BBC staff who defied the corporation’s ‘ban’ on attending last Sunday’s March Against Antisemitism have slammed bosses who ‘got it badly wrong’ and showed insensitivity towards us that will be hard to repair’.
Dozens of Jewish employees in news and current affairs attended the demonstration in London despite being referred to impartiality rules that say editorial staff ‘should not participate in public demonstrations about controversial issues’.
Tens of thousands of people took part in the march calling for a crackdown on antisemitism following a dramatic increase in incidents since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict, with some holding placards reading ‘BBC muzzles journalists’.
One Jewish BBC member of staff, speaking anonymously, said they had decided to attend the event regardless of the consequences.
They told Times Radio: ‘I learnt last week that the BBC was barring members of staff from attending the planned march against antisemitism — and let’s face it, we’re really talking about Jewish members of staff here, because they’re the only ones who would really be wanting to go — so the BBC knew exactly who it was stopping.
A protester at the March Against Anti-Semitism holds a placard that says ‘BBC Muzzles Journalists’ at Sunday’s demonstration
A rally-goer holds a sign that says ‘Not My BBC’ at Sunday’s march in central London
Thousands of people gathered in central London outside the Royal Court of Justice on Sunday
‘The BBC described the ban as ”guidance” but that’s just a euphemism for ”instruction” because we all knew that non-compliance could result in disciplinary action.’
The staff member argued the BBC had ‘got it badly wrong’ and showed ‘insensitivity towards us which is going to be hard to repair’.
Last week it was reported managers at the BBC had effectively ‘banned’ staff working in news, current affairs and factual journalism, and other senior figures, from taking part in the march.
One insider claimed that Jewish staff thought the decision was ‘deplorable’ and ‘none of them were willing to comply with it’, although it is not possible to put a final figure on how many decided to defy guidance suggesting they should not go.
Those who did so joined tens of thousands of people who marched through central London on Sunday, with famous faces including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie, among the massive crowd.
Other celebrities taking part included Countdown’s Rachel Riley, Eastenders star Tracy-Ann Oberman, broadcaster Vanessa Feltz and award-winning actor Eddie Marsan.
It is not clear whether staff who decided to defy the guidance to march will receive any punishment, but those who did said they feel they have not choice but to stand up and show their support.
On Saturday, an insider at the corporation told MailOnline a ‘large proportion of Jewish staff’ intended to go to the march anyway.
They said: ‘Every Jewish member of staff I know thinks it’s a deplorable decision and none of them were willing to comply with it.
‘Jewish staff are aghast that the BBC is perfectly happy for its highest paid star Gary Lineker to endorse a tweet accusing Israel of genocide, but warn that attending a march against antisemitism might be a breach of discipline. Everyone thinks it’s shameful.’
They added that another member of staff, who was nervous about going, said: ‘If I don’t go I’m letting my family and friends down. And for what? To uphold guidelines that have left Jewish colleagues feeling insecure.’
The insider claimed another member of staff had told them: ‘BBC News romanticises Hamas and its supporters and sanitises their deeds and objectives, a consequence of which is a rise in antisemitism and has the audacity to tell its Jewish staff not to protest about it.’
Marchers hold placards calling for an end to anti-Semitism and wave Israeli flags at the demonstration
Demonstrators hold a banner which says ‘Bring Them Home Now!’, a reference to the hostages taken by Hamas during the terror attacks in southern Israel on October 7
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: ‘Week after week, central London has become a no-go zone for Jews
A spokesperson for the BBC told MailOnline: ‘The BBC is clear that antisemitism is abhorrent.
‘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.’
Last week insiders said staff at the corporation were told that the march would not fall under the description of allowed events that are ‘commemorative or celebratory’. They added that BBC bosses made it clear that the attendance of staff on the march would be considered ‘controversial’.
Jewish journalists are understood to have written to bosses to clarify what the corporation’s stance was on the event. David Jordan, the broadcaster’s director of editorial policy, is said to have replied with an explanation of the corporation’s position.
Critics of the decision claim that many BBC staff have attended pro-Palestinian marches in recent weeks. One of the corporation’s biggest stars, Gary Lineker, backed pro-Palestinian protesters marching through London on Armistice Day.
Those concerned about the corporation’s stance also point out that its own guidelines say that ‘Opposition to racism is a fundamental democratic principle’.
They accused the BBC of a double standard, assuming ‘Jews don’t count’ when it comes to standing up to racism.
One source told Mail Online: ‘On the one hand they are saying that they’re not impartial on racism and staff don’t need to be but for some reason that we do need to be impartial on anti-Semitism. We can only assume that where this racism is concerned, Jews don’t count.
‘I moved from feeling like its not a safe place for Jews to work to feeling like I owe it to my community to stay and do whatever little I can to insert some humanity into the organisation.
‘Many people here have been to the pro-Palestine marches and are happy to talk about it at work. People here seem to think Zionists are evil. One colleague said I was OK because I wasn’t ‘a proper Zionist’. They don’t have a clue.’
Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and baby Frank joined the thousands of demonstrators gathered in central London on Sunday to rally against anti-Semitism
Mr Johnson, 59, appeared bundled up against the biting temperatures in a woolly hat, while 35-year-old Carrie held their child together in a baby carrier
A large group gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice for the rally
Sunday’s march was organised by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, and saw the likes of Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and their baby Frank in attendance.
Along with Mr Johnson, other famous names joined in to show their support – with Countdown’s Rachel Riley, Eastenders star Tracy-Ann Oberman spotted.
Broadcaster Vanessa Feltz, known from Celebrity Big Brother, also appeared at the march, along with award-winning actor Eddie Marsan.
It was the largest protest against hatred directed towards the Jewish people since the infamous Battle of Cable Street in 1936, when hundreds of thousands of people rallied against a march by the British Union of Fascists through an area of the capital home to many Jewish families.
Speaking to GB News at the rally, Mr Johnson said: ‘It’s very sad that this march has to take place at all. What we’re all doing here is showing solidarity with Jewish people, and that is necessary.
‘Since October 7, there has been a very peculiar response from many parts of the world including, I’m sad to say, in London. What we’ve seen is the re-emergence of anti-Semitism and the failure to focus on the appalling terroristic events of Hamas.
‘Whatever the rights and wrongs of what Israel has done, or is doing, I think that the antisemitism we have seen in some of the marches around Europe has really confirmed for me the absolutely human necessity for Israel to exist.
‘It’s kind of like an old spore of a virus that lurks beneath the floorboards of Western civilisation, our collective memory, and it comes out from time to time.
‘It’s perennial, it won’t go away, and it flares up again. We’re seeing a flare up, and we need to call it out.’
Those at the rally are holding Israeli and Union Jack flags and holding placards calling for ‘Zero tolerance for AntiSemites’.
Jewish actress Maureen Lipman told Mail Online: ‘It’s been an amazing turnout.
‘It’s great to come and show support. We don’t want to be here for why we are here, but we have to be here.
‘As the Jewish community, we’re in shock. There has been a terrible reckoning, it has frightened all of us.
‘We’re in total shock still. David Baddiel is right, Jews don’t count. That’s why we have to march.’
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: ‘Week after week, central London has become a no-go zone for Jews.
‘We have witnessed mass criminality, including glorification of terrorism, support for banned terrorist organisations such as Hamas, and incitement to racial or religious hatred against Jews.’
They added: ‘The sad truth is that Jews do not feel safe in our capital city.
A boy drapes an Israeli flag around his shoulders as he attends the march against anti-Semitism
Tens of thousands of people join the National March Against Anti-Semitism in central London