BBC R4’s ‘Sunday’ talks the talk on antisemitism

The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism, John Mann MP, was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ on August 9th. The item (available here from 05:21) was introduced by host William Crawley as follows:Sunday John Mann

WC: “Last week it was reported that the number of incidents of antisemitism in the UK is on the rise and a common analysis of that spike in anti-Jewish prejudice is the inability or unwillingness of some people to distinguish between the religion of Judaism and the politics of the state of Israel. But antisemitism has a longer history than comparatively recent disputes about the place of the Jewish state in the Middle East and that long history is surveyed in a new book – ‘Antisemitism: The Oldest Hatred’. Its author is the Labour MP John Mann who for the past ten years has chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.”

Listeners familiar with the BBC’s response to complaints concerning a reporter who, back in January, displayed precisely such “inability or unwillingness […] to distinguish between the religion of Judaism and the politics of the state of Israel” might have found Crawley’s detached description jarring.

Following John Mann’s explanation of why he wrote the book, Crawley came in again:

WC: “It’s complex sometimes because of the language and you point this out in the book: that sometimes people use language that covers…as a cover story…for antisemitism and it can be subtle; it can be difficult sometimes to recognize. Let’s explore that a bit, can we? Where do you see subtle forms of antisemitism today?” […]

JM: “The ways it creeps in that are distinctive and unusual are because of some of the caricatures of successful Jewish people. So concepts of wealth, of ownership – for example ownership of the media, ownership of business, control of countries – and not least the United States. That comes in a lot and it allows people – sometimes deliberately, more often, more ignorantly – to cross the border of what’s acceptable in terms of discourse […] and it’s this concept that the powerful Jew, the wealthy Jew, is used a lot. One example of how that is almost in the mainstream now: in the Baltics this is the imagery that’s there – similar to the imagery used by Goebbels and the Nazis – which is of this Jewish businessman-type figure, wealthy, controlling; a hidden influence who is malevolently affecting the future of society. That is used in the mainstream in the Baltics […] and to be honest, that’s quite extraordinary for part of the European Union.”

It is of course also quite extraordinary for the UK’s public broadcaster – but nevertheless, precisely such imagery was promoted in a BBC television programme on November 8th last year and the BBC failed to respond appropriately. Moreover, promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope and claims of Jewish and/or Israeli control of the United States have been documented on numerous occasions on these pages – see for example here, here, here, here and here.

Towards the end of the item, Crawley asks John Mann “how best to challenge the normalization of that kind of prejudice?” and the reply includes the following:

JM: “…you deal with your own backyard first. You deal with those in your own local community; you deal with those in your own workplace. In politics you deal with those in your own political party.”

Until the BBC begins to ‘walk the walk’ by seriously and frankly addressing its own issues concerning the mainstreaming of antisemitic discourse in its content and on its discussion boards, items such as this one can obviously only be viewed as cynical and opportunistic lip service to a very serious topic.

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