The BBC has interviewed an Islamic activist who has stood beside Palestinian flags and declared that he “loves death”, asking for his views on beating Jew-hate for a documentary on antisemitism.
Mohammed Hijab, who has more than half-a-million subscribers on YouTube, was asked by journalist Tom Brada how to “promote a sense of harmony between different communities, specifically with the Jewish community”.
He replied that the answer lay in “bringing people together”, though he emphasised that “if someone who is an apologist for Israel or Zionism, that should be delineated from Jewishness”.
In an outtake of the interview for British, Jewish: Is Anti-Semitism on the Rise?, which was broadcast last Friday, the BBC journalist said he “completely agrees” with Mr Hijab’s statement.
In May, at a London rally against Israel’s operation against Hamas, Mr Hijab shouted through a megaphone: “The difference between us and them is that for them, they think life begins. For us, we believe that death begins. We believe that life begins at death. We don’t care about death. We love death.”
The activist repeated similar sentiments in a speech he delivered topless outside the Chinese embassy in November, while the crowd shouted “Allahu Akbar”.
“You cannot beat and defeat an enemy that when they look at the bottom of the barrel of the gun they see paradise,” he shouted. “We don’t care about death. In fact, we don’t care about martyrdom. Please make us martyrs. You cannot beat us. We are the unbeatable enemy.”
Mr Hijab was accused of inciting antisemitism in May after he filmed himself with a billboard in Golders Green saying “Did we not learn from the Holocaust?” and questioning Jewish passers-by about Israel.
The incident, which the Community Security Trust (CST) described as “a disgusting and seemingly deliberate act of incitement”, took place on Shabbat.
In the documentary, Mr Hijab denied it was antisemitic, pointing out he had been questioning “radical Israelis”.
In his interview with Mr Hijab, the BBC journalist said he thought Mr Hijab had been trying to promote a “harmonious message” with the video, which was titled “Muslims confront radical Israelis”.
A spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “It is astonishing that the BBC has tried to portray this man as some kind of champion of coexistence.”
Both the Labour antisemitism scandal and pro-Israel Jewish voices were omitted from the documentary, which featured an interview with the minor Jewish anti-occupation group Na’amod.
David Collier, a freelance investigative journalist, described the programme as “really disturbing”.
He said: “The journalist found activist after activist to talk to, but somehow could not find a single one who sits in the political centre. The key message was that it is all about Israel’s behaviour, and if Israel were to behave better, then Jews wouldn’t have a problem.
"So the show’s only answer to its own question about antisemitism was to lay the blame at the door of the Jewish state.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “The programme was a serious examination of the nature and impact of antisemitism on British Jews and included interviews with a range of people in the UK. We reject any suggestion that it presented anyone as a ‘champion’.
The reporter challenged the contributor throughout the interview on his past actions in a robust manner.”
On the inclusion of Hijab, the BBC said: “As our editorial guidelines make clear, a serious examination of any issue can mean our output includes people whose views may cause offence to our audiences.”
Mr Hijab told the JC: "I and my community come in peace. If individual members and institutions wish to label me as an antisemite despite my opposition to such notions available on the public record I say go ahead I fear you not. The fact that individual members have resorted to this indicates weakness and defeat. This does not deter me from pro-Palestinian activism whether I choose to do this in Edgware Road or Golders Green this is a free country.
"I would prefer however if traditionalist Muslims like me and Jews from all backgrounds like much of the readership of this paper would come to common terms and be cordial and friendly as well as peaceful."
Mr Brada was approached by the JC for comment.