Twenty four Jewish academics and intellectuals have signed an open letter drawing attention to what they say is the UK Prime Minister's poor track record on bigotry and associations with the "far-right". Published by The Guardian on the evening of 11 December, the letter accuses Boris Johnson of seeking to 'cynically' exploit the Jewish community’s "legitimate concerns" over bigotry in order to "distract from his own disgraceful bigotry."
The academics cite Johnson's 2004 novel, Seventy Two Virgins, in which the then Conservative shadow minister:
"describes “Jewish oligarchs” who run the media, and fiddle the figures to fix elections in their favour"
The letter says Johnson's book:
portrays a Jewish character, Sammy Katz, with a “proud nose and curly hair”, and paints him as a malevolent, stingy, snake-like Jewish businessman who exploits immigrant workers for profit. There is nothing subtle about this. We know what antisemitism looks like.
The authors also point out that as editor of the Spectator Johnson published articles by the "notorious racist Taki Theodoracopulos" who said black people “have lower IQs than whites.”
"A vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a far-right government that poses an existential threat to all minorities," the letter says.
The Conservative prime minister has repeatedly defended himself against the charge that he has used offensive and prejudicial language. Anyone could take "individual phrases" out of context which then might "seem offensive," he recently told BBC Question Time.
Johnson added: "If you go through all my articles, with a fine-tooth comb and take out individual phrases, there is no doubt that you can find things that can be made to seem offensive."
The Conservative Party has yet to respond to a request for comment.
UK polls opened on 12 December 2019 at 7am and will close at 10pm GMT.