A post by CAMERA Arabic.
Longtime readers of CAMERA UK will be aware of the frequent appearances of Palestinian journalist Abdel Bari Atwan at UK media outlets, including the BBC. Given Atwan’s habit of publicly expressing antisemitic, violent and conspiratorial views, his on-air appearances provide an indication of the failure of British media outlets to perform even minimal background checks on their contributors.
However in his latest appearance at BBC Arabic Atwan was outshone by a fellow panellist: Palestinian political analyst Said Elhaj, who resides in Istanbul. On December 26th 2020, the two were hosted by Egyptian journalist Mohamed Seif Alnasr on BBC Arabic’s evening news programme. Upon learning that the panel included an Israeli speaker, Elhaj quit the studio.
A preemptive internet search by BBC Arabic would have easily revealed Elhaj’s positions. Here are his views on the killing of Israeli civilians, expressed on three different occasions, and on the topic of Jews feeling at “home” while present in “Palestine”.
In response to the Dizengoff street shooting attack of January 2016 in Tel Aviv, in which three Israeli civilians were killed, Elhaj tweeted:
“#Live #Update 3 dead Zionists and 7 injured in a heroic shooting attack in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff street
“#so_what [Bihemmesh, a Palestinian colloquial expression that, due to its appearance in an October 2015 viral video, became associated with glorifying assailants online]
In response to the Sarona market shooting attack of June 2016 in Tel Aviv, in which four Israeli civilians were killed, Elhaj tweeted:
“More demons were locked up tonight in Tel Aviv at the hands of flesh-and-blood angels from divine Hebron [Elhaj is alluding to the Islamic tradition, according to which the Shayateen – demons, or devils – are chained or locked up in hell during the holy month of Ramadan, which began shortly before the attack occurred]”
On the killer of seven Israeli schoolgirls Ahmad Daqamseh, upon his release from Jordanian prison after having completed his 20-year sentence (he was taken out of his prison cell in the middle of the night, allegedly to minimize the extent of celebrations in his Jordan hometown):
“A hero from my country, which does not cherish heroes..!”
On the notion that even a part of “Palestine” could be considered home for Israeli Jews of Middle Eastern heritage, he commented:
“Mahmoud Abbas receives a Jewish delegation: ‘you are not guests, you are at your home’.
“The freak [Mukhtall, could be a pun with the word Muhtall, “occupier”] is not a guest nor is he a landlord.
“Impudence and audacity have no limits with Abbas!!
Given such views, Elhaj’s conduct on the BBC Arabic programme does not come as much of a surprise. However, perhaps the most disappointing part of the broadcast was when the host – a Hebrew speaker who often commendably engages with Israelis on his twitter account – commented on Elhaj’s departure from the program as follows (0:51):
“We respect your position, of course.”
Such bigotry, we believe, should not be respected – let alone by Britain’s publicly funded national broadcaster.