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April 7, 2004updated 17 May 2007 11:30am

BBC probes Israel’s complaint of ‘anti-Semitic’ news coverage

By Press Gazette

The BBC is investigating an Israeli Government complaint that its coverage of the conflict with the Palestinians has been anti-Semitic.

The move comes just five months after Israel restored co-operation with the BBC following allegations of bias.

The BBC confirmed it had received a letter accusing it of anti-Semitism in its report of 16-year-old would-be Palestinian suicide bomber Hussam Abdu, whose image was broadcast around the world as he gave himself up to the Israeli army last month.

Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs, Natan Sharansky, complained that BBC Jerusalem correspondent Orla Guerin had depicted the Israeli army’s capture of Abdu as a “cynical manipulation of a Palestinian youngster for propaganda purposes”.

The Israeli minister, who said the report revealed the BBC’s “deep-seated bias” against the country, was also incensed at Guerin’s report in which she said the army had “paraded the child” in front of the international media but had prevented them from questioning him. “This is a picture that Israel wants the world to see,” Guerin concluded her report.

A BBC spokesman said the minister’s complaint was being investigated “and we’ll respond in due course”.

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The reopened rift between the Israeli Government and the BBC comes after the country restored cooperation withdrawn last July, when the BBC aired an edition of the current affairs programme Correspondent on BBC World, which looked at Israel’s biological and nuclear weapon capability at a time when emphasis was on searching for weapons in Iraq.

The Israeli Government barred the BBC from briefings and refused to field spokespeople for its stories after it took offence at the programme.

After a string of accusations of anti-Israeli bias levelled at the BBC, the corporation appointed former Nine O’Clock News editor Malcolm Balen as its first Middle East consultant on news.

By Wale Azeez

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