EXCLUSIVE: BBC Arabic accused of ‘normalising Jew-hate’

‘Zionist terrorism’ and ‘death to Israel’ posts showcased on licence fee funded channel


BBC Arabic gave a platform to social media posts attacking “Zionist terrorism” and hailing the imagined destruction of Israel, the JC can reveal.

The revelations have prompted media monitoring group CAMERA to accuse the corporation of “normalising Jew-hate” and question why the BBC is not holding its Arabic service to the same journalistic standards as its other channels.

The most controversial example came in September 2019, when presenter Ahmad Fakhouri was reporting that Berlin authorities had cancelled the performance of two Palestinian musicians who called for the ‘bombing’ of Tel Aviv.

During the broadcast, he read out a tweet which condemned Germany and attacked “the Zionist 
terrorism which masters the German government refuses any word of truth that might embarrass them [sic].”

In another incident, in June 2019, Mr Fakhouri presented extracts of a Facebook post by journalist Habib Bouajila condemning the Tunisian government for allowing Israelis to enter the country.

The post, which calls for “death to Israel — death to America — and glory to the resistance,” was reposted in full on the BBC Arabic website. While the text has since been removed, a link remains on the page.

In it, Mr Bouajila attacked those who support Israeli tourism as “Zio-Masonic” and said: “The straw man of ‘antisemitism’ and the allegations of bigotry, terrorism and assaulting ‘our Jewish brethren’ will deter the cowardly politicians, commentators and academics who want to stay where they are or aspire to move up the ladder.”

Mr Fakhouri is not the only BBC Arabic journalist to have cited controversial posts in his broadcasts. In April 2020, presenter Rania al-Attar discussed dystopian Egyptian sci-fi series An-Nehaya (‘The End’), in which, without US backing, Israel collapses and its Jewish inhabitants flee the region.

She showcased a comment hailing the destruction of the “usurper entity”, and applauded the Egyptian series “with all my heart.”

And in May, Ms al-Attar displayed a tweet condemning a shared dance by Egyptian and Israeli border patrols, though omitting a phrase that praised a terrorist who gunned down seven Israeli tourists. “These are not Egyptians… They are not from the true military of Egypt… The true military of Egypt are men,” the tweet read in Arabic.

Edited out were the words, “men of the likes of Suleiman Khater”.

Mr Khater was an Egyptian soldier who, in 1985, opened fire on a group of Israeli tourists, killing seven, including four children. After his arrest he was hailed as a hero across the Arab world.

In February, while discussing the alleged conversion of a Kuwaiti actress to Judaism, Ms al-Attar presented the following tweet: “Torah is a powerful book, with algorithms known amongst the first generation of Jews, inheriting it...

“Regardless of forgery and defection of Islam, this is a matter between the worshipper and his Lord and the matter of the legitimate ruler.”

Removed were the words: “...this is one of the main reasons that brought 16 million Jews, a handful of them, to control much of the world’s resources.

BBC Arabic, launched in 2008, is run by the BBC World Service and funded by the domestic licence fee.

It has previously apologised for broadcasting homophobic comments.

On that occasion a BBC spokesperson told PinkNews their intention had been to “reflect debate across the Arab world and examine opposing views on social media”, but “we should have challenged some of them robustly or provided context around them.”

A researcher for media monitoring group CAMERA said: “What the BBC Arabic did is to take comments that were hateful… and either normalise them, presenting them without any context, without any criticism, as if it is normal to say that the Zionists are mastering the German government, for example… or edit them to take out the hateful part and publish them as if they weren’t hateful to begin with.

“We have a programme which purports to show the discourse in the Arab world and it whitewashes the hatred that sometimes this discourse is infested with by either presenting it as normal… or censoring and then presenting it in a way that whitewashes the original comment completely. None of it is journalism.

“BBC management completely rejects the notion that their Arabic department doesn’t adhere to the same strict standards as BBC English does but the evidence shows time and time again that they don’t have the will or the resources to make their Arabic department accountable or adhere to journalistic standards.

“Things that would be published in BBC Arabic time and time again would not be published the way they are in English, without context, without criticism of hatred.”

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “BBC Arabic seems incapable of avoiding controversy relating to Jewish people. To feature tweets on its programmes that peddle antisemitic tropes like Jewish world domination and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state is indefensible...

“That the network sought fit to edit partially some of the tweets shows that they recognised that they were beyond the pale, but still presented them anyway, in some cases unedited...

“The Jewish community will be intrigued to hear what excuse the BBC contrives to try to explain this travesty away.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “The format of BBC Trending is to reflect a balanced cross section of comments across the Arab world on a specific trending subject and examine views on social media. It is not unusual to edit a tweet or Facebook post to show the most relevant points for the discussion. On occasion we have removed content that is inappropriate to broadcast and goes against our editorial guidelines. We are currently reviewing whether tweets broadcast on 28 April 2020 and 26 September 2019 breached our editorial guidelines and could have been edited.”

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