Board of Deputies: vote to stop BNP

This is not about posters and balloons but about beating racism

By Henry Grunwald, April 23, 2009

I make no apology for the words that follow in this column. I am angry but also determined. In his JC column of April 3, Geoffrey Alderman made some uninformed comments, both about the Board of Deputies’ campaign against the BNP and the threat which the Jewish community faces from the growth of the far-right across the country.

I am not concerned to address every comment made in his piece, but rather to explain why, in my last campaign as president of the Board of Deputies, I am so committed to this issue.

For the first time in my life, a racist political party may achieve a national electoral breakthrough. Not in France, Italy or Austria, but in my country, the United Kingdom. The British National Party (BNP) is seeking election to the European Parliament on an anti-immigrant, anti-European and racist platform. It claims it is no longer antisemitic, hoping that, as a community, we will experience collective amnesia and forget BNP leader Nick Griffin’s statements about the “Holohoax” or the text of his book — “Who are the Mind Benders” — alleging Jewish control of the media.

Some of you may believe the BNP is not really a threat to us or our immediate communities, and that we should be focusing our efforts elsewhere. It is true that antisemitism today comes from many different parts of society. The unprecedented number of antisemitic hate crimes reported during the recent Gaza crisis is testament to that fact, as is the incitement against Jews from radical Islamist movements.

This does not mean that we should forget the danger to us, and to society, from a strong and growing far right. Jews have always been in the forefront of the fight against fascism and neo-Nazism. We should be proud to continue that fight today. Racism, not just antisemitism, is a blight on society.

Do not believe the propaganda that the BNP and the far right have forgotten their hatred of Jews or that we can afford to ignore them, believing their politics would not impact on us. The BNP is a threat to the Jewish community as well to wider community relations in Britain. We need to stand up to the BNP, to vote, and, most importantly, to say NO to the politics of hate and division it espouses. We do not want to see the BNP representing the UK in the European Parliament.

This campaign is not about putting up posters and balloons with the Board’s logo across the country. Rather, we are trying to make sure that the Jewish community does its bit to stop the BNP, by going out and voting. From the reaction I have had so far from members of our community and others up and down the country, they have understood the purpose of our campaign far better than Geoffrey Alderman has.

Every additional vote in the European elections makes it less likely that the BNP will reach the, sometimes low threshold needed to win a seat. We are not, as Alderman has misunderstood, recommending that voting for a particular candidate or party. Voters should make informed decisions about how they use their vote, based on each party’s policies, but vote they must. They will have increased the turn-out, which is the most practical weapon to use in these elections to thwart the BNP.

I am determined to make sure that I, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish community can stand tall on June 4, knowing that we did everything we could to stop the BNP and the politics of hate.

So I urge you to join our campaign, get involved and, most importantly, use your vote on June 4.

Henry Grunwald QC is president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews

Last updated: 4:20pm, April 23 2009