While much of the neo-Nazi fringe remains opposed to the existence of Israel, the whites-only British National Party recently declared its full-throated support for Israel’s attack on Gaza. The shelling of Gaza City by Israeli forces has brought joy to the heart of BNP head of legal affairs Lee Barnes: “This sort of ‘disinfecting’ process whereby Israel is required to sterilise areas of radical Islamist support … is what all nations have to do in order to eradicate Islamist cells who have managed to take over territory either within or on the edges of their borders,” Barnes wrote on his blog on January 4. He continued, “Get used to the casualties – for without them any nation so infected with Islamism will surrender, rot away into liberal apathy and then dies as it is taken over.”
Nick Griffin, the BNP’s Cambridge-educated, media-friendly chairman, echoed Barnes’ comments in an essay called “Israel’s Gaza affair:” “The Israelis will NEVER get unbiased reporting on the Brussels Broadcasting Corporation, despite being the only civilised country in the region & fighting for their very existance [sic],” Griffin proclaimed. “It is NOT our place to get involved but you aren’t the only one to be 100% behind them, they are an example to us all because the only thing the Islamic Terrorists understand is FORCE.”
Griffin’s endorsement of Israel’s attack on Gaza marks the latest phase in his attempted transformation of the BNP from an anti-Semitic horde of football hooligans into a viable right-wing alternative to the Conservative Party. Once an open denier of the Holocaust, Griffin published a pamphlet in 1997 called “Who Are The Mind Benders?” that claimed Jews had conspired to brainwash the British people by dominating the media. He immediately received a two year suspended sentence for inciting racial hatred.
After seizing control of the BNP’s chairmanship in 1999, Griffin realized his neo-Nazi tactics had failed. He shifted strategies, adopting a platform that closely mirrored that of Jean Marie Le Pen’s then-incipient Front National in France. Griffin savaged the government for its supposedly soft handling of pedophiles, bashed homosexuals (despite claims by former far-right activist Martin Webster to have engaged in a secret gay tryst with Griffin), and called for the dismantling of multiculturalism.
With Muslims immigrating to Britain in increasing numbers, Griffin assailed Islam in 2004 as a “vicious, wicked faith,” and claimed the “Islamification” of his country was a form of rape. Islamophobia thus became the foundation of Griffin’s new strategic thrust.
In a 2007 essay, Griffin revealed the cynical motives behind his replacement of the BNP’s anti-Semitism with Muslim bashing: “It stands to reason that adopting an ‘Islamophobic’ position that appeals to large numbers of ordinary people – including un-nudged journalists – is going to produce on average much better media coverage than siding with Iran and banging on about ‘Jewish power’, which is guaranteed to raise hackles of virtually every single journalist in the western world.”
During the spring of 2008, the BNP campaigned through Jewish areas in London, blanketing neighborhoods with leaflets juxtaposing fearsome images of radical Muslims with a smiling headshot of Pat Richardson, the BNP’s only Jewish councillor. “I’m in the BNP because no one else speaks out against the Islamification of our country,” Richardson declared.
Ruth Smeed of the Board of Deputies of British Jews observed with astonishment, “The BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web – it goes further than any of the mainstream parties in its support of Israel and at the same time demonises Islam and the Muslim world.” However, Smeed and an array of Jewish organizations in Britain were not fooled by Griffin’s new philosemitic patina. They rejected his play for their votes and urged their constituents to do the same.
But while Britain’s Jewish community has largely rebuked the BNP’s cynical machinations, it is unclear where Israel stands. Will the Israeli government publicly denounce the BNP’s support, or quietly accept it in the face of increasing pressure from European governments to accept a cease fire?