A BBC reporter who asked a Jewish woman whether the Palestinians hadn’t “suffered hugely at Jewish hands” in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris has escaped sanction for his comments.
Complaints against Tim Willcox, whose live reporting from the French capital enraged some Jewish viewers, were rejected by the national broadcaster’s governing body, which deemed his question “clumsy” but not anti-Semitic.
Willcox had been reporting on the streets during a huge protest in response to the twin attacks by Islamist gunmen on the offices of a satirical magazine, and later, on a kosher deli, in January last year.
He had been interviewing the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who said that she believed Jewish persecution in Europe dated back to the 1930s. Challenging her, Willcox suggested the attack may have been linked to Israel’s actions in the Middle East, saying: “Many critics though of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”
In its judgement, issued on Thursday, the BBC Trust said Willcox had been right to raise the subject but had phrased the question poorly, not that he had apologised on Twitter hours after the interview.
Describing his question as “clumsy,” the Trust nevertheless said it had not breached the BBC’s editorial guidelines, insofar as it was not Willcox’s opinion but had been “clearly attributed to critics of Israel” and was “factually based”. It added that there was no suggestion that the woman had been left “surprised, upset, bewildered or offended by the exchange”.