25 April 2021 — Moon of Alabama
A current New York Times report finds that the British anti-Islam agitator and grifter Tommy Robinson was financed by American Jewish billionaires who promote Zionist colonialism in Palestine.
For several years Robert J. Shillman, founder and chairman of Cognex Corporation, and Nina Rosenwald, an heiress of the Sears Roebuck fortune funneled a monthly check to Robinson via the exteremist Middle East Forum run by the notorious Daniel Pipes. Shillman sits on the boards of The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, and the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Rosenwald has served on the board of directors of many pro-Israel organizations and was vice president of Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). Another donor involved was the Jewish hedge fund manager Robert Mercer who gives to many extreme right causes.
As the Times summarizes it:
Mr. Robinson’s American connection was deeper than previously known. Interviews and internal documents newly released in court show how the U.S. research institute, the Middle East Forum, provided him with financial backing for three years, using cash from an American tech billionaire and Trump donor, while its president helped shape his message.
The details are quite intriguing and the reporting on the financial ties is well done.
But for the Times the fact that right-wing U.S. Zionists billionaires are financing proto-fascist anti-Islam movements in Europe is not the core concern.
Instead it uses a short visit to Russia Robinson made a year ago to smear and agitate against that country and its government.
That push of the story, not justified by any facts as we will show below, starts with the misleading headline:
The anti-Islam agitator Tommy Robinson struck gold in America. Keeping it might require help from Moscow, where other British far-right activists are also finding friends.
The first part of the story introduces Robinson and lists his deep U.S. connections. It then turns to his short trip to Russia:
Now that Mr. Trump is out of office and the American money is apparently drying up, Mr. Robinson and some other far-right figures are turning to Moscow. Mr. Robinson, who is fighting a potentially costly libel case in London this week, did a media tour of Russia last year but three associates told The New York Times that part of his agenda was kept secret — to seek accounts with Russian banks.
“Why else would you visit Russia?” said Andrew Edge, a former senior figure in the English Defence League and another far-right group, Britain First, who said that he discussed moving money to Russian banks with Mr. Robinson and Britain First’s leader, Paul Golding.
In many ways, Mr. Robinson is now useful to the Kremlin — which has often encouraged fringe political figures who might destabilize Western democracies — for the same reasons he was welcome in Mr. Trump’s Washington.
How please has a discussion about opening a Russian bank account, to move money from Britain because it is under thread of being impounded, related to being ‘useful to the Kremlin’?
Hint – it isn’t.
It follows another long section describing in detail Robinson’s connections to the U.S. Zionist billionaires and his various crimes. It reports of a riot during a pro-Robinson / anti-Islam rally in London:
To British authorities, it was an alarming spasm of violence a short walk from Parliament. To the Middle East Forum, the rally was an unabashed success. The organization later proudly declared that it had sponsored the event in Mr. Robinson’s “moment of danger.” Mr. Pipes, the organization’s president, said his group was “vindicated.”
In an interview, Mr. Pipes acknowledged that Robert Shillman, a wealthy Trump supporter, was a Middle East Forum donor, though he declined to disclose who paid for the rally.
Mr. Shillman, who has previously been publicly identified as funding another project with Mr. Robinson, did not respond to requests for comment. Mr. Robinson said he had never spoken to Mr. Shillman but wished he had been able to thank him for “all his shekels,” a reference to the Israeli currency that is also a turn of phrase sometimes favored by anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.
Another dozen more paragraphs look deeper in Robinson’s financing.
Then the story suddenly turns back to Russia:
Mr. Robinson had already been banned from many social media platforms when, in February 2020, he posted a new video on YouTube. Dressed in a gray three-piece suit, Mr. Robinson is seen strolling through Moscow.
“Red Square’s beautiful,” he said. “I was surprised just how nice it is.”
“I might move to Russia,” he added.
Mr. Robinson’s week in Russia was a full-throttle media tour, including a 30-minute interview with RT, the Kremlin’s English-language propaganda channel, as well as an appearance at a packed auditorium in St. Petersburg, where he gave a lecture titled “The Rape of Britain.”
