Portraying herself as a victim of “character assassination,” now-former BBC journalist Tala Halawa published a lengthy statement on Wednesday blaming “pro-Israel interest groups” and “right-wing media outlets” for her removal after her antisemitic comments expressing praise for Nazi dictator and mass murderer Adolf Hitler surfaced in May, leading to a BBC review and her ultimate dismissal.
Halawa, a “Palestinian specialist” for the BBC for four years, was revealed to have said in 2014 that “Hitler was right” while likening the Jewish state to Nazi Germany in a post uncovered by Honest Reporting, an NGO which seeks to counteract media bias against Israel.
Tala Halawa is a "digital journalist" for the @BBC.
Halawa directly influences and creates news content watched by many millions around the world.
In what world can someone like this work for a professional news outlet? pic.twitter.com/r2LIHmZfF2
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) May 23, 2021
“Israel is more Nazi than Hitler! Oh, #HitlerWasRight – IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) go to hell #PrayForGaza,” she wrote, leading the BBC to launch an investigation which resulted in her firing.
In a statement on her dismissal posted on Wednesday, Halawa began by attributing her dismissal from the corporation as merely “over a tweet” posted “during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2014,” prior to her joining the organization.
She wrote in an attempt to mitigate the severity of her posts and attempting to excuse herself of responsibility for having posted them:
I was judged based on a single offensive and ignorant tweet posted seven years ago during the traumatic Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip in 2014, specifically during the Shujaiyya attack where 55 Palestinian civilians, including 19 children and 14 women, were killed in 48 hours by Israeli strikes.
“Israeli settlers had also kidnapped and burnt alive 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir in East Jerusalem,” she added, in reference to the act of three individuals which was condemned by virtually all Israelis, including then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Rachel Fraenkel, the mother of a 16-year-old Israeli boy who was kidnapped and murdered weeks before Abu Khdeir’s death.
Claiming to have been a “young Palestinian woman tweeting in the heat of the moment,” she wrote that she had simply used “a popular hashtag at the time without thinking.”
Referring to her choice of words as “offensive and ignorant,” Halawa claimed that they don’t reflect her political views.
“I hope those who were hurt by them will accept my heartfelt apology for posting without thinking,” she wrote.
After largely justifying her motivations for the offensive tweet, Halawa then attacked the BBC for “capitulating” to those on the right:
However, it saddens me that the BBC, instead of seeking avenues for apology, reconciliation, and dialogue, unfortunately opted for trial with social media, amplifying troll voices and capitulating to pressure from external pro-Israel interest groups and right-wing media outlets determined to eliminate Palestinians from public life.
Continuing to depict herself as a victim, she then asserted that she was targeted for her previous support of the Palestinians:
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 for the corporation about celebrities being criticized, trolled and cancelled for supporting Palestinian self-determination.
“But I am not alone,” she added.
Referring to a “pro-Israel censorship campaign” as “industrial in scale and international in its reach,” Halawa continued to attack the media for its support of Israel.
“The trend of bad-faith intimidation of reporters from the region by hostile actors and organized public flogging are aimed at setting the parameters of acceptable journalism to suit Israel, and policing international media to maintain institutional pro-Israel bias,” she wrote.
“What happened seems familiar to me both as a Palestinian and as a woman of color,” she added.
She concluded by stating her pride in having been known at the BBC for her “impartiality and professional journalism, even during the most difficult times.”
“I will continue to believe and fight for honest and brave journalism regardless of these menial attempts at character assassination,” she added.
Many took to Twitter to blast the Palestinian journalist’s explanation for her antisemitic remarks.
“The woman tweeted that Hitler was right. Look at the bullshit surrounding her ‘sorry,’” journalist Lotty Earns wrote:
The woman tweeted that Hitler was right. Look at the bullshit surrounding her 'sorry'. https://t.co/4sO0tXLHk9
— Lotty Earns (@lottyburns) July 14, 2021
“You tweeted ‘Hitler was right,’” the Israel Advocacy Movement tweeted. “So the BBC fired you.”
“And like clockwork you blamed the Jews for losing your job,” the group added:
You tweeted “Hitler was right”
So the BBC fired you
And like clockwork you blamed the Jews for losing your job ♂️ https://t.co/DPwdYtHqWK
— Israel Advocacy Movement (@israel_advocacy) July 14, 2021
“She had tweeted #HitlerWasRight. Now pulling out victim card,” author Semu Bhatt wrote.
“Her long statement blames everyone but self, & goes on to rant against pro-Israel mob instead of sincere apology. She could have been a perfect fit for BBC, but it seems that there’s a line that even BBC won’t cross,” Bhatt added:
She had tweeted #HitlerWasRight . Now pulling out victim card. Her long statement blames everyone but self, & goes on to rant against pro Israel mob instead of sincere apology. She could have been a perfect fit for BBC, but it seems that there's a line that even BBC won't cross. https://t.co/UNdJOxtvHF pic.twitter.com/gqSkSn2Wtx
— Me (@semubhatt) July 14, 2021
“Girl, you literally tweeted ‘Hitler was right,’” Jerusalem Post columnist Emily Schrader wrote.
“No one pities your antisemitic ass,” she added.
Girl, you literally tweeted “Hitler was right”
No one pities your antisemitic ass. https://t.co/2WozjjCaK3
— Emily Schrader – אמילי שריידר (@emilykschrader) July 14, 2021
“YOU PRAISED HITLER! THIS is why the BBC canned you,” StopAntisemitism.org tweeted.
“AND they never fire anyone so congrats on that prize.”
YOU PRAISED HITLER!
THIS is why the BBC canned you.
AND they never fire anyone so congrats on that prize. https://t.co/vbvnsak1Be
— StopAntisemitism.org (@StopAntisemites) July 14, 2021
“Can’t believe Israel tricked you into tweeting ‘Hitler was right’, will the IDF stop at nothing,” writer Sarah Ditum mocked.
Can't believe Israel tricked you into tweeting "Hitler was right", will the IDF stop at nothing https://t.co/o2MtOd3FFx
— Sarah Ditum (@sarahditum) July 14, 2021
“Cancel Culture…finally deserved,” one Twitter user wrote.
“You said Hitler was right and you want us to think your dismissal was a result of Jews controlling the media pursuing their racism?” another wrote.
“Is this a joke?” the user added.
“You can’t even say ‘Hitler was right’ on the BBC these days,” another quipped.
“Lol. Left unsaid that the ‘popular hashtag’ that she ‘unthinkingly’ used was literally #HitlerWasRight,” another wrote. “Cry me a river, babe.”
“Tweets ‘Hitler was right’ and blames a ‘pro-Israel censorship campaign’ and the ‘pro-Israel mob’ for the consequences,” yet another wrote. “Delusional.”
“You literally praised Adolf Hitler. This entire statement is a masterclass in gaslighting,” another user wrote.
In September of last year, the recently installed director-general of the BBC, Tim Davie, said that he would look into limiting partisan posts on social media from journalists employed by the publicly-funded broadcaster.
“If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC,” Davie said at the time.
In 2017, the BBC came under fire for apparent bias in its reporting on Israel following a post that read: “Three Palestinians killed after deadly stabbing in Jerusalem.”
Former chairman of the BBC, Lord Michael Grade, said at the time: “If the BBC can get this wrong… it is little wonder that Israel finds it so hard to put aside the idea that some critics are motivated by something more sinister than political commentary.”
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein