Editor blames ‘lobby’ as BBC show that hosted Abdel Bari Atwan dropped

Nick Guthrie, the editor of Dateline London which has repeatedly hosted an extremist anti-Israel commentator, made the comments at a farewell party after 57 years of working for the BBC


The BBC news programme that featured an Islamist pundit who praised terrorism has been cancelled, with its editor blaming “a particular group, government [or] lobby groups”.

Dateline London, presented by Shaun Ley and formerly Gavin Esler, was produced by TV Talk, which claimed up to 15 million viewers a week for 25 years. Episodes were aired on BBC News and BBC World nine times every weekend.

Controversial anti-Israel commentator Abdel Bari Atwan was a regular pundit. The JC has repeatedly exposed Mr Atwan for praising terrorists who murdered Israeli civilians as “martyrs” and describing a Palestinian gunman’s attack in Tel Aviv as a “miracle”. He also defended the 1972 Munich massacre of the Israeli Olympic team, expressed sympathy with the views of the man who stabbed Salman Rushdie, and said that if Iran attacked Israel, he would dance in Trafalgar Square.

In a further revelation, the JC this week discloses that Atwan claimed that the Palestinian “Nakba” was worse than the Holocaust (see P2).

In a speech at a farewell party, editor Nick Guthrie criticised the BBC for cancelling his programme. “Just because a particular group, government, lobby groups, whatever, object to views expressed by others does not mean the BBC has to kow-tow,” he reportedly said.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said: “Perhaps Mr Guthrie would care to enlighten us as to who it is who exercises such power over the BBC. British Jews could then direct our concerns, which the BBC seems routinely to dismiss, to them.”

It comes as the JC petition demanding a parliamentary inquiry into the BBC’s coverage of Jews and Israel passed the 3,000-signature mark, with the distinguished historian Andrew Roberts the latest high-profile supporter

Last year the BBC was forced to apologise after Dateline London presenter Shaun Ley said that the Oslo Occords obliged Israel to give Covid vaccinations to the Palestinians.

The BBC later conceded that the agreements “give the PA oversight of public health under the principles of self-determination.”

But it was Mr Atwan’s appearances that sparked most controversy. Over the last two decades, Mr Atwan (inset) has been one of its most frequent pundits.

Speaking on Dateline London after the Rushdie attack, he described The Satanic Verses as “blasphemy, completely, and it is offensive”.

He went on: “To talk about the wives of the Prophet is really very, very dangerous… About 90 per cent of the people of the Muslim world believe that freedom of expression [is] practised only to insult Muslims.”

BBC Director-General Tim Davie this week defended using the hardliner, saying his inflammatory statements “reflected the views of many in the Muslim world who view The Satanic Verses as blasphemous.”

He did not comment on why Mr Atwan’s remarks about the Rushdie attack went unchallenged, or why the Islamist was repeatedly given airtime despite his extremism on other platforms, as revealed by the JC.

In 2012, former Dateline presenter Gavin Esler hosted a launch for Mr Atwan’s book After bin Laden: al-Qa’ida, the Next Generation, praising the firebrand for “showing us in many ways how to see things from a different end of the telescope”.

The BBC said: “We are constantly reviewing our production and examining how our schedules can best deliver news content valuable and relevant to viewers.

“As the channel’s production has evolved, we now have a range of programmes that offer a similar experience to our audience.”

Mr Guthrie and Mr Atwan were approached for comment.

The JC has launched a public petition demanding a parliamentary inquiry into the BBC’s coverage of Jews and Israel.

You can sign that petition here:

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