Sky News

No, Sky News did NOT apologise for suggesting that Israel may provoke anti-Semitism

As previously noted on these pages, Sky News reporter Adam Boulton asked Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis three times if Israel provokes antisemitism in Europe, during a short interview on Holocaust Memorial Day.  

As Boulton was interviewing Mirvis about the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, viewers saw background video of Palestinians in Gaza during the summer war, under the headline: “Auschwitz remembered”.

Again, here’s the video:

After the segment aired, quite a few angry viewers contacted Sky News to protest the insidious suggestion that Israel may be responsible for antisemitism in cities like London, Paris and Brussels, as well as the network’s decision to show images of Palestinians in a segment devoted to the Holocaust.

Contrary to the headlines used by other media outlets since the row, Sky News has not subsequently apologised.  Indeed, one of the viewers who contacted John Ryley (the head of Sky News) gave us permission to publish his email, and the response by Mr. Ryley.

The language used by Ryley mirrors that used by Peter Lowe, Sky News’ managing editor, in response to another angry viewer and, as you’ll see below, Sky News clearly has not apologised for showing the Gaza image, nor for legitimizing the suggestion that Jews may cause antisemitism.

Email from a Sky News viewer to John Ryley, head of Sky News, Jan. 29th

I apologise for writing to you personally, but I feel that this issue is of such importance and magnitude and concerns the reputation of Sky News, that it is something which ought to be brought to your attention.

27th January was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and many of the TV channels had been giving that subject and the atrocious, inhuman and industrial murder of 6 million Jews, men women children and babies, as well as of Gays, Gypsies, and the disabled, perpetrated by the Nazis and their sympathisers, a great deal of coverage. The BBC broadcast live, with great sensitivity and superb televising, the Holocaust Memorial service attended by Prince Charles and Camilla, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mervis, The Archbishop of Canterbury, numerous other dignitaries and many hundreds of guests.

There then came the interview on Sky News of The Chief Rabbi by Adam Boulton which I shall refer to.

First of all however I wish to point out some basic facts of which a reporter as experienced as Adam Boulton and of which his editor, must have been well aware. The fact that these were ignored raises serious concerns about the agenda of some of your news editorial staff.

The facts I refer to are that the State of Israel is a sovereign state some of whose citizens are Jewish, some Christian, some Moslem, some Hindu, some Buddhist, some Bahai some Druze, some of other faiths and some Atheist. It is the only true democracy with the rule of law in the area allowing all faiths to practice their region. Jews in Britain or in other countries are not Israeli unless a tiny minority have dual nationality. I, for example was born near Burnley Lancs in 1942 and my father was born in Bolton Greater Manchester. My grandfather came to this country about 1900 fleeing from the pogroms against Jews in Lithuania. (So you can see anti-Semitism has been going on for hundreds and in fact thousands of years).  I take great personal objection to suggestions that Anti-Semitism, which is, as Rabbi Mervis described, the oldest hatred, can in any way, shape or form be explained or excused or justified or made understandable by the actions of the Israeli Government in seeking to protect its people against thousands of rocket attacks, attack/kidnap tunnels, kidnapping and murder carried out by the terrorist organisations of Hamas Hezbollah and others.

So, on the day of Holocaust Memorial, Adam Boulton and his editors saw fit to ask the Chief Rabbi :-“As we revisit this issue is it because of Israel?”. Rabbi Mervis replied and Adam Boulton repeated “Many people would say the behaviour of the State of Israel, its attitude towards the Palestinians, has poured fuel on Anti-Semitism to a certain extent.” As he was saying that the screen showed scenes of a demolished building with the caption “Gaza,” and an old woman taking something out of the ruined building. Boulton then went on to say:-“You don’t think that the policy of the Israeli Government to a certain extent fuels Anti-Semitism.” Rabbi Mervis replied, pointing out that Israel was a democracy where the people held various views and Boulton replied “Democracy within but it is occupying land the UN says it should not occupy”.

Anti-Semitic attacks have been on the rise in the UK and in Europe and elsewhere. It is the type of snide, inaccurate and biased remarks broadcast by that interview which pours petrol onto the flames of anti-Semitism in the minds of crazed fanatics such as those who murdered people in the Paris Kosher supermarket. That attack was purely anti semitic.

You may not know this but the original target was a large Paris Jewish school. On the way there the terrorist was being driven by his wife but she was involved in a minor traffic accident. A police officer came over to investigate and was shot by the terrorist. Realising that they then would not make it to the school, the terrorist’s wife dropped him off at the Kosher supermarket and then made her way to take a flight out of France. The Police found the abandoned car still loaded with a huge amount of arms explosives and ammunition and a note with the address of the Jewish school. That is why President Hollande sent troops to guard French Jewish schools.

