The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Arabic site claimed that Jews were the original "suicide bombers," in an article titled "the story of suicide bombers throughout history: From the fanatical Jews, through the assassins, to the jihadists."
The story, which was released on the 22nd anniversary of the al-Qaeda attack on the United States states, "It is believed that the first suicide attacks in history were carried out by a group of Jewish fanatics who spread terror among the Romans and Jews after the Romans occupied Jerusalem."
The article went on to describe how Jewish "Sicari" attacked Roman occupiers and Roman allies with knives hidden in their clothing; despite knowing that the attacks would result in their execution.
Adding to the overall theme of suicide via militant action, the article makes note that the Sicari fled to Mount Masada; where they killed themselves to avoid Romans enslaving them.
The article goes on to describe the use of suicidal military tactics throughout time, including the Narodnaya Volya revolutionary group which orchestrated the bombing that killed Tsar Alexander II in 1881.
It was also claimed that "during the Cold War between East and West, we witnessed almost no suicide attacks until Israel invaded Lebanon."
It was also noted in the article that, "suicide operations increased and included various parts of the world, especially the Middle East region, where the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements carried out many suicide attacks inside Israel, while al-Qaeda began launching dozens of these operations, starting with the Khobar attack in Saudi Arabia in 1988."
While the United Kingdom has classified Hamas as a terrorist organization, the article uses the term "movements" and fails to classify the "suicide operations" as terrorist attacks with the aim to target civilians indiscriminately.
Reactions to the article
Lord Carlile told the Jewish Chronicle (JC) that “[h]ad the BBC done any research, they would have realised that this story raised some very difficult issues and I suspect they would not have published it in that form. The BBC should be much more cautious about publishing deliberate and sometimes even casual antisemitism. This article gives succour to terrorists and extremists.”
Gary Mond, Chairman of the National Jewish Assembly in the UK told the Jerusalem Post, "It is important not to distort historic events to blame Jews for its development. Suicide bombers have been motivated by hate, including (and especially) hatred of life itself. Jews, on the other hand, love life and do all they can to preserve it, in all types of circumstances. Jews must not be blamed for Israel seeking to wipe out Islamic terrorism in the Lebanon war, nor for in any way being responsible for suicide bombings organized by Palestinian terrorist factions."
"And one has to ask whether it is appropriate to include in an article covering the Al Qaeda attacks on the USA on September 11, 2001 with references to Jews fighting a foreign invader almost 2000 years ago."
Jonathon Turner from UK Lawyers for Israel stressed to the Post that “[t]his is the most bizarre example of false equivalence by the BBC I have seen. The Sicarii did not travel to Rome and murder thousands of Roman civilians doing their normal work. Their country, Judea, was then under Roman imperial rule – in contrast to the 9/11 terrorists who were from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Lebanon, none of which are now under US rule. And the Sicarii did not set out to commit suicide and usually escaped after carrying out their attacks on Romans in Judea - although, according to the famous account of Josephus, a group of Sicarii eventually committed suicide at Masada rather than be captured by the Roman army.”
BBC Arabic's history of antisemitism
The JC reported that BBC Arabic had issued over 130 corrections following complaints of inaccuracy and bias when it came to topics relating to Israel and Jewish affairs.
CAMERA, who regularly monitors BBC Arabic, told the JC that BBC Arabic had once again allowed “ignorance and bias enter its output, this time by shoehorning ancient Jews into an unrelated historical narrative about suicide terrorism on the one hand, and understating Palestinian suicide attacks against Israeli civilians on the other hand”.