The BBC has been accused of “playing down” antisemitism after the Arabic word for Jew was mistranslated to Israeli in the English subtitles for a documentary on Gaza border clashes.
The film ‘One Day in Gaza’, which focused on last year’s deadly mass protests against the opening of a new US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, aired yesterday evening on BBC Two.
The 60-minute documentary, which contained exclusive videos from Hamas and the IDF, marked a year since one of the deadliest days of violence in the Gaza Strip.
Among the Palestinian protesters interviewed, 24-year-old Bader Saleh said in Arabic: “I’m not one for fighting or burning tyres, but when I went I was convinced by it.
“The revolutionary songs, they excite you, they encourage you to rip a Jew’s head off.”
But the English translation of Saleh’s remarks offered by the BBC refers to an “Israeli”, not a “Jew”.
This was just one of at least five instances of the Arabic word for “Jew” (Yahud) being mistranslated to “Israeli” in the subtitles
Later, Saleh also said: “I was really close to the fence and I could see this Jewish soldier with his gun. I could even see the gun he was carrying.”
Similarly, protester Hanan Abu Jamee’a is quoted as saying: “Some of us distracted the Israelis with stones and molotov cocktails.”
But she in fact employed the Arabic word for Jews to refer to IDF soldiers.
In another instance, Reem Abu Ermana, whose 14-year-old daughter Wissal was shot in the head during the clashes, said: “After a while [Wissal] became the sniper’s enemy.
“They would pull the car tyres with a wire to act as a cover for the young people, so the smoke would protect them from the Jews.”
But according to the subtitles, she referred to IDF soldiers as “Israelis”.
Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe in Israel, condemned the editorial decision.
“It’s disgraceful that the antisemitic aspect of the incitement going on in Gaza was played down by the BBC One Day in Gaza documentary by deliberately mistranslating the word ‘Yehud’ as ‘Israeli’, not ‘Jew’,” he said.
“Hamas are an explicitly antisemitic organisation whose hatred of, and desire to harm, Jews, goes far beyond any legitimate political dispute with Israel.”
Board of Deputies senior vice President Sheila Gewolb said: “The anti-Jewish racism in the phrase ‘rip a Jew’s head off’ is there for all to see.
“The BBC should explain why viewers were given a subtitle in which the word Jew was substituted for Israeli.
“Does the BBC believe that its job is to protect the perpetrators from the their own racism?”
Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt criticised the translation, writing on social media: “Yet another blatant example of the failure to take the scourge of antisemitism seriously.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “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.”