On Sunday, a survey revealed that a surprisingly high 31 percent of Britain’s voters would vote for UKIP if they thought the party could win in their constituency. While this may just be a momentary phenomenon, it is clear that the tough-talking party is riding high, and its populist agenda of unilaterally seceding from the European Union and closing Britain to immigration is pulling many voters away from the mainstream political parties.
As Haaretz analyzes, this means that British society as a whole – and the country’s Jewish community in particular – will have to deal with the rise of UKIP. While privately expressing real concern over the far-right and racist elements within UKIP, and the hostility of many party members towards minority and immigrant groups, the vast majority of British Jewish leaders had preferred to remain publicly silent o the topic.
“Everyone is afraid to speak out against UKIP despite serious problems with some of the party’s members,” says a local Jewish organizational official. “They are concerned that it could cause a backlash.”
Last week however, for the first time, UKIP was publicly censured by the Jewish establishment, when it was disclosed that the party’s members in the European Parliament have joined forces with a member of a Polish far-right party in its parliamentary group, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy. That Polish party is led by a known racist and Holocaust denier, who once declared that Jews are “our worst enemies, because they are talented communists.”
While UKIP leader Nigel Farage tried to rationalize the move as a “difficult” compromise for political purposes, the Jewish leadership was not mollified. Jonathan Arkush, the vice president of British Jewry’s representative body, the Board of Deputies stated that the board is “gravely concerned by reports that UKIP may sit in the same parliamentary grouping as a far-right Polish MEP in a bid to save its funding.” He added that “Nigel Farage has placed in issue the credibility of UKIP.”
Mark Gardner, communications director of the Community Security Trust, the Jewish organization which monitors racism and anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom, warned that “UKIP benefits from populist emotions and anti-establishment trends that can carry dangers for Jews. So, it is important that UKIP’s leadership ensure any issues of anti-Semitism and racism are strongly dealt with.”