An array of US Jewish groups condemned President Donald Trump for his retweet of three incendiary videos posted by the leader of a far-right British anti-Muslim group, while Downing Street too said the American leader was “wrong” to have given voice to the extremist group.
“It is no longer alarming that our @POTUS is tweeting violent anti-Muslim videos created by far right extremists – it is a **four alarm fire.**,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said Wednesday on Twitter. “Of course this will embolden bigots in the US and abroad.”
Also on Twitter, the National Council of Jewish Women deemed the retweets “disgusting.” Other Jewish groups that criticized the president on Twitter included the American Jewish Committee; HIAS, the lead Jewish immigration advocacy group; Bend the Arc-Jewish Action; and the Reform movement through the director of its Religious Action Center, Rabbi Jonah Pesner.
“Using the bully pulpit of the presidency to fan the flames of xenophobia and other forms of hate is disgraceful,” Pesner said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said Trump was “wrong” to retweet the videos.
He said the group, Britain First, “seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law abiding people.
“British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents — decency, tolerance and respect.
“It is wrong for the president to have done this.”
Trump retweeted three tweets posted by Jayda Fransen, a leader of the far-right Britain First group, who has faced legal sanctions in the past for her anti-Muslim activity.
They purport to show Muslims throwing a youth off a building and beating him to death; Muslims beating a disabled Dutch boy; and a Muslim destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Fransen filled up her Twitter feed on Wednesday with news coverage of Trump’s retweets, even though in many cases the coverage was critical.
“THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN’S TWITTER VIDEOS!” she said in a tweet. “DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA! OCS”
“OCS” apparently stands for “Onward Christian Soldiers.”
In 2015, Community Security Trust, England’s Jewish anti-Semitism watchdog, rejected an offer of cooperation from Britain First.
“They are a far-right, nasty, racist group that intimidates minorities, especially Muslims,” Dave Rich, a spokesman for the Community Security Trust, told The Times of Israel at the time. “The Jewish community should and will not have anything to do with them.”
CBS quoted Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as defending the retweets. although the provenance of the videos is not certain.
“Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real,” Major Garrett, a CBS reporter, quoted Sanders as saying. “His goal is to promote strong border security and strong national security.”
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump offered anti-Muslim commentary, saying he would “strongly consider” closing mosques and insisting that “Islam hates us.” As president he has sought to ban travel from majority-Muslim countries.
Britain First was founded in 2011 by Jim Dowson, a former member of the anti-immigration British National party, and wants to ban Islam from Britain.
It is known for staging protests outside mosques, and has ran and lost in several British and European parliament elections.
The neo-Nazi sympathizer who murdered British MP Jo Cox was heard shouting “Britain first!” as he shot and stabbed her last year, which some commentators interpreted as a reference to the group.
Cox’s widower Brendan Cox said “Trump has legitimized the far right in his own country, now he’s trying to do it in ours. Spreading hatred has consequences & the President should be ashamed of himself.”
Anti-fascist campaign group Hope Not Hate described the group as “the most prolific anti-Muslim street movement in the UK” and said it has a membership of around 1,000 people.
Although small, it has a wide reach on social media, and has 1.9 million likes on its Facebook page.
Fransen, its deputy leader since 2014, was fined nearly £2,000 ($2,688) last year for abusing a Muslim woman wearing a hijab during a “Christian patrol” in Luton, north of London.
A trained lawyer, the 31-year-old is credited with giving the group its religious drive — in a mission statement, Britain First says it wants to “restore Christianity as the bedrock and foundation of our national life.”
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour party, had tweeted earlier: “I hope our government will condemn far-right retweets by Donald Trump. They are abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society.”
David Lammy, an MP for the opposition Labour Party, said: “The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted.
“He is no ally or friend of ours,” he said.
Stephen Doughty, another Labour MP, said the videos were “highly inflammatory” and his colleague Yvette Cooper said Trump had given Fransen a “huge platform.”