BBC Ideas tries – and fails – to explain ‘the root causes’ of antisemitism

Once again the BBC demonstrates that it lacks the authority and expertise to explain antisemitism.

Over the past three and a half years we have repeatedly documented the BBC’s dismal attempts to explain antisemitism to its audiences:

BBC News tries – and fails – to explain antisemitism and anti-Zionism

BBC News ‘explanation’ of antisemitism promotes the Livingstone Formulation

BBC article on antisemitism report recycles problematic backgrounder

BBC again ignores the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism

Another BBC antisemitism backgrounder promotes Livingstone Formulation

Another item in that genre appeared on the ‘BBC Ideas’ platform on December 20th – the same platform which in July of this year asked “is Zionism wrong?”.

Titled “Why are people anti-Semitic?”, the video – produced By BBC Northern Ireland – is one of a four-part series called “Prejudice Unpacked”.

“Why do people hold prejudices – like racism, homophobia and sexism? We explore some of the root causes.”

BBC Northern Ireland apparently concluded that the most qualified person to “explore some of the root causes” of antisemitism and help the public understand that form of racism is not an expert on the topic such as Dr Dave Rich, but an American Jewish stand-up comedian.

“As part of our series on the root causes of various forms of prejudice, US comedian Alex Edelman explores what’s behind anti-Semitism.”

The video – which is just over four and a half minutes long and is plagued by bad sound – opens with Edelman’s opinions on antisemitism in the UK. [emphasis in italics in the original]

“I think in the UK people are just sort of reckoning now with the existence of antisemitism and I think that that sort of self-interrogation is very difficult for people. I think it’s an identity crisis in the UK. People understand that antisemitism does in fact exist.”

Those who have been battling antisemitism in the UK for the past four years and longer may of course disagree with that diagnosis.

Viewers are told that Edelman “believes it’s important to understand anti-semitism in order to eradicate it” but the information which would promote such understanding is not evident in this film. Audiences hear that Edelman has personally experienced antisemitism – with no further details given – from different kinds of people and that it is “not restricted to one party or gender or race”.

However the two examples given – a late 1950’s newsreel of a swastika daubed on a synagogue in Leeds and a 2018 speech by Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban – both come from one side of the political map and viewers do not see any examples of antisemitism on the ‘progressive’ Left. 

A significant part of the video is devoted to the topic of Israel – which viewers are told is “a very complicated issue”.

“I think Jews get bludgeoned with Israel. I think Israel is like a very weird lead pipe for a lot of people. They’re just like ‘oh you’re Jewish so explain this Israeli policy’. And you’re like ‘well I don’t know if I 100% agree with that policy because, you know, I’m a person with complicated political views’. And then they’re like ‘well then, do you think Israel shouldn’t exist?’ and you’re like ‘no that’s not what I said either’. Like, Israel is a very complicated issue and it is the only sort of Jewish homeland on earth so for that reason Jews do have a special affiliation with it and it is a place by the way where I…I love my time in Israel ‘cos it is one of the only places where I do not feel ‘other’ for being Jewish.”

Having made sure to clarify that he has “taken issue with, you know, many of [Israel’s] policies” Edelman states that he thinks that:

“…Israel is used as a complete mask for anti-semitism sometimes or it’s used to justify anti-semitism.”

Viewers are not provided with any examples of how that device manifests itself.

Edelman spends the last part of the video telling the audience that there are many different kinds of Jews.

“And, you know, if you think all Jews are sort of powerful and educated and rich, I have a bunch of cousins that you should meet…”

Obviously this exercise contributed very little indeed to audience understanding of the “root causes” of antisemitism – not least because little effort was made to explain the many ways in which that form of racism manifests itself beyond the rather obvious daubing of a swastika on a synagogue, the use of “1930s rhetoric” and something “complicated” connected to Israel.

Once again we see that the BBC’s efforts to address the issue of antisemitism in British society continue to fall far short but that nevertheless – despite its own dismal record and the plethora of evidence illustrating that the BBC does not have the authority or the expertise, let alone the remit, to define antisemitism – it continues to insist on producing content purporting to inform its audiences on that issue.

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