Ms Guerin appallingly used a primetime segment on the BBC’s flagship News at Ten programme to link the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, adopted by the British Government, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is antisemitic.
However, a spokesman for the BBC has retorted: “The brief reference in our Holocaust report to Israel’s position today did not imply any comparison between the two and nor would we want one to be drawn from our coverage.” That inference, however, is precisely what viewers would make from the segment.
Danny Cohen, the former Director of Television at the BBC, slammed the BBC for its refusal to apologise, calling it a “deeply offensive lapse in judgment.”
Mr Cohen described the segment as “unnecessary, insensitive and particularly ugly in the days before Holocaust Memorial Day. Adding insult to injury, the report uses pictures of Holocaust victims in Yad Veshem during the sequence in which this link is made. This is inexplicably and unjustifiably offensive.” He also rubbished the BBC’s defence that there was no comparison between Israel and the Nazis in the report: “This is a difficult argument to sustain,” he said, “when the two elements appear in the very same sentence in the report.”
The former chairman of the BBC, Michael Grade, also expressed outrage at the statement from the BBC. “I think it was shocking,” he said. “When the BBC are under criticism they hide behind anodyne, anonymous quotes from a spokesman. Where is the senior editorial figure coming out to speak and face up to this? The BBC is operating under a complete double standard.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has made an official complaint to the BBC, which is a necessary precursor to making a complaint to Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator. We are waiting for a response.