There are calls for BBC reporter Tim Willcox to resign after he told the daughter of holocaust survivors live on air “Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well”. A petition has been launched calling for his dismissal, whilst on Twitter the hashtag #WillcoxMustGo has been used by his critics.
His comments came during an interview at the Paris rally, staged in support of those killed by Islamic fundamentalists last week, including four Jews shot dead inside a kosher supermarket. Canvassing members of the crowd for their opinion, Willcox heard from one lady who told him “The situation is going back to the days of 1930s Europe.”
Willcox asks: “Do you think that can be resolved now before it is too late?” to which she replied: “Yes of course. We must not be afraid to say that Jews are a target now. It’s not only the – ” At this point Willcox broke in to say: “Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well”.
When the woman, whose English is poor, shakes her head and responds “We can’t do an, er, amalgam”, he told her: “You understand everything is seen from different perspectives.”
The woman has since been identified online as Chava. She is thought to be originally from Israel; the daughter of Polish holocaust survivors.
Willcox later took to Twitter to apologise for his comments, tweeting “Really sorry for any offence caused by a poorly phrased question in a live interview in Paris yesterday – it was entirely unintentional.”
However, critics have pointed out that this is not the first time that questions have been raised over Willcox with regards to anti-Semitism. In November, at a look ahead to the next day’s papers which included discussions regarding Ed Miliband’s support amongst the Jewish community, Willcox, who was anchoring the discussion commented “A lot of these prominent Jewish faces will be very much against the mansion tax”.
Jonathan Sacerdoti, Director of communications for The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism told the Daily Mail that Willcox’s apology over the latest incident was “not 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.”
He said that the CAAS had filed complaints with the BBC about the November broadcast, as had 33 other individuals. “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. 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 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.”
Following the interview, a number of people took to Twitter to express their dismay at Willcox’s comments. They included historian Simon Schama, who tweeted “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?”
Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle was another, tweeting “What is @BBCTimWillcox’s problem with Jews? Once is problematic. Twice is a pattern.”
The hashtag #WillcoxMustGo has also sprung up. Twitter user Mateus Leroy has used it to say “@BBCTimWillcox saying how sorry you are on Twitter is far from being enough. Publicly apologize NOW or resign.” “Trying to justify an anti-Semitic massacre is a new low, even for the BBC. #WillcoxMustGo”
Daniel Clayden tweeted “My licence fee should not be used to pay the salary of this Jew-hating cretin. #WillcoxMustGo”. Dan Travers commented “@BBCTimWillcox please do the decent thing and resign. You work for a public body and simply can’t be so openly anti-Semitic. #WillcoxMustGo”.
Meanwhile, a petition has been launched on change.org calling for Willcox’s resignation. The petition’s authors said: “Not only was it a horrible attempt to justify the terror attack on the Jewish supermarket which killed 4 Jews, 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.
“We know from the past that the BBC is notorious for making anti-Semitic reports, however this one has crossed another line.
“From this petition, we ask Mr Willcox to personally apologize for the comments he has made. We also want re-assurance that this constant anti-Semitic behaviour from the BBC will come to an end.”