(JR) — Ahead of what could be the largest British gathering against antisemitism in nearly 90 years, Jewish journalists at the BBC say the corporation’s rules prohibit them from marching this weekend.
Multiple journalists at the BBC who sought permission to march in the London demonstration organized by the Campaign Against Antisemitism on Sunday told the British press they were referred to the company’s “impartiality rules.”
According to those rules, editorial, current affairs and some other staff “should not participate in public demonstrations or gatherings about controversial issues.”
Jewish journalists who pressed back have argued that protesting against discrimination should not be considered a political or controversial issue. They told their supervisors that “racism is racism,” the Telegraph reported, and that if the BBC disapproves of racism, its employees should be allowed to demonstrate against it.
“The BBC is clear that anti-Semitism is abhorrent,” a BBC spokesman said in a statement. “We have established guidance around marches, which explains that different considerations apply depending on what you do for the BBC.”
“Corporately, we have not issued any staff communication on any specific march this weekend, but this does not mean discussions which consider the guidance have not taken place between colleagues,” the spokesman added.
Sunday’s demonstration is expected to bring crowds of about 40,000, including a significant presence of non-Jews.
“We have witnessed mass criminality, including glorification of terrorism, support for banned terrorist organizations such as Hamas, and incitement to racial or religious hatred against Jews,” Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, told the Jewish Chronicle. “The sad truth is that Jews do not feel safe in our capital city.”
The march is being billed as the biggest demonstration of British Jews since the 1936 Battle of Cable Street, during which anti-fascist Jews united with neighbors in the East End to block the entrance of the British Union of Fascists. Approximately a quarter-million people — a mix of Jews, Irish dock workers, the local working-class and communists — gathered to prevent the fascists’ government-sanctioned march through a Jewish neighborhood in London.
A larger pro-Palestinian protest that could draw 100,000 people is planned for Saturday in London. An even larger one, estimated at around 300,000, took place in the British capital two weekends ago.
Like other countries across Europe, Britain has seen a sharp spike in antisemitic incidents since the Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7. Some incidents have taken place at pro-Palestinian protests worldwide, at which rally-goers have chanted antisemitic phrases.
Some British Jews have also taken issue with the BBC’s policy of calling Hamas a “militant” group instead of a terrorist group. Thousands protested outside of BBC headquarters in London on Oct. 16.