LONDON, Aug. 9 (JTA) — The policy director of Britain’s Federation of Small Businesses has resigned over allegations of anti-Semitism.
Jewish leaders welcomed the resignation Wednesday of Donald Martin from one of the top positions in the FSB, a 160,000-member lobbying group.
Martin told the JTA he is “neither anti-Semitic nor racist,” and said he was pressured to go because “false and inaccurate allegations” were causing public relations damage to the group.
But a source close to the FSB said Martin had “defended anti-Semitism” at the closed-door emergency meeting where he was forced to resign.
“He gave a speech at yesterday’s meeting defending anti-Semitism, and was applauded for it” by a minority, said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.
The source described Martin’s views as “abhorrent” and “totally off the wall, but actually quite dangerous.”
Martin’s resignation came after a 10-month campaign by the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, which alleged last November that Martin’s Bloomfield Books is “one of Britain’s leading distributors of anti-Semitic material,” including “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and “The Myth of Racial Equality.”
The magazine claimed that Martin has a history of far-right activity dating back to the 1970s.
Martin consistently has denied the magazine’s allegations. He said he does not publish or promote “The Protocols,” but does distribute it “if people ask for it.”
“I value the racial and religious tolerance of British society and abhor the activities of those, including Searchlight, who seek to cause strife between different groups of people,” Martin said. “As a publisher and book seller, I believe in and practice freedom of statement within the law, without endorsing any matter published or distributed.”
Martin fought hard to keep his posts as U.K. policy director and honorary vice chairman of the group.
Following Searchlight’s initial report, the FSB hired a private investigator to check the allegations.
Martin was suspended during the investigation, but re-elected after it was completed.
The private investigator’s report was not released to the public. Steve Silver, the Searchlight reporter who broke the Martin story, said it “vindicated us” but that Martin was able to keep his position due to the support of the FSB’s national council.
Silver said Martin used his position in the organization to limit the extent of damage from the report.
However, under continuing pressure from lawmakers, the media and organizations such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the group’s national chairman John Emmins wrote to Martin demanding that he resign.
“I am forced to take this action exactly because you have not been willing or able to provide a complete and full rebuttal of the allegations,” Emmins told Martin.
Martin refused, prompting the emergency meeting of the FSB’s national council on Wednesday.
Before the meeting, a group of British legislators wrote to the FSB to complain about Martin, as did a number of companies that offer benefits to members of the group.
The Forum of Private Businesses, another lobbying organization, told the FSB it would not participate in any meetings where Martin was present.
The House of Commons Banking Committee suspended contact with Martin and threatened to break off relations with the group if it did not sack him.
Searchlight reporter Silver said Martin was able to hang on to his position for as long as he did because FSB members “did not realize what they were dealing with at first, and closed ranks” to support him.
He said he thought Searchlight’s campaign had made FSB members understand how serious the allegations were.
But a Jewish academic who did not want to be named said the small-business movement has a history of extremism.
“I’m not surprised to hear about these kinds of links. There is a strong ideological tradition that goes back to the 1920s and ’30s of seeing enemies on both sides — among the Bolshevik Jewish socialists on the left and international Jewish bankers on the right,” the analyst said.
He said such feelings were not common among small business people in Britain today, but that he “would expect to find the last vestiges of isolationist, little-Englandism” in that community.
The FSB source said there were other people in the organization who supported Martin’s views, and “we will be asking for their resignation as well.”
Legislator Martin Salter welcomed Martin’s departure.
He told JTA he was “pleased that we have flushed out another anti-Semite, but sad that these creatures still exist and that it takes intense political pressure to cleanse the stables of those who still peddle a doctrine of hatred and intolerance.”
Silver said Martin’s resignation was “a tremendous victory, but like all these things it’s not over. He’s still a distributor of anti-Semitic material.”