Analysis Breaking

Jewish pensioners who recorded right-wing staffer push back on Panorama smear

Helen Marks and Rica Bird take BBC to task in letter to Guardian

Two Liverpool pensioners smeared by a right-wing Labour staffer on the BBC’s Panorama in 2019 have shot back after the programme-makers claimed they had asked the staffer whether he came from Israel, despite their recording of the incident showing otherwise.

The pair wrote to the Guardian, after the liberal rag published the claim:

We, Helen Marks and Rica Bird, are the two women at the centre of the alleged antisemitic incident referred to in a recent Guardian letter (Questions raised about BBC Panorama episode on Labour and antisemitism, 17 February).

One of us is alleged to have asked Ben Westerman, a Jewish investigator from the Labour party, “Are you from Israel?” – an example, according to the Panorama programme broadcast in July 2019, of “the very antisemitism he’d been investigating”.

With Westerman’s permission, we recorded the interview, which took place in November 2016. The recording shows Rica asking Westerman which branch he was from. There was no mention of Israel.

The programme makers wrongly assert that the tape cuts off “abruptly”. The recording and a full transcript are both publicly available and clearly show that this is not true.

The programme makers continue to defend the sequence on the grounds that the Israel question may have been asked after the tape was switched off. We emphatically deny that this was the case. The tape runs for a further minute of amicable chat about procedural matters. Not only did we not ask the question – it is inconceivable that we would have done so.

We are both Jewish pensioners – a fact that Panorama failed to mention. The programme makers have at no stage offered us the opportunity to refute their false allegations against us. We trust that they will now withdraw them and apologise.

Helen Marks
Former member, Liverpool Riverside constituency Labour party
Rica Bird
Former member, Wirral South constituency Labour party

The BBC recently also admitted that it had misleadingly edited another interview in the same Panorama programme. The broadcaster also had to correct – after a fashion – its failure to challenge smears made by Ruth (Smeeth) Anderson about left-wing Jews in a recent interview.

SKWAWKBOX needs your help. The site is provided free of charge but depends on the support of its readers to be viable. If you’d like to help it keep revealing the news as it is and not what the Establishment wants you to hear – and can afford to without hardship – please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal or here to set up a monthly donation via GoCardless (SKWAWKBOX will contact you to confirm the GoCardless amount). Thanks for your solidarity so SKWAWKBOX can keep doing its job.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.


  1. This was one of the most egregious distortions in that outrageous programme.

    Watching the Al Jazeera ‘The Labour files,’ I could barely believe what they’d done to these two… victims. How on earth can the BBC think this type of slander is justified?

    1. They think they have the right to assert anything that keeps a vision of a benign British state. Arrogance and conceit are cornerstones of this establishment not truth or justice.

    2. Andy
      The BBC is well aware that the slander against these two Jewish women is not justified, indeed could never be justified.
      The BBC as State Broadcaster was in the forefront of the vilification campaign waged against Jeremy Corbyn by the Establishment and the Zionists. This programme was simply part of the BBC’s propaganda arsenal which they drew upon to attack Jeremy at every opportunity- in news bulletins and current affairs programmes every day .
      They lied shamelessly about Jeremy and distorted everything he said or did. They saw these two fine decent Jewish women who supported Jeremy as ” fair game” and did not care less about the hurt and distress their lies and smears caused them.
      The whole disgusting saga exposed exactly how low the BBC has sunk and is willing to sink. They are a national disgrace.

  2. I suppose many people at the BBC have to buy food like anyone else, pay lecky bills and have mortgages… I bet at least some are realising how much the current Tory government they help to install is costing them…

    1. “I suppose many people at the BBC have to buy food like anyone else, pay lecky bills and have mortgages”
      I’m sure that you are correct when it comes to those in the lower echelons of the Beeb.
      Further up, they are part of the “perception management” arm of the state.

  3. What gets me is how they thought they could get away with it?

    They must have known that the episode was being recorded ..

    How patronising and arrogant .

    1. To their minds, it didn’t matter. Only Aljazeera watchers and Skwawkbox readers would know otherwise. Patronising and arrogant and BBC propagandists.

    2. But they have got away with it Holby -they knew they would and thats why they did it

  4. The programme makers continue to defend the sequence on the grounds that the Israel question MAY** have been asked after the tape was switched off.

    Jesus wept. It’ll be“prison cell confessions” next.

    **My emphasis.

    1. Reply to Toffee
      Or maybe Westerman was lying – that is something the BBC have not considered. They clearly prefer the narritive that these 2 Jewish pensioners are liars and Jew hating antisemites.
      If either of these women decide to take legal action about the smears and the resultant hurt and distress they suffered we could crowd fund the costs.

      1. That would be an interesting exercise if only to see how quickly the response the Canadian Government took last year to any and all of its citizens crowdfunding the ‘wrong’ appeal is applied.

      2. Dave – Would you care to hazard a guess what Putin or Xi’s responses will be if they are confronted with a similar blockade.

      3. Seriously, Steve? We’re back to “Russia and China are horrible, so nobody can do anything here even though the anything they might do has nothing in common with anything even remotely pertainint to Russia or China?”

        Are you going to start quoting the “Eich Bin Ein Berliner(I Am A Jelly Donut)” speech next? Start ranting about “the captive nations” while you’re at it?

      4. Ken – I note that you have studiously avoided answering my question. 🤔

  5. For anyone who was prepared to look ‘under the surface’ the whole state pile on has been absolutely shocking. The fragile pretence at democracy was being shredded before our eyes. Alarmingly wide reaching it has been, too.

  6. To emphasise the point – even, George Monbiot is, now, saying the BBC owes these two ladies an apology, and a correction, for the slander.

    1. And yet the obvious question never seems to occur to the likes of Monbiot and others of that ilk.

      That this example among others point to an unsustainable narrative deliberately engineered in yet another massive propaganda perception management exercise to ‘spoon feed’ (copyright this sites alleged Caribbean resident) the voting populace with lies in order to manipulate and gerrymander the political process and their voting intentions.

      The apology Monbiot suggests, along with appropriate recompense which would include throwing out all those in the LP involved and replacing them with those viciously smeared in this cowardly manner, is owed not only to these two pensioners but also Corbyn and every Labour Party Member affected along with the entire electorate.

    2. Who gives a monkeys what any guardianista thinks? I know most skwakies seem to read it but really.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: