The BBC has included a pro-Corbyn political activist who has made deeply problematic comments on antisemitism as a “historian and expert” on Nazism as part of a new multi-part documentary.
Ash Sarkar, a contributing editor of Novara Media, did not substantially contribute to the first episode of BBC Two’s Rise of the Nazis, produced by production company 72 Films, however the introduction to the programme signalled that she will feature in later episodes.
Ms Sarkar has defended the vandalism of the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto and claimed that the International Definition of Antisemitism is merely a front to silence criticism of Israel.
In 2010, activist Ewa Jasiewicz sprayed political “Free Gaza and Palestine” on the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto, the largest and most well-known of the ghettos designated by the Nazis in German-controlled territory, from which hundreds of thousands of Jews were sent to death camps or killed by shooting and another hundred thousand died of starvation and courageous revolt. Essentially a mass grave, the Warsaw Ghetto serves as a salient symbol of the Holocaust for all and evokes sensitivity and strong emotion on the part of Jews in particular.
The vandalism of the Warsaw Ghetto was condemned across the Jewish community. That the political messaging of the graffiti was directed toward Israel meant it also clearly breached the International Definition of Antisemitism, adopted by the British Government, which illustrates manifestations of antisemitism, inter alia, as
- drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis – which the political messaging did by using the setting of the Warsaw Ghetto, which was established, operated and liquidated by the Nazis, to criticise Israeli policy and imply that it replicates that of the Nazis; and
- holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel – which Ms Jasiewicz did by deliberately targeting a site of Jewish suffering to draw the attention of Jews to the policies of Israel and to associate Jewish suffering with those policies in the minds of the rest of the world.
Rather than show sensitivity to the Jewish community and denouncing the antisemitic vandalism, Ms Sarkar instead defended the graffiti and directed her outrage toward those criticising Ms Jasiewicz.
Moreover, Ms Sarkar disgracefully accused those who called out the antisemitic vandalism of using the International Definition of Antisemitism (also known as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition, or IHRA) to silence criticism of Israel, stating that “I suspect that stories like this will be pushed hard in the coming months, as part of the informal silencing effects of IHRA adoption.”
Indeed Ms Sarkar has a history of opposing the full adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism, particularly by the Labour Party, when she described it as a “self-defeating enterprise” and as a “disaster”. Her view is espoused by a number of her colleagues at Novara Media.
Ms Sarkar was also an outspoken supporter of Chris Williamson, the disgraced Labour Party MP who was suspended from the Party over his comments about antisemitism. Before she eventually turned on him, she praised him as a “tireless fighter” and the “Derby North bad man”.
Gideon Falter, Chief Executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “Ash Sarkar has been a cheerleader for Jeremy Corbyn and the antisemites around him. She has claimed that attempts by Jews to define the hatred against them are all part of a ‘silencing’ of legitimate dissent and has even defended the vandal who defaced the Warsaw Ghetto. It is hard to imagine a less appropriate person to speak on the lessons of the Holocaust than Ms Sarkar, but the BBC has chosen to elevate her to the status of an ‘expert’. The BBC should apologise for including Ms Sarkar and re-edit the forthcoming episodes to exclude her appearance.”