BBC hypes up discrimination against Indian Jews

Timed to coincide with Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India,  an article written by the BBC Hindi journalist Zubair Ahmed was published on the BBC News website’s ‘India’ and ‘Middle East’ pages under the title “Israel’s Indian Jews and their lives in the ‘promised land’“. See this report by BBC Watch, and my comment below.

The article relates to one of the communities of Jews who immigrated to Israel from India – Bene Israel – and readers are told that: [emphasis added]

“…the biggest crisis faced by the community was in 1962 when the chief rabbinate prohibited Bene Israelis from marrying Jews from other communities.

Dr Weil said
the community was up in arms. “They used to conduct sit-in strikes
outside the chief rabbinate’s office saying they were Jews for more than
2,000 years and had the right to marry who they wanted.”

It took two years, but they finally succeeded in seeing their demands fulfilled.”

But is that account accurate? Did
Israel’s Chief Rabbinate really ban members of the Bene Israel group
from marrying other Israeli Jews in 1962 ?

Here is an article published in the ‘Herut’ newspaper on October 20th 1961 under the headline “The Chief Rabbinate rules: ‘Bene Israel’ from India are Jews and marriage with them is permitted”.

Read article in full

 Here’s another extract from the BBC story:

“But for many families, the migration did not go as smoothly as hoped.

Gudekar says that like many others of his community, his family were
discriminated against because of their darker skin colour and because
they could not speak fluent Hebrew.

They were allotted an inferior
home, built of asbestos, and tin. Mr Gudekar says his father often
regretted leaving their life in India.

But, he says, going back was not an option as they had burned all their bridges with Mumbai. ”

My comment: No BBC report on Israel is complete without a dig alleging ‘discrimination’. If the Indian Jews felt they were discriminated against for their skin colour, the Ethiopian immigrants arriving in the 1990s would be a notch darker.

Since when was fluent  Hebrew a requirement for newcomers to Israel? The BBC reporter is  most likely unaware that almost all immigrants to Israel in the 1950s or 60s had to live in tent camps or tin or asbestos huts.


  • Dear Dr Weil, you would need to take up this issue with BBC Watch, not with this blog.

  • You write while casting indirect aspersion on the information I provided: Did Israel’s Chief Rabbinate really ban members of the Bene Israel group from marrying other Israeli Jews in 1962? The answer is YES. This was the situation until 1964 when the Bene Israel were declared "full Jews in every respect". Please retract your comments immediately. I have offered to speak to you and explain you the whole history, but you still have not contacted me. I do not know who you are. This is an untenable situation. You cannot leave your inaccurate comments on the blog.
    I am now back in Jerusalem having returned from India this morning. I demand that you apologize since you have reflected upon me as a scholar. Best, Shalva Weil, GNU Distinguished Professor at JNU, Delhi and Senior Researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

  • Dear D Weill, the main body of the post was taken from BBC Watch. Is this what you are objecting to ?

  • I am an avid follower of your column but unfortunately you are toally incorrect. I Am considered an extremely serious scholar of the Bene Israel. This group suffered severe discrimination twice in Israel: once inthe 1950s when Indian Jews were the darkest Jews in the land; and religious discrimination in the 1960's. I am easily accessible, even though I accompanied PM Netanyahu fot the Indian Jewish meeting in Mumbai, but the least you could do is call me or email to verify facts. Pls withdraw your somewhat silly comments. S. Weil, Hebrew U ([email protected])


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