Rabbi Jonathan Romain, who was the first religious leader to speak out against Jeremy Corbyn after the 2019 General Election was called, has revealed that BBC Radio 4 recorded an inflammatory debate between him and the controversial blogger Robert Cohen over whether anti-Zionism should be a “protected characteristic”.
The debate was reportedly recorded on 7th January and was due to be broadcasted on 13th January. Although the BBC insisted, after outrage from the Jewish community, that “We are always exploring a range of possible topics but there’s no planned item about anti-Zionism on the Sunday programme,” Rabbi Romain revealed that, after the segment was recorded, producers told him that it would be broadcast as planned. It was later pulled.
Rabbi Romain said: “I was approached by the BBC on Friday morning to do an interview on the move to make anti-Zionism a protected philosophical belief.” He described the debate as “robust” and lasting “between seven and eight minutes,” during which he “forcefully made the point that Zionism originally meant the establishment of a Jewish homeland and ever since 1948 has meant the maintenance of a Jewish homeland, but it does not refer to particular borders. It is perfectly permissible to criticise particular Israeli policies, and half of all Israelis do, but if [Mr Cohen] and others are anti-Zionist, they are denying Israel’s very right to exist. What is more, given that every other people have that right, and he wishes Palestinians to have it too, then denying it just to Jews is exceptionalism and antisemitic.”
Rabbi Romain revealed: “Later that afternoon, I was phoned by the producer and told, very regretfully, that ‘someone higher up the chain’ had decided that as the application to make anti-Zionism protected was only a proposal and had not been initiated yet, the BBC would postpone the item until it was made.”
On Sunday the BBC issued a second statement saying: “We are always exploring a range of possible topics but there was no item about anti-Zionism on the Sunday programme this weekend.”
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