Board hits out at BBC for calling imam tweet merely 'anti-Israel'

Marie van der Zyl expresses 'deep concern' over BBC's failure to label the material antisemitic


The Board of Deputies President, Marie van der Zyl, has hit out at the BBC for failing to acknowledge that an imam who asked a question during the Conservative Party leadership had previously posted an antisemitic tweet.

Abdullah Patel, from Bristol, asked Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart about Islamophobia during the debate.

It later emerged Mr Patel had written on Twitter, “Every political figure on the Zionist’s payroll is scaring the world about Corbyn.”

Ms van der Zyl wrote in a letter to the BBC: “The tweet is a well-known antisemitic trope. Throughout history, Jews have been accused of controlling politicians through financial means, with ‘Zionist’ often used as a proxy term.”

She continued: “We are deeply concerned by an apparent editorial decision across the BBC to term the tweet ‘anti-Israel’: on the BBC news website, on Wednesday’s BBC News at Ten and by two journalists on that night’s Newsnight. They did so without mentioning the offensive content of the tweet. This is deeply problematic.

“We would like you to correct any online reporting of the tweet, stating clearly that it is antisemitic. We would also ask for an onscreen apology and a pledge to accurately report antisemitism in future.”

It also emerged Mr Patel had written on Twitter, "How long are the Zionists going to hide behind the Holocaust cry? It was a tragedy, but Gaza today is a repeat of the oppression."

Mr Patel also shared the same graphic showing Israel being relocated inside America as a “solution for Israel-Palestine conflict” that Labour MP Naz Shah posted in 2016, leading to her being briefly suspended from the party.

Following the revelations, imam was suspended from schools where he was head and deputy head, and from his post at a mosque.

The BBC has said it will consider “additional steps” in its vetting process after Ofcom, the media watchdog, received 31 complaints about the debate.

The corporation said on Thursday that it would investigate whether more could be done about “vetting and transparency” before debate programmes.

It said in a statement: “We have a long history of producing successful debate programmes. We did, however, adopt a different format for this programme and we will look at whether there are additional steps we might take on vetting and transparency should we repeat it.

“It is important to remember that a political debate programme involving members of the public will, by its very nature, attract people interested and engaged in issues who may well have been active in politics. It would be odd only to have programmes involving the public where everyone agrees with the politics of those they are questioning.”

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