LONDON - Police are investigating complaints about a British National Party (BNP) election leaflet depicting Polish people as monkeys campaigning for the Labor Party.
This is just one of several recent controversies involving the BNP, an assortment of neo-fascists, nationalists and xenophobes, whose members have been accused of verbal and physical attacks against ethnic and national minorities. (Since last week's machete murder of a British soldier by two Muslim radicals, the party has been particularly virulant in its anti-Islam rhetoric.)
BNP leader Nick Griffin, who is a member of the European Parliament, has already been convicted for distributing racially inflammatory material. Among other things, he is a known Holocaust denier, having once said that the Holocaust was “the hoax of the 20th century,” and that “the ‘extermination’ tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie, and latter day witch-hysteria."
But the far-right party seems to have a particular obsession with natives and descendants of Poland. The latest BNP flyers were distributed in the streets of Maryport, Cumbria County in Northwest England, the region that elected Griffin to the European Parliament in 2009. Cumbria County is the third largest county in England and Wales, with a population of just under half a million people.
“Our kids’ houses...”
The flyer says Poles are being paid small amounts of cash to deliver Labor Party leaflets. In a variation of its usual slogan, “British Jobs for British Workers,” the BNP flyer says: “Labor has given the Poles our kids’ houses,” referring to social housing allocated by local authorities.
Barbara Cannon, the Labor Party representative in Allerdale, the borough where Maryport is located, notified the police about the leaflet. "I do not want Poles to think they are not welcome in our region," she said.
The Cumbria police confirmed they were investigating the complaint but had not made any arrests.
When prompted by Gazeta Wyborcza, BNP spokesman Simon Darby denied the leaflets existed and said that the depiction of a monkey in election material was not a hate campaign against Poles, but only a reference to the English proverb: “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” The BNP alleges the Labor Party hired Polish canvassers to distribute election flyers on the cheap.
"The leaflet was not racist, because we have very similar roots and would gladly change 500,000 Muslims for 500,000 Poles," Darby told us. "Mass immigration into the UK is not the fault of Poles but the fault of British politicians, who stopped taking care of British citizens," he added.
He went on to say that "Poles who agree to work overtime without overtime pay are taking jobs away from British people."
“New tactics doubled our vote”
Polish embassy spokesman in London, Robert Szaniawski, called the BNP flyers a “scandal.”
"This is not how you treat national minorities in civilized countries," he said. The Polish embassy said that they would decide what steps they would take against the nationalists after reviewing the matter.
The BNP’s anti-Polish campaign did not help it win the Cumbria local elections. That didn’t stop Griffin from tweeting: New BNP tactics tested in Maryport more than doubled our vote to 40%.
New BNP tactics tested in Maryport more than doubled our vote to 40%. #byebyebnp ? Jog on
— Nick Griffin MEP (@nickgriffinmep) May 3, 2013
The Cumbria incident is not the BNP’s first attack on Poles. In 2009, they launched an anti-immigration called “The Battle for Britain,” which was largely directed against Polish immigrants. The poster of the campaign was illustrated by a picture of a Polish World War II Spitfire.
However experts identified the plane as being flown by the Royal Air Force 303 Squadron, made up of expatriate Poles rescued from France before the Nazi occupation. Furthermore, thanks to a “Donald Duck” painted on its cockpit, the pilot of the plane was identified as Polish war hero Jan Zumbach, who shot down eight enemy planes during the Battle of Britain in 1940.
The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.
LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.
Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.
The role of the nuclear pact
Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.
It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.
He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."
The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.
Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020commons.wikimedia.org
Riyadh's warming relations with Israel
Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."
The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."
Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."
Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.
If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.
Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.
Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.
For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.
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