Two exiled Egyptian television presenters who found a safe haven in Britain are using it as a base to wage a “jihad of words”, glorifying terror and broadcasting anti-Israeli propaganda to an audience of millions, a JC investigation has revealed.
Broadcasting from Britain, Osama Gaweesh — who was granted asylum by the Home Office after entering the country in 2018 — claimed that Arab leaders who have friendly relations with Israel are “puppets of the Jewish lobby” and defended Hamas as “the resistance”.
And this month, the television station set up by his colleague Moataz Matar — a former prominent Egyptian sports journalist with 20 million followers on social media, who has also taken refuge in Britain — called the murder of former Radlett Rabbi Leo Dee’s wife and daughters “an operation by the resistance” online.
Between them, the firebrand presenters regularly reach millions of viewers via satellite TV and their social media channels. Some of their posts and broadcasts were unearthed and translated by media watchdog CAMERA Arabic.
Despite having a track record of celebrating acts of terrorist violence, Gaweesh, who says he has recently worked for the BBC and ITV, was given refuge in Britain by the Home Office after arriving in 2018.
His asylum was approved by officials even though he has publicly backed the armed wing of Hamas, outlawed by the British government since 2001, and claimed Israel “will burn at the hands of the heroes of the Muslim world”. It is not known if Matar has also been granted asylum.
Presented with the evidence of their activities gathered by the JC, politicians and terrorism experts questioned why the broadcasters were being allowed to operate so freely from the UK. Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper MP, said: “Anyone who glorifies terrorism and incites hatred should not be allowed into the UK. The Conservatives have serious and urgent questions to answer about their failure to take action in these cases — both on border security and on the spread of hatred online.”
Former Conservative minister David Davis MP said: “Britain should not be a haven for people broadcasting hate speech and Islamist propaganda, and they certainly should not be given political asylum.”
Gaweesh, 38, fled to Britain from Istanbul. He claimed he was fleeing arrest after the Turkish government shut the Egyptian opposition Mekameleen TV channel. He had helped set up Mekameleen and was using it to broadcast from the country.
A prominent backer of the Islamic revolution in Egypt, Gaweesh fled the country after the army overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013. He and Matar were tried in absentia and given jail terms for allegedly trying to overthrow the new Egyptian government.
Gaweesh first came to prominence when he visited Gaza in 2012 and met the then-Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, now the chair of the Hamas politburo.
In November 2016, he tweeted that Israel “will burn at the hands of the heroes of the Muslim world who cleanse Jerusalem from the filth of the Zionists”.
But his presence in Turkey became a problem after the country began to improve relations with the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who led the military takeover which removed the Muslim Brotherhood from power.
Gaweesh fled to Britain and, after complaining in The Guardian about the slow progress of his application, was eventually granted asylum.
He now presents a programme from Britain on the relaunched Mekameleen channel. He claims he has worked at the BBC and ITV, as well as with the Refugee Journalism Project, an NGO that helps refugee journalists restart their careers.
However, he has continued to post comments on social media praising the armed wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, which is proscribed in Britain under the Terrorism Act.
In 2021, he attacked a moderate Muslim scholar, Wasseem Yousef, who had criticised Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilian targets.
Gaweesh said Yousef “blames the victims and attacks the resistance”, and was “justifying the murder of children”. Yousef “normalises relations with Israel at the expense of Palestinian blood”, he added.
In the same year, he marked the Muslim holiday Eid by posting: “May your Eid be for resistance, may your Eid be for Palestine, may your Eid be for Gaza.”
He has made many similar statements during his broadcasts. Last August, he said: “Tell the Arabs who normalise relations with Israel that the blood of children is spilt and is running.”
He has also broadcast claims that Arab leaders who have friendly relations with Israel are “puppets of the Jewish lobby” and said that the Egyptian leader El-Sisi “meets with Jewish organisations more than he meets with his own people”.
Gaweesh also set up an anti-El-Sisi website, Egypt Watch, which in 2021 partnered with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Peace and Justice Project to host a conference on the Egyptian arms trade.
Speakers at the event included Corbyn and Richard Burgon, the Leeds Labour MP who, in 2014, claimed “Zionism is the enemy of peace”.
