by Hugh Fitzgerald
With such figures as John Simpson, Jeremy Bowen, and Lyse Doucet in complete charge of the BBC’s Middle East Coverage, it was not surprising to discover that they had seen fit to hire a Palestinian, one Tala Hawala, to be the BBC reporter based in Ramallah – though the BBC has never seen fit to hire an Israeli to report from Israel or, indeed, from anywhere else. Thus it is heartening that Hawala was recently fired by the BBC for having tweeted “#Hitlerwasright” and other antisemitic remarks. Is this a sign of real change at the BBC, or merely one occasion on which the antisemitism was too blatant and horrifying to be ignored? Hawala’s story is here: “Palestinian Journalist Fired From BBC Over ‘Hitler Was Right’ Tweet Pins Blame on ‘Pro-Israel Mob,’” by Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, July 14, 2021:
A Palestinian journalist who was fired by the BBC for posting an antisemitic tweet that included the words “Hitler was right” has issued a defiant statement against her former employer, accusing the British broadcaster of “capitulating” to the “whim of a pro-Israel mob.”
Tala Halawa was dismissed from the BBC last month after the surfacing of the 2014 tweet, which was posted before she began working for the broadcaster. The tweet read: “#Israel Is more #Nazi than #Hitler! Oh, “#HitlerWasRight” #IDF go to hell. #PrayForGaza.”
She can’t even bother to feign “shame” at her own 2014 tweet, with the usual hollow excuses — “I’m sorry if I caused any hurt” and “I’m a different person now.” The most she can manage to say is that her tweet might have been found by some to be “offensive and ignorant.” That’s not nearly enough. And we all know that declaring “Hitler Was Right” goes beyond the pale; no words can excuse it.
A statement posted by Halawa on Wednesday conceded that her tweet had been “offensive and ignorant.” However, in the apology that followed, she refrained from mentioning the Jewish community specifically or the antisemitic and pro-Nazi nature of her words.
Halawa, who is based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, then insinuated that pro-Israel forces were behind a global campaign to silence pro-Palestinian voices.
Note that Halawa is admitting she is not an objective reporter; she describes herself as a “pro-Palestinian voice.” She was working for the BBC, however, not the PA television station. She was supposed to be neutral in her coverage. Yet here she is unashamedly describing herself as a “pro-Palestinian voice”—which is exactly what she is not supposed to be. That alone — her insistence on her role as advocate for the Palestinian cause — ought to have been enough to get her fired.
Here’s Halawa’s unrepentant and angry response to her firing:
“The BBC’s immediate dismissal at the whim of a pro-Israel mob is all the more absurd given the actual reason pro-Israel groups trained their sights on me: I recently published a video report on the corporation about celebrities being criticized, trolled and cancelled for supporting Palestinian self-determination,” she wrote. “But I am not alone. This pro-Israel censorship campaign is industrial in scale and international in its search.” She added that “pro-Israel interest groups” were attempting to “eliminate Palestinians from public life.”
The BBC dismissal was not prompted by her video about how pro-Palestinian celebrities are supposedly retaliated against for their expression of pro-Palestinian views. Indeed, the Palestinian cause is not only popular, but positively fashionable among many of today’s leftward-leaning celebrities in the U.K. It is the others – those who support Israel — who find themselves being trolled, harassed, attacked on social media. Just look at the verbal assaults on J.K.Rowling on social media, after she came to Israel’s defense.
There was no pro-Israel mob baying for Halawa’s blood. It was the BBC itself that needed no prompting from outside once it had learned of her appalling tweet (“Hitler was right”) and knew she could not possibly be kept on as a reporter, not about Israel and the Palestinians, and not about anyone else.
Halawa also accused the BBC of racism towards her, asserting that the criticism of her “seems familiar to me both as a Palestinian and as a woman of color.”
There was no racism directed at this self-described “woman of color.” Anyone who had tweeted the same remark directed at Jews — “Hitler was right” – even were she a native, white Englishwoman, would be promptly cashiered.
Halawa’s claim that the BBC had dismissed her “based on a single offensive and ignorant tweet” was disputed on social media, with several users circulating screen shots of other antisemitic tweets posted by her. In one, she described the ongoing clashes between Hamas and the IDF as a “continuous #Holocaust,” while in another, she lambasted “stupid Zionists” for not realizing that the “antisemitism melodrama isn’t trending anymore.”
Though she claims that her dismissal was “based on a single offensive and ignorant tweet,” Halawa’s “Hitler Was Right” was not her only antisemitic remark. Others have come across more tweets from 2014, presumably shared with the BBC, in which she described the IDF as engaged in a “continuous Holocaust,” while in another she mocked Jews for thinking anyone would any longer be taken in by their “antisemitism melodrama.” Apparently Jewish worries over “antisemitism” are to be dismissed, according to Halawa; these “stories” are exaggerated and used by “stupid Zionists” to win sympathy for Israel. There is no indication, however, that “Zionists” were behind the uncovering of these tweets; it sounds as though BBC internal investigators did the unearthing. It would not matter in any case. Even if pro-Israel searchers came across the offending tweets and forwarded them to the BBC, that does not take away from the fact that Halawa did, in fact, make them. Halawa’s last story for the BBC was published on May 23, just before an investigation into her social media activity was announced. She was formally dismissed from the BBC in early June, according to a spokesperson for the broadcaster quoted by London’s Jewish Chronicle newspaper.
That won’t clear out the Augean Stables at the BBC, where the anti-Israel pro-Palestinian culture is both wide and deep. But it will help, if only to make reporters and editors a bit more cautious about what words they use to express their anti-Israel animus.
Meanwhile, no one need drop a ready tear for Halawa. She’ll quickly find a job at Al Jazeera, or Al-Quds, or Al-Manar, or any of several dozen other Arab outlets, where her “Hitler was right” comment will work in her favor. She’ll even be hired with a promotion, at higher pay. Discharged from the BBC, her career in Arab media is now assured.
First published in Jihad Watch.