It has not happened here yet but idiotic remarks such as those made by Boulton could well inspire fanatics to think that such actions are justified. I have personally never before experienced Anti-Semitism nor been worried when going into a Jewish shop. The fact that such ideas have been broadcast has now made me fear for my Grandchildren and family.

The EUMC working definition of Anti-Semitism includes the following:-“Holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel”. I consider that the type of remarks referred to above come within that definition and in fact border on inciting racial hatred. They were entirely irrelevant to the Holocaust unless Boulton and his editors were seeking to suggest that a repetition of the Holocaust would be understandable given the actions of the Israeli Government.

I enclose a copy of a speech by a former Associated Press journalist Matti Friedman, which though long is well worth reading and digesting. For now, such remarks as those made by Boulton should be severely stamped out and guidelines laid down with severe sanctions if breached.

Please let me know what action will be taken.

Reply by John Ryley on Feb. 2

Dear Mr….

Thank you for your emails and letter.  It’s good to have the opportunity to answer the matters you raise.

On the day of the anniversary, Sky News spent most of the afternoon showing live pictures of the ceremony live from Auschwitz.  It was a moving and affecting event which, incidentally, seems to have resulted in a higher than normal number of viewers throughout the afternoon.  We covered the events live and used our historian and expert events commentator Alistair Bruce to describe and contextualise the event. This was supplemented by coverage of the event in London attended by the Prime Minister and Prince Charles. There was also a news report compiling the day’s events by one of our correspondents which ran throughout the evening.

ON the programme Sky News Tonight, we wanted to reflect on the day and also put it into a current affairs context. In doing so we had a chance to interview CR Mervis – and Adam Boulton set out to talk to him about the meaning of the memorial events and to ask him about anti-Semitism, quite clearly an important current issue, especially since Paris.  Incidentally, we have done two reports – one from Paris and one from Manchester — on the concerns of Jewish people.  Adam asked whether anti-Semitism was now weaker than it had been in the 20th century, and the Chief Rabbi said that it was now on the increase again “because of recent events”.    This took the interview into a modern context and Adam did ask whether the actions of Israel were in any way responsible for anti-Semitism.  CR Mervis gave a very good reply about anti-Semitism pre-dating Israel and about the war in Gaza being the result of anti-Semitism rather than its cause.  Perhaps some viewers with pre-conceived ideas would have been enlightened by the Chief Rabbi in a way that would not have been possible without him being asked such questions.

When one has the opportunity to interview the head of British Jewry about current issues, it seems pertinent to ask questions that not only reflect on the past but which deal with present issues which concern us all.  Even though it may be wrongheaded to say.

that the government of Israel – a democratic country where not all citizens are Jewish — is responsible for anti-Semitism, there can surely be little doubt that there are people in society who do connect Jews with the actions of Israel.    That may be fallacious, but I don’t think it is something we should edit out from the comparatively rare opportunity to interview the Chief Rabbi in front of a general audience in order to give him the opportunity to confront these ideas and perhaps lay them to rest.

Some people who have criticised the interview suggest wrongly that Adam was making assertions — that he or Sky News believes “Jewish people are responsible for anti-Semitism”.  He was most certainly not doing this.  He was asking questions.  It’s a rather more prosaic example, but we challenge leading politicians all the time about whether their policies are right without it meaning that we think they’re wrong.  We have a duty to be impartial, which in itself requires interviewers to play “devil’s advocate”, raising questions which help illuminate.

The questions Adam asked would not have been asked of anyone during the actual ceremony in Auschwitz, a moving event that properly deserved the singularity of only live coverage and expert commentary, which we gave.  But the questions themselves were justified in a current affairs interview for the reasons outlined above.

Let me now address the question of the use of the Gaza pictures.  These were used very briefly during the interview. When the Chief Rabbi mentioned Auschwitz, we used pictures of Auschwitz; when the London event was discussed, we showed pictures of CR Mervis and Prince Charles at that event, and when the Chief Rabbi talked about Gaza, we showed pictures of Gaza.  Televisually, this was a logical sequence.  At this point, we were no longer doing what I would call “event coverage” in which you focus entirely on a live ceremony.   By the evening, this was a news channel doing news interviews about the day’s events.

However, I think with hindsight that there was a dislocating juxtaposition between the visual strap that contains the overall story title – which was for the whole day “Auschwitz Remembered” – and the pictures on the screen of the rubble in Gaza.  I think that if we were doing the interview again, we would not have used the pictures of Gaza, because their use in conjunction with the “Auschwitz Remembered” label was an indelicate clash.

