Senior Tory peer and former Times editor, Lord Finkelstein, sits on board of think-tank promoting far-right racism and extremism
Lord Daniel Finkelstein, a close confidant of Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, has expressed his pride in providing a platform for racist far-right extremist views, and leading figures who have promoted such views. He sits on the board of a controversial little-known American think-tank that has endorsed calls for the forcible depopulation of ethnic minorities and Muslims in parts of Europe, and published discredited racist myths such as the idea of “Muslim no-go-zones.”
Lord Finkelstein is a political columnist and former executive editor at The Times of London. Until recently, he was chairman of the well-known Conservative think-tank Policy Exchange and a longtime adviser in the Tory Party. He is currently still a director at Policy Exchange according to company records.
In a recent article in The Times, Lord Finkelstein explained that he wants Muslims to “flush out killers” in their midst. Notwithstanding reasonable reservations about this, the problem is that Lord Finkelstein remains strangely resistant to the idea that he should root out extremism in his own midst. Not only that, he is promoting far-right politics, and in the name of freedom itself.
Finkelstein sits on the Board of Governors of the Gatestone Institute. Gatestone is a neoconservative US think-tank chaired by John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN during the Bush administration. The think-tank receives most of its funding from foundations controlled by the group’s president, Nina Rosenwald.
According to the Center for American Progress in Washington DC, a leading think-tank, Nina Rosenwald and the foundations controlled by her and her family are part of “a small, tightly networked group of misinformation experts” that “peddle hate and fear of Muslims and Islam.” Gatestone is an integral part of that network.
Finkelstein seems to believe that through his governorship of Gatestone, he is doing a public service. Bright ideas promoted by Gatestone under his watch include the proposal that Muslims and certain ethnic minorities in parts of Europe should be forcibly depopulated.
Ironically, Finkelstein’s Gatestone for the last few years has repeatedly endorsed the very myth of “Muslim no-go-zones” in Europe that caused David Cameron to describe a Fox News pundit echoing the same ill-informed views as an “idiot.”
Yet the role of one of his own close confidants in promoting such far-right extremist views must raise questions about the Prime Minister’s judgement, and the extent to which such views are influencing government policies.
In my latest Middle East Eye story, I described how the Gatestone Institute is deeply embedded in a network of far-right extremists, indulging in anti-Muslim hatred, outright racism and white supremacism. Lord Finkelstein sits on the board of the Institute, which as of 2014 had also listed Douglas Murray on its board, but who is now instead a Distinguished Senior Fellow there. Murray is Associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society, which also receives significant funding from Rosenwald.
In the name of “counter-extremism”, the Gatestone Institute openly promotes racist bigotry. I’ll give just two examples for now. Consider, for instance, this article by a Gatestone senior fellow published in April 2014, while Finkelstein was still Times executive editor. It promotes and endorses the statements by “racist” Geert Wilders, where he calls for the ethnic Moroccan population of the Netherlands to be reduced. The article offers a range of other inflammatory racist generalisations about ethnic Moroccans.
Wilders addressed the meeting: “So I ask you what do you want in this city, more or less Moroccans?”
The crowd chants, “less. less.”
Wilders continues: “We will fix it.”
The crowd laughs.
The simultaneous positions are important to note, because while Finkelstein would not dare to publish an article openly supportive of racism through The Times, which could breach British law and trigger fines from the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), he instead has done so across the pond through Gatestone. This is revealing, however, of the true editorial sentiment at one of our leading “liberal” British broadsheets.
Here is the Gatestone Institute’s shameless endorsement of this neo-fascist bigotry, which generated outraged headlines across the world last year, and that has led to Dutch authorities charging Wilders with inciting racial hatred.
The Gatestone Institute was the main source behind recent gaffes by “terror expert” Steven Emerson and UKIP leader Nigel Farage on Fox News, recently criticised by Cameron.
As pointed out by Prof. David Miller, a sociologist at Bath University and director of Spinwatch, the “Muslim no-go zone” myth traces back to the rantings of Gatestone Institute senior fellow, Soeren Kern. Since 2011, Kern has posted numerous articles on Gatestone arguing that 5 million Muslims in France were operating Shari’ah Law zones that were outside the control of French authorities. Prof. Miller points out that Kern’s paranoid fantasies were inspired by the earlier rantings of another Rosenwald funding beneficiary, Daniel Pipes.
After Pipes actually visited France to see the Muslim no-go zones for himself, he expressed his “regret” at having mistakenly characterised them in that way, describing them instead as “unthreatening, routine places” where for the most part “order prevails.”
Yet sadly, Finkelstein was unwilling to admit his co-responsibility for publishing Kern’s absurd, inaccurate and hateful screeds. Finkelstein even suggested that he might well consider that such “Muslim no-go zones” do exist.
