J-AIR (Jewish Australian Internet Radio), a Melbourne-based community radio station will educate its presenters on vilification laws following an outcry over comments on one of its shows that vilified the gay community. A J-AIR complaints committee found that the comments made on a popular show were “contrary to Australian law”.

The offending comments were made by Rabbi Mendel Kessin on The Tamar Yonah Show that was broadcast and podcast by J-AIR on March 30, 2020. Rabbi Kessin targeted the LGBTQI community by claiming that the COVID-19 “pandemic is an exact designer drug … that will remove … problems … in the form of homosexuality and gays”.

The radio station has since apologised for the comments. An apology was posted on the radio station’s website as well as broadcast for several days after the original offending broadcast.

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“The complaints resolution committee found Rabbi Kessin’s comments were contrary to Australian law in that they vilified members of the homosexual (and LGBTIQ+) community,” J-AIR said.

” J-AIR will begin an updated education program for all presenters about Australian vilification laws, and advise them to remind guests before interviews to be wary of what they say.” The radio station has also taken The Tamar Yonah show, which claims to be one of Israel’s most popular English language radio talk shows, off the air.

Michael Barnett, co convener of Aleph Melbourne, a Jewish LGBTQI support and advocacy group, had first raised the issue of the homophobic comments on the organisation’s website after a friend alerted them to it.

“I was concerned that LGBTQI people in the Jewish community may be targeted by the homophobic sentiments broadcast,” Barnett told Star Observer. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) swiftly responded to Barnett’s complaint. They informed him that besides contacting J-AIR, they had also issued a statement around COVID-19  to the Jewish community in Australia.

“I am grateful that J-AIR handled this matter seriously, acted swiftly to take down the offensive material from their website, and distanced themselves from the comments made by the Rabbi on the Tamar Yonah Show.  I am also grateful that they are educating their presenters around anti-vilification and are removing the unapologetic Tamar Yonah Show in question from their line-up,” Barnett.

“At a time when many minority groups around the world, including Jews and LGBTQI people, are being blamed for causing or spreading the coronavirus it was so disappointing to hear an ill-informed perspective being propagated by a radio station dedicated to countering hate,” said Barnett, adding “Despite this, the station has demonstrated they will not tolerate homophobia and that they are better prepared to prevent future occurrences of this nature.”

 

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