Browne to ‘Post’: ‘I deplore anti-Semitism’

Irish TV personality censured by broadcasting authority over on-air reference to Israel as a ‘cancer.’

Vincent Browne 370 (photo credit: YouTube )
Vincent Browne 370
(photo credit: YouTube )
“I am not anti-Semitic,” Irish television presenter Vincent Browne told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, following his receipt of a censure from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) over his description of Israel as a “cancer” while on-air.
In October 2012, Browne, who hosts a news program on Irish channel TV3, sparked controversy when he stated that Israel is a “cancer in foreign affairs.”
Israel, he further asserted, “polarizes the Islamic community of the world against the rest of the world.”
Following a complaint lodged against Browne with the BAI, the authority investigated the matter and determined that while complainant Paul Rossiter believed that the statement made was “offensive, anti-Semitic and indefensible for a journalist,” it was in fact “the Committee’s view that this element of the complaint was not substantiated by the program content and that there was nothing to indicate that the remarks made were of this nature.”
However, the BAI noted in a statement, the remarks did constitute “an editorial statement by the presenter that was not balanced by contributions from the program guests.
The item was therefore deemed to have failed to meet the requirement for fair, objective and impartial treatment of news and current affairs.”
The authority also noted that TV3 had “arranged for an appropriate representative of the State of Israel to join Vincent Browne on his program in the coming weeks to discuss his recent remarks” and that the network “regrets any offense caused to viewers of the program.”
TV3 must air an apology within 21 days at a “similar time to the original broadcast,” a spokesperson for the BAI told The Irish Independent.
Speaking with the Post, the BAI’s Catherine Heaney said that the authority would not “elaborate further beyond its final determinations” that were published on its website.
Browne told the Post that the date for “reading [an] apology on air that has yet to be decided.”
Explaining his comments, the television presenter noted that he believes “the continued US tolerance for what seems like Israeli obduracy on the outstanding issues with the Palestinians is an exacerbation of international tensions.
In my view Israel had to withdraw to the 1967 boundaries and there has to be an independent sovereign Palestinian state, both states protected from interference by the other.”
While Browne backtracked on his previous comments, stating that his “use of the word ‘cancer’ was wrong,” he did take the opportunity to strike back at those accusing him of anti-Semitism.
“I do not believe or accept that criticism of the State of Israel is anti-Semitic. I am not anti-Semitic and deplore anti- Semitism.”
Browne also clarified his views during a recent interview with the London-based Jewish Chronicle, in which he stated that while he did not wish to see it “eliminated,” he did believe the Jewish state to have been “founded by confiscation of land previously occupied by Arabs. That injustice is at the center of the conflict.”
Maurice Cohen, chairman of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, told the Post that the local community “welcomes the fact that the complaint made to the Irish Broadcasting Authority against TV3 and in particular Vincent Browne, has been partially upheld.”
“It is nevertheless regrettable and deeply offensive to us that the Jewish state would be described as a ‘cancer’ at a time when recorded instances of anti-Semitism are on the rise across Europe,” he said.
Cohen called it “regrettable and frightening” that “this demonization is propagated through the Irish education system from primary to university by a small number of organizations aligning themselves to the perceived underdog.”
The Anti-Defamation League also lambasted Browne, saying that “while Browne may not be an anti- Semite, the rhetoric is unmistakably anti-Semitic and his apology on October 25 was wholly inadequate.”
“Jews as a disease in the world is a classic anti-Semitic theme,” the ADL noted.
“Although the remark may not have violated the Irish Broadcasting Act, the BAI decision was wrong on the anti- Semitic nature of the ‘cancer’ remark.”
European Jewish Congress president, Dr. Moshe Kantor, responded to the controversy by noting that he believed that “Vincent Browne’s comments are part of a growing trend where more and more decision-makers and opinion-shapers, unfortunately mainly from Europe, have shrouded their anti-Semitism by attacking the Jewish state.”
“It is incumbent on government and public officials to censure such comments, because they attract such wide attention. There is an obvious connection between the rise of ‘respectable anti-Semitism,’ and the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe which are becoming more regular and habitual.”