Gaweesh’s colleague Matar, 48, arrived in Britain in December 2021 after he too had been forced to leave Turkey when the government closed El-Sharq, another Egyptian opposition channel then based in the country, on which he was broadcasting.
On the day he arrived in Britain, Matar was welcomed by Gaweesh, who tweeted a photograph of the pair standing together outside a London pub, with Matar announcing on social media that he had come to Britain to wage “the jihad of words”.
Last year Matar founded another satellite channel in London, Alshoub TV, on which he presents a nightly programme.
Like Gaweesh, Matar has applauded violent attacks against Israel for years. Earlier this month, the Alshoub website described the terrorist murder of the wife and daughters of former Radlett Rabbi Leo Dee on the West Bank as “an operation by the resistance” which had been triggered by “a sudden escalation by the Occupation… the barbaric assault on worshippers at the al-Aqsa mosque”.
Matar is very well-known in Egypt, where he was a TV sports presenter. He has a social media following of more than 20 million. Many of his programmes are also available on YouTube, where he has almost seven million subscribers and, he says, generates income “through the people” who “fund and support the channel with your likes and views”.
In 2018, Matar said visits by Israelis to friendly Arab states were like “the explosion of a sewage pipe” and that the Gulf states involved were “staggering under the feet of the Zionists like a slaughtered chicken”.
He has claimed El-Sisi is a “Zionist spy”, that his mother was Jewish, and that he “acted on instructions from the Jewish lobby and Israel”.
In another 2020 video, he said “the Jewish lobby runs Egypt completely,” and that a film of Jews praying at the Red Sea was “difficult to watch”, because it showed Egypt had made “a deal with the devil”.
Speaking in 2021 at an event held to mourn former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi after his death in prison, he lauded Al-Qassam Brigade rocket attacks on Israel, saying:
“Every missile launched by the resistance over the past few years, by al-Qassam in Gaza and all the other factions of the resistance, had the fingerprints of Morsi on it. All these missiles, which the Ummah [Muslim nation] takes pride in, and which have exhausted the enemy [Israel], Dr Morsi has his fingerprints on them.”
In the same year, he described Suleiman Khater, an Egyptian soldier who killed seven Israeli tourists in 1985, as a “martyr” who embodied the values of “manhood, chivalry and camaraderie”.
Ex-sports reporter turned Islamist presenter Moataz Matar (YouTube)
His broadcasts from the UK have been no less extreme. In February 2022, he accused the world of a “double standard” for supporting Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion, while it accused Hamas of terrorism.
A month later he said it made him “physically sick” that Israel’s President Isaac Herzog had visited Turkey, saying this should make people “hang our heads in shame”. In a tweet issued to publicise a video he made last August, Matar said Palestinians must “resists, then resist, then resist. Allah is victorious. #Gaza resists, #Gaza our pride”.
Alshoub TV has described other recent terrorist attacks as “operations” by the “resistance”. Its website describes the terrorist who shot dead seven worshippers outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem in January as a “martyr”.
The Home Office has declined to confirm whether Matar has been granted asylum, adding it did not discuss individual cases.
However, as his broadcasts and social media posts make clear, he has been living and working in London for the past 17 months. Official Home Office guidance published in November 2021 — just a month before Matar’s arrival in Britain — said that individuals could be refused entry if their presence was deemed “not conducive to the public good”.
This, the guidance said, could be applied to anyone who “engages in extremism” by “writing, producing, publishing or distributing material” used to “incite, justify or glorify terrorist violence”.
Despite being based in the UK, Alshoub and Mekalemeen do not require a licence from regulator Ofcom because they are not available on platforms like Freeview and Sky.
Former cabinet minister Stephen Crabb MP, the chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, said:
“There must be no place in the UK for extremism and antisemitism. The Home Office has serious questions to answer about how someone who celebrates terror attacks committed by proscribed groups has been allowed to spread this vile hatred on British soil.”
Lord Carlile KC, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said: “It is appalling that anyone broadcasting material of this nature can have been granted asylum.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “Osama Gaweesh has never been employed by the BBC nor involved in news or creating editorial.”
The JC has approached Gaweesh and Matar for comment.