Local newspaper in North East publishes antisemitic letter to the editor and now apologises but only for “offence caused” rather than because it was racist

Newcastle upon Tyne - A local newspaper in the North East of England (The Journal) has published a written apology after printing an antisemitic letter to the editor from a member of the public.

The Journal published a letter from an individual named Mem Tahir, who regretted that the Jewish community in the region was unable to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but then proceeded to say: “When one looks back at history, and looks at the sects that suffered most in the past, one sees that the sufferers in the past are now repeating the atrocities!” The author then expressly compared the effect of Israeli policy to how “the Jewish population suffered under the Nazi regime.”

The letter was a breach of the International Definition of Antisemitism, under which “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is an example of antisemitism.

The matter was brought to the attention of Campaign Against Antisemitism by CAMERA UK, and we released a statement, saying: “Equating Israeli policies to those of the Nazis is antisemitic under the International Definition of Antisemitism. Newspaper editors are under no obligation to print letters and, while letters do not necessarily represent the views of the editors, the choice to print an antisemitic letter reflects the editors’ ignorance of the manifestations of anti-Jewish racism. The editors must apologise to readers and clarify what steps are being taken to avoid a repeat in future.”

Following CAMERA’s and our intervention, the editors have now published an apology in the latest edition of the newspaper, saying: “In Saturday’s Journal, we carried a letter headlined ‘Ending cycles of suffering’, which referred to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The letter did not reflect the views of The Journal and we apologise for any offence caused.”

Whilst we welcome the apology, it is regrettable that the editors have not acknowledged that the letter was antisemitic and should not have been published. Offence was not caused merely because of the claims that were made in the letter but because those claims were racist against Jews. Until the editors recognise this there can be no confidence that it will not publish racist letters or material in future.
We are grateful to CAMERA UK for bringing this case to our attention and for our collaboration on this matter.

Source: CAA