In full: Community's letter to Tim Davie

An open letter from 36 politicians and stars to BBC chairman


London, United Kingdom - January 17 2021: Broadcasting House, BBC headquarters in Central London, exterior view.

Dear Mr Davie,

We the undersigned wish to register our concern over the BBC’s recent coverage of stories relating to Jews and Israel. From the contentious reporting on the notorious incident on Oxford Street last Chanukah to the numerous occasions on which the corporation’s Arabic service has appeared to depart from its own impartiality guidelines on the Israel-Palestine conflict, we have looked on with consternation. This is not the BBC as we know it.

Our alarm was heightened this month, when the BBC invited the controversial commentator Abdel Bari Atwan onto its Dateline London programme, during which he appeared to express sympathy for the man who attacked Salman Rushdie in New York. Baroness Deech wrote to you in this regard last week.

On the very same day as Mr Atwan expressed these views unchallenged on air, he wrote an online article in which he wrote:

“I support [Mahmoud Abbas’s] refusal to apologise for the killing of 11 Israeli participants at the 1974 (sic) Munich Olympics, and his use of the term ‘holocausts’ to describe the many massacres to which Palestinians have been subjected by Israeli forces.”

This rhetoric is characteristic of Mr Atwan, who has in the past praised terrorists as “martyrs” and their attacks as “miracles”.

Indeed, remarking on Mr Atwan’s YouTube channel, Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of anti-terror legislation, said it was: “the warlike statement of a dangerous fanatic [which] should be examined by the police for possible breach of section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006”.

Mr Atwan is not a right and proper person to be given a BBC platform, and it is shocking that the corporation continues to invite him to appear on its flagship programmes, despite your being well aware of his history and the concerns about it.

We urge you urgently to take cogent and coherent steps to rectify this worrying trend across your platforms as a matter of the utmost urgency, and look forward to your swift confirmation that this is being done.

Yours sincerely,

Lord Howard, Lord Carlile, Lord Triesman, Baroness Deech, Lord Pickles, Lord Polak, Lord Austin, Lord Leigh, Lord Harrington, Lord Palmer; Bob Blackman MP, Andrew Percy MP, John Howell MP, Stephen Crabb MP, Craig Tracey MP, Rob Halfon MP, Chris Green MP, Mark Jenkinson MP, Jill Mortimer MP, Anthony Higginbotham MP, Nicola Richards MP, Paul Holmes MP, Greg Smith MP, Rosie Cooper MP; British Board of Jewish Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council, Community Security Trust, Campaign Against Antisemitism, National Jewish Assembly; Prof Andrew Roberts, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Steven Berkoff, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Douglas Murray, David Hirsh, Neil Blair.

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