BBC criticised over 'offensive' debate asking whether Jews are an ethnic minority

Danielle Sheridan
·3-min read
A view of the BBC Broadcasting House in Central London - Shutterstock
A view of the BBC Broadcasting House in Central London - Shutterstock

The BBC has become embroiled in an anti-Semitism row after debating whether Jews can be viewed as an ethnic minority.

Benjamin Cohen, CEO of Pink News, accused the BBC of producing “offensive” content following a debate on Politics Live where they were invited to discuss whether Jews are a minority.

Following his appearance on the show, Mr Cohen tweeted: “I’ve just been on the BBC’s Politics Live where the BBC literally just asked four non-Jews if they agreed with me that Jews are an ethnic minority. Imagine if I was black and four white people were asked to judge if I was a member of an ethnic minority. It would be as offensive.”

The panel was made up of Tory MP Lee Rowley, Labour life peer Lord Wood, Miatta Fahnbulleh from the New Economics Foundation, and the Spectator columnist Kate Andrews.

The panel were asked if Jews should be included in the forthcoming Census as a separate category, while Mr Cohen also questioned what he deemed to be a “bizarre suggestion” by the show’s host, Jo Coburn, about whether Jews do not require “recognition in the same way as others”, due to their political success.

He continued: “Just to add that all of the panel gave fine answers to the ridiculous question and some of them have specifically got in touch with me about it.”

Following the show, David Baddiel, the comedian and author, tweeted a screenshot of a passage from his new book, Jews Don’t Count. “Money doesn’t protect you from racism,” the page reads.

It comes after the Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, tweeted on Saturday that the new Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, was “the first ever ethnic minority leader of a political party anywhere in the UK".

Mr Cohen responded at the time: “I guess Jews don’t count Angela? You were first elected in a general election fought by a Jewish Labour leader.”

Last year Andrew Murray, who was a senior adviser to Jeremy Corbyn, said the former Labour leader had failed to empathise with British Jews because they are "prosperous".

Mr Murray insisted Mr Corbyn was “empathetic”, but with those in society who are “at the bottom of the heap”.

Following an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, Mr Corbyn claimed: “The scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media." The comments resulted in his suspension from the party.

A BBC spokesman said: “We invited Benjamin Cohen on to the programme to discuss his tweet which objected to Angela Rayner’s assertion that Anas Sarwar was the first ethnic minority leader of a political party in the UK. The discussion reflected the fact that many official ethnic minority monitoring forms do not include a category for Jews.

“The programme covers a variety of topics so our panel is not constructed specifically to address one story, but we ensured that Mr Cohen’s contributions were given appropriate prominence during this discussion. Our presenter was not sharing her own view or saying whether this was the correct view, but her job is to explore why people see things the way they do.”

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