Boris Johnson criticised over ‘Sir Keir Schnorrer’ newspaper article

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Boris Johnson criticised over ‘Sir Keir Schnorrer’ newspaper article

Former PM accused of 'offensive' use of Yiddish term to attack the Labour leader Keir Starmer

Boris Johnson speaks to Ruislip Synagogue members
Boris Johnson speaks to Ruislip Synagogue members

Boris Johnson has faced widespread criticism after branding the leader of the Labour Party  “Sir Keir Schnorrer”  in his weekly newspaper column.

ITV presenter and political editor Robert Peston reacted angrily to what he said was a “pretty offensive” use of the Yiddish word for beggar and scrounger to mount an attack on Starmer in his column for the Daily Mail.

Peston wrote on X/Twitter: “‘Schnorrer’ is the Yiddish word for beggar and scrounger. It is pretty offensive.

“It was part of the lingua franca of my grandparents and of my childhood. I find it unsettling to see Johnson appropriating it to describe someone whose wife is Jewish”.

The Jewish presenter pointed to Johnson’s claim in the article when he says “if Schnorrer gets in, he will immediately begin the process of robbing this country of its new-found independence and make the UK the punk of the EU”.

Peston asked his followers on social media if they felt he was being over-sensitive, but his concern over the former prime minister’s Yiddish reference was widely shared.

Jewish News and Sunday Times columnist Josh Glancy added: “Don’t bring the Yiddish unless you know what you are doing.

“Johnson misapplies the word “schnorrer” here in an attempt to sound vivid and clever. “Schnorrer means someone who is stingy or a beggar. It does not mean a trickster or a liar. What a shmendrik.”

The Tory peer and commentator Danny Finklestein added:” I agree with Robert. I can’t imagine what on earth persuaded either Boris Johnson or the Mail to think this was acceptable in any way.”

As Prime Minister and in recent months, Johnson has been outspoken in support for the Jewish community, and of Israel, joining the national demo against antisemitism in central London last November.

He also ruthlessly exploited claims Jeremy Corbyn was soft on antisemitism to win the 2019 general election.

In November 2022 he gave a speech to congregants at the Ruislip Synagogue, before stepping down as a MP last June after accusing a Commons investigation into whether he misled Parliament over partygate of attempting to “drive me out”.

But he was a Conservative shadow minister, Johnson had previously faced criticism of a book he wrote which described “Jewish oligarchs” who run the media, and fiddled the figures to fix elections in their favour.

The same book also portrayed a Jewish character, Sammy Katz, with a “proud nose and curly hair”.

As editor of the Spectator he chose to publish articles in which the notorious racist Taki Theodoracopulos boasted of being “an antisemite”.

Jewish News has contacted Johnson for comment over his latest newspaper column.

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