Whether Farage or Corbyn, we must reject the politics of scapegoating

Nigel Farage  (Wikipedia/Gage Skidmore via Jewish News)
Nigel Farage (Wikipedia/Gage Skidmore via Jewish News)

We’re all too familiar with Nigel Farage’s fear-mongering populism. It is, therefore, shocking but totally unsurprising to find that the Brexit Party leader repeatedly appeared as a guest of a US far-right talkshow host and reportedly peddled conspiracy theories, some of which are associated with antisemitism.

Farage is no political innocent, yet on Alex Jones’ Infowars website he repeatedly trotted out words and phrases such as “globalists” and “new world order” which are the stock-in-trade codewords of the US alt-right and antisemites across the globe.

As the Community Security Trust has rightly suggested, Jones is “a notorious conspiracy theorists who should be beyond the pale for any mainstream politician”.

In recent days, we’ve learned that Farage has also peddled themes often associated with antisemitism to attack the Jewish philanthropist George Soros. His language – arguing that Soros is “the biggest danger to the entire western world” and suggesting that he “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” – represent not so much a dogwhistle to antisemites as a fog horn.

Together with his claims that Soros’ foundation, which supports liberal democratic causes, is engaged in “the biggest level of political collusion in history” and that he is trying to “fundamentally change the makeup, demographically, of the whole European continent”, this is a truly noxious cocktail of smears.

Farage has been careless in his language on previous occasions – not least when he failed to challenge a caller to his LBC programme who suggested that Israel had the US Democrats and Republicans “in their pockets” and himself went on to reportedly talk about a “powerful Jewish lobby” – but these recent revelations suggest a pattern.

It is one that is the inevitable result of the troubling far right political company that Farage has long kept. Hungary’s democracy-destroying leader, Viktor Orban, whose government has whipped up antisemitism for its own electoral benefit; Marine Le Pen, who Farage endorsed for the French presidency in 2017; and the Alternative for Germany, whose leaders, Israel’s ambassador to Germany suggested last week, have made statements that are “highly insulting for Jews, for Israel and for the entire issue of the Holocaust”, but for whom Farage has campaigned.

Neither can we rely any longer on the Labour leadership to take a moral lead. Jeremy Corbyn has been shown to have repeatedly propagated conspiracy theories. No wonder he spent so much energy and effort last year fighting Labour’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.

This, too, has had inevitable consequences. Twitter and Labour party online forums are awash with Corbyn supporters pushing all manner of antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories: linking Israel to 9/11 and ISIS; spreading centuries-old nonsense about the “Rothschilds” and Jewish bankers and financiers. And, most offensively, suggesting Jews and “Zionist” colluded with their Nazi persecutors.

The politics of fear and scapegoating is disfiguring our national discourse. It’s high time that those of us who believe in the values of decency, respect and tolerance to reclaim it.

About the Author
Joan Ryan MP is parliamentary chair of Labour Friends of Israel.
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