BBC World Service radio platforms a notorious antisemite

On May 3rd the BBC Press Office put out the following Tweet:

The statement from the BBC’s Director General promoted in that Tweet includes the following:

“Today, only 40 per cent of people in the UK feel they can share views without fear. The same proportion of us say that we actively try to avoid the news. There is a clear danger that a growing number of us are abandoning the public sphere and leaving only the noisiest and most extreme voices to have their say. We need to proactively address this.”

Mr Davie’s ‘proactive addressing’ of that issue would do well to include an investigation into why, just two days earlier, the BBC department he champions as “a beacon of impartial journalism” provided a nearly six-minute-long worldwide platform for the barely challenged views of a notorious antisemite on its ‘Newsday’ programme. 

The item concerned – aired on the May 1st edition of ‘Newsday’, from 32:42 here – was introduced by presenter James Copnall as follows: [emphasis in bold added]

Copnall: “This weekend the Islamic Summit conference [actually the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation conference – ed.] will be held in The Gambia. It’s a forum of 57 nations with Muslim populations. The situation in Gaza is sure to be high on the agenda. As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, demonstrations have spread across the world and to discuss the implications of some of this, we can turn to our next guest: one of the elder statesmen of the global south. Now 98 years old, Mahathir Mohamad has dominated Malaysian politics for decades, serving as the country’s prime minister for a cumulative total of 24 years and even in retirement he’s never really left the political arena. Newsday’s Rob Young asked him how he saw the current war in Gaza.”

Despite Mahathir Mohamad having previously engaged in denial of the October 7th atrocities and promotion of related conspiracy theories in interviews elsewhere and on his personal Twitter account, he was nevertheless the person the BBC World Service saw fit to bring in to discuss “the current war in Gaza”.

Mohamad began by invoking “human rights”, claiming that:

Mohamad: “Among the things that people cannot do, would be regarded as criminal, would be to commit genocide and this is what is happening in Gaza.”

Rob Young then ostensibly ticked the ‘impartiality’ box by stating that “Israel says it is not committing genocide” and that it is defending itself from an unprecedented attack on October 7th. Mohamad’s response was laughter, followed by questioning of the point that Israel is defending itself “when the war is almost entirely in Gaza”. Promoting Hamas talking points, he went on:

Mohamad: “Yes, on the 7th the Hamas did attack Israel, but before that for 70 years the Israelis have been oppressing the Palestinians. They may have lost 1,000 people because of what Hamas did but they have now killed forty thousand people and these are not soldiers; these are men, women and children and babies are being killed.”

The obviously inaccurate claim that none of those killed in the Gaza Strip were terrorist operatives was not challenged by Rob Young.

Later in the interview (from 36:34), referring to a speech made by Mohamad in 2003, Young asked:

Young: “You were quoted as having once said that you were glad to be labelled as antisemitic. Is that correct?”

Mohamad: “Nobody should be above criticism whether you are semitic or not semitic. You do something wrong; you must accept being criticised. To say that criticism of the Jews means you are antisemitic, that is absurd.”

Young: “You recognise the difference between the policy of the State of Israel and…Jews.”

Mohamad: “There is a difference and you can see the whole world and university students are demonstrating for an end to this genocide.”

Young made no effort whatsoever to clarify to BBC World Service listeners around the world that his interviewee’s record of antisemitism goes way beyond “criticism of the Jews”.

Just over five and a half years ago the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ conducted an interview with Mohamad during which he made blatantly antisemitic remarks.

“Malaysia’s avowedly anti-Semitic prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has repeated his claim from the 1970s that Jews are “hook-nosed” and claimed that the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust wasn’t six million.

“They are hook-nosed,” he insisted in a BBC interview during a visit to the United Kingdom, after host Zeinab Badawi asked him why he used such language, according to Reuters.

When she noted that many viewers would find his remark offensive, he said: “Many people called the Malays fat-nosed. We didn’t object, we didn’t go to war for that.” […]

In his 1970 book “The Malay Dilemma,” Mahathir wrote that “the Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively,” relying on two famous anti-Semitic stereotypes that were used by Nazi Germany to dehumanize Jews.

Mahathir also claimed that the consensus among historians that some 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust was false, putting the number at 4 million.”

Whether or not the BBC has already forgotten its own previous experience of Mohamad’s unabashed antisemitism, there is no justification for this worldwide platforming – and mainstreaming – of a prime example of what Tim Davie describes as “the noisiest and most extreme voices” under the guise of commentary which has no purpose but to spread disinformation concerning “genocide” and casualty ratios.

Tim Davie’s claim that the BBC World Service counters efforts by “hostile states” to promote “disinformation and disruption” will continue to ring hollow as long as that branch of the corporation panders to notorious racists and atrocity deniers airbrushed as supposedly respectable “elder statesmen”.

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2 Comments

  1. says: Grimey

    The IPC (aka BBC World Service), by its non-stop spouting of Iranian propaganda, is the medium promoting disinformation and disruption.

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