On Tuesday evening, Anjana Gadgil, a BBC anchor, drew upon language that evokes blood libels during an interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces “are happy to kill children,” she said at one point.
On Wednesday, the BBC issued a statement in response to a complaint, which it summarized as being related “to specific interview questions about the deaths of young people in the Jenin refugee camp.”
“Across the BBC’s platforms—including the BBC News channel—these events have been covered in an impartial and robust way. The United Nations raised the issue of the impact of the operation in Jenin on children and young people,” the BBC responded.
“While this was a legitimate subject to examine in the interview, we apologize that the language used in this line of questioning was not phrased well and was inappropriate,” it added.
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, tweeted that she is pleased that the BBC apologized “for the clearly unacceptable language which was used in their interview with Naftali Bennett.”
“Having written to the director general on this matter today, I appreciate the corporation’s speedy response,” she added.
Bennett tweeted a story about the apology in the Jewish Chronicle, adding: “We are not quiet about the State of Israel’s honor.”
Modern-day blood libel
This was how Gadgil phrased her offensive line of questioning:
“The UN has defined them as children and we know that four people between the ages of 16 and 18 have been killed in this targeted attack—let’s not forget this is a targeted attack,” Gadgil stated, alleging that “the Israeli forces are going in looking for these people.”
“But these are terrorists,” Bennett retorted. “You know, a 17-year-old terrorist can murder civilians. There’s a fundamental difference between what they’re doing, which is explicitly and deliberately targeting civilians, and what we’re doing, which is targeting terrorists. That’s exactly the opposite. We’re doing the right thing; they’re killing civilians.
“The fact that you’re creating this moral equivalence or even worse. I think it’s unacceptable,” the former premier added.
The Israeli military launched its counter-terror operation in Jenin in the early hours of Monday, including the entry into the Samaria city of significant ground forces. More than 1,000 IDF troops participated in the campaign, which is believed to be the largest deployment in Judea and Samaria in two decades.
The IDF said on Tuesday it had killed 12 Palestinians, all of them terrorists. At least two of them were younger than 18; Majdi Arawi and Ali al-Ghoul were both claimed by the Islamic Jihad terrorist group.
“This isn’t journalism, it’s a blood libel,” commented the pro-Israel media watchdog group HonestReporting. “What a despicable accusation.”
“The malice in such an accusation can’t be overstated,” said the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA). “Whatever her intent, it’s precisely this kind of language which fuels toxic antisemitic tropes accusing Jews of murdering non-Jewish children.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews called Gadgil’s remarks a “clear breach of the Corporation’s own guidelines” and said it would contact the BBC’s director-general to protest “in the strongest possible terms.”
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