BBC under fire after linking 'fanatic Jews' of history to 9/11 terror

The corporation has been urged to be more cautious about 'publishing deliberate and sometimes even casual antisemitism'


A photograph taken on October 6, 2022 shows the BBC logo at the entrance of the BBC headquarters at Broadcasting House in central London. - On November 14, 1922, the clipped tones of the BBC's director of programmes, Arthur Burrows, crackled across the airwaves. "This is 2LO, Marconi House, London calling," he announced and with that, public service broadcasting in Britain was born. One hundred years on, the British Broadcasting Corporation is a global media giant. But its centenary comes at a time of drastic budget cuts that have raised questions about its future. (Photo by Justin TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

A BBC article that links “fanatical Jews” to the 9/11 terrorists has prompted outrage.

The headline on a BBC Arabic piece claims the article traces the “story of suicide attackers throughout history”, from a Jewish group living under the Romans to today’s jihadists, and is illustrated with an image of the Twin Towers exploding.

A little further into the piece, an image of Osama bin Laden appears close to the subheading “Extremist Jews”.

This section says: “It is believed that the first suicide attacks […] were by a group of Jewish fanatics who spread fear […] during the Roman occupation.”

The article — published in Arabic on Monday, the 22nd anniversary of 9/11 — goes on to say that after the Second World War, suicide attacks were “almost” non-existent until Israel’s incursion into southern Lebanon in 1982, with no context about why the war took place.

Elsewhere the article describes only Jews as “fanatics”, while omitting to use the word “terrorist” when discussing Palestinian terror groups. Lord Carlile, the government’s former independent reviewer of legislation, warned the BBC about publishing “deliberate and sometimes even casual antisemitism”, adding that article gave “succour to terrorists and extremists”.

UK Lawyers for Israel director Jonathan Turner said the piece was “the most bizarre example of false equivalence by the BBC I have seen”.

He said: “The Sicarii [the ‘fanatical’ group referred to by BBC Arabic] did not travel to Rome and murder thousands of Roman civilians doing their normal work. Judea was then under Roman imperial rule — in contrast to the 9/11 terrorists who were from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Lebanon.”

The Sicarii — named after their small daggers which they used to attack Romans — seized Jerusalem alongside other forces during the Jewish revolt, before retreating to Masada, where they are said to have eventually committed mass suicide to avoid capture.

This famous episode, BBC Arabic claimed, was the first example of a suicide attack.

Lord Carlile said: “Had the BBC done any research, they would have realised that this story raised some very difficult issues and I suspect they would not have published it in that form. The BBC should be much more cautious about publishing deliberate and sometimes even casual antisemitism. This article gives succour to terrorists and extremists.”

BBC Arabic has issued more than 130 corrections following complaints of bias and inaccuracy in reports about Israel and Jewish affairs since the beginning of 2021 — an average of more than one every week.

Late last year, the broadcaster apologised for years of “unacceptable” handling of complaints about anti-Israel bias in its Arabic output. The BBC is facing a parliamentary inquiry into its coverage of Jews and Israel after the JC campaigned for a probe last year.

Media monitoring group CAMERA Arabic, which translated the article, said that BBC Arabic had once again allowed “ignorance and bias enter its output, this time by shoehorning ancient Jews into an unrelated historical narrative about suicide terrorism on the one hand, and understating Palestinian suicide attacks against Israeli civilians on the other hand”.

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Of all the suicide attackers over the past two millennia, the only ones described by BBC Arabic as ‘fanatics’ are the Jewish assassins of ancient Judea who attacked the occupying Roman military. All others appear to escape any form of censure, including the modern Islamist terror groups.

“Moreover, this latest incarnation of Middle Eastern suicide attack is still blamed on the Jews, with the article alleging that the suicide strategy was only adopted because of Israel’s incursion into Lebanon.”

BBC Arabic said it “offers independent and impartial news and information. As with all content produced by the BBC, their output is subject to the BBC’s rigorous Editorial Guidelines. We reject any notion that there are wider issues with the service’s 24-hour, multi-platform output.”

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