LONDON: The Israeli government has criticized the BBC for its coverage of the explosion at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, describing it as a “modern blood libel.”
It came after a BBC reporter on Tuesday night suggested, shortly after the blast, that there was a lack of clarity but it might have been the result of an attack by Israeli forces, a claim the Israeli government vehemently denies.
In a message posted by its official account on social media platform X on Thursday, the Israeli government wrote: “Hey @BBCWorld, as of this morning your modern blood libel about the hospital attack is still up. We see you, and now everyone else does too.”
The reference to a “modern blood libel” was drawing a parallel between the reporting of the hospital explosion, which was led by correspondent Jon Donnison, and a historical, antisemitic conspiracy theory in which Jews were falsely accused of using Christian blood during religious rituals.
Hey @BBCWorld, as of this morning your modern blood libel about the hospital attack is still up.
We see you, and now everyone else does too. pic.twitter.com/fTstihXlg0
— Israel ישראל (@Israel) October 19, 2023
The attack on the hospital on Tuesday was the most deadly single incident since the conflict between Hamas and Israel began on Oct. 7. The exact death toll remains uncertain but hundreds of patients and civilians who had been advised to shelter in the hospital are believed to have been killed.
It is still unclear who was responsible for the attack, with each side in the conflict blaming the other, leading to speculation and heightened tensions among politicians and the public. Israeli officials said their investigations suggest a rocket fired from Gaza had fallen short of its intended target. Hamas said an Israeli missile caused the explosion.
In his report, Donnison said that “given the scale of the explosion” Israel might have been behind it, and “the Israeli military has been contacted for comment and they say they are investigating.” The Israeli government’s strong rhetoric in response to the reporting is not the only criticism the BBC has faced over it. Concerns were also raised by some in the UK.
During an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, British Security Minister Tom Tugendhat condemned the “irresponsible speculation” as “really serious,” and suggested it had not been “the BBC’s finest hour.”
In response, Nick Robinson, the presenter of Today and a former BBC political editor, said the BBC’s international editor, Jeremy Bowen, had publicly stated that “viewers of the 10 o'clock news and people across our footage were left in no doubt that there was no clarity about who’d carried it out.”
A BBC spokesperson similarly defended the broadcaster’s coverage, saying that “anyone watching, listening to or reading our coverage can see we have set out both sides’ competing claims about the explosion, clearly showing who is saying them and what we do or don’t know.”
The Israeli government claimed that the reporting had contributed to regional instability and the cancellation of a summit involving US President Joe Biden and leaders from Egypt and Palestine.