Why didn’t David Aaronovitch challenge Nazi analogy on BBC 4 Radio?

The list of Labour Party members recently suspended for antisemitism includes some who have been suspended over Tweets, Facebook posts and comments advancing the Israel-Nazi analogy.

  • Newport councillor Miqdad Al-Nuaimi was suspended for sending tweets comparing Israel to the Nazi party.
  • Former Labour Party parliamentary candidate Vicky Kirby was suspended (for the first time) in part due to tweets calling Hitler the “Zionist god”
  • Illyas Aziz, a Labour councillor for Nottingham, posted an article about Nazi Germany with the message: “A reminder of the treatment and suffering of Jews in Nazi Germany. Are there any similarities to how Israel is treating Palestinians?”
  • MP Naz Shah was suspended in part for a Facebook post in which she appeared to “liken Israeli policies to those of Hitler”.
  • Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone was suspended after claiming that Hitler was originally a Zionist.

This brings us to a fascinating post yesterday by our colleague Hadar Sela (at our sister site, BBC Watch) on a BBC Radio 4’s programme ‘The Briefing Room’, hosted by Times of London journalist David Aaronovitch, on the topic of Labour Party antisemitism.  

One of Aaronovitch’s guests was an anti-Israel propagandist named Kerry-Anne Mendoza, who said the following:

“And so, well, what other state in the world do I know of in the present day who’s [sic] been behind the forced sterilization of Jewish women? That would be Israel. It was applying Depo-Provera – long term contraceptive injections – to Ethiopian Jewish women. I think that’s an anti-Semitic act. I think it has horrific echoes…eh…of some of the atrocities – not all of them – some of the atrocities perpetrated by the Third Reich and I think it’s right to call that out. I would call that out in any state, anywhere in the world where Jewish women or any other group of women were subject to forcible sterilization to prevent some sort of racial dilution which was the theory behind that process.”

First, as we’ve noted at this blog, and as Sela pointed out in her post, the claim that Ethiopian women in Israel underwent “forced sterilization” – which first surfaced in 2013 – is a flat-out lie.  

Moreover, whilst it’s understandable that Aaronovitch evidently wasn’t familiar with the ‘forced sterilization’ smear, and therefore didn’t refute the charge by his guest, it is unclear why he failed to challenge the Nazi analogy that Mendoza employed to contextualizing the story – a racially offensive charge deemed serious enough by the Labour Party to warrant suspension.

As we’ve noted at this blog, the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism defines ‘drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’ as antisemitic.  This codification of the racist nature of such agitprop about Jewish villainy seems predicated on the fact that no sober commentator with even a rudimentary understanding of the Nazi genocide could conceivably make a comparison between the industrialized slaughter of millions of Jews and the policies of the Jewish state.  Thus, those employing such charges – suggesting that, 70 years after the Holocaust, Jews have embraced the values or policies of those who sought their annihilation – are engaged in racial abuse by using language meant to inflict the most pain on Israeli Jews and millions of non-Israeli Jews who identify with Zionism. 

Charging Jews with engaging in behavior or embracing values similar to the Nazis is a disgusting invective and historical inversion – on par, say, with suggesting that African-Americans have adopted the values of white slave masters – that should have been robustly refuted by the BBC Radio 4 host.  As Sela concluded in her post, “by failing to adequately challenge Mendoza’s mendacious propaganda, this programme…lent a helping hand to the spread of the blight of anti-Jewish racism it purported to discuss”.

16 replies »

  1. It wasn’t a case of one unchallenged Nazi analogy. David Aaronovitch the implied authority of a BBC R4 series specifically called “The Briefing Room” to allow the most appalling lies, calumnies and misrepresentations about Israel to go either unchallenged or unrefuted.

    In large part this was because he invited David Hirsh and presented him as the authoritative expert on antisemitism and Israel.

    The other two people he had on were Owen Jones and a rabidly antizionist ethnic Jew, (with no Jewish knowledge or community connections), Karen Mendoza, who put out one calumny after another, starting with the lie that Israel systematically sterilised Ethiopian Jews to render them unable to bear black Jews.

    She claimed that this showed there genuinely were common features between the Nazis and Israel although she kindly conceded that it was wrong to equate Israel and the Nazi regime.

    She also claimed that Israel should not exist because it was a theocracy and based on racial exclusivism.

    And she claimed that the presence of the blue star of David on Israel’s flag, a religious symbol proved that Israel is a theocracy.

    Hirsh claimed that the origin of Labour’s antizionism derived from the Durban Conference of 2001, thus omitting the long history of Soviet antizionism, which always had its supporters in the Labour Party, was taken on by the so called New Left and promoted within Labour by entryists like Livingstone and the loony Left of the 70s and 80s. He ignored the key moment of detachment of Labour support from Israel after Begin came to power in 1977 and the earlier adoption by the UN of the Zionism is Racism resolution of 1975.

    He also ignored the widespread entrenched hostility to Israel which became the default position of the left wing of Labour and of the left student and trade union movements that followed the Israeli invasion of the Lebanon in 1982.

    Hirsh seems consistently to have a project of excising the long Soviet and Trotskyist histories of left antizionism– going back to his ascription of the trope that Jews concoct charges of antisemitism to detract from just criticism of Israel to Livingstone– calling it “the Livingstone formulation”, when in fact it was a key Soviet formulation enjoined on all Communists from the days of Stalin’s anti Zionist campaigns, including publication as guidance in Pravda in 1983.

    He proclaimed as received truth the systematic oppression by Israel of the Palestinians as resulting from the oppressive “occupation of Palestine” by Israel– the latter something that all of them were agreed was the case.

    Thus, Israel was portrayed by Hirsh as an oppressor nation with the antisemitism being only the product of misguided response to Israel’s wrongdoing, to which the proper response was uniting around opposing the occupation.

    But, said Aaronovitch, there are dangerously few in Labour who agree with you…

    And this was supposed to be enlightening briefing about antisemitism in the Labour Party……

    And this will be available as a podcast and left sitting on the BBC web site for a year….

    • Bellend you know very well that all this talk of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is part of a Mossad dirty tricks campaign to undermine the inspired leadership of Comrade Corbyn and, more importantly, to stop any criticism of Israel. (Sarcasm intended)

      But, although I was being sarcastic this anti-Semitic scumbag was not;
      “Stephen Bellamy

      May 23, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      John there is less anti-Semitism in the Labour Party than in the general population and way less than there is in the Tory Party. The whole thing is manufactured.

      This feeding of the idea that there is a level of anti-Semitism on the left, such that it is deserving of being treated as a separate discipline, distinct from racism in the round is very ill advised. It will end in disaster.

      It isn’t about racism at all. It is about two other things.

      1) getting Corbyn

      2) singling out of the State of Israel for impunity.”

    • What are you talking about? I didn’t mention Hirsh’s name even once. My post focused on Aaronovitch