Boris Johnson accused of invoking ‘pernicious antisemitic tropes’ in books

Boris Johnson accused of invoking ‘pernicious antisemitic tropes’ in books

Labour’s shadow communities secretary said of Boris Johnson’s writing that its 'rhetoric fuels prejudice towards Jewish people'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

Boris Johnson has been accused by Labour of invoking “some of the oldest and most pernicious antisemitic tropes” in books published in 2004 and 2008.

The novel Seventy-Two Virgins: A Comedy of Errors, published in 2004 while Johnson was the MP for Henley and shadow minister, chronicles an MP’s fictional attempts to counter a terrorist plot against the US president visiting Britain to deliver a speech in Parliament.

One passage involving a story-line about a vote on whether to discharge prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay refers to oligarchs, mainly “of Jewish origin,” who control TV stations.

The extract, discovered by The Independent as the UK prepares to head to the polls on 12 December, reads: “Maybe there was some kind of fiddling of the figures by the oligarchs who ran the TV stations (and who were mainly, as some lost no time in pointing out, of Jewish origin), but it seemed that Russia, one of the most populous countries in the world, was voting heavily for America.”

Elsewhere, the 300-page book describes a Jewish character called Sammy Katz as having a “proud nose and curly hair,” relying on “immigrant Labour” and as sending his son “pathetic presents, every five years, of low-denomination bills.”

One passage refers to Katz as having “eyes like an unblinking snake” as he cruised Bilston Road in search of “a bit of black.”

Meanwhile, in an anthology entitled Have I Got Views For You, Johnson refers to his children as “snowball-head Aryans.”

“Am I racist? I jolly well shouldn’t be. Look at my life. House in some Islington media gulch. Kiddies romping around in the minimalist basement. A couple of snowball-head Aryans and then one with fairly olive skin and one in between,” the extract reads.

“In fact I like to think my instincts, in this respect, are as blameless as those of the average Guardian reader; and the thing is, I am guilty nonetheless. Not of racism, I hope, but of spasms of incorrectitude, soon over, soon regretted,” it continues.

Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s shadow communities secretary, said: “Boris Johnson’s writing invokes some of the oldest and most pernicious antisemitic tropes about Jewish people controlling the media, and associating Jewish people with shady business, financial greed and being responsible for oppression and exploitation.

“This rhetoric fuels prejudice towards Jewish people. These are his own words as a narrator, not those of a character and he wrote them while he was an MP and a Conservative Shadow Minister.”

The criticism comes after the Conservative Party opened an investigation into three general election candidates over allegations of antisemitism.

The Conservative Party was approached for comment.

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