Torah for Today: Martin Bashir’s Diana interview

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Torah for Today: Martin Bashir’s Diana interview

Rabbi Zvi Solomons looks at a topical issue and delves into Jewish texts for a response

Lord Dyson’s recent damning report discovered that BBC bosses covered up Martin Bashir’s deceit in faking bank statement to secure his 1995 interview with Princess Diana. What does the Torah say about employing such lies? 

All religions regard honesty as a basic responsibility of their followers. It’s part of the golden rule, “Do not do to others as you would not wish them to do to you” or “Love your neighbour who is as you are.”

The Bible tells us several times not to lie, particularly in certain circumstances, such as when you give evidence (as in the Ten Commandments). In fact, it is part of the Holiness code in Leviticus 19.

Lying attracts considerable disapproval from the Bible. Jacob is exiled and never sees his mother again owing to his falsehoods.

Laban is punished for his deception. Shimon and Levi are execrated by Jacob for their deception.

Our revulsion at Martin Bashir’s lies and deception of a vulnerable Diana to get that interview is therefore supported by many Biblical and rabbinic sources.

The Talmud views this sort of behaviour as low. You are never to lie to gain business advantage. 

Indeed, you are only allowed to lie to save a life, for peace, to protect modesty or others’ hospitality. 

There is a concept in Judaism of gneivat da’at or stealing others’ understanding. This is what Martin Bashir did, forging documents to deceive Diana to get the interview. 

Bashir’s deception has rightly attracted the notoriety it deserves. It is a shameful abuse and utterly unprofessional. 

According to Halacha, this behaviour is beyond the pale. 

Zvi Solomonsis rabbi of the Jewish Community of Berkshire in Reading,

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