I am very sorry if you or anyone was upset by the interview Adam did with the Chief Rabbi.  I agree that the particular circumstances of the use of the pictures from Gaza was unfortunate, but I firmly believe that our journalists, particularly those with the experience and knowledge of Adam Boulton, are entitled to ask questions which help to shed light on the tricky issues of our time.

Yours sincerely,

John Ryley.

Despite Ryley’s admission that the images of Gaza on Holocaust Memorial Day represented an “indelicate clash”, do you see a legitimate apology in his response?

No, neither do we. 


40 replies »

  1. The truth is the British in World War 2 were barely better than the Nazis in their treatment of Jews.

    The first Eurotrash country to ethnically cleanse the population of Jews was England.

    Nothing has changed – they are racists and will continue to be racists even after their Islamofascist masters kill the natives off.

    • I disagree with you gee59. There have been racists in Britain and there are racists and anti-Semites in Britain, some of whom are influential. But the British are not Nazis and are far from it.

  2. I need any apology from the Sky TV network, it’s reporter Boulton and it’s director Riley as need any apology from SS camp-guards, gas chamber operators, Julius Streicher, and Joseph Goebbels. These people are directly and personally responsible for the dramatic increase of European antisemitism, they use their power to spread hate against the Jews, They represent a clear and present danger to all Jews living in the UK or outside of it. In a decent society they would be removed from
    public life but we are speaking about Europe and the UK.

    • You conveniently failed to mention founders of Zionism like Ben-Gurion and Herzl who allied themselves with the most vicious of anti-Semites such as Count Von Plehve, the sponsor of the worst anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia. Perhaps you are unaware that it was Herzl and other Zionist leaders who offered to help guarantee Tsarist interests in Palestine and to rid Eastern Europe and Russia of those “noxious and subversive Anarcho-Bolshevik Jews”–in other words, to get rid of the people who wanted to fight anti-Semitism rather than capitulate to it.

      The truth, as author Ralph Schoenman acknowledges in ‘The Hidden History of Zionism’, is that defending the Jewish people from persecution meant organizing resistance to the regimes which menaced them. But these regimes embodied the imperial order which comprised the only social force willing or able to impose a settler colony on the Palestinian people. Hence, the Zionists needed the persecution of the Jews to persuade Jews to become colonizers afar, and they needed the persecutors to sponsor the enterprise.

      The same mutually-reinforcing relationship between neo-Zionism and fascism continues today.The one, in other words, benefits the other. I’m well aware that this narrative is inconvenient to anti-Semites on the on hand, and ultra Zionist fascists of the kind who employ bully-boy debating tactics on here on the other, but there you go. My role on here is to inform the ignorant and the bigoted.

  3. The following is particularly interesting: “…. I firmly believe that our journalists, particularly those with the experience and knowledge of Adam Boulton, are entitled to ask questions which help to shed light on the tricky issues of our time.”

    Does Ryley honestly believe that the conflation (in the way that Sky tried to do it) of Holocaust Memorial Day with Israel’s defence of itself against aggression from Gaza shed any light on anything, rather than tapped into the growing hatreds in the UK of Israel and its Jews?

    Of course Ryley should not “edit out” the too-ready conflation between Israel’s actions and Jews in general, but it is incumbent on him and his editorial staff to make clear that Jewish people the world over are not responsible for the outcomes of actions Israel takes to defend itself from Arab aggression, regardless of the extent to which they may support them. Such behaviour would have been second nature to an ethical experienced journalist.

  4. Even when the working definition of antisemitism has been boldly stated in the complaint letter and considering the way the Adam Boulton raised the issue , it is not properly addressed byJohn Riley’s . He has glossed over the point. When an interviewer asks whether the Chief Rabbi believes Gaza explains the rise of antisemitism, he was asking the Chief Rabbi to accept that it was. That has to be the opinion of the editors to warrant this line of questioning, particularly on that particular day, and after very traumatic recent events that had taken place in Paris.

    The admission of inappropriate footage damns SKY’s conduct further . Decency would not have allowed the association to have even been contemplated. Somebody thought it was right to place Auschwitz in context with Gaza, Riley has not excused himself by saying that if doing the interview again he would not have shown those pictures of Gaza. In fact it was perfect editing to accompany the questions Adam Boulton was raising. Riley seems to be the only one who cannot see this!

