BBC debate on anti-Zionism becoming a ‘protected characteristic’ condemned by Board

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

BBC debate on anti-Zionism becoming a ‘protected characteristic’ condemned by Board

President Marie van der Zyl hit out at the broadcaster for planning a discussion on its Radio 4 Sunday programme featuring JVL activist Diana Neslen

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

BBC Radio studio
BBC Radio studio

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl has condemned BBC plans for a debate on its Radio 4 Sunday programme about whether anti-Zionism should be “a protected characteristic”.

An interview with Jewish Voice For Labour activist Diana Neslen is scheduled to broadcast by the station on Sunday morning as part of a discussion on the history of anti-Zionism.

Neslen is under investigation by Labour for the third time over claims of antisemitism.

She is threatening legal action against the party, claiming it has unlawfully discriminated against her based on her belief in anti-Zionism.

Social media posts made by her include a claim “Zionism is not Judaism. It is blasphemy.”

Neslen, who is Jewish herself, also wrote that “no Jewish MPs were ‘hounded out'” of Labour – a clear reference to the decision of Luciana Berger and Dame Louise Ellman to quit the party.

She has also posted a claim of a “symbiotic relationship between Zionism and antisemitism.”

In February this year, she was given a “formal NEC warning relating to your conduct” by the party.

Marie van der Zyl

Responding to the BBC’s decision to interview her for a Radio 4 show, the Board’s President  said: “Zionism is the belief that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination in our ancestral homeland. The BBC’s intention to host a debate on whether vocal opposition to that belief should be a ‘protected characteristic’ is a grotesque insult to an overwhelming majority of British Jews.

“Those on the fringes of our community have every right to express their views; we are fortunate to live in a country which values freedom of speech. Yet for our national broadcaster to invite such people to give their view, and then ask a representative of one of our communal organisations to ‘debate’ this view, places these opinions on an equal footing and gives listeners an utterly inaccurate impression of the general view of British Jews. This was something done repeatedly during the Corbyn era, when representatives of key Jewish communal organisations were asked to ‘debate’ the existence of antisemitism in the Labour Party with people from a small far-left fringe group full of conspiracy theorists, as if for the entertainment of the general population.

“Our community is not here to dance for your amusement.”

A BBC spokesperson said:”We are always exploring a range of possible topics but there’s no planned item about anti-Zionism on the Sunday programme.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: