On January 28th 2013, BBC Radio 4 broadcast an edition of its ‘Beyond Belief’ programme, hosted by Ernie Rea, which supposedly dealt with the subject of contemporary antisemitism in Europe.
The programme can be heard here or as a podcast here. Its guests were Dr Edward Kessler – Executive Director of the Woolf Institute, Dr Yaakov Wise of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester and Mohammed Ansar (referred to by the host as ‘Mo’ during the broadcast) – described as a “social and political commentator”.
After listening to the programme, readers may find much to criticize and comment upon. For example, Rea states unquestioningly that there is “little doubt that Jews fared better under Islam than under Christianity throughout the Middle Ages” and, with equal certainty, later says:
“It does seem that it’s very difficult to criticize the Israeli government without in turn being told you’re antisemitc and some people would say that Jews see antisemitism everywhere.”
Yaakov Wise replies:
“Yes – they tend to be Americans actually, rather than European Jews who, I think, are probably a bit more realistic about…and of course have a lot more experience of living with antisemitism.”
Also notable are the repeated suggestions by Mohammed Ansar that it is “far right activity” on social media which promotes antisemitism, his constant attempts to shift the conversation in the direction of Islamophobia, his claim that “Islam is incredibly inclusive” and his promotion of Norman Finkelstein (he later made it clear on Twitter that this was the specific piece he was promoting – suggesting to his Twitter followers that they read Chomsky and Pilger too). Mind you, Ansar also thinks that Jesus was a Palestinian.
Ansar’s inclusion in a discussion panel about antisemitism – particularly one which highlights the recent case of racist Tweets in France – may seem distinctly odd when one considers that, despite his writings on the subject, only four months ago Ansar endorsed a Twitter account entitled “IsraeltheNazis”.
However, the part of this programme which is by far the most egregious comes at 23:15 when Ansar says:
“I think it’s really important to recognize also that as well as making the distinction in this country and the West about the distinction between Zionism, Israeli foreign policy and Judaism and Jews, this distinction is also being made in the Middle East – in the Arab territories. We have somebody who’s been considered a very controversial Muslim scholar in the West – Yusuf al Qaradawi – who goes to great lengths to ensure that people have a nuanced understanding and saying if you have difficulty with Israeli foreign policy, if you have difficulty with military occupation, this is something distinct from Judaism and Jews. And so regardless of many of his other statements, I think it’s really important that wherever we work we continue to make this distinction.”
Qaradawi – the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood – has been refused entry to Ireland, the US and the UK. The British ban was the subject of criticism from the Muslim Council of Britain, with which Ansar is associated.
“Muhammad Abdul Bari, the secretary-general of the MCB, condemned the ban. He said the UK government had bowed to Zionist and neo-con pressure…”
So let’s have a look at some of Qaradawi’s promotion of what Mohammed Ansar describes as “nuanced understanding”.
(Transcript available here.)
In his 2003 book ‘Fatwas on Palestine’ Qaradawi wrote:
“[W]e believe that the battle between us and the Jews is coming … Such a battle is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging; it is rather driven by religious incentives. This battle is not going to happen between Arabs and Zionists, or between Jews and Palestinians, or between Jews or anybody else. It is between Muslims and Jews as is clearly stated in the hadith. This battle will occur between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews.”
And that – as anyone even slightly familiar with Qaradawi knows – is merely the tip of the iceberg.
This BBC Radio 4 programme was not a live broadcast. According to Ansar himself it was recorded on January 23rd.
In other words, the BBC had five whole days in which to edit out Mohammed Ansar’s misrepresentation and promotion of one of the most reprehensible antisemitic hate-preachers around. But it chose not to do that.
That decision by the programme’s editor turns a broadcast supposedly attempting to discuss and inform on the subject of antisemitism into one indirectly promoting it. It makes the BBC part of the problem rather than a contributing factor to any solution. Beyond belief indeed.