BBC Whitewashes Islamist Antisemitism with Semantics

May 14, 2013 9:57 am 14 comments

BBC logo.

A reader has contacted BBC Watch concerning the reply received from the Middle East desk of the BBC News website following a complaint made with regard to the May 1st 2013 article by BBC Arabic’s Ahmed Maher entitled “Tunisia’s last Jews at ease despite troubled past”.

The complaint related to Ahmed Maher’s following claim:

“Several media reports spoke about YouTube videos that showed radical Islamists threatening Tunisian Jews. Despite searching extensively, I did not find any of them.”

The reader provided four video clips in support of the complaint – viewable here, here, here and here.

Below is the reply received.

“Dear XXXXX

Thank you for getting in touch. We have reviewed Ahmed Maher’s article “Tunisia’s last Jews at ease despite troubled past”, and discussed your complaint with him.

Regarding the You Tube links, Mr Maher reaffirms that he conducted an extensive search in Arabic and English to find clips or links of Salafists or hardliners attacking “Tunisian Jews” – a specification he makes clear in his piece. He found clips of rallies in support of Osama Bin Laden, but stresses he did not find anything attacking “Tunisian Jews” specifically.

Mr Maher says: “The chants heard in the four links cited [in your complaint] are against ‘the State of Israel and Jews but not Tunisian Jews’. The chants were echoed across several Muslim countries in the past two years in the wake of the Arab spring (and even before the revolutions) by extremists (even lay people and leftists in Egypt in particular who attacked the headquarters of the Israeli embassy in Giza in August 2011) to protest what they term ‘the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the blockade of the Gaza strip’. They chanted it in Tunisia during the visit of the Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah. Again, the chants, which are in Arabic, were not directed at ‘Tunisian Jews’ but ‘Israel’ in general.

“I spoke to Sheikh Bashir Bin Hassan, one of the most prominent Salafi, Wahabi sheikhs in post-revolution Tunisian, and asked him again about two things: the chants and the protest in front of the Tunis synagogue. He said: ‘The chants were not aimed at the Tunisian Jews; make no mistake. It was directed at Israel because Israel is a very sensitive issue in the Muslim world. Our Prophet Muhammad asked us to take good care and protect non-Muslims living in our countries like Christians and Jews.’

“Regarding the Tunis synagogue video, Sheikh Bashir Bin Hassan said it was ‘misleading because it was taken out of context. The protest was not against the Tunisian Jews but rather it was in support of Salafists and other Islamist forces in Egypt. The protesters were heading towards the Egyptian embassy in Tunis and they stopped for moments in front of the synagogue to express their anger at the Zionist entity’s policies’.

Mr Maher also points out that the four Tunisian Jews quoted in his piece all spoke about “media exaggeration” about oppression of Jews in Tunisia.

He says: “I was told by many Tunisian Jews indeed and I do have their contacts, chiefly the head of the Jewish community in Tunisia Peres Trabelsi, that there was too much media fuss about the ‘oppression of Jews in Tunisia’ whether past or current. I was there to make a colour piece on the annual pilgrimage itself really, but every time I spoke to a Jewish pilgrim living in Djerba, and who can tell us their experience first-hand, they were keen on ‘dismissing media reports about us as exaggerated, as if we will become non-existent any longer. We are fed up’, as I was told by many of them. I have not put words into their mouths, neither did I push them to speak on this angle. There is no question about that.”

Kind regards

Middle East desk
BBC News website”

Get it? According to the BBC, if Tunisian Islamists (and presumably any elsewhere too) chant “Killing the Jews is a duty” or “Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yahud” or ”the army of Mohammed will return”, then local Jews have nothing whatsoever to worry about because in fact they are not referring to them – or indeed to Jews at all – but to Israel, which should apparently be perfectly understandable. And the BBC website’s Middle East desk is quite sure of that because a prominent Salafist – who obviously thinks it unremarkable to chant hate speech relating to “the Zionist entity’s policies” in front of a synagogue in Tunisia – told them so.

If that is the level of understanding and interpretation prevalent among staff at the BBC’s Middle East desk, then the only conclusion can be that the license fee payer is funding an outfit not fit for purpose.

14 Comments

  • Is it possible that explanations like these are taken seriously by intelligent people(the BBC’s desk)? – after all what was said and what happened to the Jewish people in the last centuries!!! Salafists are not accepted even in the eyes of Hamas, being too more extremists than they are.

