BBC stands by Orla Guerin after Holocaust report backlash

International correspondent Orla Guerin appearing on BBC News at Ten on Wednesday. Photo: BBC iPlayer

JVL Introduction

Somewhat to our surprise, the BBC has refused to cave in to demands made on it by the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

They concern a passing reference to the occupation in an Orla Guerin programme, claiming that it linked the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the horrors of the Holocaust. The Campaign Against Antisemitism waded in, too, going even further than the BoD in claiming that Guerin “fuel[ed] the very antisemitism that [Holocaust] education is supposed to prevent”.

The BBC has simply rejected these claims.

Compare the outrage of these bodies at Guerin’s innocuous report with their silence about the outrageous exploitation of the Holocaust by Benjamin Netanyahu, as reported by Hagai El-Ad, director of B’Tselem in a Haaretz article headed Netanyahu Exploits the Holocaust to Brutalize the Palestinians (reposted on this site yesterday).”

This article was originally published by Jewish News on Thu 23 Jan 2020. Read the original here.

BBC stands by Orla Guerin after Holocaust report backlash

Board of Deputies demanded an apology after report on Holocaust Memorial Day referenced Israeli-Palestinian conflict


The BBC has stood by its international correspondent Orla Guerin after she faced criticism for referencing the occupied Palestinian territories in a special report filmed inside Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

Guerin’s emotional interview with Holocaust survivor Rena Quint in her Jerusalem apartment and at Yad Vashem was broadcast on BBC News at Ten on Wednesday.

“In Yad Vashem’s Hall of Names, images of the dead. Young soldiers troop in to share in the binding tragedy of the Jewish people. The state of Israel is now a regional power. For decades, it has occupied Palestinian territories,” Guerin concludes after interviewing Quint.

“But some here will always see their nation through the prism of persecution and survival,” she adds.

The segment attracted fierce criticism online, with some suggesting Guerin’s comments sought to draw parallels between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Holocaust.

But a spokesperson for the BBC denied the accusation in a statement.

“The brief reference in our Holocaust report to Israel’s position today did not imply any comparison between the two and nor would we want one to be drawn from our coverage,” the spokesperson said.

The statement came after Board of Deputies vice president Amanda Bowman demanded an apology. “In an otherwise moving report on the experiences of a Holocaust survivor, Orla Guerin’s attempt to link the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the horrors of the Holocaust was crass and offensive,” she said in a statement on Thursday.

“As we approach Holocaust Memorial Day, the Jewish community is within its rights to expect an apology,” Bowman added.

Gideon Falter, chief executive of the group Campaign Against Antisemitism, plans to make an official complaint.

“Few could imagine perverting what is supposed to be an educational piece about the Holocaust to instead fuel the very antisemitism that such education is supposed to prevent, but that is what the BBC has done,” he said.

A spokesperson for Ofcom said the broadcasting regulator has not received any complaints about comments made by Guerin on BBC News at Ten on Wednesday.

Comments (15)

  • dave says:

    A lot on the Israeli supporting right always jump straight to the Holocaust comparison whenever reference is made to the treatment of the Palestinians. This deflects from the justifiable comparisons made by the likes of Desmond Tutu and the late Hajo Meyer to the many years of discrimination and apartheid that was a precursor in Germany but no one is suggesting that there ever could be anything similar to genocide in Israel and the occupied territories.

  • SHEILA LEE says:

    Nice to see the BBC don’t always adopt the biased position with regard to antisemitism displayed in the recent edition of Panorama.ea’

  • Robert Cohen says:

    Here’s what I wrote on Facebook yesterday in response to all this:

    The BBC and its International Reporter Orla Guerin are under fire today following Guerin’s film report on the Auschwitz liberation 75th anniversary. The Jewish Chronicle’s Editor, Stephen Pollard, has written: “I cannot recall a more foul – sickening, indeed – report by any journalist, either in print or broadcast.” That’s pretty strong. She must have said something truly awful? Or did she?

    Orla Guerin interviewed a Holocaust survivor, Rena Quint, in Jerusalem and ended the report (which you can watch below) at the Yad Vashem memorial/museum in West Jerusalem. Here’s the *offending* final commentary .

