The Sunday Telegraph

BBC Arabic presenter says show guest should apologise over Israel sympathy


A BBC Arabic show whose producer was investigat­ed over “biased” social media posts suggested a guest should apologise for showing sympathy towards Israel.

Egypt MeanTime’s presenter Nesma Elsaied appeared to criticise one of its interviewe­es for saying he understood Israel’s “outrage” over the Hamas attacks which killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians. She also appeared to mock Egyptian parliament­arian Muhammad Anwar Esmat Sadat, for acceding to Western demands that the Oct 7 attacks should be condemned.

Egypt MeanTime’s executive producer Mahmoud Sheleib was subject to complaints about bias over his social media posts following Oct 7.

He appeared to joke about a woman whose grandmothe­r was abducted by Hamas receiving an “inheritanc­e” and also suggested that all young Israelis were combatants and should not be regarded as civilians in a conflict.

Mr Sheleib is one of a number of BBC Arabic journalist­s subject to an investigat­ion for bias in the wake of the attacks who are once more reporting on the Israel-Gaza conflict, with no further disciplina­ry action taken against them.

His programme, which frequently interviews guests who take an anti-Israel stance, hosted Mr Sadat on Jan 29.

He was asked by Ms Elsaied to justify comments he made to an Israeli newspaper. Mr Sadat had told Ynetnews: “I understand the Israeli outrage over the terrible murder committed by Hamas in the southern towns and the kidnapping of the Israelis on Oct 7.” He added that while he “recognises that Israel has the right to defend itself ”, against Hamas, the Israelis “took it to the extremes”.

During the discussion Ms Elsaied asked Mr Sadat: “You said, ‘I understand their outrage’ . . . And [it is] this expression, which Western media have been attempting lately to fish out of any Arab politician, but everybody refused while you took [the bait].”

She also asked him: “Some demanded of you an apology to Egyptian society, for normalisin­g [relations with Israel]. Is it possible that you do that?”

Egypt MeanTime has been criticised for hosting guests who repeatedly take an anti-Israel or an apparently anti-Semitic stance. A spokesman for CAMERA Arabic, a US-based NGO that campaigns for “accurate and balanced” coverage of Israel, said: “Regrettabl­y, it seems that BBC Arabic employees are more focused maintainin­g this echo chamber of fake experts feeding off each other’s bigotry towards Israel and Jews than they are on challengin­g it so that an open and informed dialogue could emerge instead.”

The BBC said: “We will consider any CAMERA complaint, once we have received it, and reply when we have looked into the matter although, as audiences expect, our journalist­s challenge the views of contributo­rs.”

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