On January 25, 2015, just two days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the BBC plunged to new lows in anti-Semitism. The enigma of the day on the “Big Questions” program, an ethics and religion debate show, was “Is the time coming to put the Holocaust to rest?” Nicky Campbell, who hosts the BBC-run show, also posted this question on Twitter the same day. Several Jewish media websites picked up this ‘debate’ question as only (at that time) the most recent evidence of the BBC’s anti-Semitism. For me, this was something different: shocking and completely unexpected. I thought I had seen everything. Anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism is a fact of life. I have never been truly stunned by ‘day-to-day’ anti-Semitism. For that matter, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in the media are not surprises anymore. Yet it has been an unspoken rule that the Holocaust is an untouchable subject. The Holocaust has always stood alone among history’s atrocities: in sheer magnitude and extent of barbarism. Yet the BBC broke that tacit and sacred line and decided to question the value of remembering.
What does the question “Is the time coming to put the Holocaust to rest?” mean? What does it imply? When Nicky Campbell from the BBC asks on TV whether in fact the Holocaust was unique and whether it should be remembered as a repugnant truth, what should one think? What should one do?
Nicky Campbell’s question was meant to put people, and specifically Jews, on the defensive. When one puts a question to a debate, a simple answer is not expected. Rather, any intelligent answer is usually expected to have caveats, exceptions, and qualifications. Mr. Campbell, by putting the memory of 11 million murdered people to debate, was looking for such defensive explanations such as these. To weaken the memory of the Holocaust as well as the value of that memory was Nicky Campbell’s goal in asking his question.
I started a petition on change.org demanding three BBC executives: director-general Tony Hall, director of TV Danny Cohen, and head of the BBC Trust Rona Fairhead, denounce Nicky Campbell’s question, take disciplinary action against Mr. Campbell, and clarify the moral and ethical principles and guidelines which all BBC personnel must follow. The petition states:
“On a day of mourning and remembrance of the 11 million innocent men, women, and children who were brutally murdered during the Holocaust, such a question is more than objectionable; it is reprehensible and morally repugnant.”
The point of this petition is multi-faceted: to draw attention to the real threat of forgetting the Holocaust, to raise awareness of the BBC’s blatant anti-Semitism and general insensitivity, and, ultimately, to make sure the BBC admits that the question asked on one its shows and on one of its Twitter pages, was unacceptable.
Debate is important. Events such as the Holocaust must be discussed in order to be remembered. But such issues should be sensitively deliberated, and questions as ignorant as ones that suggest forgetting the Holocaust, should never be put on the table.