The argument over the Tory alliance with populist right-wing parties in Eastern Europe has caused great heartache amongst politicians fighting antisemitism.
Exaggerated claims have been made on both sides. Michal Kaminski is not a roaring Jew-hater in the classical antisemitic mould. He supports Israel — but then both Nick Griffin of the BNP and Jean Marie le Pen have also expressed pleasure at Israel’s military attacks on Muslims.
Griffin’s real attitude to Jews can be found in his claim that the BNP is a party in favour of animal rights. On closer examination, the BNP policy is to outlaw ritual slaughter practices. Jews are not mentioned but every BNP ideologue knows what he means.
Equally, the defence by Tory spin doctors that Kaminski was a freedom-loving, Thatcher-admiring hero of the anti-Communist resistance has no grounding in reality.
The vast bulk of young Poles in the 1980s supported the underground Solidarity movement or joined Catholic parties. The young Kaminski hunted down the NOP, a tiny Polish party with nationalist and antisemitic roots. Kaminski stayed active for some years in what the Chief Rabbi of Poland has described as a “neo-Nazi Party”.
Given David Cameron’s views on Europe, the chances of the Conservatives staying in the mainstream European People’s Party were non-existent. Conservatives are where Labour was in the 1980s in deciding that Europe is to be opposed root and branch. But Europe watchers are puzzled that the Tories did not decide to sit as an independent party in the European Parliament. Instead they made this alliance with some pretty flakey politicians.
Kaminski’s views on gays are unprintable. His fellow MEPs appear regularly on Radio Maryja, which even the Vatican has criticised for its anti-Jewish tone.
Poles are horrified as well by the depiction of modern Polish politics as being dominated by antisemitism. Stephen Fry’s asinine remarks about Auschwitz — a Nazi death camp situated on Polish soil — have caused great offence. There were no Polish Quislings, no collaborators, no Polish Waffen SS legions and even the most antisemitic of pre-war Poles fought in the field and in the resistance against the Germans.
My concern is that the cause of the common all-party fight against antisemitism has been damaged by the excessive defence of Kaminski and the rubbishing of the journalists who dug up his past or raised questions about the Latvian line on the Waffen SS and the destruction of Latvian Jewry.
When I, as a man on the left, am asked to condemn remarks on Jews from fellow left wingers like Ken Livingtone or George Galloway, I do so irrespective of my political affiliations. Conservative commentators who pretend Kaminski or his Latvian chum Roberts Zile have no questions to answer and that the row is invented by Labour are just plain wrong.
It is clear that the Conservatives did not do due diligence on their new allies. Each week brings further embarrassment, including the latest outburst against Jews being the controllers of Poland’s main liberal paper, Gazeta Wyborcza, from one of Kaminski’s associates in his PiS party.
Cameron, who is pro-Jewish and pro-Israel, has done himself damage by allowing William Hague and his Europhobe shadow team to set up this new alliance. Cameron has dropped his pledge to have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Could he now be persuaded to disentangle the Tories from a relationship with east European populist, nationalist politicians who are equivocal on the massacres of Jews?
I understand party political knockabout and take no offence at friends like Stephen Pollard or Iain Dale denouncing me because I have expressed concern over Kaminski.
But pro-Tory members of the community would be better advised to talk privately to Cameron and urge an end to this alliance. What must not happen is any division on party lines in the common fight against the rising menace of global antisemitic hate.