The Israeli government has accused the BBC of perpetuating a “modern blood libel” in its reporting of the catastrophic explosion that rocked al-Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza. Following the incident on Tuesday evening, a BBC correspondent initially suggested Israel’s involvement, which the Israeli government likened to the antisemitic accusation that Jews murdered Christian boys for ritualistic purposes.
In a statement posted on the Israeli government’s official account on X (formerly Twitter), they addressed the BBC: “Hey @BBCWorld, as of this morning, your modern blood libel about the hospital attack is still up. We see you, and now everyone else does too.”
The BBC defended its coverage but acknowledged that the reporter’s speculation right after the attack was inappropriate. They clarified that the reporter did not attribute the incident to an Israeli strike but expressed regret for the speculative commentary.
During a Media Society discussion about reporting on the ongoing conflict, Jonathan Munro, deputy chief executive of BBC News, conceded that the language used was not accurate. He emphasized the challenges of continuous live coverage across various platforms and languages and recognized that mistakes can occur.
Criticism had already arisen in the UK due to a BBC report immediately following the explosion, in which the correspondent Jon Donnison suggested that it was likely the result of an Israeli rocket.
Israel’s investigation into the blast indicated it was caused by a rocket fired from Gaza that fell short of its target, while Hamas claimed, without providing evidence, that it was an Israeli missile strike.
The Israeli government argued that the initial BBC report and others had further destabilized the region and led to the cancellation of a summit in Amman involving US President Joe Biden, the Egyptian, and Palestinian leaders.
On Radio 4’s Today program, the UK’s security minister, Tom Tugendhat, criticized the “irresponsible speculation” and deemed it a challenging moment for the BBC. He pointed out the initial confusion surrounding the incident.
Former BBC political editor Nick Robinson defended the BBC’s stance, citing the BBC’s international editor, Jeremy Bowen, who emphasized that there was no clarity about the responsible party during the immediate aftermath of the explosion.