Ofcom branded ‘shameful’ by family of terror victim for allowing killer to be called a ‘martyr’

Britain’s broadcasting watchdog said celebrating the terrorist murderer of tour guide Eli Kay as a 'martyr' on TV was acceptable as presenting events from a 'Palestinian perspective'


Britain’s broadcasting watchdog has allowed a terrorist murderer to be celebrated as a “martyr” on TV, in a ruling branded “shameful” by the parents of his victim.

Eli Kay, a 26-year-old tour guide, was shot dead by Fadi Abu Shkhaydam in Israel’s capital in November.

The Palestinian gunman left four others wounded before police shot him dead. After the attack, London-based Al-Hiwar TV station repeatedly referred to Shkhaydam as a “shaheed”, or “martyr”.

But in response to a complaint over the use of the term in covering the atrocity, Ofcom has said it is acceptable as presenting events from a “Palestinian perspective”. Eli’s father, Avi Kay, condemned Ofcom over the decision, telling the JC: “I would say shame on them. It is an absolute shanda that freedom of speech is confused with twisted ideology. Murder can never be condoned in this scenario.”

The day after the attack, an Al-Hiwar presenter spoke of “yesterday’s shooting operation” in which an “Israeli settler” had been killed by a “martyr”, as revealed by translations provided to the JC by CAMERA Arabic.

On screen, a strapline showed the phrase: “A Palestinian’s martyrdom”.

UK Lawyers For Israel (UKLFI) reported the channel to Ofcom. Caroline Turner, director of UKLFI said then: “It is shocking that a UK television broadcaster is glorifying a terrorist, and we hope that Ofcom and the police will take appropriate action to prevent this happening in future.”

The Ofcom code prohibits “material promoting or encouraging engagement in terrorism”.

Months the complaint, an Ofcom spokesperson told the JC: “This programme dealt with a range of ongoing topics related to tensions in the West Bank. In our view the statements made within it did not encourage terrorism. While we understand the use of the Arabic term ‘Shaheed’, meaning ‘martyr’, had the potential to offend, we took into account that viewers of this channel would expect programmes to be presented from a Palestinian perspective.”

Mr Kay said: “Somebody who is killed walking on their way to work, someone who loved every person who lived in Israel, Jew and non-Jew, gunned down simply because he was Jewish. In cowardice, shot from the back and then shot in the head, and you laud this coward. That is crossing the line between free speech and twisted ideology: this man is a murderer and that’s it.”

Caroline Turner, director of UKLFI, said: “We are shocked that Ofcom believes that from a Palestinian perspective a terrorist murderer of an innocent tour guide in Jerusalem’s Old City is a ‘martyr’. Ofcom appears to give carte blanche for London-based TV channels to broadcast terrorist propaganda.”

Al-Hiwar has described terrorists as “shaheeds” in many other instances.

In 2019, Al-Hiwar reported on Omar Abu Laila, who stabbed to death an IDF soldier before seizing his gun and killing rabbi Achiad Ettinger, calling the killer a “martyr”.

In 2018, Al-Hiwar founding editor Azzam Tamimi and discussed Ahmad Jarrar, who killed an Israeli civilian, Raziel Shevach, in a drive-by attack. Mr Tamimi said of the killer: “He who dies as he resists to the Zionist project, this is the highest degree of martyrdom in people’s eyes, it is the true honorary badge.”

Last night, Ofcom said it “understands ‘shaheed’ is often applied to victims of violent deaths and not just deaths in war and conflict”, adding: “viewers were likely... to interpret the term as a factual reference and not an attempt to laud, condone or glorify the murderer of Eli Kay.”

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