It’s difficult to imagine a more unsuitable vehicle than BBC1’s Question Time for a serious discussion about Israel’s response to the murder of 1400 Jews by Hamas. For some years the programme has been an unfunny joke for anyone with a functioning brain. Perfectly parodied by Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield (have a look here), it’s a forum in which the incoherent and ignorant berate the insufferable and impudent.
But however awful it has previously been, last night it reached its nadir.
At one point during the discussion, an audience member compared the attempt to root out a terrorist organisation responsible for the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust with…the Holocaust. “There is a constant talk about, 'We're going to clear Hamas out of the country and clear them altogether',” he informed us. He continued: “Isn't this a little bit like the final solution?”
A BBC QT audience member compared the expulsion of the terrorist organisation, Hamas from Gaza, to The Final Solution.— Chris Rose (@ArchRose90) November 3, 2023
A few in the audience nod in approval at him trivialising the Holocaust.
Jaw dropping ignorance said publicly. The BBC should be ashamed again. pic.twitter.com/EgDR4oMfGd
Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on this. The audience member was not some callow 20-something, perhaps lacking the education or knowledge to have a clue what he was saying (not that it would have been any less repellent). He was, to judge from his appearance, well into his 70s. By his age alone, he must be aware of what the Final Solution was. Indeed, by his use of that particular phrase – rather than the word Holocaust, which has sometimes been diluted in its impact by its application to evens which are not in any way the same as the Shoah – he made clear that he was specifically referring to a plan to exterminate the entire Jewish people, once and for all. And he chose to use that phrase to make a comparison with an attempt by the Jewish state to remove a terrorist group committed in its charter to the elimination of every Jew on the planet – not just Israelis – once and for all.
I have no idea who this man is or what he does. I have no idea if he is a rocket scientist or an idiot, or whether he spoke knowingly and with malice. But what I do know – and this is one reason why a comment on a programme I would otherwise dismiss as fit only for imbeciles actually matters – is that there lurks a latent antisemitism which some of us foolishly but perhaps understandably told ourselves would die out after the Holocaust, and which began to resurface unambiguously after Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour leader in 2015 – and it is now, as a result of Jews being murdered, rearing its head with pride. Jews are killed, and the conclusion that follows is that Jews are evil.
But there is a second reason why the comment matters. “Well, that's quite a thing to say”, was the response of the Question Time presenter, Fiona Bruce, as if she had just heard him say that one of the panellists had BO, rather than utter what must be one of the most unspeakable, repellent and morally disgusting sentiments ever heard on British broadcasting.
But then, almost surreally, there was no other reference to the remark from any other panellist - including the president of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl - nor from the audience. Not a gasp of outrage when he spoke, and not a single word of condemnation later, or even an explanation as to why it was such a grotesque and amoral calumny. Nothing. Just the usual Question Time babble. It was allowed to hang there, as if it was nothing out of the ordinary, just quite a thing to say.
Imagine, however, if he had come out with something disparaging about Islam. The host would have immediately apologised on air - indeed, it would probably have been edited out before being broadcast on BBC1 - and there would have been statements of apology and contrition from the BBC itself.
You don't have to imagine something similar, however, because there was an incident last month when Ms Bruce identified an audience member by calling him “the black guy in the middle”. There was near universal outrage and both the BBC and the presenter were forced to apologise. But I’ll bet my mortgage on there being not a peep out of the BBC after last night.
It is bad enough that Saturdays in central London are now a no-go area for Jews when a 100,000 strong mob takes to the streets for its weekly hate-fest. Now we have to watch out for more hate coming at us at any moment on TV - and no one being in the least bit bothered by it.