The BBC has been accused of covering up Palestinian anti-Semitism after it repeatedly translated the Arabic word for “Jew” to “Israeli” in a newly-released documentary, “One Day in Gaza”.
The documentary, which aired Monday night on BBC Two, is based on interviews with several Palestinians about last May’s violent protests against the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.
“The revolutionary songs, they excite you, they encourage you to rip a Jew’s head off”, one interviewee is saying, while the broadcaster’s translation, which ran subtitled across the screen, quoted him as saying “an Israeli’s head”.
According to the UK Jewish News, “Yahud” was mistranslated as Israeli at least five times throughout the documentary.
The inexact translation has been strongly condemned by Luke Akehurst, the director of We Believe in Israel, a UK grassroots group, promoting the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security.
“It’s disgraceful that the anti-Semitic aspect of the incitement going on in Gaza was played down by the BBC One Day in Gaza documentary by deliberately mistranslating the word ‘Yahud’ as ‘Israeli’, not ‘Jew’”, he said.
His outrage was supported by Sheila Gewolb, the vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who insisted that the BBC should explain its editorial decision.
“The anti-Jewish racism in the phrase ‘rip a Jew’s head off’ is there for all to see. […] Does the BBC believe that its job is to protect the perpetrators from their own racism?” she said.
The choice of word has also infuriated social media users, including Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, who dismissed it as “yet another blatant example of the failure to take the scourge of anti-Semitism seriously”.
The BBC engages in antisemitism denial. Yet another blatant example of the failure to take the scourge of antisemitism seriously BBC condemned for mistranslating Arabic word for ‘Jew’ to ‘Israeli’ in Gaza film https://t.co/WZQEKKkGim via @timesofisrael— Deborah E. Lipstadt (@deborahlipstadt) 14 мая 2019 г.
A Palestinian interviewee in a BBC documentary discussed "rip[ping] a Jew's head off." The BBC intentionally mistranslated "Jew" as "Israeli," concealing the interviewee's antisemitism. https://t.co/sTOPMfHgC2— Avi Mayer (@AviMayer) 15 мая 2019 г.
Antisemitism can cannot and should not be excused by the BBC's assumption of this Palestinian's ignorance of the difference between Jews and Israelis — and the BBC certainly should not be editorialising on this — telling its viewers what THEY THINK this Palestinians meant— Jack Mendel (@Mendelpol) 14 мая 2019 г.
The North West Friends of Israel in the UK, another grassroots organisation, also weighed in on the matter:
.@BBC— NW Friends of Israel (@NorthWestFOI) 14 мая 2019 г.
When Palestinians use the word "Yahud" they mean "Jew".
It does NOT mean "Israeli".
Why do you mistranslate "Yahud"?
Are you scared of showing that Palestinians want to kill JEWS?!@BBCBreaking @UKMediaWatch @SussexFriends @israel_advocacy @BBCNews pic.twitter.com/cJWDL8TOqs
Reacting to the accusations, the BBC has issued an explanation for its decision:
“We sought expert advice on the translation before broadcast and we believe the translation of ‘Yehudi’ as ‘Israeli’ in this documentary is both accurate and true to the speakers’ intentions”, a BBC spokesperson said.
The documentary was released a year after the official opening ceremony of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem triggered waves of protests and bloody clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of at least 55 protesters.