    “In Yad Vashem’s Hall of Names – images of the dead. Young soldiers troop in to share the binding tragedy of the Jewish people. The State of Israel is now a regional power. For decades it has occupied Palestinian Territories. But some here will always see their nation through the prism of persecution and survival.”

    For Pollard and the other objectors to this news report, mentioning the Palestinians in the same breath as the Holocaust is an outrage. The objection is that it minimises Jewish suffering, or creates an equivalence with Palestinian suffering, or suggests that Israeli persecution of Palestinians is akin to the Nazi treatment of the Jews. Or it does all three. I would agree that there needs to be a great deal of care and sensitivity in drawing any similarities. More often than not, Holocaust comparisons to Israel are used as crude sloganising designed to be provocative and deliberately hurtful to Jews while shedding little light on Palestinian suffering. However, Orla Guerin is doing none of this in way she ended her report.

    You cannot understand the creation of the State of Israel (where half the world’s Jewish population now live) nor the attitudes and outlook of its political leaders or Jewish citizens without taking account of the Holocaust and the previous 2,000 years of European Jewish history. The Holocaust and Israel are intimately connected – emotionally, politically, theologically. They cannot be separated in any kind of analysis of Jewish experience since 1945. The Palestinians are part of the post Holocaust story too. Their history and current situation cannot be separated from Auschwitz either. Without wanting to draw any historical equivalence of suffering, one can legitimately argue that they too are (posthumous) victims of a cataclysmic mid 20th century event the consequences of which are still being played out in human history and will do for decades if not centuries to come. All that Guerin has done is point out this valid and relevant fact.

    Those who are objecting are more interested in protecting the State of Israel’s claims to innocence and righteousness than engaging honestly with history.

  • Kenny Fryde says:

    But note that during the 2014 assault on Gaza (“Protective Edge”) prominent Israelis did indeed call for genocide against the people of Gaza – see A number of British local councillors were later suspended by the Labour Party – and excoriated in the media – for having expressed justifiable fears for Gaza’s fate in online posts they had made at the time.

  • David Hawkins says:

    If Israel is so very sensitive to the horrors of the Holocaust why does it allow a significant number of 90 year old Jewish victims of the death camps to live in abject poverty in Israel ?
    And why has neither the Board of Deputies or the Campaign Against Antisemitism done anything to expose this human tragedy ?
    Real Antisemitism is allowing elderly Jewish victims of the Nazis to live out their final days in undignified poverty when ample resources exist to prevent this.
    Some links; Jerusalem Post, 1st May 2019, A quarter of Israel’s Holocaust survivors living in poverty

    Krishan Guru-Murthy reports on a growing scandal within Israel where, despite billions of dollars of reparation payments being paid, tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors are living in poverty: Israel’s Forgotten Holocaust Survivors | Unreported World | 29 Jul 2018

    France 24, Israel: Why some ageing Holocaust survivors are living in poverty

  • Mike Levine says:

    To suggest that all Jews support the treatment of the people of Gaza is calculated to create prejudice against Jews. That is anti-Semitism.

  • Carmen Malaree says:

    I admired Orlan Guerin for her report. How much longer the freedom of speech is going to be undermined by calls to suppress information on media outlets about what is going on in Palestine. The sad thing is that Netanyahu is not doing any his people any favour when it comes to the security of Israel. The only way Israeli citizens will be protected is not by imposing more draconian military and security measures. Israel has to recognise, as Prince Charles said in his visit to Bethlehem this week, that Palestinians have to live in freedom and that their suffering should stop.

  • RH says:

    Let’s face it : the cynical use of the real victims of the Holocaust to excuse the inexcusable and muddy the truth is as despicable as actual antisemitism.

    It is interesting that Zionism was once seen by the majority as antagonistic to the cause of fighting antisemitism. Prescient.


