The BBC’s debate on whether Jews should be considered an ethnic minority, discussed by a panel of four non-Jewish speakers, is causing outrage on Twitter as people slam the channel for bias.
The broadcaster raised the question during the Politics Live! programme when the panel talked about the backlash over the tweet by Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner hailing Pakistani Anas Sarwar – head of Scottish Labour – as “the first ever ethnic minority leader of a political party anywhere in the UK.”
I am so proud that our party has elected the first ever ethnic minority leader of a political party anywhere in the UK.— Angela Rayner 😷 (@AngelaRayner) February 27, 2021
I also want to pay tribute to @MonicaLennon7 for running a positive, passionate campaign and I know she will continue to be a forceful advocate for change.
Reyner’s remark was criticised for ignoring similar statuses among prominent Jews, namely Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Jewishness is not only linked to religion but also ethnicity – something that has implications for anti-discrimination laws – critics pointed out, including Jewish publisher and PinkNews Chief Executive Benjamin Cohen.
Cohen, who sent an angry “Jews don’t count Angela?” tweet to Reyner, was invited by the BBC to take part in the debate as a guest, which he branded “frankly ridiculous” during the broadcast. He then rushed to share his thoughts about the show on social media:
“I've just been on the BBC's Politics Live where the BBC literally just asked four non-Jews if they agreed with me that Jews are an ethnic minority,” Cohen raged.
“Imagine if I was Black and four white people were asked to judge if I was a member of an ethnic minority. It would be as offensive,” he continued.
I've just been on the BBC's Politics Live where the BBC literally just asked four non-Jews if they agreed with me that Jews are an ethnic minority. Imagine if I was Black and four white people were asked to judge if I was a member of an ethnic minority. It would be as offensive. pic.twitter.com/2jPCJa1MJG— Benjamin Cohen (@benjamincohen) March 1, 2021
Cohen, who pointed out during the programme that Jews “face anti-Semitism and racism very clearly” as an ethnic group, despite their high status in the UK political establishment, actually praised the panelists for giving “fine answers to the ridiculous question."
“Yep all panel members were good on this it’s the presenter I question,” he wrote on Twitter.
Just to add that all of the panel gave fine answers to the ridiculous question and some of them have specifically got in touch with me about it. I might not have plugged @Baddiel’s book on screen but at least the BBC gave a new example for the paperback version.— Benjamin Cohen (@benjamincohen) March 1, 2021
The BBC is literally asking if Jews count. I don’t know whether to be horrified or to congratulate @baddiel for putting this conversation on the agenda— Nir Kahn (@Nir_Kahn) March 1, 2021
If you find yourself in such a situation again on a news programme you should feel free to ask the panel how they would feel speaking about whether other minorities are "an ethnic minority"? Would they feel at all uncomfortable?— David Herman (@DavidMarkHerman) March 1, 2021
Yep all panel members were good on this it’s the presenter I question.— Benjamin Cohen (@benjamincohen) March 1, 2021
Following the discussion, a British pro-Jews advocacy accused the public broadcaster of “the lack of sensitivity.”
Our response to the "Should Jews count as an ethnic minority" question posed today by BBC Politics Live: pic.twitter.com/g5HECeX9y5— Board of Deputies of British Jews (@BoardofDeputies) March 1, 2021
But the BBC stood by its take on the issue:
“According to the Government — not Politics Live! — Jews aren’t an ethnic group in the UK. So, if you believe they should be, please tell Government as it’s their policy,” Rob Burley, BBC’s editor of live political programmes, said in a tweet, citing a government document outlining ethnic groups in the UK.
2) The discussion was about that tweet and moved onto the fact that according to the Government - not Politics Live! - Jews aren't an ethnic group in the UK. So, if you believe they should be, please tell Government as it's their policy. https://t.co/ppoLWb8UsJ— Rob Burley (@RobBurl) March 1, 2021
The UK government doesn’t view Jews as a separate ethnic group but designates “any other ethnic group” as falling within the category upon their self-identification.
“It is recognised that these ethnic groups do not represent how all people identify. People are encouraged to write in their ethnicity using their own words if they don’t identify with any groups in the list,” the government states.