Monday, 19 November 2012


Amidst all the Savile and McAlpine furore, you may have missed this little exchange on Radio 4's Today programme:
The BBC has apologised to the chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, after Radio 4's Today presenter Evan Davis asked him a question about the violence in Gaza without telling him he was live on air.
When Sacks finished his Thought for the Day on Friday morning, Davis asked him to comment on the Gaza situation before he left the studio.
Sacks, seemingly unaware that he was live, said "I think it's got to do with Iran, actually", before Davis' co-presenter Sarah Montague whispered: "We, we're live."

This seems to be a reasonable thing to happen. Jonathan Sacks appears on Today regularly and clearly listens to the show. He knows how it works. As the leading Jewish cleric in the country, he frequently gives his view - as perhaps he should - on Israeli affairs.

So what's the problem?

The problem was that Mr Sacks, being unprepared, was honest.
His tone then changed markedly and he called for "a continued prayer for peace, not only in Gaza but for the whole region, no one gains from violence".

Apparently this is infra dig at the moment.
According to a number of BBC sources, Sacks was said to be "angry" about the incident and made his feelings known to Today's production team.

The Chief Rabbi appeared to think that there are things it's OK to think and other things it's OK to say in public. Which is not my idea of spiritual leadership.

What is going on at the BBC? This is the response:
However, according to one senior BBC executive, the incident reflects the chaos at BBC News. "This is another cock up for BBC News – they are a law unto themselves on this one," said the source. "It is a cardinal law that you don't do that to a Thought for the Day presenter – that's a separate thing and you don't ask them questions like that. Lord Sacks is the chief rabbi. You show him some respect. This may also fuel the idea in some people's minds that the BBC is anti-Israel."
So apparently asking the country's most prominent Jewish cleric his opinion of events in Israel is 'a cock-up' rather than a decent bit of impromptu journalism. Sacks has never been afraid to mix politics with religion. He has a view on the Gaza bombardment that doesn't fit the Israeli government's line. So what? It's only an issue if - like Rupert Murdoch - you think every Jew has to be slavishly loyal to current Israeli policy, which I don't. Clearly Sacks thinks that it's dirty linen to be kept indoors. To me, it's news. The BBC's grovelling shows that it doesn't understand what that is any more.

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