchestrating it. It is in this context that the chants of “Jews will not replace us” at the 2017 Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ rally may be understood. British politicians, such as former UKIP parliamentary candidate Jack Sen actively subscribed to such a theory. By claiming that the Jewish businessman and philanthropist George Soros is behind a conspiracy to break down the “fundamental values” of western society by changing its demographic composition [3], Mr Farage cites key elements of these antisemitic theories that will be clearly recognised by those who already subscribe to them, as well as introducing these ideas to others. As such, he was disseminating antisemitic discourse that constitutes “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

By characterising the American Jewish population as being part of an “Israeli lobby” who have disproportionate influence in American politics [1a], apparently endorsing the notion that Israel has both principal American political parties “in their pockets” through the exercise of wealth and influence [1b]; by describing the American “Jewish lobby” as a “very powerful foreign lobby…with links to the Israeli Government” [1c] and as “organised and powerful” [2]; by alleging that anyone criticising George Soros is automatically called an “antisemite” by his “friends in the media” and by further asserting that Mr Soros was “the biggest danger to the entire western world” [3], he was also “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

By vehemently denying that any attacks at all on George Soros are antisemitic in nature or intent, and by insisting that accusations to that effect, many of which are unsurprisingly made by Jews, are only raised as a means “to close down debate on a very important subject” [3][4], he was deploying the so-called ‘Livingstone Formulation’, by accusing Jews who cite evidence of antisemitism of lying, conspiring or having deceitful motives in doing so, when there is clear evidence that there have been breaches of the International Definition of Antisemitism. This also constitutes “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective.”

Outcome

On 31st October 2017, it was reported that Mr Farage’s comments in [1] had been widely condemned. Campaign Against Antisemitism called for Mr Farage to “immediately withdraw his deplorable comments and apologise for them” or else be sacked by LBC, and we reported the matter to the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom.

On 1st May 2018, an interview with Mr Farage was published in which he appeared to relish the accusation of Islamophobia, and acknowledged that he had been accused of antisemitism for having attacked George Soros. He also suggested that his remarks in [1] had been “wildly” taken out of context, and said that he had never hitherto been accused of antisemitism, which he countered by claiming that he had enjoyed the support of “some very prominent Jewish people” over the years. 

On or around 31st May 2018, in an interview with Fox News, Mr Farage was asked to consider the proposition that Western leaders were driven by “the desire to destroy our civilisation”. Mr Farage responded by referring to George Soros and his Open Society Foundation, stating that Mr Soros “wants to break down the fundamental values of our society, and in the case of Europe, he doesn’t want Europe to be based on Christianity.”

On 6th May 2019, it was reported that Mr Farage was facing criticism after it emerged that he had made numerous appearances on the talk show hosted by far-right conspiracist Alex Jones who has reportedly blamed some of America’s problems on a “Jewish Mafia”. During these appearances, he had reportedly made repeated use of words and phrases such as “globalists” and “new world order”, which regularly feature in antisemitic tropes.

It was further reported that Mr Farage appeared to subscribe to a conspiracy theory of his own, namely that the EU is part of a wider plot to usher in world government, and that in articulating this, he used terms closely linked to coded antisemitism, such as “globalists”, or references to the Bilderberg group and Goldman Sachs. 

On 7th May 2019, it was reported that Mr Farage had denied being a conspiracy theorist, whilst acknowledging that Alex Jones was one. He also rejected the idea that his six appearances on Mr Jones’s shows would lend credence to such theories. He said: “As far as the Infowars site is concerned, I’ve done it very infrequently, perhaps once every couple of years. Because you appear on a programme it doesn’t mean you support the editorial line…I know Jones is accused of conspiracy theories and there is without doubt some truth in that. And one or two of the so-called allegations you published this morning are, shall we say, wide of the mark.” Alex Jones’s social media output was subsequently found to be so toxic that YouTube, Facebook and Apple took the decision to remove his channels from their platforms. 

On 12th May 2019, it was reported that Mr Farage had been criticised by Jewish groups and MPs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism for his use of language in criticising George Soros (including that employed in incident [3] and in his interview with Fox News (above)), but that the Brexit Party had dismissed such concerns as “pathetic.”

During the period of his affiliation to UKIP, there are no reports of Mr Farage ever having been disciplined by the party as a result of his comments. It remains to be seen whether any action will be taken by The Brexit Party, but given his position, it would seem unlikely.

In November 2019, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to Mr Farage, but did not receive a response.

Rating

Campaign Against Antisemitism has rated the Party’s handling of this matter as “bad”. Our rating system is explained in our methodology. This case was last updated on 4th December 2019.

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