BBC correspondent advocates using 'settler-colonialism' to describe Israel

Rami Ruhayem makes the remark in a letter to Director General Tim Davie


A BBC correspondent has emailed staff across the corporation to argue that they should be using the terms "settler-colonialism" and "ethnic cleansing" in their coverage of Israel.

The letter, which has been shared widely with the broadcaster's international staff, claims that the broadcaster may be "reinforcing Israeli propaganda meant to dehumanise the Palestinians" as the Jewish state commits "genocide".

Rami Ruhayem, who has reported for the BBC from across the Middle East, emailed Director General Tim Davie earlier this week to raise his "grave" concerns over the broadcaster's coverage of the war.

"Words like ‘massacre’, ‘slaughter’ and ‘atrocities’ are being used – prominently – in reference to actions by Hamas, but hardly, if at all, in reference to actions by Israel," he wrote.

"The power of emotive coverage and repetition is well understood. The selective application of emotive repetition is sure to have an impact on audiences, and it is exactly the kind of impact Israeli propagandists are aiming for as they dehumanise Palestinians and set the stage for the mass murder they have pledged - and begun - to carry out."

The BBC may therefore be complicit in "war propaganda" and "dehumanisation", Ruhayem claimed.

He wrote: "There is a lot more to be said, but these are the broad headlines. This is not about mistakes here and there, or even about systemic bias in favour of Israel. The question now is a question of complicity. It is a matter of public interest to rectify this with the utmost urgency."

The corporation should use the terms "apartheid, ethnic cleansing and settler-colonialism" in its reporting, he added, and warned of a "flood of incitement" against Palestinians.

He wrote: “The BBC has taken upon itself in recent years the task of fighting fake news, disinformation, hate speech and such things, a trend in western media,” he said. “Where is the content analysing the flood of incitement against Palestinians and tracking its impact?”

When Davie failed to reply, Ruhayem forwarded the email to BBC bureaus around the world.

Responding to the correspondent, the director of the World Service, Liliane Landor, said she acknowledged his email but declined to respond further.

"I will not be responding further to this chain," she added. "We all have a lot on and I’m sure you do as well."

Co-director of media monitoring group Camera UK Hader Sela said: "It will come as no surprise to those who follow BBC coverage of Israel and the Palestinians to see a BBC journalist promoting a politically motivated narrative rather than accurate and impartial news reporting.

"That a representative of the BBC seeks to promote a false narrative just weeks after the worst massacre of Jews in decades, and as rockets are still being fired at Israeli civilians, indicates just how much hard work the corporation still has to do."

Staff at the BBC have reportedly been left profoundly upset over the corporation's coverage, with meetings held with Jewish, Palestinian and Arab employees to hear their concerns.

“What Hamas did was atrocious and nobody is excusing its actions but the mood from a lot of people in the building is that we aren’t getting the coverage right,” one source told The Times.

“Staff have been crying in the toilets and freelancers have been sacrificing earnings by not showing up to work because of the distress caused. Many people are feeling deeply disturbed.”

The BBC has been hit by a raft of accuracy complaints over its coverage of Israel Palestine since October 7.

On Wednesday, Director General Tim Davie reportedly apologised to backbench conservative MPs over the prominence awarded to false claims that Israel struck Gaza's al-Ahli hospital with a missile.

Conservative Friends of Israel Parliamentary Chair Stephen Crabb is said to have asked Davie if he "shared a measure of responsibility" for the antisemitism faced by Jews in the UK following the broadcast.

The director apologised for the mistake but said all news organisations initially ran with the claims, The Sun reported.

Six staff have so far been taken off air after sharing material supporting Hamas, The Times reported.

On Sunday, former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett claimed the BBC lacked "moral clarity".

“You only care about one side, that is the BBC way," he told presenter Victoria Derbyshire during an interview.

"If you think there is a balance here between two equal sides then you are lacking moral clarity."

Rami Ruhayem declined to comment. The BBC said they would not comment on an internal email.

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