Outrage as BBC journalist who called Israel ‘terrorists’ returns to cover war

Layla Bashar al-Kloub works for BBC Arabic


A reporter who asked Allah to “strengthen” a Holocaust denier and described Israel as “terrorists” is covering the Israel-Hamas war for the BBC, the JC can reveal.

Layla Bashar al-Kloub last week wrote an article for BBC Arabic about journalists killed in Gaza since the October 7 atrocities — without mentioning that most of them worked for Hamas-affiliated outlets or other Palestinian channels that celebrated the attacks.

The decision to employ al-Kloub prompted outrage, with Lord Pickles, the UK special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, attacking the BBC for “failing to carry out due diligence”.

It comes just a week after the JC reported that veteran BBC reporter Jon Donnison — who wrongly suggested Israel was behind last month’s Gaza hospital blast — had previously presented a picture of an injured Syrian girl as a “heartbreaking” image of a Palestinian child hurt in an Israeli attack.

After this newspaper exposed in 2021 Al-Kloub’s history of posts hostile to Israel she left the BBC to study for master’s degree, but she rejoined in August.

Among her inflammatory posts was a 2016 message on X/Twitter in which she said: “The
Zionist entity does not recognise any international law or agreement, their entire [legal] proceedings are infringements of human rights treaties. They are the terrorists, not us.”

During an outbreak of the Israel-Hamas conflict in May 2021, she posted her tribute to Muna Hawwa, a Palestinian presenter disciplined by broadcaster Al Jazeera for having produced and shared a video on X that asked, “How true is the #Holocaust and how did the Zionists benefit from it?”

Hawwa later rejected the allegation she is a Holocaust denier.

Hawwa was suspended but later reinstated by social media platforms. When she returned, al-Kloub wrote: “My dear Muna… there was a great victory for you, yourself specifically, the free word, and the victory of exquisite journalism, you have proved everybody you are capable of confronting large institutions by yourself, may Allah strengthen you.”

Al-Kloub’s report on journalists who had been killed in the current war was first published on 29 October and updated with more fatalities this week, by which time, she wrote, the total killed in Gaza had reached 31, of whom she named 29.

She stated which outlets employed them, but failed to make clear that some were either controlled by Hamas or had celebrated the terrorist attacks.

Al-Kloub also mentioned four Israeli journalists murdered on October 7.

Analysis by the media watchdog Camera Arabic revealed that six of the named 29 killed in Gaza worked for the Hamas-run stations Al-Aqsa TV or Al-Aqsa, outlets that the BBC acknowledged are controlled by the terror group, while another worked for the Hamas website Al-Risalah.

One reporter was Muhammad Abu Hatab, who had celebrated the atrocities on Palestine TV while they were still being perpetrated, saying Gaza had “landed a blow that the Occupation will long remember””.

A Camera Arabic spokesman told the JC: “If Palestinian grief over those killed is newsworthy to the BBC, so should be the celebration of mass murder they and their workplaces (often Hamas-run themselves) regularly indulged in. Furthermore, given the BBC’s disgraceful insistence to keep refraining from calling terrorists by their name, supposedly because it is a ‘loaded’ word, one could also expect its staff to be as precious with the loaded word ‘journalist’ in reference to any media operative and propagandist, even if they wear blue helmets and matching vests reading ‘PRESS’.

“However, since the BBC repeatedly assigns for such sensitive tasks authors whose own social media record shows they can by no means serve as impartial observers of events involving Israel, it is hardly surprising that its output fails to meet these expectations.”

Lord Pickles, the UK special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, added: “Clearly the BBC has failed to carry out due diligence. This is a journalist who has expressed extreme views and has now put out a misleading report. I expect the Corporation to take appropriate action.”

Former BBC governor Baroness Deech told the JC: “There has been a problem with BBC Arabic for years, but now of all times, the BBC should taking meticulous care to ensure that its Arabic audience receives accurate, unbiased information - and it seems it is not.”

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UK Lawyers for Israel, added: “A propagandist working for Hamas may not be a military target in his or her own right.

"However, civilian casualties of an attack on a military target do not constitute a breach of international law unless a reasonable commander in the circumstances and with the information available would have expected civilian casualties that were excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage.

“However, whether civilian or not, there is no way that the BBC should have re-employed Al-Kloub and nor should Jon Donnison have been brought back to lead the BBC's Gaza coverage after he previously tweeted unverified, incorrect information that happened to favour Hamas.

"One wonders what checks the BBC carries out when it engages or deploys reporters for highly sensitive assignments, assuming it does not intend to support Hamas."

Al-Kloub has been approached for comment. A BBC spokesperson told the JC: "The BBC’s team of experienced editors and journalists come from across the Middle East and around the world and are subject to the same strict editorial guidelines, which cover social media use. BBC News Arabic shares exactly the same principles of accuracy and impartiality as BBC News in English and we strongly reject the suggestion that its impartiality is compromised.”

Meanwhile journalist and Holocaust researcher Jonathan Kalmus has submitted a complaint to Ofcom, asking it to investigate a Sky News broadcast on Monday, when the channel reported a Hamas statement that Israel’s actions in Gaza amounted to a “Holocaust”.

“No context was given, no clarification, no rebuttal of the claim was broadcast,” his complaint says, describing it as “an incendiary statement” and an “historical fabrication of the worst kind”.

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