BBC apologizes for quiz question on Israeli cities

Anti-Israel activists have brought the BBC to task, forcing it to apologize for referring to Ariel as an Israeli city during a lighthearted cable quiz show.

Ariel 521 (photo credit: Joanna Paraszczuk)
Ariel 521
(photo credit: Joanna Paraszczuk)
LONDON – Anti-Israel activists have brought the BBC to task, forcing it to apologize for referring to Ariel as an Israeli city during a lighthearted cable quiz show.
Only Connections – a quiz show which requires connections to be made between things – asked what connected Acre, Eilat, Holon and Ariel. The program aired on January 30 on BBC4, a channel available only to subscribers.
After the answer was given that they were all Israeli cities, anti-Israel activists Rachel Lever, a one-state solution advocate, and Abe Hayeem, a Palestine Solidarity Campaign member, both of whom are active in the boycott and delegitimization campaign against Israel, wrote to the BBC demanding an apology.
In her complaint, Lever said that any question about “Israeli cities” is highly sensitive and controversial.
“Acre on the coast is an Israeli city that was ethnically cleansed of its Arab population in 1948 who, against UN policy that has been annually re-affirmed, have been denied the right to return to it,” she said.
“When the four names were lined up, my wife and I watched aghast, knowing what was coming next, and it surely did! We think that a correction and apology should be made at the next program,” said Hayeem, a member of a group called Architects and Planners for Palestine.
“The BBC would like to apologize for this oversight,” said Gilly Hall, the program’s executive producer. “Once we became aware, the online wall was taken down and the program was removed from BBC iPlayer. We have also taken steps to ensure this version will not be repeated.”
Hall said that the complaint has been registered on the audience log, which is available to program commissioners, executives and senior management.
“The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content,” the BBC said.
Not satisfied with the response, both activists sent further complaints.
Lever said the quiz took “one side in a propaganda war, giving credence to the far-right claim that this whole land is rightfully part of Israel.”
“This claim is the cause of ongoing ethnic cleansing: 30,000 Beduin are targeted to be ‘relocated;’ whole villages are already being bulldozed. Where does this piece of mis-education and bias (even if done in ignorance) fit with the BBC’s charter of balance? You may prevent a repetition, but that is not the main issue. You have put a wrong idea into viewers’ heads, however subliminally. You absolutely should correct that now,” she said.
Hayeem said more should be done to correct the “bloomer” and demanded an apology.
“I don’t wish to sound carping, but since this was a factual error that has gone out to a wide audience, they will be left with the assumption that Ariel is a city in Israel which snugly fits in with the Israeli agenda,” he said.
“[Apologizing] is the least and not too earth-shattering thing that the BBC can do to maintain its international reputation for fairness and balance. Saying such a thing publicly will only be stating the truth and surely the BBC can withstand the possibility of a stream of phone calls from the Israeli Embassy and its supporters!” he said.
“It is very sad that anti-Israel activists are trying to use a lighthearted entertainment show, watched by so few, as a vehicle for their hate-ridden agenda,” said Stefan Kerner from the Zionist Federation. “With so much bloodshed in surrounding countries, it’s appalling to think this is considered by to be an important issue.”
In 2007, the BBC apologized for referring to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital during a soccer program, and promised not to repeat “the mistake,” following a complaint by anti-Israel activists.