There is a “strong bias” against Israel within the European Union and an emergence of “almost a trendy new form of antisemitism” in politics, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party believes.
Nigel Farage, head of the party’s delegation of nine Euro-MPs, hit out in an interview with the JC at hostility towards the Jewish state.
“There is within the European institutions a very strong anti-Israel bias,” he said. “I would almost say — and I am bit nervous of saying this — there’s almost a new trendy form of antisemitism creeping in…
“I could show you, within the last three months, transcripts of several dozen speeches in the European Parliament.
“There is a fundamental dislike of Israel, but it’s more than that. And we find that objectionable and worrying.”
UKIP opposes calls to suspend the EU’s trade agreements with Israel and is critical of European aid to the Palestinian Authority.
“The one thing we have consistently spoken about in the European Parliament,” he said, “is that we object to 300 million euros a year being given to the PA — the sum is lower this year, it was up to 500 million a couple of years ago — with, from what I can see, absolutely no check or proper audit of how that money is disbursed or where it is being spent.
“I don’t think you should give money to anybody until you can absolutely guarantee that it is not falling into the wrong hands. The wrong hands could be fraud or, in the case we are discussing here, some of the groups who behaved in a very unpeaceful manner.”
He added: “I almost feel that the reason the EU gives this money is because it wants to appear to do the very opposite of everything America wants.”
A former businessman in the metal trade from Farnborough, who was first elected as an MEP for the South-East Region 10 years ago, Mr Farage strongly supports moves by the party’s most senior Jewish figure, its secretary Michael Zuckerman, to establish an active Friends of Israel group.
“I understand why Israel may be prone to deep concern when there are neighbouring states which publicly say they want to obliterate them from the face of the earth,” Mr Farage said.
“That is not a blank cheque to say that everything Israel does must be right… but we fundamentally believe in the country’s right to exist and we sympathise with it because it finds itself in a horrid position.”
When Reading Council debated Israel’s Gaza operation, Mr Farage — one of the local MEPs —wrote to them. “I asked, shouldn’t they be more concerned with potholes and snow?”
For a party with a strong commitment to national self-determination, he ventured: “Although it’s not on such a hostile level, our battle with the European project is not dissimilar with Israel’s own battle for survival. They are similar principles.”
But the party is also troubled by another aspect of EU policy. The idea of open borders and free movement “sounded like a fabulous idea — and when we were in the Union with France and Germany, we didn’t really notice it”, he said.
“But having let in very poor East European countries into a political union with free movement, we think the effects of mass migrations of labour into Britain at a time when unemployment is rising, when people are nervous, is having a detrimental social effect in this country.
“I would say, proudly, we have had the best relations between communities in Britain of any country in Europe. We’ve been liberal, open-minded and generally had a pretty happy society.
“We are fearful that this current situation is leading to a rapidly deteriorating sense of relations between communities.
“And I think the evidence for that is that you’ve seen an increase in British National Party votes in urban areas.”
But if people fear the BNP stands to gain, might not some people attracted to the UKIP platform instead vote for the main parties, to ensure that the BNP is kept out?
“That argument, under first-past-the-post is probably true,” he said. “But under a proportional representation system not at all, because in a PR system there is no such thing as a wasted vote.
“A UKIP vote on this specific issue is a vote that says to the political class we want to have control, but we say that in a spirit of wanting to live in a country that is at ease with itself as opposed to saying it in a spirit which is highly discriminatory about other ethnic and minority groups in this country.”
UKIP, he believes, is certainly ripe for more Jewish support. “There are,” he said, “a couple of members of the House of Lords I am working on.”