The BBC has defended its translation of the Arabic word Yehudi to Israeli in a recent documentary amid criticism that it was “playing down” antisemitism
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.
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.
Following backlash, 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.”
Among those to criticise the translation, 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?”
Labour MP for Ilford North Wes Streeting tweeted his concern, writing: “Totally unacceptable on the part of the BBC – not that the word Israeli makes the statement any better.”
Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt echoed criticisms, writing on social media: “Yet another blatant example of the failure to take the scourge of antisemitism seriously.”
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.
In another instance, 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 interview, 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”.