An innocuous article about George Soros’ supposed intervention in British politics has attracted claims of antisemitism because the headline chosen by the Daily Telegraph’s editors referred to him “backing a secret plot to thwart Brexit”.
It is indisputable that George Soros has, in recent years, been subjected to antisemitic campaigns around the world, painting him as a shadowy Jewish bogeyman. Mr Soros has been frequently targeted by, amongst others, the Hungarian government and several Eastern European advertising campaigns, which have been described as worryingly antisemitic, forming a narrative that the Daily Telegraph’s editors should have borne in mind when writing the headline for today’s article about his supposed intervention in British politics, however we do not consider the article to be antisemitic and it appears the headline, which was not written by the authors of the article, was only negligent.
The article, written by Nick Timothy, Kate McCann, Claire Newell and Luke Heighton, which reported on financial backing given by Mr Soros to the Best for Britain campaign, a campaign aiming to combat Brexit, has been noticed by several prominent activists and politicians on Twitter, who called the headline out for its close linguistic links to antisemitic conspiracy theories that have focused on Mr Soros for years.
Others, including Jonathan Portes, a senior lecturer at King’s College London, initially condemned Mr Timothy and the Daily Telegraph for analysis appearing alongside the article, before conceding that it was not Mr Timothy but the Daily Telegraph which was responsible for the analysis and it is they who should bear the burden of responsibility for this phrasing.
Mr Timothy himself staunchly denied the allegations against him personally.
Whist the Daily Telegraph is a newspaper that is correctly seen as philosemitic, we act without fear or favour when it falls foul of the standards that all newspapers should adhere to. For example, we are currently pursuing a complaint with the Independent Press Standards Organisation against the Daily Telegraph over an article published in September last year, in which the newspaper’s Digital Travel Editor, Oliver Smith, listed the last three countries in the world which he claimed “don’t have a central bank owned or controlled by the Rothschild family”. According to Mr Smith, and antisemites all over the world, the three countries are Cuba, North Korea and Iran. Mr Smith and the Daily Telegraph claimed that he did it by accident.
Campaign Against Antisemitism is apolitical and has no position on Brexit. We are rarely in the business of certifying that something is not antisemitic (the last time that we did so was in July 2015, when the Queen, as a young child, was suggested to have performed a Nazi salute), however from time to time we believe that it is important to speak out to avert an injustice.
Gideon Falter, Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “If Mr Soros intervenes in British politics it is legitimate for him to attract political scrutiny, which of course must not stray into antisemitism. We consider that today’s article was innocuous though its headline was poorly chosen by the Daily Telegraph’s editors. We do not believe that there are any grounds for accusing the authors of the article of antisemitism and we will not be submitting a complaint about the editors’ choice of headline. In particular, Nick Timothy is known to us as a firm friend of British Jewry, having strenuously supported our call for zero tolerance law enforcement against antisemitism during his time at the Home Office.”