BBC raps Jeremy Paxman on Hamas

By Robyn Rosen, July 21, 2011
Louise Ellman

Louise Ellman

The BBC has upheld a complaint that Jeremy Paxman failed to challenge adequately the Labour MP, Louise Ellman, after she accused Hamas of using children as suicide bombers.

Andy Bell, complaints director of the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit, apologised for a "lapse in editorial standards" in the BBC2 airing of Newsnight on February 14.

During the programme, Mr Paxman interviewed Mrs Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside, and the children's writer, Michael Morpurgo, about Mr Morpurgo's documentary on the children of Israel and Gaza.

Mrs Ellman said: "The problem is Hamas, who use these children as human shields, who give the children explosives, or sometimes force them to have explosive belts, and send them to blow up Israeli civilians."

She later said: "How can they meet, and how can we be without a barrier, when Hamas are sending those very children with their explosive belts across to kill Israeli children and Israeli civilians? All of that has to stop, and nobody is entirely innocent."

Responding to the complaint, Mr Bell wrote: "I accept that the claim in question should have been challenged.

"The most recent instance we could identify of a suicide bombing by a child (in the sense of someone under the age of 18 ) in which Hamas was implicated was the bombing carried out by the 17 year-old Khamis Gerwan in 2003.

"It may well be that Mrs Ellman had in mind instances which dated back to 2003 or earlier, but she spoke in the present tense, and in terms which gave the impression that the use of child suicide-bombers by Hamas was a key consideration in the current situation."

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has hailed the decision. But Mrs Ellman declined to comment.

Last updated: 1:46pm, July 21 2011