Former BBC President Michael Grade and Danny Cohen, his former television director, have joined the station’s criticism for an “unjustifiably offensive” News at Ten report that seemed to link Israel’s treatment to the Palestinians. With the Holocaust.
Orla Guerin, the BBC’s international correspondent, made the reference at the end of an interview with Holocaust survivor Rena Quint before the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
At the end of the interview, which included images of Yad Vashem, the World Center for the Holocaust Remembrance in Jerusalem, Guerin said: “In the Hall of Yad Vashem’s Names, images of the dead. Young soldiers enter to share the tragedy of the Jewish people. The state of Israel is now a regional power. For decades, it has occupied the Palestinian territories. But some here will always see their nation through the prism of persecution and survival. “
Jewish leaders and former BBC executives have criticized the report as anti-Semitic. Cohen said he had been careful not to criticize the BBC since he left almost five years ago, knowing the amount of unfair criticism he often receives, but that in this case he could not remain silent.
“Orla Guerin’s report on the Holocaust and the next 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s release should be widely condemned,” he said. “The attempt to link the horrors of the Holocaust with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deeply offensive and disturbing. It was unnecessary, numb and particularly ugly in the days before the Holocaust Memorial Day. Adding insult to the injury, the report uses images of the Holocaust victims in Yad Veshem during the sequence in which this link is made. This is inexplicable and unreasonably offensive. “
The Anti-Semitism Campaign filed a formal complaint with the BBC and threatened to refer the matter to Ofcom, which regulates the corporation. The CAA said the report broke the international definition of anti-Semitism, which has been adopted by the British government, which includes “establishing comparisons between Israeli politics and the Nazis.”
The BBC has denied the accusation. “The brief reference in our Holocaust report to Israel’s position today did not imply any comparison between the two and we would not want one of our coverage removed,” a spokeswoman said.
Cohen dismissed the defense that the report did not imply a comparison and further criticized the BBC for refusing to apologize for the “deeply offensive trial period.”
“The BBC has aggravated the problem by refusing to apologize and claim that the combination of the Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the report” did not imply any comparison, “he said.” This is a difficult argument to argue when the two elements appear in the same sentence in the report. “
But others defended Guerin, arguing that when placed in the context of the entire report, his script was not offensive. Filmmaker Gary Sinyor wrote in the Jewish Chronicle: “An unnecessary reference in a report that reiterated the truth of the Holocaust, which addressed the growing anti-Semitism, which touched a Belsen survivor, who showed Israeli soldiers learning about the tragedy of his fellow Jews, who occupied the last four and a half minutes of the BBC’s main newsletter the day before the royal memorial service, we can surely live with that. “
Grade criticized the corporation for not presenting a high-level editorial executive to address the issue, as BBC journalists would expect to cover a story.
“I think it was shocking,” he said. “When the BBC is under criticism, they hide behind anodyne, anonymous quotes from a spokesperson. Where does the senior editorial figure come out to talk and face this? The BBC is operating under a full double standard. “
Amanda Bowman, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the report was “rude and offensive” and questioned Guerin’s lack of impartiality in the Israel-Palestine conflict. “It has long been a cause for concern and it is questionable why the BBC would even use it for this delicate task,” he said.
In 2004, the Israeli government accused Guerin of anti-Semitism and “total identification with the objectives and methods of Palestinian terrorist groups” for a report on a suspected 16-year-old suicide bomber. In 2015, Grade filed a complaint with the BBC accusing Guerin of “directly fooling” viewers by not recognizing the participation of Palestinian militant groups in a wave of Israeli stabbings.