The BBC was forced to apologize to the British Chief Rabbi for ‘ambushing’ him into making unguarded comments about the Gaza crisis when he believed he was off-air.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who had just completed his regular ‘Thought for the Day’ slot on Radio 4’s Today Programme, was asked by presenter Evan Davis for ‘any thoughts’ on the latest Middle East clashes.
The Jewish leader sighed loudly and said: ‘I think it’s got to do with Iran actually’, when co-presenter Sarah Montague interrupted him to whisper ‘We’re live’.
Lord Sacks then markedly changed tone and issued a plea for a ‘continued prayer for peace, not only in Gaza but the whole region’.
He added: ‘No one gains from violence, not the Palestinians, not the Israelis’. Twitter users described the question as an ‘ambush’. BBC sources said the Chief Rabbi was angry and made his views clear to the Today production team. The BBC said Davis had apologised.
A spokesman said: ‘The Chief Rabbi hadn’t realised he was still on air and as soon as this became apparent, we interjected.
‘Evan likes to be spontaneous with guests, but he accepts that in this case it was inappropriate and he has apologised to Lord Sacks. The BBC would reiterate that apology.’
Twitter was soon awash with his remarks as users both mocked and questioned him – while some claimed that Davis had ‘ambushed’ the Rabbi unfairly.
In an official response to the conflict, Lord Sacks yesterday supported Israeli’s right to defend themselves against rockets fired from the Palestinian territories. He said: ‘In the past week alone over 275 rockets have been fired into southern Israel from Gaza.
‘No nation on earth can be expected to live under this constant threat to innocent life.
‘The people of Israel are entitled, as is any other nation, to live in peace and safety. We mourn with all the bereaved families, and pray for an end to the hostilities from which both sides suffer.’
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