This is an extraordinarily disingenuous response, given that Kern has been ceaselessly promoting the myth of “Muslim no-go-zones” via Finkelstein’s Gatestone Institute since 2011. The case of Gatestone’s reported firing of Clare Lopez in 2013 due to her promotion of a book highlighting the US government’s alliances with Islamist extremists abroad, which was done at the behest of the Board of Governors (including therefore Finkelstein), illustrates how closely board members review Gatestone articles.
Accordingly, I challenged Finkelstein on the idea he was unaware that the organisation whose board he’s on is publishing such things.
Finkelstein confirmed that he was in fact aware of what Gatestone Institute does, what it publishes, and who it hosts – but now was insisting that it doesn’t matter because he doesn’t always agree with it.
I also asked Finkelstein why he would promote and support via Gatestone someone like Douglas Murray, who has openly espoused views commensurate with far right white supremacism, and has advocated policies against European Muslims that would make neo-Nazis proud. Despite claiming in 2011 that he had rejected those policies “years ago,” only the preceding year he had proudly confirmed his continued belief in such policies.
In 2013, for instance, Murray wrote an article on why he thinks “white British people” are “losing their country”. London, Murray wrote, “has become a foreign country” in which “‘white Britons’ are now in a minority,” and “there aren’t enough white people around” to make its boroughs “diverse”.
His chief concern was not “integration,” but “skin colour,” as quoted by James Bloodworth in the Guardian: “We long ago reached the point where the only thing white Britons can do is to remain silent about the change in their country. Ignored for a generation, they are expected to get on, silently but happily, with abolishing themselves, accepting the knocks and respecting the loss of their country. ‘Get over it. It’s nothing new. You’re terrible. You’re nothing.’”
The principal cause of the abolition of “white Britons,” Murray wrote elsewhere, is the “startling rise in Muslim infants”. Thus, it appears that for Murray, the principal threat to white supremacy in London is the astronomical birthrate of non-white Muslims.
In 2006, Murray told the Dutch parliament in an extraordinarily revealing speech, the full text of which Murray has now removed from the Internet, the following fascistic prescription for targeting Muslims in Europe:
It is late in the day, but Europe still has time to turn around the demographic time-bomb which will soon see a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities. It has to. All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop. In the case of a further genocide such as that in the Balkans, sanctuary would be given on a strictly temporary basis. This should also be enacted retrospectively. Those who are currently in Europe having fled tyrannies should be persuaded back to the countries which they fled from, once the tyrannies that were the cause of their flight have been removed. Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition. We in Europe owe – after all – no special dues to Islam. We owe them no religious holidays, special rights or privileges.
Murray even said that European Muslims who “take part in, plot, assist or condone violence against the West must be forcibly deported to their place of origin.” Defining “the West” as including both Western countries and Western troops, he explained: “Where a person was born in the west, they should be deported to the country of origin of their parent or grandparent.”
As Paul Goodman pointed out: “A reasonable reading of his words is that any British Muslim who opposed whatever war an allied government was waging at the time should be expelled from his home country. I was later shown his speech by other members of the Conservative front bench, who were extremely concerned about it.”
Finkelstein was unfazed by my reference to Murray’s bigoted remarks. He did not condemn them, did not find them abhorrent, did not say he believed them to be racist or discriminatory or even extreme. Instead, he explained that these views did not represent “his views,” but clarified that he “enjoyed” Murray’s speeches, and found them to be “stimulating and worthwhile.” He also insisted that he believed that Geert Wilders should be given a “platform” to air his racist, genocidal proposals for forcible population reduction of Muslims and ethnic Moroccans in the Netherlands.
It’s unclear why Finkelstein thinks that believing Gatestone is neo-fascist contradicts the view that the Islamist extremism it purportedly opposes is fascist, as if the world is in some “zero-sum” game where either ISIS or neo-fascist anti-Muslim bigotry wins. In truth, most of Gatestone’s publications associate Muslims in general, and Islam as a whole, with terrorism and extremism.
That, of course, is precisely what fanatical terrorists like Anders Breivik believe. It should therefore not be a surprise to note that Gatestone also lists and has published articles by “Fjordman“, a pseudonym used by Peder Jensen – a far-right Norwegian blogger whose writings were featured in the manifesto of mass-murderer Anders Breivik.
I pressed Finkelstein on why it is he that he feels people like Murray and Wilders should be promoted to air racist and xenophobic bigotry, while selectively fighting only anti-Semitism or Islamist extremism.
Deafening silence from a former Times editor.
Lord Finkelstein’s unwillingness to admit such racist double-standards and complicity in the wilful promotion of blatantly false and inaccurate anti-Muslim bigotry is all the more disturbing given the power he wields in Whitehall – not simply as a former chairman of Policy Exchange, but also a longtime Tory Party advisor.
