BBC debate on anti-Zionism becoming a ‘protected characteristic’ condemned by
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl has condemned BBC plans for a debate on its Radio 4 Sunday programme about whether anti-Zionism should be “a protected characteristic”.
An interview with Jewish Voice For Labour activist Diana Neslen is scheduled to broadcast by the station on Sunday morning as part of a discussion on the history of anti-Zionism.
Neslen is under investigation by Labour for the third time over claims of antisemitism.
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She is threatening legal action against the party, claiming it has unlawfully discriminated against her based on her belief in anti-Zionism.
Social media posts made by her include a claim “Zionism is not Judaism. It is blasphemy.”
Neslen, who is Jewish herself, also wrote that “no Jewish MPs were ‘hounded out’” of Labour – a clear reference to the decision of Luciana Berger and Dame Louise Ellman to quit the party.
She has also posted a claim of a “symbiotic relationship between Zionism and antisemitism.”
In February this year, she was given a “formal NEC warning relating to your conduct” by the party.
Marie van der Zyl
Responding to the BBC’s decision to interview her for a Radio 4 show, the Board’s President said: “Zionism is the belief that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination in our ancestral homeland. The BBC’s intention to host a debate on whether vocal opposition to that belief should be a ‘protected characteristic’ is a grotesque insult to an overwhelming majority of British Jews.
“Those on the fringes of our community have every right to express their views; we are fortunate to live in a country which values freedom of speech. Yet for our national broadcaster to invite such people to give their view, and then ask a representative of one of our communal organisations to ‘debate’ this view, places these opinions on an equal footing and gives listeners an utterly inaccurate impression of the general view of British Jews. This was something done repeatedly during the Corbyn era, when representatives of key Jewish communal organisations were asked to ‘debate’ the existence of antisemitism in the Labour Party with people from a small far-left fringe group full of conspiracy theorists, as if for the entertainment of the general population.
“Our community is not here to dance for your amusement.”
A BBC spokesperson said:”We are always exploring a range of possible topics but there’s no planned item about anti-Zionism on the Sunday programme.”