  • Incompetence, apathy and maybe just a little insy tinsy bit, just a smedgeon mind you, un soupçon of, dare I say it…antiSemetism. Personally I think Mossad did it to deliberately discredit the BBC. After all they did the Twin Towers, London Subway, Madrid bombings. Thousand million Muslims, twelve million Jews [five in Israel] and whose responsible, the bogeyman

  • BBC is kowtowing to Arab money. BBC was never friendly to Jews even during the NAZI period, during the mass murders in Europe. It has become now the “Voice of Britain/ Arabia disseminating hatreds, denials ,casting out its neutrality. Facts have become obsolete when lies can be put in place. Shame, shame Britania for the truth is no more part of your waves.

  • There is ample evidence to show that neither the BBC is fit for purpose.

    The question is – what to do to make it better since in numbers on the ground, Jews are outnumbered and in providing perks and funding where possible and in PR we are seriously outdone by those who would like to eliminate us.

    In this case, I suggest you actually contact ‘the head of the Jewish community in Tunisia Peres Trabelsi’.

    It is possible that the Jews in Tunisia live in fear and did play down any threat to them, so I strongly suggest you talk discreetly before you take the matter further – ie it is possible that it may not be to the benefit of Tunisian Jews that you publicize any discrepancy between Trabelsi’s response to the BBC and to you – if such discrepancy exists.

    Of course Trabelsi may have been totally misquoted, or not even contacted, in which case the situation greatly merits a serious follow-up with media council(s) etc.

    I look forward to learning more.

  • Anthony Dayton

    It’s a good thing that the Tunisian Islamists didn’t decide to test their rockets when they stopped in front of the synagogue – not that they would have deliberately aimed to destroy it, just maybe a little target practice for any conflict with Israel.

    I didn’t realize that the BBC had such a profound ability to ignore the sounds of hysterically laughter when their sources see that the BBC actually printed such – let’s see, will “crap” cover it?

  • The parents of everyone who works for the BBC had worked for DER STURMER…It is in the genes of every employee of the BBC to be antisemitic…

  • What else would you expect from alBeeBeeCeera?

  • Straightshooter

    This is typical equivocation and double-speak from the BBC, which for many years has reflected the Anti Semitic attitude of the British government, heavily influenced by the large and rapidly growing British-Islamic population and its fear of losing access to Middle Eastern markets.

  • FreeTunisian

    So you are saying that the Tunisian People are not free to write their own constitution the way they want it, right?

    This is such a beautiful example of neo-colonialism … I love it.

    And by the way, Anti-Zionism, is not anti-semitism. There is a big difference there. Zionism is a secular ideology that crosses ethnicity and is not exclusive to Jewish People.

    • FreeTunisian,
      I absolutely believe Tunisian people should write their own constitution! However if a constitution doesn’t treat everyone equally (even people you don’t like) you are not living in a democracy. I disagree with you about your argument that when Islamists’ refer to Zionists they are referring to Jews, although as you point out there are “Zionists” who are not Jews, when Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi says “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews…” I don’t see what there is to argue about? The truth is too many of the honest citizens of the Muslim world are lied to and exploited by their own governments and have no idea what a Jew is. If you don’t want “neo-colonialism” then do not allow your country’s situation to affect the rest of the world because when if it does someone will intervene “neo-colonialist”, capitalist, Russian or otherwise. What is Iran doing in Syria and Lebanon? Is that not “neo-colonialism”? It is far more “neo” and far more “colonial” in every sense!

    • Have a look at any Jewish prayer book, from anywhere in the world, at any time in history, and you will find out very quickly that the Land of Israel is central to Judaism. It is that simple.

    • Roxanne Roxanadana

      It’s not anti-Semitism, just the desire to kill all the Jews on the planet, that is the problem. Why do you ask for that which Hitler never publicly asked? Do you think mass murder a tribute to a merciful, beneficent God? Of course not. Killing Jews is not murder to you.

  • Hadar, Great article, for a while now I have been realizing that the anti-Israel and anti-Zionist attacks are a semantics game as you have pointed out. They are referring to all Jews – the writing is on the wall. Thank you! This is similar to referring to a “American Jewish Lobby” when AIPAC is an Israel lobby and this in essence is calling all American Jews Israelis and not Americans. I am Jewish although as far as I know my ancestors came from Egypt and Syria not Israel. The only Jews these people tolerate are self-hating ones like Noam Chomsky who by the way Hitler would have slaughtered along with Hawking for obvious reasons. A Jew is a Jew in the eyes of the Nazis and Islamists and no semantics games should fool legitimate journalists. I hope that BBC and the other news outlets who routinely allow this end up soiling their reputations worse than Hawking has, he at least can claim he has disabilities.

  • Not the first time BBC demonstrated biased reporting against Israel and the Jews.

    This is nothing new. It’s par for the course.

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