UK anti-Muslim leaders embrace Israel

Israeli flags on display at PEGIDA UK rally in Rotherham, in the north of England, on 4 June. (via Facebook)

The leaders of a UK far-right organization have announced plans to visit Israel, highlighting the appeal of the country to anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant bigots.

Anne Marie Waters, a leader of PEGIDA UK, has pledged to go to Israel on a “fact-finding” mission in the wake of the row over mostly trumped-up accusations of anti-Semitism in the UK’s main opposition Labour Party.

PEGIDA UK is the British arm of the Islamophobic street movement “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West,” founded in the eastern German city of Dresden.

In Germany, the movement has merged with neo-Nazi elements, among them such figures as Karl-Heinz Statzberger, who planned to carry out a bomb attack on a Munich synagogue in 2003.

PEGIDA UK’s Waters admitted to a pro-Israel blogger that the inquiry ordered by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “won’t find as much that is outwardly anti-Jewish, as is outwardly anti-Israel,” but made clear that she thinks “it is anti-Israel sentiment that we must confront.”

She has called for “a new and powerful pro-Israel argument” to be made in the UK and reportedly plans to write a book called “In Defense of Israel” following her trip.

Speaking to Canadian podcast Real Clear Israel, Waters said that she is planning to join the April 2017 “Ultimate Mission to Israel,” an annual propaganda tour of Israeli military facilities organized by Shurat HaDin, a lawfare group with close ties to the Mossad spying and assassination agency.

She characterized support for the Palestinian struggle for equal rights as “Islamic jihad against Israel” and “a Quran-inspired Jew-hatred” which “aims to wipe out Jews.”

Conspiracy theories

Waters, who was nearly selected as a Labour Party candidate in 2013, joined the anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party in 2014. She was removed as a candidate for the London Assembly, though not as a party member, for her links to PEGIDA.

She founded a group called Sharia Watch UK, which has propagated bizarre conspiracy theories including the claim that halal meat sales fund terrorism.

Its launch was hosted in the UK’s House of Lords by Caroline Cox, a member of the unelected chamber who was once co-president of Jerusalem Summit, a group that has denied the Nakba and supports the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Waters also attempted to host a “draw Mohammed” cartoon contest in London last year but could not find a venue willing to host it.

Waters also said her fellow PEGIDA UK leaders will also be visiting Israel.

They include Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known by his pseudonym Tommy Robinson, founder of the Islamophobic street movement the English Defence League, and far-right politician Paul Weston who admitted in 2014 that “I am a racist.”

Previously, anti-Muslim Dutch politician Geert Wilders has spoken at PEGIDA rallies across Europe and has expressed support for Israeli settlers.

Some of his funding has come from a key player in the US Islamophobia industry.

Wilders is the figurehead of the “counterjihad” movement, a growing strand of the far-right which distances itself from traditional neo-Nazism by claiming to abhor anti-Semitism and offering vocal support for Israel.

At PEGIDA UK’s most recent demonstration, in the northern English town of Rotherham on Saturday, several Israeli flags were clearly on display.

Pro-Israel, anti-Muslim

Whether the movement actually opposes anti-Semitism is questionable, as PEGIDA’s ties to neo-Nazis in Germany attest.

A swastika was seen at a PEGIDA UK demonstration and Nazi salutes have been observed during marches organized by Robinson’s old outfit the English Defence League.

At a demonstration in Birmingham in April, PEGIDA UK gave a platform to Lutz Bachmann, founder of the original German PEGIDA, which at its height attracted 25,000 people onto the streets of Dresden.

Bachmann resigned as leader of the group in January 2015 after photos of him posing as Adolf Hitler emerged, but he soon rejoined the group’s leadership, claiming the images had been doctored.

Anti-Semitism and support for Israel clearly co-exist in sections of the far right. These developments also underscore the kind of friends that Israel attracts: proto-fascists who idolize the country for its ultra-nationalist, highly-militarized and anti-Muslim practices.

These politics chime well with Israel’s current government, the most right-wing in its history, and underscore the growing links between anti-Muslim and pro-Israel movements.

PEDIGA UK leader Paul Weston has visited Israel once before, in 2010, as part of a delegation of far-right European leaders.

Adar Primor, columnist for the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz, described the visit as part of “the very unholy alliance between figures on Israel’s right and extreme nationalists and even anti-Semites in Europe that is gaining momentum in the Holy Land.”


Hilary Aked

Hilary Aked's picture

Hilary Aked (@hilary_aked) is a London-based freelance writer and researcher, an NCTJ-qualified journalist and a PhD student at the University of Bath researching the pro-Israel lobby in the UK. They also write for Spinwatch, Ceasefire, OpenDemocracy and Huffington Post.