Whilst there are legitimate artistic reasons to use antisemitism as part of a drama, if antisemitism is gratuitous and irrelevant to the story or art it should not be included. This is supposed to be elementary, but we are very concerned by the BBC’s unjustifiable references to Jews in some of its broadcasts.
The first example is a serialisation of Agatha Christie’s mystery thriller, And then there were none, episode two of which was aired on 27th December 2015 at 21:00. In one scene, the characters discuss the identity of the mysterious “Isaac morris”. During the discussion, one character says: “Jews. Whenever there’s a problem, there’s Jews at the bottom of it.”
While this totally gratuitous antisemitism is conserved in the BBC’s adaptation of the book, the title of the adaptation was changed to remove a racist term for black people, and since the antisemitism is irrelevant to the plot and characters, it is totally unclear why the BBC included it in the adaptation.
The second example is from popular soap opera Eastenders. In the episode that aired on 6th January 2016 at 18:00, one character tells another that Herod was “King of the Jews” before reciting his villainous acts.
There is nothing new about nativity stories in which the villains are all explicitly described as Jews, while the fact that Jesus was Jewish is forgotten. The Church however has rejected this antisemitic telling of the nativity story, but the tradition seems to be alive and well at the BBC.
The BBC has a complaints hotline (03700 100 222) but it seems to specialise in telling Jews why they were wrong to be offended. Ofcom (0300 123 3333) has jurisdiction over the BBC in matters of racism and this year MPs (www.writetothem.com) will vote on renewing the BBC’s charter.