BBC apologises for ‘wrong’ description of anti-Israel protest

As noted by journalist Nicole Lampert, on May 23rd BBC domestic television aired an item in which it referred to “a vigil”. The Telegraph reported that story as follows:

“The BBC has come under fire for describing a pro-Palestine protest outside a London cinema showing a film about the Oct 7 attacks as a “vigil”.

A demonstration was held at the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley, north London, in response to the screening of a film about Hamas’s assault on Israel last year.

Supernova was being shown as part of the Seret International Film Festival, but activists vandalised one of London’s oldest cinemas after writing “say no to artwashing” in red paint on the front of the building.

The pro-Palestine activists claimed that the documentary was part of an effort to justify the Israeli Government’s military response in Gaza.

They had allegedly planned to protest at the venue to disrupt further viewings of the film.

However, the cinema was then surrounded by pro-Israel demonstrators, who came to support the venue “against anti-Semites”.

A BBC London report on the events stated: “Pro-Israel supporters celebrated tonight after chasing away pro-Palestinian protesters who were holding a vigil outside the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley. […]

Danny Cohen, former director of BBC Television, told The Telegraph: “For the BBC to describe this pro-Palestinian protest as a ‘vigil’ is utterly sickening.

“The protest aimed to disrupt and delay the screening of a documentary about a massacre of innocent young people at a music festival. The BBC’s anti-Israel bias is more and more evident with every day that passes.””

The following day the Jewish News reported that the BBC had issued an apology.

“The BBC has apologised after it described a hostile pro-Palestinian protest against a cinema screening of a film about the Nova music festival massacre as “a vigil”. […]

BBC London News presenter Asad Ahmed later said on air that “pro-Israel protesters celebrated tonight after chasing away pro-Palestinian supporters who were holding a vigil”. […]

The corporation has now apologised. A spokesperson told Jewish News: “In a report on BBC London last night we wrongly described an incident outside a London cinema as a vigil. We should have been clear it was a protest and we apologise for this. The correct description has been used in our online report today.”

The spokesperson added: “We will include this clarification in tonight’s programme and publish on our Correction and Clarifications website.””

An on-air clarification was later made. As of the time of writing, no related entry appears on the BBC’s ‘Corrections and Clarifications’ webpage.

In that on-air clarification the BBC presenter repeated the statement provided to the Jewish News by a BBC spokesman, including the reference to “our online report today”.

That uncredited report is titled “Protests held at screening of Hamas attack film” and from it we learn that the BBC had difficulty deciding what pictures of the defaced cinema front show. [emphasis added]

“Images shared of the cinema on social media appeared to show graffiti sprayed on its front doors which said “say no to artwashing”.” 

The BBC’s report tells readers that:

Pro-Palestine groups called for the screening to be cancelled at the protest, while crowds waving Israeli flags staged a counter protest.”

Readers are not informed that the anti-Israel group ‘Artists for Palestine UK’ and others had been campaigning against the film festival for over a week before that protest at the Phoenix Cinema took place and the BBC’s report does not provide the names of the organisers, even though that information was already available in the public domain.

Coincidentally or not, the advertising promoted by the organisers used the same “vigil” terminology as later found in the BBC London television report.

At the bottom of the BBC’s report, readers find a link under the heading “more on this story”.

That link leads to a BBC London report from March 2024 which, despite its promotion of a highly disreputable outlet’s conspiracy theory, not only remains online but is promoted by the BBC as related reading.


Not for the first time, one does have to wonder what goes on at BBC London.

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