As if Priti Patel’s embrace of the Viktor Orbán playbook - unswerving support for the state of Israel, but no problem with using anti-Semitic tropes to fire up the base - were not enough, yesterday brought another helping of Tory anti-Semitism so egregious that there have been calls for at least one resignation. Worse for The Blue Team, an increasing number of Jewish voices have decided to condemn the party.
What happened may be put directly: Jacob Rees Mogg, the Right Honourable member for times long past, who has inexplicably been made Leader of the House of Commons, went on an unprovoked rant at George Soros in Parliament yesterday. It was not the first time he had veered across the anti-Semitism line in no style at all; he had previously accused Oliver Letwin and John Bercow of being “Illuminati”.
That exhumed an old trope: when Rees Mogg accused Letwin and the Speaker of being “Illuminati who are taking the powers to themselves”, he played on “the allegation that the ‘Illuminati’ infiltrated the ranks of European Jewish bankers in the nineteenth century. Following the lines of the notorious forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, these books assert that the bankers/Jews/Illuminati were behind the Bolshevik Revolution - as well as the creation of the Federal Reserve system in the United States”.
So it should not have surprised anyone when Rees Mogg got to his feet and told the House “One of the major funders - allegedly - of the Remain campaign, the Remoaner funder in chief, is one George Soros”. He had no evidence to offer in support of his contention. He just wanted to allege that It Was Soros Wot Done It.
That was on top of Jake Berry shouting “Britain First” at Jeremy Corbyn earlier - the words uttered by Thomas Mair, who murdered Jo Cox - and of course the earlier talk by Suella Braverman of “Cultural Marxism”, yet another anti-Semitic trope.
The reaction was swift. Musa Okwonga concluded “Clear anti-Semitism in Parliament just hours after a front bencher barks ‘Britain First’; just days after Priti Patel’s anti-Semitic dogwhistle”. James Felton was on the same page. “A Tory MP chanted ‘Britain first’ - the same thing Jo Cox's killer yelled at her as he murdered her - in Parliament a week after being begged by female MPs to tone down the language and the best spin I can put on it is maybe he meant the fascist political party set up in 2011”. There was more.
George Aylett added “We’ve seen Braverman use the anti-semitic ‘cultural marxism’ trope, Patel’s dogwhistle about ‘North London elites’ and, today, Rees-Mogg playing with the far right’s anti-semitic rhetoric by focusing on Soros. The silence from Tory activists about these comments is concerning”. And Owen Jones warned “George Soros as a sinister international Jewish puppetmaster is the classic antisemitic trope of our time. If Jacob Rees Mogg didn't know that, he is a disturbingly ignorant man. If he does know, then where do you even begin?” Then came the resignation call.
After Nathan Boroda wrote in Jewish News “We need to talk about the Tories’ anti-Semitism problem”, Lord Alf Dubs called for Rees Mogg to go, telling “Like [George Soros], I fled Nazi persecution, and like me, George Soros campaigns for European countries to give sanctuary to refugees today, just as I was given refuge as a child in 1939”.
He stated “Jacob Rees Mogg’s comments are straight from the far right’s anti-Semitic playbook. Boris Johnson must condemn his remarks about a Holocaust survivor and remove him from the cabinet”. But alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson will do no such thing. Because he approves of what Rees Mogg is doing.
Or rather, he will do nothing until mainstream and conservative Jewish voices tell him he has to act. Hence Michael Rosen musing “Hello [Board of Deputies]. You’ve said that [Conservative Home] are friends of the Jewish community. Jacob Rees-Mogg is in government. You should now have a dossier on the far right company he has kept, his attacks on Bercow, Letwin and Soros. Hello [John Mann] antisemitism tsar?”
But that may be about to change, after Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League asserted “Invoking George Soros as a puppet master behind current events is an anti-Semitic trope. Such insinuations are dangerous and have no place in our political discourse”. Maybe the BoD will listen to him, and note that the exact same playbook is being used across the North Atlantic. Because someone needs to act, and now.
Serious and dangerous anti-Semitism always comes from the right. It did in the 19th Century; it did in the 1930s; it is coming from the same source now.
The Tory Party must get its house in order. Or it will be caused to do so.
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