The BBC has sparked a backlash after a presenter insisted that “Israeli forces are happy to kill children” in an interview with ex-Israeli PM Naftali Bennett.
During the interview, which was about the operation in Jenin, the former Israeli PM defended the two-day Israeli incursion which left 12 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier dead. It is understood at least three combatants aged between 16-18 were among those killed.
No civilians were among the dead, a result that Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, hailed as “unprecedented in the history of modern warfare”.
המראיינת מה-BBC העזה לטעון בפניי ש״חיילי צה״ל שמחים להרוג ילדים״ (!).— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) July 4, 2023
ממש במילים אלה.
צפו בתשובה שלי.
(מתוך ראיון שלי הערב ל-BBC). pic.twitter.com/RUTZfdmAfo
Speaking to the JC after the programme, Bennett said: “The public entrusts media outlets with the task of delivering fair, objective, and unbiased journalism. If they fail to fulfil this crucial duty, they must be prepared to face the consequences of being called out and held accountable.
“Suggesting that Israel is ‘happy to kill children’ has no basis in reality and to spread this idea to audiences of millions undermines BBC impartiality.
“The Middle East can easily be inflamed and it is the duty of international media to report on it responsibly. Otherwise they are part of the problem.”
Naftali Bennett told the JC: 'To spread this idea to audiences of millions undermines BBC impartiality' (Photo: Getty Images)
In the interview, BBC presenter Anjana Gadgil asked Bennett: “The Israeli military are calling this a 'military operation,' but we now know that young people are being killed, four of them under eighteen.
“Is that really what the military set out to do? To kill people between the ages of 16 and 18?”
Responding, Bennett said: “Quite to the contrary. Actually, all 11 people dead there are militants. The fact that there are young terrorists who decide to hold arms is their responsibility.”
Bennett went on to say that many of the perpetrators responsible for terror attacks that killed dozens of Israelis over the last year came from or were trained in Jenin.
He added: “Jenin has become an epicentre of terror. All the Palestinians that were killed were terrorists in this case.”
Gadgil then interjected: “Terrorists, but children. The Israeli forces are happy to kill children.”
An angry Bennett then said: “It’s quite remarkable that you would say that because they [the terrorists] are killing us.”
After the ex-Israeli PM asked how she would define an armed 17-year-old shooting at her family, she doubled down, citing the UN which has “defined [the militants] as children.”
After repeating the question, Gadgil went on to say: “We're not talking about that.” Bennett affirmed that the dynamic was precisely what the conversation was about.
The Board of Deputies were left “appalled” by the comments. In a statement, they added: “The comments made, including the charge that 'Israeli forces are happy to kill children' when discussing armed terrorists under the age of 18, is simply disgraceful.
“This is a clear breach of the Corporation's own Editorial Guidelines, and we will be contacting the Director General personally to protest in the strongest possible terms.”
Claudia Mendoza, co-chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “Naftali Bennett was right to expose the false moral equivalence in the frankly outrageous line of questioning. We are pleased this is being raised with the BBC.”
The National Jewish Assembly, said: "It is irresponsible coverage such as this that demonstrably results in attacks on Jews and Jewish communities across the world and the BBC must be held responsible for its disgraceful actions, actions that clearly fall foul of its own guidelines.
"The NJA will be contacting the BBC’s Director General, and in the meatiness, we hope that the impending Parliamentary Inquiry into the BBC and its coverage of Israel will force the BBC to cease its biased and hateful rhetoric.”
Israel legal advocacy group the International Legal Forum has made an official complaint to BBC Director General Tim Davie, saying:"we call on you to make an immediate and unequivocal public apology, and reprimand Ms. Gadgil for her entirely unacceptable conduct.
They added: "Only last December, the British Parliament launched a cross-party investigation into bias by BBC over your coverage of Israel, following a petition by the Jewish Chronicle, which garnered over 10,000 signatures.
"Although the final findings are yet to be presented, instances of coverage, like that displayed by Ms. Gadgil, indicate that BBC does indeed have a systematic and institutional inclination of bias against Israel in your coverage of the Middle East."
The interview also sparked anger on Twitter. One person said: “What's next? Asking if Jews drink children blood for Passover? Fire this rabid #antisemitic immediately!!”
A second said: “I found this so shocking. I'm amazed he kept his cool in the way he did. I've been shouting at the TV over most of the reporting.”
A third branded Gadgil a “disgrace”. A fourth quipped: “Anjana is the Naziest person in the BBC today! How can you, for the sake of rating, say what you said about Israeli children.”
The BBC interview with the ex-Israeli PM came after the IDF declared the end of a two-day operation in Jenin on Tuesday evening.
The Israeli military launched the raid on the Jenin refugee camp early on Monday under the orders of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.
The raid, Israel's biggest military operation in years in the West Bank, employed hundreds of troops as well as drone strikes and army bulldozers that ripped up streets.
Israel later launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip after intercepting five rockets fired at Israel from the blockaded Palestinian territory.
The BBC has been approached for comment.