UK

BBC's Tim Willcox Apologises For Telling Jewish Woman Palestinians 'Suffer At Jewish Hands'

12/01/2015 14:52 GMT | Updated 13/01/2015 17:59 GMT

A BBC reporter has apologised for a "poorly phrased" question during Sunday's march in Paris in which told the daughter of Holocaust survivors that Palestinians "suffered hugely at Jewish hands".

Tim Willcox was the march in which more than a million people took part after the attacks on the Charlie Hedbo satirical newspaper and hostage takings that left 17 people and the three gunmen dead last week.

The dead included four Jews who had been taken hostage in a kosher grocery store.

CHARLIE HEBDO

Mr Willcox was interviewing a Jewish woman, who said Jews were targets of religiously-motivated hatred in France.

She described the situation was "going back to the days of 1930s Europe".

Mr Willcox asked: "Do you think that can be resolved before it is too late?"

In her reply, the woman answered that "we must not be afraid to say that Jews are a target now," when Mr Willcox said: "Critics though of Israel's policy would suggest the Palestinians suffered hugely at Jewish hands as well."

Mr Willcox added: "You understand everything is seen from different perspectives." The woman replied: "Of course."

After this aired, it triggered huge anger on social media, with tweeters calling for him to be fired.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism shared the clip on YouTube, describing the woman as a "scared Jewish lady".

Mr Willcox tweeted an apology on Monday, saying he was "really sorry for any offence caused by a poorly phrased question... it was entirely unintentional".

But Twitter remained unconvinced, with some of the replies descending into personal abuse.

The Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein, who is Jewish, defended Mr Willcox, saying the question was poor because it was live TV.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “Tim Willcox has apologised for what he accepts was a poorly phrased question during an in-depth live interview with two friends, one Jewish and of Israeli birth, the other of Algerian Muslim heritage, where they discussed a wide range of issues affecting both the Muslim and Jewish communities in France.

"He had no intention of causing offence.”

Columnist Nick Cohen attacked Mr Willcox's comments but said he opposed him being fired.

"You do not respond to an attack on a newspaper by firing journalists," he wrote in a blog for the Spectator.

"Willcox is not some isolated and aberrant racist; his views are the standard opinions of the European left middle class. I meet them every day in my political neighbourhood. They are the result of ignorance rather than malice."