Jewish groups have blasted the BBC for holding a ‘ridiculous’ debate questioning whether Jews count as an ethnic minority.
The Politics Live show aired a segment yesterday, which debated the issue after MP Angela Rayner declared Scottish Labour’s newly-elected leader Anas Sarwar as ‘the first ever ethnic minority leader of a political party anywhere in the UK’.
Many people pointed out to Ms Rayner that there had been several Jewish party leaders, including Ed Miliband when she was first elected as a Labour MP.
Presenter Jo Coburn suggested: ‘Isn’t there a wider point that, actually, perhaps the fact Angela Rayner didn’t immediately recognise previous Jewish political leaders in her tweet underlines the fact that many Jews have succeeded in reaching high political office and therefore don’t need to be seen as a group needing recognition in the same way as others?’
However this prompted a furious backlash, with leading Jewish groups filing official complaints to the corporation.
The BBC told MailOnline the presenter was ‘not sharing her own view’, but exploring ‘why people see things the way they do’.
Benjamin Cohen, who is Jewish, replied to Ms Coburn: ‘We face anti-Semitism and racism very clearly.
‘We’ve just seen that with the many years of racism and anti-Semitism in the Labour party.
‘So to suggest Jews don’t face racism, and therefore we’ve reached such a high office that we’re not an ethnic minority is frankly ridiculous.
‘The notion of this debate is ridiculous. The Holocaust is still in living memory – whether you practised or you were not practising you still faced murder by the Nazis. It’s not just about the religion.
‘I understand why people are confused, because there is a religion called Judaism that a majority of Jews do subscribe to.
‘You are Jewish whether or not you practise the Jewish religion. You are Jewish by your ethnicity and birth and that’s the difference.’
Mr Cohen later tweeted: ‘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.’
The footage sparked a backlash among Jewish and non-Jewish people and groups alike.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism has submitted an official complaint with the BBC and have set up a petition demanding an apology, which has already received nearly 1,000 signatures.
A spokesperson said: ‘It is outrageous that the BBC has aired a segment on whether Jews count as an ethnic minority.
Benjamin Cohen, pictured, told the programme: ‘To suggest Jews don’t face racism, and therefore we’ve reached such a high office that we’re not an ethnic minority is frankly ridiculous’
‘The show’s own guest rightly considered the debate to be ‘ridiculous’.
‘It is a question that the corporation would never presume to ask of any other minority community in Britain, and it is telling that it does so in relation to the Jews.
‘These segments show why, according to our research, two-thirds of British Jews view the BBC’s coverage of Jewish matters unfavourably.
‘We have submitted a complaint to the BBC and launched a petition calling on the corporation to apologise for airing this appalling segment.’
The Board of Deputies of British Jews also slammed the BBC.
In a statement, it said: ‘We were disappointed by the lack of sensitivity shown by the BBC as regards this discussion.
‘Jews, regardless of whether they are at all religious or not, are subjected to anti-Semitism every day – and have been subjected to mass murder, in living memory, on the basis of their ethnicity.
‘Our community should expect solidarity and support, not questions about whether we deserve any.’
Presenter Jo Coburn (pictured left) suggested: ‘Isn’t there a wider point that, actually, perhaps the fact Angela Rayner didn’t immediately recognise previous Jewish political leaders in her tweet underlines the fact that many Jews have succeeded in reaching high political office and therefore don’t need to be seen as a group needing recognition in the same way as others?’
Last year, the Community Security Trust announced it had received a record high number of reports of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK.
A BBC spokesperson said: ‘We invited Benjamin Cohen on to the programme to discuss his tweet which objected to Angela Rayner’s assertion that Anas Sarwar was the first ethnic minority leader of a political party in the UK.
‘The discussion reflected the fact that many official ethnic minority monitoring forms do not include a category for Jews.
‘The programme covers a variety of topics so our panel is not constructed specifically to address one story, but we ensured that Mr Cohen’s contributions were given appropriate prominence during this discussion.
‘Our presenter was not sharing her own view or saying whether this was the correct view, but her job is to explore why people see things the way they do.’