LBC’s James O’Brien fails to challenge Haneen Zoabi’s lies about Israel

Whilst she was in London, Zoabi was also interviewed by LBC host James O'Brien, who similarly failed to challenge multiple distortions and falsehoods by the extremist Arab Israeli MK. Here's a list of the almost entirely unchallenged propaganda by Zoabi.

Over at BBC Watch, our colleague Hadar Sela recently examined the failure of a BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ host to challenge the propaganda of Balad MK Haneen Zoabi – who was in the UK for a series of speaking engagements – during an interview last week. Whilst she was in London, Zoabi was also interviewed by LBC host James O’Brien, who similarly failed to challenge multiple distortions and falsehoods by the extremist Arab Israeli MK

You can hear the full interview here [credit], but here’s a glimpse of the almost entirely unchallenged propaganda by Zoabi.

Zoabi claimed that “84% of Palestinians were expelled” during 1948.  

This is not true. Whilst some of the Palestinians who fled the war “were forced from their homes by the Jewish military”, most left due to “in response to exhortations by Arab military and political leaders” or were “fleeing the heavy fighting that surrounded them”.  Regarding the former example, the fact that some Palestinians were forced from their homes during the Arab war against the nascent Jewish state does not mean it can be characterised as “ethnic cleansing”.

As renowned historian Benny Morris has written:

“At no stage of the 1948 war was there a decision by the leadership of the Yishuv or the state to “expel the Arabs” – neither in the Jewish Agency nor in the Israeli government; neither in the Haganah General Staff nor in the Israel Defense Forces General Staff. Nor did any important party in the Yishuv, including the Revisionists, adopt such a policy in its platform.

Morris added:

“Incidentally, Arab countries carried out ethnic cleansing and uprooted all the Jews, down to the last one, from any territory they captured in 1948 – for example, the Jordanians in Gush Etzion and Jerusalem’s Old City, and the Syrians in Masada, Sha’ar Hagolan and Mishmar Hayarden. The Jews, on the other hand, left Arabs in place in Haifa and Jaffa, and in the villages along the country’s main traffic arteries – the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway and the Tel Aviv-Haifa highway – a fact that does not conform with the claim of “successful” ethnic cleansing.

Let’s also remember that the Jewish leadership accepted (whilst the Arabs rejected) the 1947 UN Partition Plan which would have created a Jewish state with 538,000 Jews and nearly 400,000 Arabs.  The Palestinian state rejected by the Arab leadership would have consisted of 804,000 Arabs and only 10,000 Jews.

Zoabi complained that, after the 1948 war, “Israeli imposed citizenship on Palestinians“.

This is a complaint that’s so bizarre that even the LBC host pushed back on it a little.  The entire narrative advanced by Zoabi is that Israel is not a real democracy because Arab Israelis are denied rights granted to Jewish citizens of the state.  So, how can it logically be argued that Israel’s granting of political rights (that is, citizenship) is a violation of rights?

Zoabi claimed that Palestinians are living on only “2% of their land“.

It’s hard to even know where to begin with this.  What does “their land” mean? There has never been, at any point in history, a sovereign Palestinian state, and a unique Palestinian-Arab national identity is itself is a recent development, going back no further than the 1920s.  

Even pro-Palestinians territorial maximalists only claim that Palestinians are living on 22% of their land – itself an erroneous figure as it presupposes that every square kilometer of land within Israel proper, the West Bank and Gaza should be considered the “historic” Palestinian land. The truth is that Israel (within its current boundaries) has conceded most of their “historic land” as promised to them by the 1922 Mandate for Palestine – arguably the earliest modern legal codification of an area known as “Palestine”.

Zoabi claimed that Arab Israelis “are not allowed to study our history in their schools“.

This is an extremely broad and misleading claim. What Zoabi is likely alluding to is a 2011 law referred to as the “Nakba law”. This law “grants the finance minister the power to reduce the budget of state-funded bodies” that reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, mark the state’s founding as a day of mourning or express support for terrorism.  

However, the law requires multiple government ministers to review each suspected violation of the law on a case by case basis, and take in the entire context before rendering an actual reduction in funding. Other than these specific examples cited in the Nakba law, the law doesn’t even address the question of precisely how Arab Israeli teachers can teach ‘their’ history – suggesting they have wide leeway to interpret the history of the state as they choose within the broad confines of the curriculum. Moreover, the evidence suggests that the Nakba law has never actually been used since its passage.

Zoabi claimed the existence of “86 racist laws“.  

She’s alluding to a claim – recently addressed at UKMW  – by the NGO Adalah that there are 57 racist laws in Israel.  This is completely untrue and represents exactly the kind of “fake news” that journalists should quickly flag.  Indeed, Adalah uses the term “racist” so  so carelessly even an Israeli public health law requiring that parents vaccinate their children is characterised as a “racist law”.  Even the very Zionist nature of the state is considered racist.  See here for more detailed information on why claim that the Knesset has passed 86 (or 57) racist laws is a complete and total fabrication. 



You can complain to host James O’Brien on his failure to challenge these falsehoods by tweeting him here: @mrjamesob

To send a general complaint to LBC, use this online form, or this email

As always, when communicating (including on Twitter) with journalists, editors or presenters, be polite, professional and stick to the facts.

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