As was documented in part one of this post, on September 7th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard a rare explanation of why some forms of anti-Zionism are antisemitism from professor of history and Holocaust studies Yehuda Bauer.
The following week, on September 13th, viewers of BBC’s Two’s ‘Newsnight’ saw Israeli author Amos Oz make the same point in an interview with Kirsty Wark.
A clip from the programme was also posted on the BBC News website and a written article about the interview appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘World’ page on September 14th under the title “Amos Oz: Saying Israel should not exist is anti-Semitic“.
“One of Israel’s great living writers, Amos Oz, says people who say Israel should not exist are anti-Semitic.
Speaking in an interview with BBC Newsnight, he said strong criticism of Israel is legitimate, but to argue there should be no Israel “that’s where anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism”.” […]
“In recent months, the Labour Party in the UK has been embroiled in a row over anti-Semitism, and whether the party has a problem on the issue.
Oz told Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark: “I can tell you exactly where I draw the line. If people call Israel nasty, I to some degree agree. If people call Israel the devil incarnated, I think they are obsessed – they are mad. But this is still legitimate.”
“But if they carry on saying that therefore there should be no Israel, that’s where anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism, because none of them ever said after Hitler that Germany should cease to exist, or after Stalin that there should be no Russia.”
“Saying that Israel should cease to exist, or should not have come into being, this is crossing the line.””
One can of course disagree with some of the analogies chosen by Amos Oz but nevertheless, it is worth noting that BBC audiences rarely see the connection between anti-Zionism and antisemitism explained and that in contemporary Britain it is far from rare to hear people “saying that Israel should cease to exist”.
The subject of BDS was also raised in the ‘Newsnight’ interview and in the written article.
“In February 2015, hundreds of UK artists signed a letter announcing they would take part in a cultural boycott of Israel. They said they would not accept professional invitations to Israel, or take any funding from organisations linked to the government.
Other prominent artists – including writer JK Rowling and historian Simon Schama – later criticised the move as “divisive and discriminatory”.
Oz told Newsnight he believes cultural boycotts of Israel are counter-productive.”
As has been documented here on many occasions, despite its frequent promotion of the BDS campaign the BBC has to date failed to inform its audiences of its full agenda and that it is in fact one of those voices “saying that there should be no Israel”. Hence, BBC audiences would be unlikely to understand the link between the BDS campaign and the form of antisemitism explained by Amoz Oz – and earlier by Yehuda Bauer – in these two rare interviews.
Regrettably, the BBC did not make the most of the opportunity to clarify that point to its audiences and thereby contribute to meeting its remit of building “a global understanding of international issues”.