BBC admits it was wrong over pro-Israel commentator

By Sandy Rashty, October 8, 2013
Jonathan Sacerdoti on the BBC (Photo: YouTube)

Jonathan Sacerdoti on the BBC (Photo: YouTube)

The BBC has said it was wrong to hide a commentator’s pro-Israel credentials in reports on the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza last year.

BBC News 24 interviewed Jonathan Sacerdoti four times over two days last November.

During his appearances Mr Sacerdoti supported Israel’s right to defend itself from Gaza rocket attacks.

Mr Sacerdoti was described by the BBC as a member of the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy, an independent think-tank.

But the Palestine Solidarity Campaign complained that the corporation should have mentioned he was also a former director of the Zionist Federation, and to indicate his “strongly Zionist” perspective.

A PSC spokesperson said the group “wrote to the BBC to ask why it was misleading viewers by presenting Sacerdoti as being a neutral expert on Israel and Palestine, when he is, in fact, strongly Zionist.".

It also complained that: “No commentator was interviewed alongside him to give a Palestinian point of view”.

The BBC, which received two formal complaints, launched an investigation and has now said: “It was not made clear that [Sacerdoti] is an active proponent of the Israeli viewpoint.

“Viewers should have been made aware that he was not a neutral commentator.”

But Mr Sacerdoti told the JC: “The BBC introduced me by my job title at the time of my appearance.

"It has confirmed that my analysis was ‘in keeping with the requirements of due impartiality’.”

He added that such complaints were “a side-effect of working in this field.

“Pressure groups will try to discredit analysts when they don’t like their analysis.”

Tom Gross, the former Middle East correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, defended Mr Sacerdoti.

He told the JC: "Mr Sacerdoti is one of the more balanced commentators used by the BBC on the Middle East. If the BBC is going to have a go at him, they should have a go at virtually at everyone they invite to discuss the Middle East, including some of their own correspondents."

Last updated: 10:04am, October 9 2013