MPs accuse BBC of stoking ‘global antisemitism’

Parliamentarians also accuse the corporation of ‘institutional’ Jew-hate


BBC headquarters at New Broadcasting House (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

MPs have accused the BBC of fuelling attacks on Jews through biased reporting on the Israel-Hamas conflict.  

During a cross-party debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesday, former attorney general Sir Michael Ellis, said that senior BBC management had “fundamentally failed” to deal with biased coverage and mitigate the fears of Jewish staff.

“The relentless bias of BBC News coverage has contributed to the record levels of intimidation and attacks on British Jews,” he added.

Sir Michael, Conservative MP for Northampton North, cited numerous instances of alleged bias, including the BBC’s refusal to call Hamas terrorists, which meant the corporation had become “complicit in Hamas’ well-orchestrated disinformation campaign”.

Numerous politicians also made damning allegations against the BBC during the debate, which the cooperation has since refuted.

According to several MPs, one inaccurate BBC report about the Al-Ahli hospital bombing in Gaza “led to a spike in antisemitism globally”, including the burning of synagogues in Tunisia and Germany.

Conservative MP Theresa Villiers said that the BBC’s “rush to accept the Hamas allegation that it was caused by Israel” created problems on the ground, while MP Steve Double said the Al-Ahli report “felt like the BBC couldn’t wait to jump to the conclusion it must have been Israel, and they were almost disappointed when it came out that it clearly wasn’t”.

Sir Michael said that some of the BBC coverage suggested a “moral equivalence between a democratic state whose leaders are elected by their people… and a genocidal terrorist group that oppresses its people and murders children and civilians”.

He labelled Hamas’s policy of not distinguishing between combatant and civilian deaths in Gaza as “cynical”.

Sir Michael referred to Jewish BBC employees who have made complaints: “Dozens of current Jewish employees at the BBC are understood to have filed formal complaints about their concerns over antisemitism, describing it as a grim and frightening time to be Jewish at the corporation.

‌“The BBC’s senior management has fundamentally failed to deal with this problem and uphold its own guidelines, and the organisation now appears complicit in peddling misinformation and allowing antisemitism to fester” he went on.

S‌ir Michael said: “In those circumstances, I have come to the conclusion that the BBC is institutionally antisemitic.”

“What makes the BBC institutionally antisemitic is not that there is bias or antisemitism within – sadly, there’s a lot of that everywhere. It is the fact that management has not done what they should be doing about it.

“BBC employees suffering abuse from within, mistakes not corrected, staff and so-called ‘talent’ not disciplined, erroneous reports not corrected or pushed out without responsible checking – this has inflamed community tensions here in the UK, it has fuelled the rise in antisemitism, it has harmed diplomatic efforts to end the violence. To hold oneself up as neutral and to be biased is a form of corruption.”‌

Sir Michael’s accusations come soon after BBC boss Tim Davie acknowledged in an email to all staff that the corporation had a problem with “some antisemitic behaviour”.

Several MPs quoted research which found that 77 per cent of Jews in Britain believe BBC coverage of the conflict is biased against Israel.‌

Gary Lineker’s activity on social media also came under fire. Leeds MP Sir Alec Shelbrooke said the BBC’s editorial rules are being “completely undermined” by Lineker’s desire to “whack two fingers” up at the guidelines.

Sir Alec claimed that his Jewish constituents are “bloody terrified” because, in part, of the “inbuilt bias with the BBC”.

Sir Alec warned a loss in confidence in the BBC means that many will simply stop paying their license fee, “and damn the consequences”.

Tory MP Steve Double told the debate that he wondered whether BBC journalists “are so blinded by their views about Israel that they can’t see how biased they are about their reporting, or whether they’re so biased that they just don’t care.

‌“We have seen a rise in the number of antisemitic incidents taking place in recent months in this country, and the shameful treatment of a number of our Jewish community, and it’s very difficult to come to any other conclusion than that sadly the BBC has contributed to this because of the way they have presented Israel in such a poor light,” Double said.

Tory MP and Minister Julia Lopez told the debate that the corporation is "not there as an instrument of government, where ministers seek to interfere with editorial decisions or the day-to-day running of the organisation”.

A BBC spokesperson said: “We don’t agree with this opinion which we reject entirely and is not borne out by the facts.

“With regard to staff, their welfare is always paramount and have well-established and robust processes in place to handle any issues, concerns or complaints raised with us, along with a range of support available to anyone who may need it.”

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