Employers Have a ‘Blind Spot’ When it Comes to Anti-Semitism, Claims Eric Salama

The former chairman of Comic Relief, Eric Salama, says many UK employers often have a ‘blind spot’ when it comes to addressing anti-Semitism.
Employers Have a ‘Blind Spot’ When it Comes to Anti-Semitism, Claims Eric Salama
An image taken from the Twitter feed of Oliver Cooper, showing anti-semitic graffiti on a shop in Hampstead, north London on Dec. 29, 2019. (Oliver Cooper/X/PA Media)
Chris Summers
12/4/2023
Updated:
12/4/2023
0:00

The former chief executive of the consulting firm Kantar, Eric Salama—who quit as chairman of Comic Relief last month—has said many employers have a “blind spot” when it comes to dealing with anti-Semitism.

Mr. Salama—whose parents were Egyptian Jewish immigrants— told The Times many Jewish people in Britain felt “threatened and vulnerable in a way I’ve not seen before” after a huge rise in anti-Semitic incidents since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war in October.

But he said many companies had failed to recognise the concerns of their Jewish employees in the same way they had during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

Mr. Salama said, “Employers should be sensitive to that in the same way that many employers were with their black employees in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.”

He said the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7—when 1,200 people were slaughtered in cold blood and 240 were taken hostage—should be as a wake-up call to the world in the same way as George Floyd’s death triggered a wider conversation about attitudes toward black people.

Mr. Salama—who is chairman of Verian, the communications firm formerly known as Kantar Public—said while he welcomed the changes introduced as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, he said he had, “never seen DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) training that includes racism toward Jewish people.”

Resigned From Comic Relief Over Gaza Petition

He resigned as chairman of Comic Relief last month after the charity decided to sign a petition calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war without consulting the board.

Mr. Salama said it was, “an approach to an issue which I thought was profoundly wrong and which I could not live with.”

Referring to the petition, he told The Times: “There’s no mention of 250,000 Israeli people who are internal refugees in Israel because they can’t live in their homes and their homes have been shelled. There’s no mention of Hamas or the atrocities they committed.”

“You read it, and it’s very much about the damage that Israel is doing to Gaza … it’s a political statement,” he added.

Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis (left) and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attend a vigil for the victims of the Hamas attacks, at Finchley United Synagogue in central London on Oct. 9, 2023. (PA)
Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis (left) and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attend a vigil for the victims of the Hamas attacks, at Finchley United Synagogue in central London on Oct. 9, 2023. (PA)

Mr. Salama’s term was due to end in March, and Comic Relief has appointed Tom Shropshire as interim chairman.

A spokesman for Comic Relief told The Times: “We would like to thank Eric for all he has done for Comic Relief over the past three years, including guiding Comic Relief through the Covid-19 pandemic, the ongoing cost of living crisis and shaping our current strategy. We are grateful to Eric for his continued support of Comic Relief by helping to recruit his successor and on various other projects. We wish him well for the future.”

Last week the chairman of the Charity Commission, Orlando Fraser, has warned, in the wake of allegations of anti-Semitism by some Muslim or pro-Palestinian groups, he will not allow “premises, events or online content to become forums for hate speech.”

Last month the Campaign Against Antisemitism and eight other bodies, called for an “urgent investigation” into allegations that certain charities were hosting speakers who were espousing, “anti-Semitism of the most extreme kind” and “glorification of terrorism” following the attack by Hamas terrorists on Israel on Oct. 7.

On Nov. 26 the former prime minister Boris Johnson joined tens of thousands of people on a march against anti-Semitism in London.

Mr. Johnson was joined by the chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, and other senior government officials at the march to express solidarity with the Jewish community. Organisers billed it as the largest gathering against anti-Semitism in London for almost a century.

Marchers waved Israeli flags and Union Jacks, and held placards reading “Never Again Is Now” and “Zero Tolerance for anti-Semites.”