Nicholas Farrell

If Nigel Farage is worried about anti-Semitism, he shouldn’t be teaming up with Beppe Grillo

Italy's stand-up populist has some alarming statements in his record – and some even more alarming supporters

If Nigel Farage is worried about anti-Semitism, he shouldn't be teaming up with Beppe Grillo
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Nigel Farage turned down an alliance with Marine Le Pen in the European Parliament not because her ‘far right’ Front National party is in fact — unlike his Ukip — ‘far left’ on most economic and social issues, but because it has ‘anti-Semitism in its DNA’.

Instead, Nigel Farage, the ex-commodity broker from Sevenoaks, has formed an alliance with the ex-comedian from Genoa, Beppe Grillo, leader of the Movimento 5 Stelle, which is an internet copy-and-paste version of Mussolini’s Fascist movement. Grillo, like his muse Il Duce before him, used to be a communist before he saw the light. Now he aims to replace parliament and the courts — as dictators do — with plebiscites and people’s tribunals on his website.

So the decision by Farage to joinforces with this ranting demagogue, a convicted manslaughterer to boot — whose slogan Vaffa! (Fuck Off!) is aimed not just at commodity brokers and their ilk but everything pretty much, except wind farms, ayatollahs and conspiracy theories — beggars belief.

Perhaps it was the European Parliament bounty – reported to be up to €4 million a year — that clouded his judgment. To secure the dosh requires 25 MEPs (he has 24, Grillo 17) from seven member states. Or perhaps his motive was more straightforward: he simply decided that he could get away with it as the world has yet to get its head round Beppe Grillo in the same way that it thinks it has got its head round Marine Le Pen.

But Signor Grillo says anti-Semitic things, unlike Madame Le Pen. I am not aware of a single remark of this nature made by Le Pen, and she is determined to get rid of the anti-Semitic elements which had placed the Front National beyond the pale when it was led by her father, Jean-Marie. A couple of weeks ago she rowed very publicly with him after his latest sick joke about the Jews and said: ‘The Front National most firmly condemns every form of anti-Semitism, in whatever form it takes.’ The Front National these days is anti-Arab, or anti-Muslim, or anti-Islamist — however you wish to define these things — rather than anti-Jew.

Grillo, on other hand, gives every indication of hating not only Israel, but Jews, too. To him, as to millions of net-curtain twitching lefties, it seems that the Jews are the symbol of parasitical capitalism.

During the European election campaign he posted a photograph of the entrance to Auschwitz on his website replacing the words on the gate ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ with ‘P2 Macht Frei’. It was a reference to the Italian P2 masonic lodge — a favourite punchbag of the Italian left these past 30 years. Just a joke, of course. As usual. Everything is, innit? But it caused outrage nonetheless.

Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said that such behaviour, especially during an election campaign, was ‘anti-Semitic’ because it poisoned people into thinking that a Jewish plutocracy runs the banks and big business. Italy’s leading Jewish journalist, Gad Lerner, writing in La Repubblica, defined Grillo’s post as ‘a racist outrage masquerading as a joke’.

Grillo’s internet political movement, fascistically not defined as a political party, came within a whisker of forming the Italian government after it came second in the country’s general election last year. And it came second once again at last month’s European elections.

One of his pet hates, it appears, is the ‘Jewish Lobby’. Recently, for example, he wrote on his website: ‘Who is behind this lobby, who is behind the banks…? This financial power causes Holocausts once a year, once a month, once a day.’

In 2006, he posted a picture of Mein Kampf on his website and wrote: ‘If sleeping reason generates monsters, then today the monsters have put reason to sleep… Let us listen to a voice from the past to understand the present.’ He then quoted a hefty chunk of the Hitler bible which included these words: ‘So, well-armed and confiding in both the good Lord and the unshakable stupidity of the electorate, we can begin the struggle to reform the State.’

His supporters are more nakedly prejudiced. His website has millions of visitors — more than any other in Italy, it is said —  and pullulates with anti-Semitic comments. OK, he is not their author, but he is their agent provocateur — or pied piper.

Here are some examples:

‘If I were in power I would bombard Israel day and night and make them yearn for a return to the methods used by Uncle Adolf.’

Or this: ‘The Shoah must go on.’

Or this: ‘Hitler was certainly a crazy man but what prompted his idea of eliminating the Jews was to eliminate their financial dictatorship.’ And this: ‘If the world had balls, Israel would have already disappeared two decades ago.’

Enrico Sassoon, former partner of Grillo’s intellectual guru and internet wizard, Gianroberto Casaleggio, is Jewish. When the two men fell out a few years ago he was demonised on Grillo’s website for his Jewishness. Subsequently, in a letter to the Corriere della Sera, Sassoon warned of a return to the dark days of the alleged ‘Tsarist and Hitlerian pluto-giudaic-masonic conspiracy’.

In January last year the Comunità Ebraica di Roma condemned Grillo and his movement as ‘crudely anti-Zionist’ and linked psychologically to ‘certain forms of radical Islam’. That March, the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France denounced  them as ‘nauseating’ and ‘profoundly anti-Semitic’. The Conseil went as far as to say  that the Movimento 5 Stelle was supported by people who believe that ‘all the evils of the world’ are caused by Jews and that Grillo has ‘without ambiguity never hidden his anti-Semitism’.

Many Italian commentators compare Grillo to the French ‘far right’ black comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala — famous for his upside-down Nazi salute, known as la quenelle — who in January this year became one of the very few people ever to be barred from entry to Britain. Dieudonné, famous for mocking Jews and the Holocaust, claims he is ‘anti-Establishment’ rather than anti-Semitic — just like Grillo.

Perhaps, though, the most disturbing thing about Grillo and his millions of voters is their fanatical belief in conspiracy theories and their desperation to identify and exact revenge on the perceived elite — which includes Jews, but not only Jews — for the ills of the world, all those supposed sinister puppet masters, in other words, who control everything dietro le quinte (behind the choir stalls).

Nigel Farage is not anti-Semitic, as far as I can tell. So the question is simple: why has he teamed up with somebody who, at the very least, does a great impression of a stand-up Jew-hater?