Initially UKIP refused to apologise, but did so about 24hrs after Jewish News flagged the story.
Initially UKIP refused to apologise, but did so about 24hrs after Jewish News flagged the story
The front-page headline of the Jewish News summarises UKIP’s latest experience on the unforgiving learning curve of how to run a proper political party. In bold capital letters, the headline reads, ‘ANOTHER SORRY MESS FOR UKIP’. The sub-header continues, ‘MEP finally apologises for promoting antisemitic blog after Jewish News leads outcry’.
The lesson to be learnt, by UKIP – and any other political or activist group – comes buried at the end of the article, delivered by a UKIP itself:
“The UKIP spokesman said, ‘Let this be a lesson to UKIPers and politicians of all parties, it is deeply unwise to just send a retweet without first checking where it came from. This blog is vile and it’s beholden to people to check their sources’.”
The detail of this micro-controversy is that at 2.36pm on 4 October, UKIP’s Jane Collins MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire retweeted a link to an extremely dodgy article from an extremely dodgy blog called cigpapers. Initially, UKIP refused to apologise, but did so about 24hrs after Jewish News flagged the story. Jane Collins frankly apologised and deleted the tweet, stating:
“I have deleted my retweet after seeing how vile the cigpapers blog it linked to is. Sorry to have caused offence to the Jewish community.”
In the context of apologies for such things, this is actually not so bad. Crucially, it avoids any of the not-really-an-apology phrasing that the Jewish community despairs of, such as ‘if I caused offence’, or ‘may have offended’.
As UKIP now acknowledge, the ‘vile’ nature of the cigpapers blog should have been obvious. The blog is topped with links to a homepage and to ‘Join the British Truth Movement – Stop White Genocide’. One of the visible articles is ‘Holocaust or Holohoax? 21 amazing facts’, but the one that caught Collins interest was, ‘Harriet Harman of the Paedophile Information Exchange Wears a Butterfly Brooch’. This article’s (wrong) description of Harriet Harman MP as a ‘Jewess’ was understandable given the blog’s ideology, but was practically the least of its problems.
The Jane Collins retweet was spotted by longstanding Jewish communal activist Jeremy Newmark, before being taken up by the Jewish News. At first, an unnamed UKIP spokesman strongly defended Collins:
“Jane retweeted the link because it highlighted the way in which Harman, as a senior figure in the NCCL in the 70’s, has been implicated in the defence of paedophilia and the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) which given the level of Labour party failures over the Rotherham case is of relevance in the fight to ensure that such horrors cannot happen again.
“She is in no way endorsing the blog, or its previous content, which I am sure she has never read or would never read. That somebody is described as a Jewess, whether accurately or not should be of no more consequence, nor should it be any more insulting than saying that Mrs Collins is a Yorkshire-woman, it is merely descriptive not pejorative. Unless of course the Jewish News is suggesting otherwise. If so then an apology would be appropriate.
“…Jane wholeheartedly opposes anti-Semitism, is not antisemitic and is appalled that anybody could think that she could be. That the story has been highlighted by a collection of hard left anti-UKIP bloggers and online warriors says more about them than any falsely perceived antisemitism.”
As it happens, for all of the first UKIP spokesman’s reflexive and obnoxious truculence, his last point about ‘hard left’ anti-UKIP opportunism accidentally edges towards a very hard truth in all of this: because whatever problems may or may not exist with UKIP and antisemitism, they are barely worth mentioning when compared to the Middle East-fuelled hatreds that are, right now, causing so many British and west European Jews to question the future viability of their communities.
Left Foot Forward knows this reality, but how many others really care?
Mark Gardner is the director of communications at Community Security Trust (CST)Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.