In one interview, with a libertarian activist and Kremlin critic, Mikhail Svetov, Mr. Robinson explained that he had flown to Russia because he felt “silenced in the U.K.”
“I’ve come to seek a platform,” he said.
By rushing to Moscow, Mr. Robinson was perpetuating a myth on the Western far right that portrays Russia as a defender of white conservative Christian values and its president, Vladimir V. Putin, as a paragon of valor. Russia also gives a platform to Western extremists blocked from social media.
“By using Tommy Robinson, the Kremlin is obviously sowing chaos,” Mr. Svetov said in an interview. “But it’s only happening because Tommy is cornered.”
The last quote from Mikhail Svetov, a libertarian Kremlin critic as the Times notes, is interesting because it was Mikhail Svetov, not the Kremlin, who had invited Robinson to Russia to hold his “Rape of Britain” speech at Svetov’s party congress:
[Robinson] posted pictures of his “lecture” at the Libertarian Party conference in St. Petersburg on his Telegram channel, with the words “Thank you Russia”. The party itself also tweeted pictures of him speaking to a packed hall. He was an odd choice of guest for a party, the leader of which – Mikhail Svetov – was one of the organisers of anti-Putin protests in Moscow last summer. But, if people on the fringes are likely to get together somewhere, it will be in Russia.
The fact that it was Kremlin critic Svetov, not the Kremlin, who brought Robinson to Russia is not mentioned in the Times report. It obviously does not fit the Times slant of the story which is the unsupported claim that the Kremlin sponsors European right wingers.
How else could the Times let the Svetov quote ‘By using Tommy Robinson, the Kremlin is obviously sowing chaos’ stand when it is so obviously false?
While in Moscow Robinson did the media rounds. But, unmentioned by the Times, his 30 minutes interview with RT was hostile and the host, RT’s Oksana Boyko who is herself married to a Muslim, attacked Robinson’s anti-Islam positions again and again:
Boyko took issue with the idea that Islam is to blame for the grooming gangs that have come to light in the UK, arguing that the men involved are simply criminals that have distorted Islam. She said that it is dangerous to make generalizations about Islam, noting for example that it would be wrong to characterize all British citizens as rapists and plunderers, despite the British Empire carrying out unconscionable crimes against native populations in the past.
RT is ‘Kremlin related’ as it is funded by the Russian government.
But Robinson’s media round in Moscow were organized by Edvard Chesnokov, a deputy foreign editor of Komsomolskaya Pravda, which is Russia’s largest tabloid and privately owned. It trends, like most tabloids, towards the rights and likes screamers like Robinson who generate sensational headlines. It is as much ‘Kremlin related’ as the New York Times is ‘White House related’.
Towards the end of the story the Times‘ Russia angle of the ‘U.S. Zionist billionaires finance anti-Islamists in Europe’ completely breaks down.
Two people who talked with Robinson before he went to Moscow say that he thought about opening a Russian bank account. One person who was with Robinson in Moscow and another one who extensively talked with him afterwards say that he did not opened an account. Robinson himself confirms that:
In a phone interview that he filmed, Mr. Robinson joked that he had gone to Moscow to find a Russian wife, but denied opening or discussing opening any bank accounts in Russia, or holding assets outside Britain.
He said he had simply accepted an invitation to speak in a country that welcomed him more warmly than his own.
“I wanted to go and see what Russia was like and try to understand the freedom aspect because our politicians and journalists go on about how Russians have no free speech, how Russians have no freedom,” he said.
“But I wanted just to let them know that we don’t over here, we have a facade.”
It is a message that the Kremlin’s propaganda networks dutifully conveyed.
The New York Times story is a weird composition. At its core is a solid investigation into Jewish billionaire financing of anti-Islamisms in Europe.
But artificially propped onto that is a very weak tale pulled from hot air and full of slander, lack of context and disinformation. It tries, unsuccessfully, to connect the U.S. financed rightwing protagonist to some assumed Russian government desire without providing a shred of evidence for that.
That part is, down to the last line, completely baseless propaganda. It devalues the original investigation.