Signs of The Times at JCC

By Jessica Elgot, April 14, 2011
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A funny business, sometimes: James Harding gets a laugh from Eve Pollard at the JCC event

A funny business, sometimes: James Harding gets a laugh from Eve Pollard at the JCC event

James Harding of The Times has spoken about the pressures of being a Jewish editor when Israel is in the headlines.

Mr Harding was interviewed by former Sunday Express editor Eve Pollard at a JCC event, discussing his career, antisemitism and the media and British reporting of the Middle East.

"I am pro-Israel," he said. "I believe in the state of Israel. I would have had a real problem if I had been coming to a paper with a history of being anti-Israel. And, of course, Rupert Murdoch is pro-Israel.

"We report the news and we leave opinion to the opinion pages, where we try to do a mix. We wrote an editorial called 'In defence of Israel' during the Gaza offensive, but we also reported on the use of white phosphorus, which was the Israelis breaking their own rules."

Asked by an audience member for his views on BBC coverage, he said it was "not a pro-Israel newsroom and it has taken management to get some balance in there". Mr Harding could understand upset at the perceived bias of the broadcaster. "It is frustrating because, unlike The Times where you can just choose not to buy it, you have to pay for the BBC."

On antisemitism, he saw "a tendency to be overly fearful. People complained about the reference to the Tchenguiz brothers being Iraqi Jews. Personally, I just thought that it was an interesting thing about them. I particularly enjoy writing back to people who say that The Times is antisemitic and beginning my letter with 'Dear estranged relative…'"

Last updated: 12:53pm, April 14 2011