A BBC correspondent has been criticised by the Board of Deputies for using the term “Jewish lobby” in discussing the American election.
Washington correspondent Katty Kay, in a recent Twitter question and answer session, had been asked why both American President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney were “so defensive” when questioned about their commitment to Israel.
She replied that the US “sees Israel as a key ally in Middle East — but no one running for president wants to alienate the power and money of the Jewish lobby”.
Board chief executive Jon Benjamin said that the reporter’s “loose use of language really has to be seen in a context where support for America’s key ally in the Middle East is cynically questioned — and the motives of Israel’s supporters are seen as suspect”.
Successive US governments, he said, “have recognised the value of this strategic relationship to the national interest, and it is unfortunate that a BBC journalist falls into the trap laid by Israel’s enemies and conspiracy theorists of reducing support for Israel to parlance of Jewish money and power”.
A spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League in the United States said that Ms Kay’s remark “reveals a surprising lack of understanding of the broad support of the American people for a strong US-Israel relationship, which is the underpinning of US foreign policy toward Israel.
“And, at worst, the remark suggests she accepts the mythic notion of a powerful Jewish cabal able to control how US foreign policy toward Israel is determined.”
He added: “Of course, this just may be another example of how complexity and context are sacrificed for the sake of an answer limited to 140 characters.”
A BBC spokesman said that the correspondent’s “primary point in responding was that the US regards Israel as a key ally in the Middle East and also recognises the importance and influence of this relationship on the voting”.