Monday, October 27, 2014

Mr.Farage Finds a Friend

IT's always nice to follow a character's career, having noticed them early on, and today we heard news of Raheem Kassam, a young man whose latest employer, a right-wing American outfit called the Breitbart network,  was pleased to announce that its London editor Raheem Kassam was moving on to become an adviser to the United Kingdom Independence Party(UKIP)'s leader Nigel Farage.
Extolling UKIP's recent successes, Breitbart says

"As a result, the party is moving onto an election footing, with Kassam set to lead on advising Mr Farage in developing party messaging, strategy, fundraising and publicity. The role is the first of its kind as UKIP grows and professionalises, and Breitbart London understands from senior UKIP sources that Kassam was picked specifically for his political nous and campaigning prowess.
Executive Chairman of the Breitbart News Network Stephen K Bannon said: "Raheem is a huge piece of manpower, as proven by one of the most important political movements in the world bringing him onboard. The entire company will miss his intelligence and drive."

UKIP leader Nigel Farage MEP said: "I'm delighted that Raheem has joined the People's Army of UKIP. His experience in media as well in political campaigning will be important to us on the run up to the general election in 2015."

Hat-tip to my friend Marko Attila Hoare for bringing this news to my attention. I must admit I'd hardly heard of Breitbart before, though its name reminds me of the crazy far-Right Norwegian gunman Breivik. Breitbart is not quite that far to the Right, but is named after a 'conservative' American called Andrew Breitbart and specialises in circulating news stories "exposing" what it calls "big government", that is anything resembling the Welfare State and taxing the rich to pay for it.

This would fit Nigel Farage's promises to outdo the Tories in cutting NHS jobs and spending, though his supporters have been denying on TV that they're against the service. (Apparently it is bad manners to remind UKIP spokespersons of anything they or their leader said from one week to the next, or before different audiences).

Breitbart has also been behind sensational stories smearing unlikely political figures by association with "terrorism", described by others as hoaxes.

Andrew Breitbart himself died in 2012. Conspiracy theorists claim he was assassinated on orders from President Obama. We are in the world of the Tea Party, and perhaps its wilder fringes.

Breitbart's London edition was launched on February 16, 2014 headed by right-wing journalist and climate change skeptic James Delingpole as executive editor and Raheem Kassam as managing editor. 

Raheem Kassam's work came to my notice in 2009. On December 17 that year the BBC carried a report that a man called Jonathan Hoffman had been barracked during a university debate at the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS),  by people chanting that he was "Jewish", and as such, not welcome. This referred in fact to a public event held by the SOAS Palestine Society and the British Committee for Universities in Palestine (BRICUP), with speakers from South Africa, one of whom Ronnie Kasrils is himself Jewish, as is academic Steven Rose, who also spoke.

It would have been surprising if Jonathan  Hoffman had not encountered some hostility at this meeting, since he had become notorious as an aggressive leader of the Zionist Federation, and his 'question' at the SOAS meeting was an attack on one of the speakers. But Hoffman was allowed to make his point without interruption, which is more than he allowed Holocaust survivor Hajo Meyer at a House of Commons meeting the following year. The Zionist federation chair was escorted out by police after persistent heckling of Dr.Meyer.

Several other members of the SOAS audience were also Jewish, including Naomi Wimbourne-Idrissi, who can be heard on video of the meeting introducing herself as Jewish before she spoke, and being applauded. None of them experienced any anti-Jewish chanting, and indeed it seems Jonathan Hoffman himself did not notice it or think it worth mentioning in his blog about the meeting on December 13.

The person who supplied the "antisemitism" story was Raheem Kassam. The BBC referred to his membership of Student Rights, describing this as an "anti-racist" campaigning organisation, though its own website prefers to identify itself as against "extremism". We don't know who else was in Student Rights.

According to a website called Standpoint in which some of his ideas appeared, "Raheem Kassam manages the counter-radicalisation pressure group 'Student Rights' from within the Henry Jackson Society. That's a society dedicated to aggressively bringing American-style 'democracy' to other countries. He also airs his views on the Conservative Home site, which says: 'Raheem Kassam hails from Uxbridge, studied Politics at university and is now a freelance political campaign strategist'".

The BBC had to pull its story about the SOAS event after complaints from people who had been there. But it seems to have continued treating Raheem Kassam as a reliable source on the subject of "extremism", particularly the Islamic variety, in British universities.

Having travelled from the ostensibly liberal Henry Jackson Society to the determinedly conservative (even by American Republican standards) Breitbart outfit, will Kassam be continuing to report extremism from his post in UKIP, with its known contingent of Holocaust deniers and believers in the famous Protocols? He takes up his new job in the same week that the Board of Deputies of British Jews, not known for exagerating (when right-wing parties are concerned) had this to say, about UKIP's links in Europe:

Board Vice President Jonathan Arkush said: “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.  Robert Iwaszkiewicz belongs to an extremist party whose leader has a history of Holocaust denial, racist remarks and misogynistic comments.  He belongs to the far-right Polish JKM, led by Janusz Korwin-Mikke who has reportedly called into question the right of women to have the vote.

 “Furthermore, we entirely reject UKIP’s justification that ‘All groups in the European Parliament have very odd bedfellows (and) The rules to get speaking time and funding are set by the EP, not UKIP’.  Extremists and racists should be roundly rejected, not embraced.  Even France's far right Front National rejected the JKM as being too extreme.

 “For UKIP to choose such a figure as Robert Iwaszkiewicz as a bedfellow, apparently for money, is beyond belief. Nigel Farage now has some very serious questions to answer.  He has placed in issue the credibility of UKIP."

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