An alliance between the British right wing party UKIP and a member of an extremist Polish party whose leader has questioned the Holocaust has won the strained support of the British party's Jewish members, who have defended it in the face of a surge of criticism.
The controversial deal was struck between the European Parliament's Eurosceptic bloc, of which UKIP is a member, and Robert Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, a member of the Congress of the New Right (KNP), whose leader has said women are too stupid to vote and doubts that Hitler knew of the Holocaust.
The deal made up for the defection of a Latvian lawmaker last week that had triggered the formal dissolution of the Eurosceptic bloc. The revival of the group gives it access to extra funding and the right to influential posts within the parliament.
A Jewish member of UKIP called Iwaszkiewicz a "distinctly unsavory person," but defended the alliance as a "marriage of convenience."
"Am I happy about it, no, but I am not at the coalface in Europe," Jeremy Zeid, the Jewish chairman of UKIP’s Harrow branch, told the Jewish Chronicle.
UKIP's Orthodox candidate in May's European elections defended the alliance by arguing that the party invited only Iwaszkiewicz to join, not his party leader.
"The man that has joined us said he wanted Hitler dead, he is no closet fascist," Shneur Odze told the Chronicle, and accused the alliance's detractors for not understanding "the nuances and intricacies" of European politics.
Alleged anti-Semitism and party affiliation aside, Iwaszkiewicz has been scrutinized in the past for misogyny, after telling a newspaper in May that wife-beating could be useful. "It would help bring some wives back down to earth," he was quoted in an interview with Gazeta Wroclawska as saying.
He later dismissed the reported remarks as "ironic."
Iwaszkiewicz's party leader Janusz Korwin-Mikke was fined last month for using racist language during a debate, and his comments on women and the Holocaust have long caused outrage.
For instance, Korwin-Mikke has previously termed the efforts to return Jewish property stolen during the Second World War to their owners "a Holocaust industry," and called Jews "our worst enemies, because they are talented communists," the Chronicle reported.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews vice president Jonathan Arkush said the Board is "gravely concerned" by UKIP's new alliance.
"Robert Iwaszkiewicz belongs to an extremist party whose leader has a history of Holocaust denial, racist remarks and misogynistic comments.
"For UKIP to choose such a figure as Robert Iwaszkiewicz as a bedfellow, apparently for money, is beyond belief. Nigel Farage now has some very serious questions to answer. He has placed in issue the credibility of UKIP," he said according to the Chronicle.
After a surge in the Eurosceptic vote at EU-wide elections in May - a result of notably public disillusionment with rule from Brussels, immigration and unemployment - Farage and fellow Eurosceptic leader of Italy's 5-Star Movement Beppe Grillo succeeded in forming the core of the voting bloc that also includes Swedish, French, Lithuanian and Czech members.
The diversity of views among Eurosceptics has complicated other efforts to unite them, however. UKIP refused a pact with France's National Front, which won a similar number of seats, citing a record of anti-Semitism among Front members.
Forming the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFFD) group brought additional funding and rights to senior posts on parliamentary committees, although Farage, who is riding high in British opinion polls, has since accused mainstream, pro-EU parties of denying the EFDD its due share.
Last week, UKIP accused speaker Martin Schulz, a German Social Democrat, of "blackmail" in pressing Latvian lawmaker Iveta Grigule to quit the EFDD in return for an official post. Schulz denied that. Grigule said she had been disappointed by the treatment of the EFDD by parliamentary authorities but also complained of the way the bloc was dominated by Farage and UKIP.
The party, which wants Britain to quit the EU, has 24 of the 48 members of the EFDD and 5-Star has 17. A spokesman for Schulz said on Monday that if the EFDD had a new member from a seventh country it would be able to be recognized as a voting bloc.
Reuters contributed to this report
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now