BBC defends translating ‘Jews’ as 'Israelis' for One Day in Gaza documentary

The broadcaster said it 'sought expert advice' on how to translate ‘Yahudi’


The BBC has defended substituting the word “Israelis” for "Jews" in its translation of interviews with Palestinians for a documentary about Gaza.

One Day in Gaza, which aired on Monday on BBC Two, explored last year’s violent protests against the US decision to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem.

The documentary features interviews with a number of Palestinian protesters, many of whom used the word "Yahudi" when discussing the protests.

Among the protesters was 24-year-old Bader Saleh, told the interviewers in Arabic: “I’m not one for fighting or burning tyres, but when I went I was convinced by it.

“The revolutionary songs, they excite you, they encourage you to rip a Jew’s head off.”

The BBC’s translation, which ran subtitled across the screen, quoted Mr Saleh as saying: "They encourage you to rip an Israeli's head off."

The correct translation for “yahudi” from Arabic to English is “Jew”.

A BBC spokesperson said: “We sought expert advice on the translation before broadcast and we believe the translation of ‘Yahudi’ as ‘Israeli’ in this documentary is both accurate and true to the speakers’ intentions.”

Board of Deputies Senior Vice President Sheila Gewolb said: “The anti-Jewish racism in the phrase ‘rip a Jew’s head off’ is there for all to see.

“The BBC should explain why viewers were given a subtitle in which the word Jew was substituted for Israeli.

“Does the BBC believe that its job is to protect the perpetrators from their own racism?”

The decision was also criticised by Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt.

 She said it was “yet another blatant example of the failure to take the scourge of antisemitism seriously.”

It is not the first time the BBC has been forced to defend its decision to translate "Yahudi" as "Israeli".

In 2015, a BBC documentary substituted the word “Israelis” for "Jews" in its translation of interviews on the hour-long documentary Children of the Gaza War, which aired on BBC Two.

Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent argued that Gazan translators had advised her that Palestinian children interviewed on the programme who refer to “the Jews” actually meant Israelis.

Ms Doucet said: “We talked to people in Gaza, we talked to translators. When [the children] say ‘Jews’, they mean ‘Israelis’.

“We felt it was a better translation of it.”

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