Curious Kippers are unpalatable

November 24, 2016 23:21

When people discuss Ukip's "odd bedfellows" they are usually referring to the party's questionable partners in the European Parliament. But there is another uneasy alliance fighting for air - Ukip's relationship with British Jewry and Israel supporters.

Tuesday's Ukip Friends of Israel meeting in Westminster was a peculiar event, attended by around 50 party supporters and interested onlookers.

Nigel Farage's "people's army" appeared on this occasion to consist largely of Anglo-Saxon men in their sixties, clad in purple trousers and Ukip-branded ties. There was, admittedly, a smattering of kippot and noticeably Orthodox Jews among them. Women were largely conspicuous by their absence.

The star turn was new Ukip MP Douglas Carswell, who said he shared the concerns of Israel supporters. People should oppose the "hot, dripping, bigotry of the elite who make BBC programmes, the elite in the Foreign Office, the elite in their universities, and their drip, drip of anti-Israel content", he proclaimed.

There was more: "I see it very much as my job to stand up and challenge the anti-Israel attitudes of so many amongst the elite in this country."

The last time I checked, his Clacton constituency was not a hotbed of Zionism. Why Mr Carswell felt so committed to aiding Israel remained unclear.

Nonetheless, the appearance of Mr Farage and representatives of Jewish and pro-Israel groups - including the Jewish Leadership Council, Board of Deputies and Bicom - added some authority to the event.

Casual observers displayed evident unease. North-West MEP Steven Woolfe opened with a rambling, apparently misogynist, attempt at a joke about his mother-in-law and "pretty girls". Cue silence from the audience.

Another MEP, Nathan Gill, very slowly read out a prepared speech-cum-sermon on the biblical links between Jews, Christians and Muslims. It was dryer than a child's sandpit.

Unfortunately on serious matters of non-European foreign policy and Jewish religious issues, there were, as ever with Ukip, few detailed answers.

Mr Woolfe said the party was "supportive" of different religious practices. His only "issues" related to halal food labelling and hijab-wearers in banks and schools.

That should set alarm bells ringing for those who enjoy a kosher diet and wear a streimel or sheitel.

It all felt like a bit of a con. "We're friends of Israel!" But only because it fits our anti-EU agenda. "We'll protect your religious practices!" But maybe not those of Muslims.

Ukip is set to face a level of scrutiny it has never previously experienced. Glib soundbites will not convince as we approach the polls. Some Jewish voters may like the cut of Mr Farage's jib, but when they scratch the surface of his party, they may not like what is revealed.

November 24, 2016 23:21

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