  5. I think Adam B pushed it too much and essentially asked the same question 3 times. It did seem as if he wanted the chief Rabbi to agree that Israel’s actions had contributed to the rise in anti-Semitism. He should have taken the first answer and moved on. I would also say that the phrasing of the question was poor, and the picture sequence was totally inappropriate. For all the above Sky should have been more magnanimous and at least expressed regret, if not apologised, about how the interview went.

    However if the Chief Rabbi did say (in a previous answer) that “[anti-Semitism] was now on the increase again “because of recent events””, I think it was perfectly legitimate of Adam B to ask whether these “recent events” were referring to the actions of the Israeli state in the summer of 2014.

    • You know, Dinkleberry, your willful ignorance is not charming.

      Yes, people attack Jews because of Israel.

      No, you can not attack Jews because of Israel.

      Now fuck the fuck off, Prick.

        • I read it. It seems like a suggestion that he Rabbi is a hypocrite for associating people’s anger towards the Jewish communities with those people’s reactions towards Israel. Now you can tell me what you really meant.

          • I am suggesting no motive, hypocrisy nor hidden agenda on the Rabbi’s part.

            I am simply saying that if the Rabbi said earlier in the interview that (and I’m quoting from Ryley’s letter here) “it [anti-Semitism] was now on the increase again “because of recent events””, it was perfectly legitimate for Boulton to ask what these ‘recent events’ were. In other words, what were these recent events (to which the Rabbi allegedly referred) which have caused an increase in anti-Semitism.

            If the Rabbi did not say that recent events had given rise to increased anti-Semitism (in other words Ryley is misquoting him) then Boulton’s line of questioning was wrong.

            • Lying creep, Boulton didn`t ask what `these recently events`were. He alleged Israel to fuel antisemitism, not antisemitic incitement in the British community, in British media and by the left.

              • I agree he asks about Israel fuelling anti-Semitism. At least in the clip above that’s the case.

                But the interview was longer than what’s in the clip (in other words it has been cut) and, if Ryley is quoting accurately then it was reasonable for Boulton to ask (not allege, ask) what was the cause of this rise in anti-Semitism.

                I absolutely agree that he should not have put the same possible cause to the Rabbi on 3 different questions.

                • Repeating your lie, piece of s.. is quite typical for these new antisemites, just like repeating the question three times to allege Israel to fuel antisemitism. Boulton did never ask what the cause was, he immediately brought in Israel. So go packing with your lie, piece of ..

            • Dinkle:
              “I am simply saying that if the Rabbi said earlier in the interview that (and I’m quoting from Ryley’s letter here) “it [anti-Semitism] was now on the increase again “because of recent events””, it was perfectly legitimate for Boulton to ask what these ‘recent events’ were. In other words, what were these recent events (to which the Rabbi allegedly referred) which have caused an increase in anti-Semitism.”

              I agree with you.
              Then why wasn’t this the question?
              Why start second guessing?

  6. However if the Chief Rabbi did say (in a previous answer) that “[anti-Semitism] was now on the increase again “because of recent events””
    Only completely hate-blinded cretins like the SSky staffers and you didn’t realize that the “recent events” said by Mirvis meant the hysterical incitement of the UK media against Israel using the shit-kicking in Gaza as a cover.
    I think it was perfectly legitimate of Adam B to ask… Of course you think Dinkle. Natural, logical and exactly as expected..

  7. Anti-Semitism is caused by anti-Semites and spread through modern media. Anti-Semitism causes wars in Gaza. Anti-Semitism causes murders in Parisian grocery stores. Anti-Semitism causes loser Sky News interviewers to bate British rabbis on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Adam Boulton is one of its pimps. He ought to at least dress like one.

  8. There are very definitely places where Auschwitz is not remembered, talked about, or even acknowledged. Gaza comes to mind. Hamas, an Islamist anti-Semitic Party, attacked Israel because it is the Jewish State. Yet I see no reports of Jews in Europe attacking Muslims over this outrage. I see no media interviewer asking if Palestinians fuel Islamophobia. Not three times, not two times, not once.

  9. On some level of `animus; I just don’t get it. I can understand being annoyed about this or that — but an ENTIRE ETHNIC/RELIGIOUS GROUP, comprised of millions of individuals? I understand that some have allegedly urged otherwise — why didn’t they create a business, paint a picture, learn to play the saxophone, piano, or guitar — especially a loud Telecaster through a Marshall amp, I implore you?
    ICH UND DU wrote Martin Buber, “I and Thou.” I won’t presume to preach from my perch amongst the cold flying crows in Minneapolis, Minnesota — once quite unfriendly to Jews and many others — but only wish health, wellness, strength and philosophy to you and yours, always.

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