Precisely how far the power extends is hinted at in an interesting Spectator piece by Peter Oborne. Oborne explains that not only was Finkelstein involved in writing the speeches of cabinet ministers like George Osborne as a de facto part of the inner circle of government policy machinery; he is also extremely close to David Cameron, being among the few journalists to see him so “very regularly” the Prime Minister could not remember every time he met him.
Despite parliamentary rules, Finkelstein meets with Prime Minister Cameron so frequently that Cameron fails to list his meetings with Finkelstein in the parliamentary register. What are they talking about together that the Prime Minister does not wish to declare? Oborne also notes that Finkelstein is “closer by far to George Osborne. One senior Times writer told me three years ago that he spoke “six or seven times a day. Probably more” to the Chancellor. Mr Osborne once reportedly remarked that he spoke to Mr Finkelstein more often than he did to his wife. But when Mr Osborne appeared in front of Lord Justice Leveson, the following exchange occurred:
Q. Does he [Finkelstein] act for you as a sort of unpaid adviser and/or speech writer?
A. No, he’s just a very good friend.
Why is it that Finkelstein feels he must be economical with the truth of his relationship with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor? Could Finkelstein’s uncanny ability to write things reflecting government thinking be part of it?
Finkelstein’s sordid brand of “journalism” at The Times, as Oborne reports, was largely one of propaganda for the interest of powerful private interests, corrupt greedy MPs, and the Tory regime itself. Oborne’s conclusion is sobering:
As any newspaperman will recognise, Daniel Finkelstein has never in truth been a journalist at all. At the Times he was an ebullient and cheerful manifestation of what all of us can now recognise as a disastrous collaboration between Britain’s most powerful media empire and a morally bankrupt political class. He is, however, a powerful manifestation of the post-modern collapse of boundaries between politics and journalism.
That Finkelstein also turns out to be a sympathiser, collaborator and promoter of far-right extremism in his board membership of Gatestone, all the while conveniently “distancing” himself from the abhorrent views he associates with and platforms, is all the more worrying.
This is the sorry, co-opted state of British corporate-dominated journalism, when some of our most respected thought-leaders and opinion-formers are complicit in precisely the sort of extremist far-right bigoted ideology that inspires violent white supremacists like the despicable Breivik.
Yet Finkelstein’s secretive high-level relationship with the British government via the Prime Minister and the Chancellor should provoke urgent questions, given the government’s purported determination to root-out both non-violent and violent extremism. Why is one of Cameron’s closest confidant’s a far-right extremist sympathiser who promotes ideas such as the forced depopulation of Europe’s Muslims, despite claiming to “disagree” with such views?
In this context, I’m not really sure what separates Finkelstein from the ISIS sympathisers he rightly condemns.
 Nafeez Ahmed, “White Supremacists at the Heart of Whitehall,” 6 March 2015, http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/white-supremacists-heart-whitehall-789183852
 Center for American Progress, “Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” August 2011, p. 21, http://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2011/08/pdf/islamophobia.pdf
 Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, “European No-Go Zones for Non-Muslims Proliferating,” 22 August 2011, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/2367/european-muslim-no-go-zones.
Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, “European No-Go Zones: Fact or Fiction? Part 1: France,” 20 January 2015, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/5128/france-no-go-zones.
Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, “European No-Go Zones: Fact or Fiction? Part 2: Britain,” 3 February 2015, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/5177/no-go-zones-britain.
 Nafeez Ahmed, “White Supremacists at the Heart of Whitehall,” 6 March 2015, http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/white-supremacists-heart-whitehall-789183852
 David Miller and Tom Mills, Open Democracy, “Misinformed Expert or Misinformation Network?”, 15 January 2015. https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/david-miller-tom-mills/misinformed-expert-or-misinformation-network
Peter Oborne, “A man of his Times – the curious case of Lord Finkelstein,” 28 September 2013, http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9034691/daniel-finkelstein-lord-of-journalism/
 Peter Oborne, “A man of his Times – the curious case of Lord Finkelstein,” 28 September 2013, http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9034691/daniel-finkelstein-lord-of-journalism/
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Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an award-winning investigative journalist, bestselling author and international security scholar. He is establishing a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project for the global commons, Insurge Intelligence.
A former Guardian environment blogger, he writes the ‘System Shift’ column for VICE’s Motherboard, and is also a weekly columnist for Middle East Eye. He is the winner of a 2015 Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian work, and is featured in the Evening Standard’s ‘Power 1000’ list of most globally influential Londoners.
Nafeez has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist, Counterpunch, and Truthout, among others.
He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It (2010), and the sci-fi thriller novel ZERO POINT, among other books. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.