A few weeks ago I announced that I would be standing as a candidate for the Brexit Party, despite having been a lifelong supporter of the Conservatives.
Within a week of my announcement, I arrived home from a business trip to find a 30-ft. swastika daubed on the side of my factory.
Among the many generous messages of support I received, there was one – from a person who purported to be Jewish – which perturbed me.
It read: “I have every sympathy with the horror of having a swastika daubed but what, as a Jew, are you doing joining the Brexit Party – an avowedly racist and xenophobic party?”
Notice the “but”!
So I feel it’s incumbent on me to explain the “but” to the Jewish community.
For those of you who don’t know me, I run a smoked salmon business in London’s East End – H. Forman & Son – which was founded by my great-grandfather, an immigrant from Odessa, in Ukraine, in the late 19th century.
I go to Norrice Lea shul [Hampstead Garden Suburb United Synagogue] – not always inside, praying, but sometimes assisting with security.
One of my sons lives in Jerusalem with his wife, while another runs J-TV, the online Jewish TV channel. My daughter is at school.
I have enjoyed a close association with the Conservative Party for decades. I served as a special adviser to a Tory Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, almost 30 years ago, and I’ve sat on the board of the Conservative Friends of Israel for around 20 years.
I have also been a vocal supporter of Brexit for many years. My reason for switching to the Brexit Party was the deranged decision that Theresa May took in inviting to Number 10 Jeremy Corbyn – someone who she and her party had claimed was unfit to lead.
Giving such credibility to an antisemite Marxist, who would turn Britain into Venezuela, while creating an Israel hate-fest, was beyond the pale.
I felt I had to stand up and do something. Clearly, the Conservatives have lost the plot.
Getting back to the Brexit Party, and what concerns readers may have regarding its leader…
I have deep concerns about antisemitism. My father is a Holocaust survivor, and has worked with the Holocaust Educational Trust to help teach young children about the horrors of racism, Nazism and fascism.
I have lived and breathed it, and my antennae are alert. So let me first deal with Nigel Farage before getting on to the key subject of Brexit itself (and I actually think more Jewish people should support the Brexit Party).
Ask any member of a minority group whether they can tell if someone has antipathy towards them – the answer is usually yes.
Whether it’s a strange look, or the use of certain language, there is often a tell-tale sign.
On the occasions I have met Nigel Farage I’ve sensed none of that – simply warmth and joviality.
Not many people will be aware that when the EU Parliament threatened the practice of Shechita across Europe, it was actually Mr Farage who lobbied against the proposed legislation.
He came under fire a few years ago for comments relating to the “powerful” and disproportionate influence of the US Israeli/Jewish lobby.
But this was taken out of context to attack him.
He had just returned from an event for a newly-formed lobbying group for the US Hindu community, with some 40,000 attendees. He merely said that they could learn from the Israel lobby, which has operated successfully for many decades. This was not a criticism, but a compliment.
We must be careful about paranoia.
I did not support Ukip and I agree (as does Nigel Farage now) that it did indeed attract some xenophobes. He has rejected this, and people who have flocked to the Brexit Party come from diverse backgrounds.
Amongst our eight London candidates we have white and black, men and women.
We are three Jews; one person of dual Jewish and Bahá'í faiths; one Hindu; one half-Muslim of Pakistani descent; and two Christians – of African and Northern Irish origin. We are believers and non-believers alike.
I noted the criticism for Mr Farage in last week’s JC, regarding his use of the terms “globalist” and “New World Order”. It was claimed these are code words to disguise antisemitic conspiracy theories.
This is utter bunkum, and it has nothing to do with antisemitism. It is simply a misunderstanding on the part of the Left.
I read George Soros’ 2008 work, The New Paradigm for Financial Markets. I recall, at the time, being in total disagreement with many of his conclusions.
In one sense, I am a globalist. I believe in global free trade, rather than within the confines of a protectionist Europe.
