Campaign Against Antisemitism is writing to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) after it refused to act against a newspaper that printed a letter comparing Israel to the Nazis because its outdated Editors’ Code of Practice only covers discrimination against an individual.
The Journal, a local newspaper in North-East England, published a letter in May from an individual named Mem Tahir, who regretted that the Jewish community in the region was unable to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but then proceeded to say: “When one looks back at history, and looks at the sects that suffered most in the past, one sees that the sufferers in the past are now repeating the atrocities!” The author then expressly compared the effect of Israeli policy to how “the Jewish population suffered under the Nazi regime.”
The letter was a breach of the International Definition of Antisemitism, under which “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is an example of antisemitism.
Following an intervention by Campaign Against Antisemitism and CAMERA, the editors published a semi-apology in the latest edition of the newspaper, saying: “In Saturday’s Journal, we carried a letter headlined ‘Ending cycles of suffering’, which referred to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The letter did not reflect the views of The Journal and we apologise for any offence caused.”
It has now emerged that the letter also appeared in another newspaper, the Evening Chronicle, leading to complaints to IPSO by the local Jewish community and the Representative Council of North-East Jewry, which made their correspondence with IPSO available to Campaign Against Antisemitism.
IPSO has responded to say that there was no breach of the provisions of the Code with regard to accuracy, as “under the Code, the publications were entitled to publish Mem Tahir’s letter on a highly divisive and complex political issue.”
But IPSO also rejected the complaints in connection with Clause 12 of the Code, dealing with discrimination, because “Clause 12 is designed to protect specific individuals mentioned by the press from discrimination based on their race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or any physical or mental illness or disability. It does not apply to groups or categories of people. Your concern did not relate to a specific individual. Because of this, your complaint did not engage the terms of Clause 12.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “The notion that only individuals but not groups can be discriminated against on the basis of race is not sustainable. For the Code to provide for instances where a Jew or an individual with another protected characteristic is targeted but not for when Jews as a group are targeted leaves the field wide open for antisemitic material to be disseminated in the print media, just as it was in this case. We shall be writing to IPSO urging it to update its Code in line with 21st-century sensibilities.”
We are grateful to the Representative Council of North-East Jewry for bringing this case to our attention and for our collaboration on this matter.