    I see we get the usual grossly prejudiced response at any whiff of criticism of Israeli policy and practice to Palestinians…even when it’s someone so entirely even-handed as Ms Guerin.
    To see parallels between any regime and another is a perfectly legitimate response, if the facts warrant it, though only the most lunatic or despicable WW2 Jewish Holocaust denial would suggest the depravity and brutality were on the same scale.
    The Jewish Holocaust was uniquely frightful but it was far from the only wholesale slaughter though it is the one singled out repeatedly for special, almost exclusive attention.
    How many Armenians did the Turks slaughter, how many Red Army prisoners were starved to death, how many Russians are thought to have died in WW2…was it really 30 million? and Chinese done to death under the Maoist regime in the post-war years …was it really 50 million?
    Are these so readily recalled as the horrors of Auschwitz, Babi Yar or the death-pits in the Lithuanian sand-dunes…or is that remembering these gives Netanyahu and the rest untouchability against Palestinians?
    Irgun were freedom-fighters but the PLO and Hamas are not.
    Ask yourselves the question: how many Israeli civilians (even add the Israeli soldiers) have been killed or died of disease or malnutrition compared to the Palestinian dead?
    Can you say or guess or estimate the ratio…1:10? …1:50…1:100 …or worse?
    I guess some people’s lives in modern times are more valuable…just as in the 1940’s.

  • George Wilmers says:

    The pro-Israel lobby, under the tutelage of its imperial sponsors in the US and UK, is rapidly acquiring many of the attributes of a messianic cult. Its adherents are increasingly fanatical in their discourse, impervious to rational argument, wilfully blind to evidence, and viciously intolerant of anyone who dares to contradict their quasi-religious subliminal message:

    “The Palestinians are untermenschen, a people with no rights, whose very existence constitutes an obstruction to the Divine Plan”.

    All the pious howling about Orla Guerin’s supposed insult to the victims of the Holocaust, by the BoD, the CAA, Michael Grade the former chairman of the BBC, together with other brainless celebrities, is nothing but the most vulgar hypocrisy, itself a sad confirmation of the fact that in contemporary corporate culture there is no human tragedy so great that its memory cannot be exploited by the powerful for malign purpose.

    What a relief and contrast it is, after all this tasteless histrionics, to read the extraordinarily honest interview with Yaakov Sharett, the 91-year old son and biographer of Moshe Sharett, one of the founding fathers of Israel. Though he lived all his life in the shadow of his father’s Zionism, there is something moving about Yaakov’s final preference for truth over the ideology which dominated his life. Asked how he saw the future of Palestinians he replied:

    “What can I say? I feel very bad about it. And I am not afraid to say that the treatment of the Palestinians today is Nazi treatment. We don’t have gas chambers, of course, but the mentality is the same. It is racial hatred. They are treated as subhuman…. I know they will call me a self-hating Jew for saying that. But I cannot automatically support my country, right or wrong. And Israel must not be immune from criticism. Seeing the difference between antisemitism and criticism of Israel is crucial. To be honest, I am amazed how in 2019 the world outside accepts Israeli propaganda. I really don’t know why they do….And remember that the very aim of Zionism was to release Jews from the curse of antisemitism by giving them their own state. But today, the Jewish state by its own criminal behaviour is one of the most serious causes for this curse.”

  • clare howe elliott says:

    why?…It’s obvious to most of the world that not only are the zionists repeating the mistakes of their original persecutors,but that they are using the Holocaust cynically as emotional leverage-that does not detract from the sheer horror of the Shoah; but it does bemuse those of us who have been exhorted to learn from history!

  • R ireland says:

    Israel should be ashamed of it’s government after the second world war and what was done to the Jews and others and then to be doing the same them selves

  • Frances Prestidge says:

    I agree with all the preceding comments. It saddens me more than I can say to see those who know the pain of suffering to it’s deepest depths behaving as they are. It saddens me.

  • Christine Ladyman says:

    The arrogance of these 2 alleged Jewish support groups, is horrendous. The world is expected to ignore the atrocities committed at Netanyahu’s instigation as if they’re entitled now, to kill and torture at will, because of a hideous past . The zionist mind is blind, and insults all Jews. What a pity the BBC didn’t react this way to the attacks on Labour Members, especially JC.

  • Brian Patton says:

    Well done to the BBC and Orla Guerin for standing up to what is after all something anyone can see. The plight of the Jews throughout the second world war was despicable but so is the way continued Israeli governments have treated the Palestinian people. I’m sorry but two wrongs do not make a right!

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