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BBC presenter talks about ‘powerful Jewish lobby’ live on radio

Corporation apologises after presenter accused of using ‘age-old anti-Jewish tropes’ during discussion about mayoral hustings

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Eddie Nestor has been criticised after he repeatedly referred to the Jewish 'lobby' on his BBC London radio show in April (Photo: YouTube)

BBC presenter Eddie Nestor talked about the “Jewish lobby” and Jewish “power” during a discussion on BBC Radio London about the mayoral hustings at JW3 last month.

The BBC has apologised for Nestor’s comments which community leaders labelled “age old anti-Jewish tropes”.

During an interview with Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Rob Blackie on April 17, Nestor, a seasoned presenter honoured with an MBE in 2018, implied that the first main mayoral hustings took place at a Jewish community centre – JW3 – because of the "powerful Jewish lobby".

Nestor questioned why candidates would prioritise events organised by the Jewish community over those put on by other groups, such as those who work with disabilities, women, the black community and the LGBTQ+ community.

Nestor said, “it feels to me as though here is an opportunity, whether it be on special interests, be it ableism, whether it be blacks, gays whoever, to do it.

“The only time all four of you [mayoral candidates] apart from that debate last night were together was for the Jewish lobby.

“Why is that lobby is so much more powerful than people with disabilities, why is it so much more powerful than people who are worried about the safety of women and girls, the aged voter?”

Blackie said: “Sure”.

After talking about the “Jewish lobby”, Nestor asked the Liberal Democrat, “Why do you think that [JW3] is the only place all four of you have been?"

Blackie did not contest Nestor’s remark and explained, “The problem is Sadiq Khan and the Conservative candidate just aren't turning up to things.” He has since clarified to the JC that he “would never agree with any antisemitic trope” and was “surprised” by Nestor’s phrasing.

Nestor’s comments have been seen as a repetition of the antisemitic trope about Jewish power and influence.

The BBC said: “Our intention was not to perpetuate harmful stereotypes or imply undue influence” and has confirmed that Nestor and his editorial team have been addressed regarding the incident.

The Jewish Leadership Council, which helped to organise the hustings, slammed the interview. Co-chairs Andrew Gilbert and Adrian Cohen said: "It is outrageous to call us a lobby. Mr Nestor needs to withdraw his comments and apologise.”

“For a BBC radio station host to infer some special power is not only engaging in age old anti-Jewish tropes but an attempt to cause division between minority communities.”

Chief Executive of JW3, Raymond Simonson, told the JC, “Ever since we've opened, we've hosted hustings events for London's Jewish community for all elections – mayoral, local, European, Labour Party leadership, even Board of Deputies President elections!

“Eddie Nestor fails to appreciate how much time and effort goes into securing all candidates for the same time and date. We're successful due to the combined tenacity of professionals and lay leaders across organisations, and thanks to the deep relationships that we've all built up over many years.

“To suggest that some kind of nefarious, powerful Jewish lobby must be involved in order for a Jewish community centre to get high profile politicians to do these sorts of events is as laughable as it is offensive. It’s just good old fashioned hard work from partners working for the collective good.

“His comments at the least seem to reveal a bias, whether conscious or unconscious, in his thinking when it comes to Jews, and it plays into classic old tropes of Jews as powerful puppet masters that we’re all so bored of hearing.

“Frankly I'm disappointed to hear someone of his experience [...] playing into such lazy, offensive stereotypes.”

A BBC Spokesperson said: “We apologise for the phrasing of the question. Our intention was not to perpetuate harmful stereotypes or imply undue influence.

“We value diversity and are committed to using language that accurately reflects different perspectives. This has been discussed with the presenter and the wider editorial team.”

Nestor was contacted for comment.

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