A BBC reporter has faced calls to resign after he told the daughter of Holocaust survivors in Paris: ‘Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well’.
Journalist Tim Willcox sparked anger during his coverage of yesterday’s rally in Paris, held in memory of the 17 victims of last week’s terror attacks, including four Jewish people in a siege at a Kosher supermarket.
During a live report from the streets of Paris, Willcox was speaking to a number of participants in the march, including one woman who expressed her fears that Jews were being persecuted, and ‘the situation is going back to the days of the 1930s in Europe.’
To this, Willcox, who was broadcasting on the BBC News channel replied: ‘Many critics though of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.’
When the woman, shaking her head, responded saying: ‘We can’t do an amalgam’, he told her: ‘You understand everything is seen from different perspectives.’
She was identified during the broadcast as ‘Chava’, and told Willcox when she was introduced on screen that she had lived in France for 20 years, but was originally from Israel.
She said her parents were from Poland, and came to Israel after the Second World War.
She had attended the rally with a friend, Aziz, who is French-born and comes from a Muslim background, with his parents being originally from Algeria.
Willcox has today apologised for his comments, taking to Twitter to say he had not meant to cause offence.
He wrote: ‘Really sorry for any offence caused by a poorly phrased question in a live interview in Paris yesterday – it was entirely unintentional.’
But many viewers also used the social network to express their anger and concerns over Willcox’s rally coverage, including historian and BBC presenter Simon Schama.
He wrote on Twitter: ‘Appalling of @BBCTimWillcox to imply any and all JEWS (not Israelis) responsible for treatment of Palestinians by hectoring lady in Paris.’
And added: ‘Then he had gall to patronise her at the end – “you see people see it from all sides” That Palestinian plight justifies anti-semitic murder?’
Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard also joined the debate, tweeting: ‘What is @BBCTimWillcox’s problem with Jews? Once is problematic. Twice is a pattern.’
The Campaign Against Antisemitism, which works to combat anti-Semitism in Britain, has circulated footage of the incident, and has called on those offended by it to formally complain to the BBC.
Director of communications, Jonathan Sacerdoti, told MailOnline Willcox’s Twitter apology was ‘not really good enough’.
‘It’s an admission he has done something wrong, but it’s incumbent on the BBC to make an on-air apology and to investigate his behaviour.’
There have also been calls for the reporter to resign.
Twitter user I Support Israel said: ‘Retweet if you believe @BBCTimWillcox should be fired for making this anti-Semitic suggestion’.
The comment was re-tweeted 41 times, while others expressed their views on the controversy, adding the hashtag #WillcoxMustGo.
An online petition was also set up, demanding that Willcox ‘personally apologise’, and calling for ‘re-assurance that this constant anti-Semitic behaviour from the BBC will come to an end’.
The petition authors said: ‘It was the wrong time and place to ask such a disgraceful question. The unity march was a time for France and the rest of the world to come together and unite against the rising threat of terrorism and anti-Semitism, as well as an opportunity to mourn and remember those killed in the horrific attacks.
‘Nevertheless, Mr Willcox showed no sensitivity and asked a tasteless question on live TV which has outraged those who have seen the clip, as well as leaving the interviewee speechless and defenceless.’
It is not the first time Willcox has been accused of anti-Semitism.
In November during a review of the following day’s newspapers on the BBC News channel, Willcox, who was anchoring the discussion, faced criticism after discussion of a story about Labour leader Ed Miliband reportedly losing Jewish support.
The BBC said Willcox (pictured) had no intention of causing offence, and had been discussing a wide range of issues with the rally participants
A guest on the programme, political observer Jo Phillips, had referred to a ‘Jewish lobby’, which had abandoned support for Labour over his condemnation of Israeli attacks on Gaza.
There was anger that Willcox had not pulled up the guest on her comments, and had added: ‘A lot of these prominent Jewish faces will be very much against the mansion tax’.
The BBC defended the comments, and said: ‘It was clear that he was not suggesting that Jewish people in particular are against the mansion tax.’
Mr Sacerdoti said his organisation and 33 individuals had complained to the BBC about the November broadcast.
‘The BBC said there was no anti-Semitism in what he said, but according to the MacPherson definition, if a minority group feels it is anti-Semitic, it should be considered as such,’ he said.
‘It’s obviously offending people.’
He added: ‘And now he’s done it again in an extreme example when people are mourning the deaths of four Jews, among the other victims, and his reaction is to say this to a Jewish woman who is saying it’s like the 1930s.
‘To somehow bring in mitigating circumstances, is terrible.
‘The EUMC’s [European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, now the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights] working definition of anti-Semitism includes collective blaming of Jews for the actions of Israel.’
Alex Benjamin, Executive Director of Brussels-based group European Friends of Israel, told MailOnline he would ‘echo the calls for Willcox to resign’.
‘I was not the only one who was utterly disgusted at the deeply patronising, offensive and frankly partisan way he hassled this woman – a woman who as a Parisian Jew is genuinely concerned for her well-being – seeking to justify the abhorrent murders of four jews in Paris with the Israel Palestinian conflict,’ he said.
‘It was tactless, arrogant and he should at resign.’
A BBC spokesman 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.’