But on the other hand, I detest the meaning of the term when used to describe multinational corporatism – and most commonly – crony capitalism.
That’s my view on economics, and it hardly makes me an antisemite.
The Jewish person who emailed me concluded by posing the question: “What is the Jewish position if we are not internationalists?”
I understand where she was coming from, but I fear she is living in the past.
Yes, in years gone by we needed to be internationalists. We could never rely on our homes being secure, generation after generation. Our bags were always packed.
But this was before the existence of Israel.
David Ben Gurion made it clear that Israel is the Jews’ protector, wherever they may be. We do not need to rely on internationalism as a means of self-protection any longer; we can now believe in the idea of the nation states.
If not, why support the Jewish State?
Now onto the thorny issue of Brexit itself.
I have always believed that economics trumps politics. Communism did not collapse in the former Soviet Union because the philosophy was unrealistic.
Rather, it collapsed because of queues for bread, and streets filled with starving people.
There is a fundamental problem with the economics of European Union, and it stems from the introduction of the single currency.
From its inception, I’ve always believed that it had the power to destroy Europe. Each passing year I have witnessed the sad story unfold. I have seen Europe become an increasingly dangerous place.
Without the lubrication of a floating exchange rate, economies are unable to rebalance in accordance with their economic cycles and productivity. Instead, huge transfers of wealth have to be made from the richer countries to poorer ones.
This creates a culture of dependency and, latterly, resentment.
One by-product of this is massive youth unemployment which exists across much of Southern Europe – and even in France.
Antipathy builds as “donor countries”, forced to make the transfers, lay down increasingly harsh strictures on how those countries run their economies.
In some cases, including in Italy and Greece, EU-approved leaders were installed.
The problem is that resentment breeds extremism, and we now have more extremism in Europe on the Right and the Left than at any point since the Second World War.
For me, none of this comes as a surprise. Indeed, I predicted it 15 years ago.
Political extremism will lead to chaos… and then where? In the collapse of the Euro.
And – start flashing the warning lights – who do you think will get the blame?
The dysfunctionality of the Euro is a disaster for Europe.
Yes, the UK is out of the Eurozone. While that may be true, when the ship goes down everything in its wake will be pulled down with it – us included.
Brexit is the opportunity to change all that; to steer the tanker in another direction.
The EU leadership will not do this by itself. It wants a federal Europe – a European empire. And a unified currency is a natural prerequisite.
If they won’t turn the ship around, we need to bail out to safety – and show our fellow passengers that it’s possible to thrive from the outside. We can leave peacefully. With hope, they will follow.
In his recent book on nationalism, Yoram Hazony, the President of the Herzl Institute, explains that empires always fail because people resist the evaporation of their cultures.
They are subsumed into larger entities, which have no true identity or cohesion.
Successful, free-trading liberal democracies do not declare war on one another. They compete with one another, learn from each other, and even benefit from a shared interest and mutual recognition.
That is how I would like to see Europe – as a collection of liberal, free market economies which trade both with one another and globally, cooperating in areas of mutual interest, such as security and pollution.
They should also respect each other’s liberties and cultures, while resisting the imposition of rules from the centre.
Jews should feel threatened when democracy is under threat. And democracy is indeed under threat from the manner in which the political establishment in the UK and abroad has betrayed the voters over the EU referendum.
Some supporters of the Brexit Party may not have even voted Leave – but they most certainly do support the idea of upholding the result, and not having it overturned by every sore-loser excuse in the book.
If politicians don’t respect the vote of the electorate, why should members of the public respect one another? It is a very slippery slope.
Britain is a wonderful home for Jewish people, and has always been welcoming to our community.
Outside the echo chambers of the Labour leadership and the Momentum mob, antisemitism has not festered.
Hell, I know of some 20-plus kosher restaurants today, while there were only two when I was a child.
Things are going well for our community. Don’t fear Brexit; it’s good for Britain, crucial for Europe, and should be welcomed by the Jewish community.