Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage is the victim of a false accusation of antisemitism that is being circulated by the media, his political opponents in Britain, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), among others.
On Tuesday, an opinion article in the Washington Examiner blared: “Nigel Farage goes after the Jews.” That claim, in turn, was based on an article in the Business Insider, which claimed: “Nigel Farage says the ‘Jewish lobby’ has disproportionate power in the US.” The Business Insider quoted a member of Britain’s Labour Party who criticized Farage, saying the Brexit pioneer had “just gone full conspiracy” for his comments on LBC, a UK talk radio station.
Then Newsweek picked up the broken telephone, with staff writer Nicole Goodkind writing an article titled, “Jews Should Concern Americans More than Russian Influence, Nigel Farage Says.” She quoted ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt, a former Obama administration official who is no stranger to false accusations of antisemitism, at least against the right. He said Farage’s claim “plays into deep-seated anti-Semitic tropes about supposed Jewish control of government,” and that he had provided “fuel for white supremacists.” Goodkind’s article was retweeted by CNN’s Jake Tapper, among others.
It is telling that none of these media outlets actually provided Farage’s full comments for readers to judge for themselves. Business Insider embedded a YouTube video of Farage’s entire 55-minute show from Oct. 30, which few readers would have sifted through to find out what he had actually said.
Here is the relevant portion of the show, transcribed by Breitbart News (24:00 to 26:33 in the video that follows):
FARAGE: Ahmed is calling me from Leyton. Ahmed, good evening.
AHMED: Yeah, hello. I don’t know as much as the previous caller about the ins and outs. But what, you know, comes across to me is how come there’s such an issue with Russia, Russian involvement, and there’s no one really, you know, highlighting, you know, AIPAC and the Israeli lobby and their involvement in American politics and elections?
FARAGE: Well, the Israeli lobby, you know — that’s a reasonable point, Ahmed, because there are about six million Jewish people living in America, so as a percentage it’s quite small, but in terms of influence it’s quite big. But I don’t think anybody — they have a voice within American politics, as indeed do the Hindu groups, and many other groups in America. But I don’t think anybody is suggesting that the Israeli government tried to affect the result of the American elections. I think, Ahmed, what it comes down to, in my view, is that Russia is seen by the European Union and by the Democrats to be the enemy. Putin is seen to be the enemy. You know, we’ve done our best to expand the European Union, to expand NATO, right up to his borders by encouraging Ukraine to join, and ever since that moment, you know, he’s been the great bogeyman. But I — I have to say, I would be amazed, literally amazed — I certainly know from my perspective, I’ve had no Russian involvement or collusion, and I’ve not been a bag man, so I can speak for myself on this, you know, 100% — I can’t speak for the president 100%; Ahmed, you couldn’t speak for your brother or your parents 100%; none of us can know 100% — but I would be stunned if anything came out that showed that any interaction with Russia had had any material effect on that election at all. That’s how I feel, Ahmed. I mean, is that your suspicion, too?
AHMED: Yeah, I mean, it would be difficult to prove, but I would say, what’s the big deal, even if it did? I mean, like I said, with Israel, they affect both Democrats and Republicans, they’ve got them both in their pocket.
FARAGE: Well, in terms of money and influence, yeah, they are a very powerful lobby. And Ahmed, actually, America’s interfered in elections all over the world, for decades. There’s a a slight sort of degree of hypocrisy in all of this. Ahmed, new caller from Leyton, I thank you. He makes the point that there are other, very powerful, foreign lobbies in the United States of America, and the Jewish lobby, with its links with the Israeli government is one of those strong voices.
There is nothing inaccurate about what Farage said. There are Jewish groups who lobby the U.S. government, and many Jews who do so lobby for pro-Israel policies. Farage points out that there are other groups as well in the U.S. who routinely lobby the government on behalf of policies that may benefit other countries. He never uses the term “Jewish lobby” pejoratively. At one point, he even dismisses his caller’s suggestion that the Israeli government itself interferes in American elections. His point is that concern over Russian involvement in U.S. elections is overblown.
Farage’s caller, Ahmed, would seem to harbor antisemitic prejudices, which are common in the Muslim community from which he presumably comes. But there is nothing in Farage’s response to indicate that he shares those views.
Certainly Farage did not say what his critics claim he did. He did not “go after the Jews,” as the Examiner claimed. He did not suggest Jews control the government, as the ADL’s Greenblatt charged — quite the opposite, in fact, as he pointed out that other groups also lobby the U.S. government. And he certainly did not say that “Jews Should Concern Americans” in any way, as Newsweek‘s Goodkind suggested (and Jake Tapper, in retweeting, repeated).
The terms “Jewish lobby” and “Israel lobby” can indeed be antisemitic, if they are used the pejorative sense that Greenblatt invoked. That was the sense in which former President Barack Obama used the term in 2015, when he complained, repeatedly, about “the money” and “the lobbyists” who were trying to stop the Iran nuclear deal, as if they were thwarting the real will of the American people. (Few in the media accused Obama of antisemitism then.)
That is clearly not the sense in which Farage used those terms. One can argue, perhaps, that his description was too simplistic, or that he should have done more to confront his caller’s prejudices. But that is far from antisemitism.
The attacks on Farage are just the latest attempt to tarnish President Donald Trump, whom Farage has supported. Goodkind, for example, uses the Farage controversy to invoke a litany of past false claims of antisemitism against Trump without including any contrary evidence other than his repeated denials. She even attempts to play down American Jewish support for Israel.
Farage’s critics do not care about the truth. They do not care about defending Jews. They just care about smearing him and Trump, hoping their false accusations of antisemitism will live on in search engines and news archives.
The attack on Farage is pure fake news, and his accusers should be ashamed.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He holds a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.