Timeline of controversy: How row over BBC Gaza coverage unfolded

The national broadcaster has refused to call Hamas ‘terrorists’ and been accused of ‘institutional antisemitism’


Members of the Jewish community protest the BBC's decision no to label Hamas 'terrorists' (Photo: Getty Images)

V In the nearly eight months since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, the BBC has been accused of misreporting key aspects of the ensuing war, been forced to sack a virulently antisemitic employee and been accused of “shocking bias” by politicians. Here’s how the national broadcaster courted controversy with its reporting about Israel.

7 October

l In the immediate aftermath of Hamas’s attack against Israel, the corporation refuses to call the group “terrorists”.

Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis said: “If one doesn’t use the term ‘terrorist’, it is as if one is providing a window of opportunity for justification, and nothing can justify this.”

Today, the BBC will only use the term “terrorists” to describe Hamas when quoting others.

18 October

l When a blast at the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza kills dozens of Palestinians, the broadcaster is quick to blame Israel. Speaking live on BBC News, a reporter declares: “It’s hard to see what else this could be really, given the size of the explosion, other than an Israeli airstrike or several airstrikes.”

Soon, however, as the picture becomes clearer a consensus forms that the explosion was most likely caused by a misfiring Palestinian rocket. A week later, BBC Director General Tim Davie apologises to MPs for the corporation’s coverage.

27 October

l Rami Ruhayem, a BBC correspondent based in Beirut, writes to staff across the broadcaster to argue that they should be using the terms “settler-colonialism” and “ethnic cleansing” in their coverage of Israel.

21 November

l Match of the Day host Gary Lineker retweets an academic who described Israel’s operation in Gaza as a “textbook genocide”. Sharing an interview with Raz Segal, an Israeli associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies, the TV presenter writes it is “worth 13 minutes of anyone’s time.”

3 January

l The incoming BBC chairman, Samir Shah, says the corporation must review its guidelines following months of criticism over its coverage of Israel. Speaking to MPs, he adds that the BBC must end its “psychodrama” over Lineker’s political posts.

1 February

l The JC reveals that BBC Arabic repeatedly interviewed Major General Wasef Eriqat, a former PLO general who celebrated October 7 as a “heroic military miracle”, while billing him as an independent “military expert”.

5 February

l The BBC sacks Dawn Quevas, an employee who ranted about the “holohoax” and called Jews “Nazi parasites” among scores of other antisemitic and conspiratorial messages posted to her social media.

16 February

l Writing to all BBC staff, Davie acknowledges that the corporation has a problem with anti-Jewish bigotry: “As many of you may have seen, sadly in recent weeks we have been alerted to some antisemitic behaviour by people who worked with us.”

15 April

l The BBC is accused of “shocking bias” after Radio 4 Today programme presenter Nick Robinson, who is Jewish, states on air in an interview with the Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron, that Israel has attacked and murdered “tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians”.

The former PM says he does not agree “at all” with Robinson’s comment. Robinson later says: “I should have been clearer that I was not expressing my own view let alone that of the BBC.”

26 April

l The BBC admits after a complaint is lodged that its reporting of the death count in Gaza was flawed. In a statement published on its website, the corporation says: “The passage gave the unintended impression that the figure from the Hamas-run Health Ministry consisted only of civilian dead, whereas it also included combatants.”

Miriam Rich, who complained, says she thinks the BBC’s coverage has been “inherently skewed against Israel” since October 7.

16 May

l The BBC apologises for comments made by BBC Radio London DJ Eddie Nestor that community leaders labelled “age old anti-Jewish tropes”.

During an interview with Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Rob Blackie on April 17, Nestor, a seasoned presenter honoured with an MBE in 2018, implied that the first main mayoral hustings took place at a Jewish community centre — JW3 — because of the “powerful Jewish lobby”.

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