As we saw in part one of this post, the January 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an interview with Deborah Lipstadt about the rise of antisemitism, during which presenter Martha Kearney found it appropriate to quote one of Jeremy Corbyn’s denials concerning the antisemitism evident in his party.
The January 26th edition of the same programme saw presenter Mishal Husain return to that interview with Lipstadt (from 1:50:36 here) in an item featuring a member of the UK Labour party. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Husain: “Can an outlook that focuses on race and privilege prevent people recognising antisemitism? That was the suggestion made on the programme yesterday by the historian Deborah Lipstatdt […] Here’s what she said.”
Recording Lipstadt: “…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.”
Husain: “Well Michael Segalov is a journalist, member of the Labour party and is himself Jewish. […] What do you think of that view?”
Segalov: “I think there is some truth in it. I don’t think that it is inherent to being progressive. I certainly don’t think misunderstanding what the Jewish community have been through is part of being progressive or on the Left. But I do think when – in particular in relation to Israel, which is obviously not what Jewish identity is all about but it’s part of it – it is possible to fall into a trap, which is understandable, of seeing Israel as a colonial state. And I think the reason that happens on the progressive Left more than it does elsewhere is because it’s only really on the Left that the lexicon is apparent. You don’t really see people on the Right talking critically about empire, about colonialism in a way the Left do. So I was trying to think of an analogy on the way here and to some extent I guess it’s like if you’re not trying to juggle you’re not going to drop anything – it’s that sort of issue there.”
Husain: “But what Deborah Lipstatdt was saying was actually something even more basic than that if you like. She is saying that if you see the world through this prism and she said – she was talking about ethnicity and class – but perhaps when you think about it in this way, that if you see…if your world view had a big focus on wealth and the inequality that results from imbalances in wealth and you perceive Jews as having wealth even though that is…depends on who you’re talking about, then you can find it difficult to see Jews as victims.”
Segalov: “Well no, I dispute that completely. I think it’s very important we say that those kind of prejudices such as seeing Jewish people as wealthy need to be dispelled. I don’t think it’s at all inherent to the idea that if you’re critical of wealth and power you’re suddenly antisemitic. I think making those connections is…”
Husain: “But that’s not what I said. I said could it mean that you are less likely to see Jews as people who can be victims?”
Segalov: “Only if you hold on to the view that Jewish people are wealthy and powerful which is…which is not fundamentally true. I do think there’s a bit more nuance to what Deborah said, as much as respect I have for her, in particular that I don’t think progressive people solely see inequality through the lens of either wealth or race. We see it through gender, you see it through sexuality, you see it through nationality and ethnicity and all different religious groups too. It’s all this identity politics idea. So I don’t think it’s as straightforward as to say that if you see the world through a lens of the powerful and the wealthy and the not so, that you’re ever going to fall into the trap of antisemitism.”
Husain: “But do you find yourself often having to make a point or urging people who have the same political views as you to see Jewish people in a different way from perhaps how they first see them?”
Segalov: “Not fairly regularly, no, no.”
Husain: “It does happen?”
Segalov: “Of course. I think they…we…antisemitism and misunderstandings of the Jewish community have been prevalent in Europe and this country and beyond for generations. And I certainly think at a time when Jewish people relatively in the UK and relatively in the US too, despite the administration over there, are safe and comfortable – a short period of time and long may it continue – it’s possible for younger people to not understand and appreciate the history that Jewish people have of marginalisation, oppression and discrimination. I don’t think it happens too often but of course there’s a risk.”
Husain made no effort to remind listeners (and her guest) that just four months ago 40% of British Jews said they would seriously consider leaving the UK if Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister.
Husain: “Michael Segalov, thank you very much.”
Quite how the producers of this programme thought Segalov’s largely incoherent ramblings would contribute to BBC’s domestic audiences’ understanding of antisemitism in the UK Labour party is a mystery. Listeners were however told by a person introduced as Jewish that it is “understandable” if people perceive “Israel as a colonial state” and they heard multiple references to Jews, wealth and power.
Sadly, even just days ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, BBC Radio 4 could not come up with impartial and informative reporting on the antisemitism that blights its listeners’ society.