BBC Won't Punish Reporter Accused of Anti-Semitism

BBC says Tim Wilcox didn't 'breach editorial standards' by telling Jewish woman that 'Palestinians suffer at Jewish hands.'

Ari Soffer ,

BBC (illustration)
BBC (illustration)

The BBC will not be taking any action against a senior correspondent accused of anti-Semitism during his coverage of a major Paris rally following the Islamist terrorist campaign in the French capital last month.

Tim Wilcox shocked many viewers with his questioning of a Jewish woman at the "million-man" march in Paris following attacks by Muslim extremists which killed 17 people, including four at a kosher supermarket.

As the woman, named Chava, expressed her fears over rising anti-Semitism in the country - fear shared by most of France's half a million-strong Jewish community - Wilcox inexplicably interrupted her to state that "many critics though of Israel's policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well."

His apparent equating of anti-Semitism and even murder of innocent French Jews by terrorists to Israel's battle against Islamist terrorism drew widespread anger from British Jews, as did his follow-up comments, in which he appeared minimize the crisis felt by French Jews by asking: "you understand everything is seen from different perspectives?"

The Campaign Against Antisemitism group slammed the "disgraceful" comments, which triggered a deluge of complaints from viewers.

Wilcox offered a weak apology in response to the controversy - saying only that it was "poorly-phrased".

Now, the BBC has said it will not be punishing him for the statement.

In letters to complainants seen by the UK's Jewish News, the BBC said it had considered whether Wilcox's comments "constituted a serious breach of editorial standards, of a kind which would require due public correction and apology."

The Corporation's conclusion, according to the head of the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU), was that that was not the case.

"I see nothing in Mr Willcox’s comments which is intrinsically disrespectful, and I saw nothing in Chava’s demeanour to suggest that she felt disrespected," said Fraser Steel

"I am not proposing to uphold the complaints... I share Mr Willcox’s view that his comments were poorly-phrased, but I think they were no worse than that."

Jonathan Sacerdoti of the Campaign Against Antisemitism condemned the decision to dismiss the complaint, accusing the BBC of subjecting British Jews to "double racism."

"Ofcom has refused to investigate this, and the BBC is refusing to listen to Jewish viewers who found Willcox's comments offensive. To whom are Jewish people meant to turn?" he asked.

"It is peculiar that the BBC denies that something is offensive to Jewish people, after many Jewish people wrote in to tell them it was.

"How many other minorities suffer the double racism of not only being abused, but then being told they are wrong when they complain?"

Sacerdoti further noted that "Willcox is a repeat offender, having now twice upset multiple Jewish viewers in only a short time," referring to a live panel in which the newscaster appeared to join with guests in airing anti-Semitic stereotypes about a "Jewish lobby".

Repeat offender? Wilcox discusses "Jewish lobby" with guest

"The BBC is demonstrating a stubborn reluctance to actually deal with this problem, preferring to ignore it," Sacerdoti said.

"This makes matters far worse"

A spokesman for the UK Zionist Federation condemned the BBC's "twisted logic" in rejecting the complaints, saying it effectively implied that violence against Jews could be justified.

"Far more worrying than the BBC’s decision not to take any action over Willcox’s question is the reasoning behind it," he said.

"This incident could have provided a teachable moment about how Israel’s actions are never a justification for anti-Semitism, and that any linkage between the two is unacceptable.

"Instead, the comment by the head of the Editorial Complaints Unit that he saw 'nothing' in the line of questioning which was 'intrinsically disrespectful' means that the BBC has accepted the twisted logic that violence against Jews is inevitable and perhaps even understandable."