I had the misfortune to view a clip from 4thought.tv. It claims to be Channel 4’s daily religious, moral and ethical opinion show.
Provocatively, their latest programme is entitled Are Jews still persecuted in Britain today?
I am sure it is very well intentioned, however, it lacks two basic pre-requisites for an informed discussion of racism, a connection to the empirical evidence and an ability to differentiate between the spurious and the relevant.
They could have asked the simpler questions: ‘do Jews face racism in Britain?’ or ‘what type of racism do British Jews encounter?’
Yet, the Channel 4 producers decided to put up essentially a strawman argument, employing the shades of past persecution to diminish the problems faced by Jews in Britain today.
Additionally, the programme and contributions failed to differentiate between what is happening in Britain and the Middle East. It is perfectly possible to concede that many problems exist in the Middle East, without negating the issue of racial attacks on British Jews.
Moreover, I was struck by the small video from Stephen Sizer, which can be viewed on the 4thought.tv’s web site.
Readers will notice that initially Rev. Sizer does not actually answer the question directly or make any significant attempt to address the issue. Instead we are treated to a small rant about Israel and Zionism, two of Rev. Sizer’s favourite topics.
Readers might understand why Rev. Sizer is reluctant to engage with the actual question or make any significant attempt to talk about racism and how it affects Jews, given his pass misdemeanours in this area.
Readers will remember Rev. Sizer’s unfortunate mistakes, posting material from racist web sites on his blog.
These racist web sites had one, and only one commonality, they hated Jews, not anyone else.
So it is rather strange to see Rev. Sizer brought forward as having something meaningful to say, when he skirts around the issue and does not acknowledge his own stupidity in this area.
Better questions to ask would have been:
- What is the extent of racism faced by British Jews?
- What part does Christianity play in animosity towards Jews, historical and contemporary?
- Or why do certain “anti-Zionists”, such as Stephen Sizer, Greta Berlin, etc have an unfortunate habit of posting links to racist material?
I would have hoped that Channel 4 could have made an effort to ask some penetrating questions on this important subject, or at least up their intellectual game a bit. Giving people a chance to grind their axes might make for cheap and frivolous TV, but it does not engage with these ethical and moral questions. Instead it confuses the matters and is unsatisfactory.
Better still, Channel 4 could ask the Community Security Trust (CST) for comment and why Jewish schools in Britain need extensive security measures? Possibly, after pondering that, they will be able to answer their own question.
Just in case, Stephen Sizer and his allies are ignorant of attacks on British Jews they should read the CST’s yearly reports (PDFs), Antisemitic Incidents Report January-June 2012 and Antisemitic Incidents Report 2011.
Overall, this particular programme was a missed opportunity. Channel 4 could have used it to illuminate, to shine alight on the problem of racism in Britain but it chose not to.
Next time, instead of making it an outlet for people’s resentment and personal grudges, the producers should stick to looking at the evidence, thinking about it and asking perceptive questions. That is the serious way to investigate this troubling subject.
Update 1: Many thanks to Rebecca for a pointer to this slightly tongue in cheek guide: How to Criticize Israel Without Being Anti-Semitic.
It should help those, like Rev. Sizer, who seem rather confused by this topic.