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May 12, 2022 9:47 am

Why Did BBC Chairman Meet an Accused Holocaust Denier to Seek Advice on Mideast Coverage?

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avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue


The BBC logo is seen at the entrance at Broadcasting House, the BBC headquarters in central London. Photo by Vuk Valcic / SOPA Images/Sipa USA.

The Palestinian Authority (PA)’s envoy to the UK, Husam Zomlot, has been accused of denying the Holocaust; defending the PA’s “Pay-for-Slay” policy that gives financial rewards to terrorists and their families; and making light of rocket attacks launched by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip that target Israeli civilians.

Yet this rather checkered history did not preclude the BBC’s top executive from meeting with Zomlot, reportedly to discuss “improving the BBC’s reporting of developments in Palestine.”

In an image tweeted out by Zomlot, he can be seen shaking hands with BBC Chairman Richard Sharp while standing in front of a prominently displayed map of “Palestine,” which actually depicts the entirety of Israel in what is perhaps a nod to the “from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea” Palestinian rallying cry that is a coded slogan for destroying Israel.

Zomlot and Sharp’s tête-à-tête is part of a long pattern of moves made by the publicly-funded British Broadcasting Company that seemingly point to an institutional anti-Israel bias that has led to skewed reportage.

Indeed, the BBC has fought tooth-and-nail to keep secret the 2004 Balen Report, which was commissioned to investigate allegations that the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was biased.

The contents of the 20,000-word document were reportedly so damning that the broadcaster has fended off at least 400 Freedom of Information requests, and spent 333,000 pounds ($500,000) to keep its findings under wraps.

In addition to organizing a petition to get the long-buried Balen Report released, we have also filed numerous complaints over the years with the UK’s broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, over the reportage of Israeli-Palestinian issues.

Just last month, we launched a formal complaint with the BBC directly following remarks by one of its regular contributors Abdel Bari Atwan, in which he described a terrorist who murdered three Israelis as a “hero.”

So outrageous were the comments that YouTube felt compelled to remove the recording for violating its Terms of Service.

As recently as January, the BBC was forced to amend a story that had falsely accused a group of Jewish youths celebrating Hanukkah in central London last year of using “racial slurs” after they were subjected to a tirade of antisemitic abuse by men performing Nazi salutes and spitting at them.

A complaint by HonestReporting and other groups prompted regulator Ofcom to launch an investigation into the BBC, after an initial probe by the broadcaster’s independent complaints unit found the story did not lack “impartiality in the senses complained of, or that the charges of victim-blaming or false equivalence are warranted.”

In May 2021, we also exposed the antisemitic past of BBC journalist Tala Halawa, which led to the BBC firing her from her role.

Husam Zomlot’s history of demonizing the Jewish state and the long-standing allegations of a chronic anti-Israel bias at the BBC raises the question: Why would Richard Sharp agree to a meeting that was, of all things, about the corporation’s reportage of Palestinian affairs?

When HonestReporting reached out to the BBC for an answer, a spokesman for the corporation said Sharp “meets and speaks to a wide range of people as part of his role.”

This glib response is inadequate and fails to address the specific concerns about Zomlot that were raised.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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