BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ discusses antisemitism ahead of HMD – part one

As Holocaust Memorial Day approached, on January 25th the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme aired a short interview (from 2:24:30 here) with Deborah Lipstadt concerning her new book.

The introduction to that item from presenter Martha Kearney included the following: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Kearney: “Her new book looks at the rise of antisemitism in the past decade and maintains that it’s no longer just the far Right but those on the Left as well who are to blame.”

Having brought in her guest she went on:

Kearney: “Now just describe to us what you think lies behind this recent wave of antisemitism.”

Lipstadt: “Well as you said in the introduction I think right now it’s coming from the Right and from the Left and from a third source and that is Islamist Jihadist extremists. What lies behind it? I think a number of factors. First of all we’ve seen Right wing populist governments or Right wing political leaders, including in my own country, play on making divisions among people, play on making divisions against minorities which gins up this attit…plays into the antisemitism. On the Left I think it’s been brewing for a long time. We could trace roots of it back […] to the late […] USSR. But it’s been there but it’s taken on an added potency in recent years and is often used in connection to Israel.”

Kearney: “And you’ve written about Jeremy Corbyn in this context in your book.”

Lipstadt: “I have. I think Jeremy…I don’t know if Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite or not and I don’t think that’s the important question. I don’t know what’s in his heart. But what I do is look at his record over a very long time [….] and what I see is a man who doesn’t understand antisemitism or – worse yet – doesn’t take it seriously…”

Interrupting her guest, Kearney immediately jumped in with a quote which some BBC listeners have heard used before.

Kearney [interrupts] “Well you see he would dispute that and he’s written a number of articles and put out a number of statements and said, you know, for example ‘people who dish out antisemitic poison need to understand, you do not do it in my name’.”

Lipstadt: “Right, I know that. I think for Jeremy Corbyn and other progressives – not all progressives but people who…many people consider themselves progressives, their view of the world is refracted through a prism which has two facets. One factor is ethnicity and one is class. And they look at Jews and they see white people – quote unquote white people – who are privileged and therefore could not possibly be victims of prejudice. There’s an irony here of course because if you turn to the far Right, they don’t consider Jews white people [….]. And they say well therefore you could not possibly be a victim of prejudice. On top of this – and we hear this from Jeremy Corbyn and from others – I am a progressive, I have gotten my progressive values with my mother’s milk, they are inbred in me, it’s impossible, it’s just impossible, it’s oxymoronic for me to be prejudiced therefore you must be making this up. You must be doing this for some ulterior purpose. And they just refuse to take it seriously. I see it on campuses in the United States from the Left, I see it in the British Labour Party, I saw it in the women’s march in the United States – the leaders of the women’s march. You see it in many different places that they just don’t think antisemitism is a serious problem.”

Kearney closed the item at that point, with the BBC’s domestic listeners having heard nothing of substance on the topic of far-Right antisemitism in the UK or what Lipstadt termed “Islamist Jihadist extremists” and the highly relevant issue of links between that brand of antisemitism and the British Left.

While it was Kearney who raised the subject of the leader of the UK Labour party, she also found it necessary to challenge her expert guest’s observations by amplifying denials of Corbyn’s role in propagating antisemitism in a country in which 5% of adults do not believe the Holocaust happened, 8% say its scale is exaggerated and 64% cannot accurately state how many Jews were murdered.

As we shall see in part two of this post, the next day’s edition of the ‘Today’ programme returned to part of this interview with Deborah Lipstadt.

 

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