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BBC is ‘institutionally anti-Semitic’ says former attorney general

Sir Michael claimed that BBC's coverage of pro-Palestinian marches in disconnected from reality
Sir Michael Ellis claimed that BBC's coverage of pro-Palestinian marches as 'mostly peaceful' is disconnected from reality - HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP

The BBC is “institutionally anti-Semitic” and its reporting of the Israel-Hamas war has contributed to attacks on British Jews, a former attorney general has claimed.

‌Sir Michael Ellis told MPs that the BBC’s senior management had “fundamentally failed” to deal with bias in its coverage, or to assuage the fears of some Jewish members of staff.

‌During a Westminster Hall debate, Sir Michael claimed that “the relentless bias of BBC News coverage has contributed to the record levels of intimidation and attacks on British Jews”.‌

He told MPs that some of the BBC’s reporting of the conflict suggested “moral equivalence between a democratic state whose leaders are elected by their people… and a genocidal terrorist group that oppresses its people and murders children and civilians”.

‌He also cited the BBC’s reluctance to refer to Hamas as a terror organisation; coverage of pro-Palestinian marches in the UK, which display “an extraordinary disconnect from reality by repeatedly stressing that they are ‘mostly peaceful’”; and following Hamas’s “cynical” policy of not distinguishing between civilian and combatant casualties in Gaza when giving updates on the number of dead and injured.‌

Sir Michael Ellis said dozens of Jewish employees at the BBC are understood to have made formal complaints
Sir Michael Ellis said dozens of Jewish employees at the BBC are understood to have made formal complaints

Sir Michael quoted a Survation poll which found that 77 per cent of Jews in Britain believe BBC coverage of the conflict in Gaza is biased against Israel.‌

“Dozens of current Jewish employees at the BBC are understood to have filed formal complaints about their concerns over anti-Semitism, describing it as a grim and frightening time to be Jewish at the corporation,” Sir Michael said.

‌“The BBC’s senior management has fundamentally failed to deal with this problem and uphold its own guidelines, and the organisation now appears complicit in peddling misinformation and allowing anti-Semitism to fester.

‌“And in those circumstances, I have come to the conclusion that the BBC is institutionally anti-Semitic.”‌

He went on: “What makes the BBC institutionally anti-Semitic is not that there is bias or anti-Semitism within – sadly, there’s a lot of that everywhere. It is the fact that management has not done what they should be doing about it.‌

“BBC employees suffering abuse from within, mistakes not corrected, staff and so-called ‘talent’ not disciplined, erroneous reports not corrected or pushed out without responsible checking – this has inflamed community tensions here in the UK, it has fuelled the rise in anti-Semitism, it has harmed diplomatic efforts to end the violence. To hold oneself up as neutral and to be biased is a form of corruption.”‌

Steve Double, the Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, said he wondered whether BBC journalists “are so blinded by their views about Israel that they can’t see how biased they are about their reporting, or whether they’re so biased that they just don’t care”.

‌“We have seen a rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents taking place in recent months in this country, and the shameful treatment of a number of our Jewish community, and it’s very difficult to come to any other conclusion than that sadly the BBC has contributed to this because of the way they have presented Israel in such a poor light.”

‌A BBC spokesman said of the accusation of institutional anti-Semitism: “We do not agree with this opinion, which we reject entirely and is not borne out by the facts.”