David Rose

For the BBC, Jews really don’t count

It seems there is an exception to the ways BBC impartiality rules are applied – when the hate speech victims are Jews, and especially Zionist Jews


London, United Kingdom - January 17 2021: Broadcasting House, BBC headquarters in Central London, exterior view.

October 27, 2022 12:18

When it wants to, the BBC is capable of acting very swiftly to protect its reputation for both impartiality and the abhorrence of hate speech. This week, just hours after presenter Martine Croxall told the BBC News Channel’s The Papers programme that she felt “gleeful” at Boris Johnson’s withdrawal from the Tory leadership race, the Corporation announced she had been taken off air, pending an investigation.

“I shouldn't probably laugh”, she had said. “I'm probably breaking some terrible due impartiality rule by giggling." And indeed, it appeared she had: according to a stern BBC statement next morning, “BBC News is urgently reviewing last night's edition of The Papers on the News Channel for a potential breach of impartiality.

"It is imperative that we maintain the highest editorial standards. We have processes in place to uphold our standards, and these processes have been activated."

Similarly, when I revealed in a national newspaper in 2021 that the BBC Arabic channel had repeatedly broadcast vile homophobic comments, the response was instant.

Among other slurs, the channel had put out claims on its Trending programme that homosexuals were “deviants” who “deserved life imprisonment”; that they were responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic; and that were an instrument of the West’s supposed “war on Islam,” an attempt to sap its moral strength.

Hours after I approached the BBC press office for comment – in time for publication in the newspaper’s first edition – a BBC spokesman told me: “These broadcasts did not meet our editorial standards and we apologise to our viewers.

“The format of BBC Trending is to reflect debate across the Arab world and examine opposing views on social media. While it is appropriate that we reflect a range of views and debate in our coverage, we should have challenged some of them robustly or provided context around them.

“On these occasions we failed to do this.”

So far, so admirable. Ms Croxall’s remarks clearly crossed the line, and should have had no place on a publicly-funded network that has detailed editorial guidelines stressing the importance of impartiality above every other editorial virtue.

As for the Arabic channel’s homophobia: it was loathsome, and arguably quite close to the criminal offence of incitement. The fact that it passed unnoticed and had been going on for months until I exposed it is a terrible indictment of the BBC’s lack of editorial scrutiny.

However, as so often in British public life, it seems there is an exception to the ways these rules are applied – when the hate speech victims are Jews, and especially Zionist Jews. In cases involving us, not only are peddlers of hate given unlimited licence, they and their right to broadcast will even be defended by the most senior figures inside the BBC hierarchy.

Last week, the JC reported the demand signed by more than 30 distinguished political and literary figures for a parliamentary inquiry into BBC coverage of both Britain’s Jewish community and Israel.

One of the many issues that triggered it is the repeated and continuing use by both English and Arabic BBC services of the commentator Abdel Bari Atwan. His record has been exposed repeatedly by this newspaper: he has justified numerous terrorist attacks, lauded their perpetrators as martyrs, and even expressed sympathy for the knifeman who left Sir Salman Rushdie maimed for the rest of his life, deprived of sight in one eye and the use of one hand.

Yet to this, the response of BBC Director-General Tim Davie was to resist all calls to take Mr Atwan off air. As we have seen, attacking gays was seen as off-limits, even for BBC Arabic. But according to Mr Davie’s letter to the JC, giving a BBC platform to the man who described the murder of three civilians in downtown Tel Aviv earlier this year as a “miracle”, and suggested that the Munich Olympics massacre was the work of Mossad and the German police, was “in the public interest”.

Mr Davie added: “We will sometimes include in our output people whose views may cause serious offence to many in our audiences … We do not ban contributors, for good reason … We question them, and when they hold or express controversial views we should always aim to challenge them… The alternative, I am afraid, would lead us down a dangerous path.”

Would the BBC have broadcast interviews with individuals who praised the perpetrators of the Enniskillen massacre as “heroes”? Or, for that matter, the Guildford or Birmingham pub bombings?

Does the Radio 4 Today programme currently feature contributors who justify Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets as necessary instruments of Putin’s brave struggle against “Nazis”? And when was the last time you heard or viewed anything suggesting that while real and caused by human activity, climate change might not be quite as imminently catastrophic as some scientists suggest – such as the former Chancellor, Lord Lawson, who used to be featured regularly?

Once again, we need to invoke the title of David Baddiel’s brilliant pocket polemic, Jews Don’t Count. The affair of Mr Atwan, Mr Davie and his letter to the JC demonstrates that once again, it seems to explain everything.

To sign the JC's petition calling for a parliamentary inquiry into BBC impartiality on Jews and Israel, go to

October 27, 2022 12:18

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