Campaign Against Antisemitism is calling for the BBC to dismiss its Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen, over a tweet on his official BBC Twitter account, posted today, instructing “every Jew” to read an “exploration of Judaism” that claimed that “Racism, hate and violence are Jewish values too”.
The linked article, published in the Ha’aretz newspaper, argued that the Torah contains plenty of examples of people behaving in a manner that is racist, hateful and violent, and that their behaviour can be interpreted as being “Jewish values” by some extremists.
Though the article itself argued in its fullness that the Torah can be an extremely constructive or destructive influence, depending on how it is interpreted by individuals, that part of the article was behind a paywall, so that the vast majority of Mr Bowen’s followers are likely to have only seen the inflammatory headline, image and opening paragraph, without context.
Gideon Falter, Chief Executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “Jeremy Bowen is an experienced journalist, who is supposed to act with impartiality. He knows about the impact of words and images. As antisemitic incidents against Jews in Britain surge, Mr Bowen has chosen this moment to order all Jews to read an article that most people will have taken to be an analysis of why Judaism is a religion of ‘racism, hate and violence’. He will have known the feelings towards Jews that this would incite and recklessly added fuel to the fire. Had he tweeted in a similar way about any other minority, I do not believe that he would still be in his position this evening. The BBC must act immediately.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has published a petition calling for Mr Bowen’s dismissal.
Mr Bowen has prior form. In 2015, he tweeted that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, “plays the holocaust [sic] card” during a speech in which Mr Netanyahu had acknowledged that Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel was in the audience and promised to learn the lessons of the Holocaust by ensuring that Jews never again faced annihilation. Bowen never apologised, but tweeted that he considered himself to be neither an antisemite nor a Holocaust denier, without addressing his vile turn of phrase, which the BBC dismissed as “journalism shorthand”.
The BBC is currently investigating Mr Bowen’s colleague on BBC Arabic, Nour Eddine Zorgui, who tweeted an article charging those calling for the University of Bristol to discipline Professor David Miller with being “Israel lobbyists”. Campaign Against Antisemitism complained to the BBC, which has so far only “reminded [him] of the BBC social media guidelines.”
Earlier this month, Campaign Against Antisemitism forced the BBC to amend its website to confirm that Jews do count as an ethnic minority, having queried whether they should in a live panel discussion.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s latest Antisemitism Barometer study revealed that two thirds of British Jews are deeply concerned by the BBC’s coverage of matters of Jewish concern, and 55% by its handling of antisemitism complaints.