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June 13, 2022 10:34 am

BBC Fails to Accurately Report Remark by UK Politician Who Compared Israel to Nazi Germany

avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue


Illustrative. Photo: Dan Taylor / Wikimedia Commons

Despite a commitment to accuracy in its editorial guidelines, the BBC’s June 11 report on a British Labour Party politician who compared Israel to Nazi Germany demonstrated a complete disregard for this guiding journalistic principle.

Mohammed Iqbal, a local councilor in Lancashire, was suspended by Labour over the remark that he made after bringing forward an emergency resolution to fly the Palestinian flag above the town hall following the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

As reported by several media outlets, Iqbal wrongly accused Israel of carrying out an “assassination” of Abu Akleh, adding: “The fact is that what’s going on in Ukraine, Palestine [sic], and other areas I’ve mentioned, reminds me, I barely passed my GCSE history [exam] at school, but many people in this room will remember what justification Hitler had for what he did to the Jews in the Second World War.”

Yet, this was how the taxpayer-funded BBC chose to summarize the antisemitic comment:

Mr Iqbal is alleged to have made comments comparing Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jewish people with more recent events in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world.” [Emphasis added]

This paragraph is woefully inaccurate: Iqbal did not simply “allegedly” compare Nazi Germany to “elsewhere in the world,” he specifically compared the fascist regime that murdered six million Jews to Israeli activity in “Palestine” [sic].

While the piece goes on to reference the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, which the Labour Party adopted in full in 2018, and defines the comparison of contemporary Israeli policy to Nazi Germany as antisemitic, the BBC has a duty to inform its readers that Iqbal made precisely that comparison.

Worryingly, the BBC’s distortion of Iqbal’s remarks is not the only inaccuracy in the piece.

In addition to repeatedly using the misnomer “Palestine,” despite the fact that no such sovereign state exists, the BBC also failed to report that in the same meeting, Iqbal appeared to suggest that members of the Islamist terror group Hezbollah could be considered “freedom fighters.”

According to the Lancashire Telegraph, the outlandish assertion was prompted by one of Iqbal’s colleagues announcing his support of the Palestinian flag motion:

Conservative Cllr Neil Butterworth, a former British Army soldier who had served in Northern Ireland, said he would support the motion too. But he added councillors “should not forget about Hezbollah” […]

Cllr Mohammed Iqbal made references to how terrorism can be seen differently, saying one man’s “terrorist” could be seen as a “freedom fighter” by another.

Bear in mind that this is the same organization that is proscribed by the entirety of the Western world as a terrorist entity, and is responsible for some of the worst terrorist atrocities against Jews and Israelis in history, including the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community’s AMIA/DAIA building in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead.

Iqbal has since denied his remarks were antisemitic, telling the Jewish Chronicle that he “has friends who are Jews and Israeli friends who are Jewish.”

In a separate statement, he announced: “I am not antisemitic and have campaigned all my life against all forms of racism and sexism and will continue to do so.”

The BBC’s editorial guidelines commit to “achieving due accuracy in all its output,” while ensuring that the corporation does not “distort known facts, present invented material as fact or otherwise undermine our audiences’ trust in our content.”

The report on Iqbal’s antisemitic outburst and subsequent suspension from the Labour Party falls far short of that commitment.

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.

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