The far right in Britain is growing—and it has international backing.
Jailed Nazi Tommy Robinson has been held up as a “free speech martyr” by the far right.
The “Free Tommy Robinson” campaign has demanded the release of Robinson, who admitted to contempt of court after he filmed outside a trial.
His supporters have held two “Free Tommy” mobilisations demanding his release, on 9 June and 14 July.
Far right figures from across the US and Europe spoke or sent messages of support to both.
InfoWars alt right website founder Alex Jones has claimed to be funding Robinson. And Donald Trump’s son, Donald Junior, tweeted his support of Britain’s most prominent fascist.
The racist Middle East Forum (MEF) “think tank” in the US admitted to funding both “Free Tommy” demonstrations. The MEF’s president is longstanding Islamophobe Daniel Pipes (see right).
Raheem Kassam, a British “fellow” of MEF, said the costs of the June and July mobilisations came to “£10,000 to £15,000 per event”.
Kassam is the former London editor of racist website Breitbart News, and a former chief adviser for Nigel Farage.
Republican congressman Paul Gosar travelled to the 14 July event. His attendance was organised by MEF. Gosar is thought to be Steve Bannon’s link to the Freedom Caucus, a group of hardline conservatives in the US House of Representatives.
Bannon, Donald Trump’s former presidential election campaign manager, is reported to have met senior Tory figures. These include Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Bannon is also building a far right think tank called The Movement, designed to pull European politics to the right.
The MEF helped Robinson with his legal costs. It has previously helped other far right figures with legal costs (see below).
Forum director Gregg Roman said, “No matter one’s views of
Mr. Robinson, all decent people must support his right to discuss controversial matters without fear of arrest, secret trial, and imprisonment.”
The same rights don’t apply to Muslims though.
“‘Engagement’ with non-violent Islamists only serves to fuel the radicalisation problem,” reads another article from the MEF’s canon of hate.
The MEF is one of the more “moderate” of the right wing forces arrayed behind Robinson.
His attempts to portray himself as a “free speech” martyr go back to 2012 when he spoke at a far right rally in New York organised by Pamela Geller (see right).
Geller and others’ more combative anti-Muslim rhetoric has taken a back seat—for now—to the alt-right’s focus on “free speech”, which acts as a cover for Islamophobia.
The best way to prevent Robinson’s martyrdom is to choke off the oxygen from the movement behind him.
When he is released the fascists will mobilise thousands to greet him—we must be there to stand against them.
The Middle East Forum has a lot of cash—and uses it to push Islamophobia across the world.
It was set up in 1994 and its Legal Project has been used to fund far right figures’ legal cases against what it describes as “Islamic lawfare”.
Islamophobic politician Geert Wilders from the Netherlands received support from MEF. “The importance of the MEF’s Legal Project in reclaiming free expression and political discourse in the Netherlands against the encroachment of hate speech and incitement laws, cannot be overestimated,” he gushed back in September 2011.
The MEF has handed over tens of thousands in legal fees. It can afford to do this because it has deep pockets stuffed with money from wealthy backers.
One such backer is the Edgerly Foundation. It gave MEF almost £200,000 between 2000 and 2015—almost £40,000 a year in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
William S Edgerly is one of the trustees of the foundation. His money comes from the time he was CEO of State Street Corporation, a Fortune 500-listed bank.
A 2011 study found that between 2000 and 2009 MEF received over £6.5 million in donations.
Other MEF backers include the Russell Berrie Foundation, which gave almost £250,000 to MEF between 2000 and 2003.
Russell Berrie was a soft toy manufacturer, whose firm was valued at almost £230,000 before he retired.
Despite funding open Islamophobes the foundation’s “Interfatith Bridge Building” campaign claims to forge “meaningful connections among Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders.”
Another backer is the Klarman Family Foundation.
As of 2013 its trustees included Seth A Klarman, the founder of the Boston-based hedge fund the Baupost Group. As of 2015 the group was worth more than £15 billion.
In 2010 the foundation gave MEF almost £40,000.
That’s a drop in the ocean compared to the other donations the foundation makes. For instance, in 2014 it gave over £1.1 million to the Zionist organisation Birthright Israel.
This organises trips to Palestine for young Jewish people to foster support for Israel—while concealing the existence of Palestinians and the occupation.
Daniel Pipes is the president of the Middle East Forum.
He is a longstanding and vicious Islamophobe who provides a bridge between the far right and the US neocons. Nazi thugs always try to benefit from “respectable” backers. Pipes gives “credibility” to the anti-Muslim movement in the US thanks to his visiting professorships at places like Haifa University in Israel.
“The police allow rape gangs to operate for decades but swoop down within minutes on Tommy Robinson for a peccadillo,” said Pipes.
He travelled to Robinson’s hometown of Luton to meet him in December 2017. He said of Robinson, “He is knowledgeable, draws a distinction between Islam and Islamism, and is a leader.
“Toffs should get over their class bias against him and the authorities must treat him fairly.”
Pamela Geller invited Robinson to speak in New York at a 2012 conference hosted by her Stop Islamification Of Nations organisation.
Robinson snuck in to the US for the rally, and was imprisoned on his return for using a false passport.
She has previously said, “Muslim immigration is tied directly to Islamic terror. The more Muslim immigration, the more Islamic terror you have, and the more of the Muslim zones—these no-go zones. Europe is a cautionary tale.”
Protesters told Socialist Worker why they were marching