On the afternoon of September 7th the BBC News website published a report by Yolande Knell concerning reactions to an antisemitic speech made in August by the Palestinian Authority president (who is also the head of the PLO and Fatah) which had been exposed several days earlier by MEMRI.
Headlined ‘Outrage over Abbas’s antisemitic speech on Jews and Holocaust’, Knell’s report gives a reasonable account of the story and documents condemnations of the speech from Germany, the EU and Israel’s ambassador to the UN.
Notably, Knell also informs her readers of some of the similar statements made previously by Mahmoud Abbas.
“The Palestinian president, who is 87, has previously been denounced by Jewish groups as a Holocaust denier for his doctoral thesis on the Nazis and Zionism.
Yet over the years, he has continued to give long, rambling speeches expounding his offensive views. […]
The president previously caused an international furore for making similar suggestions in 2018, during what he described as “a history lesson” at a rare gathering of the Palestinian National Council. […]
In May, Mr Abbas was criticised for likening Israel to Nazi Germany in a speech at a UN event. He accused the country of lying “just like Goebbels”, referring to Joseph Goebbels, the chief propagandist of the Nazi party.
Last year, there was international outrage after he claimed Israel had carried out “50 massacres; 50 holocausts” during a news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin. The chancellor later said he was “disgusted by the outrageous remarks” and Israel and the US issued strongly worded statements.”
However, as we have all too often had cause to document on these pages, previous BBC reporting on offensive statements and ahistorical claims made by Mahmoud Abbas has often been less than satisfactory:
Moreover, at least one complaint concerning the lack of BBC coverage of Abbas’ distortions of history has been rejected:
While Knell did report some of the many condemnations of Abbas’ remarks, her report does not inform BBC audiences of contrasting statements made in support of his claims – including by contributors to BBC content.
‘“We express our strong condemnation and outrage at this frenzied campaign [against President Mahmoud Abbas] for just quoting academic and historical quotations,” Abu Rudeineh said, giving no further details.’
The PA prime minister – another regular contributor to BBC content – came up with an antisemitic conspiracy theory of his own:
While there is nothing novel about Abbas’ latest outburst, it remains to be seen whether that topic – and the wider issue of PA officials leaping to defend his antisemitism – will now finally find its way into the BBC’s Palestinian territories profile or its coverage of future stories such as his upcoming speech at the United Nations.