Jack Mendel
The Online Editor at the Jewish News

Tim Willcox’ ‘Jewish’ comments are not a matter of free speech

When BBC reporter Tim Willcox said that Palestinians have suffered at ‘Jewish hands as well’, as opposed to Israeli, he was met with a backlash of calls for him to resign, and was defended by many anti-Israel activists claiming these calls were contrary to freedom of speech, in the wake of Charlie Hebdo.

Speaking to a French marcher, BBC reporter Tim Willcox was engaging in the issue of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in France.

The marcher outlined that she thought that the situation was “going back to how it was in the 1930s” and that the “Jews are the targets now”.

Willlcox replied that Israel’s critics “would say that the Palestinians have suffered hugely at Jewish hands as well”.

This is clearly a misuse of the term, and he meant to say Israel or Israeli.

It’s not spiteful, but it is an error.

An immediate apology was issued for saying Jewish hands, but man have since said that it was an error that he should be removed for.

The reaction was rapid though. And surprisingly vicious and illiberal from many anti-Israel tweeters in particular.

Instead of howling at Willcox for using Jews instead of Israel, they instead  implied that it was a matter of freedom of speech.

He has the right to say that, and he shouldn’t be criticised.

It clearly isn’t a matter of rights of speech, but of what was said.

The media is holding a journalist to account.

Nevertheless, hashtags were quickly set up such as ‘‘ and ‘‘, offering solidarity and sympathy for a journalist at the heart of a ‘witch hunt’.

God forbid a journalist be criticised for saying that Palestinians had suffered under ‘the Jews’. This is a cause one can really get behind.

Anti-Israel activists reacted further by rejecting calls for his resignation as being an attack on his freedom of speech,  with the BBC trying to ‘push him out’.

Not a few days after a massacre on a newspaper, this is receiving coverage as a real legitimate grievance of freedom of speech. What?!

Damn it, there is even a Change petition running.

This is a high priority case of hypocrisy. Everyone on the bandwagon, quick.

If you are an anti-Israel activist, that is working for Palestinian rights, your number one priority should be ensuring that there is no confusing of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

What Willcox did was say Jews, when he meant Israel.

He directly conflated.

Maybe unintentionally. But, he did it. He apologised, and was not sacked. It should just be over, right?

The opposite of what ‘should’ happen, is happening.

He conflated the viewpoints, which is what many BDS campaigners will try to avoid, but they are now supporting him.

There are always claims that they are not anti-Semitic, just anti-Israel.

Indeed, many Jews support BDS.

So when every cell in the body of the pro-Palestinian activist should be in agreement with the criticism of this journalist, that he made an error, but in fact, they jump to his defence, you know something is up.

It is baffling, and shows that an agenda is driving their dogmatism.

To claim that Israel and Judaism are separate, but that his comments were justified on the basis that he is a victim of a witch hunt, is just plain irrational.

To claim that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are separate, but to rationalise his comments as being ok, simply demotes anti-Semitism as being unimportant, unless it can be relativised to the Palestinians.

That is patronising to everyone.

He accidentally said a word. He is not some kind of political martyr for the Palestinians and for free speech.

Calls for his resignation is not a matter of freedom of speech. This has nothing to do with the right to say what he did. It’s to do with what he said.

It ultimately boils down to this.

Anything. Anything at all, that offers a shred of credibility to the notion, that anti-Semitism exists, needs to be checked incase it might be supportive of Israel’s existence too.

The horrendous double standards in this situation are eye-wateringly bad, and it is based on ensuring a watertight guarantee that anti-Semitism cannot ever be justified for Israel’s existence, even though last year 1% of France’s Jews moved to Israel, due to anti-Semitism rocketing.

About the Author
Jack Mendel is the Online Editor at the Jewish News.
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