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Israel Accuses BBC of ‘Modern Blood Libel’ in Hospital Strike Reporting

October 20, 2023

Photo Credit: TheGuardian


The Israeli government has accused the BBC of perpetuating a “modern blood libel” in its reporting of the catastrophic explosion at al-Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident on Tuesday evening, a BBC reporter said there was a lack of clarity but suggested that Israel was likely to be at fault.

On Thursday, the Israeli government’s official account on X, formerly known as Twitter, likened this to the antisemitic lie that Jews murdered Christian boys to use their blood for religious rituals.

“Hey @BBCWorld, as of this morning your modern blood libel about the hospital attack is still up,” a statement on the Israeli account said. “We see you, and now everyone else does too.”

The BBC defended its coverage on its corrections page but conceded that a reporter had been wrong to speculate in his analysis broadcast directly after the attack.

“We accept that even in this fast-moving situation it was wrong to speculate in this way, although he did not at any point report that it was an Israeli strike”, the BBC said. “This doesn’t represent the entirety of the BBC’s output and anyone watching, listening to or reading our coverage can see we have set out both sides’ competing claims about the explosion, clearly showing who is saying them, and what we do or don’t know.”

Later on Thursday, Jonathan Munro, deputy chief executive of BBC News, and the corporation’s director of journalism, said the correspondent had not ascribed blame in his report but that a “mistake” had been made in speculating about those who might be at fault.

“That language wasn’t quite right,” Munro said at a Media Society discussion about reporting the war. “I think it’s a lesson for all of us. “We’re running live coverage literally around the clock in radio, television and online. We’re covering this in 43 different languages. Somewhere along the line, human beings are going to make a mistake on a bit of output. When it gets magnified and is used as an example of getting things wrong, it’s a very uncomfortable place to be. And of course, it shouldn’t have happened.”

There had already been criticism in the UK of the BBC report that was aired in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, in which the correspondent Jon Donnison suggested it was likely the blast was the result of an Israeli rocket.

“The Israeli military has been contacted for comment and they say they are investigating,” Donnison said in his report from Jerusalem. “But it is hard to see what else this could be, really, given the size of the explosion, other than an Israeli airstrike or several airstrikes, because when we’ve seen rockets being fired out of Gaza we’ve never seen explosions of that scale.

“We might see half a dozen, maybe a few more, people being killed in such rocket attacks but we’ve never seen anything on the scale of the sort of explosion on the video I was watching earlier, which as you say is still to be verified.”

Israel has said its own investigation into the blast suggested the explosion was the result of a rocket fired from within Gaza that dropped short of its target. Hamas has claimed, without providing evidence, that the explosion was the result of an Israeli missile.

The Israeli government claims the initial take by the BBC and other media organisations has further destabilised the region and led to the cancellation of a summit in Amman between the US president, Joe Biden, and the Egyptian and Palestinian leaders, which had been due to take place on Wednesday.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday morning, the UK’s security minister, Tom Tugendhat, criticised “irresponsible speculation” and said it had not been “the BBC’s finest hour”.

“To see a BBC reporter say that the Israeli military have said they’re investigating but it’s hard to see what else this could be other than an Israeli airstrike or several airstrikes, at a time when it was uncertain, is really serious,” he said.

The Today presenter and former BBC political editor Nick Robinson responded by citing comments from the BBC’s international editor, Jeremy Bowen.

He said: “Jeremy was on this programme pointing out that viewers of the 10 o’clock news and people across our footage were left in no doubt that there was no clarity about who’d carried it out. I think you’re talking about a broadcast that was in the immediate aftermath of the explosion.”


Culled from TheGuardian.uk

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