Supporters of Israel in the UK are angry that a BBC presenter asked former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett about the killing of children in Jenin in the occupied West Bank. News anchor Anjana Gadgil asked Bennett if Israeli forces “are happy to kill children.” The complaints prompted the national broadcaster to issue an apology.
The Israeli attack on Jenin and its refugee camp on Monday and Tuesday killed 12 Palestinians, including five children, and wounded more than 140 people, 30 of them critically. The occupation forces also destroyed homes and infrastructure.
“The Israeli military are calling this a military operation but we now know that young people are being killed, four of them under 18,” said Gadgil. “Is that really what the military set out to do, to kill people between the ages of 16 and 18?”
Bennett replied: “Actually, all 11 people dead there are militants. The fact that there are young terrorists [sic] who decide to hold arms is their responsibility.” He claimed that those who carried out operations that killed dozens of Israelis over the past year had been trained in Jenin. “Jenin has become an epicentre of terror. All the Palestinians that were killed were terrorists in this case.”
The anchor replied, “Terrorists, but children. The Israeli forces are happy to kill children?”
According to Bennett — who has in the past said, “I have killed lots of Arabs in my life, and there is no problem with that” — responded, “You know it’s quite remarkable that you’d say that, because they’re killing us.” He claimed that the operation in Jenin was necessary to protect Israelis. “We are not targeting civilians. They [Palestinians] are only targeting civilians.”
NGO Defence for Children International-Palestine pointed out that, “35 Palestinian children have been killed in 2023… Israeli forces have shot and killed at least 26 Palestinian children and killed two Palestinian children with targeted drone strikes in the occupied West Bank.”
Bennett posted a clip of the BBC interview on his Twitter account, writing, “BBC anchor dares to claim that Israeli army soldiers are happy to kill children.”
After the interview, supporters of Israel and pro-apartheid state Jewish organisations in the UK launched a campaign against the anchor, accusing her of being biased and violating the BBC’s impartiality rules. An official complaint has been filed with the station. The BBC apologised on Wednesday for the “language” used by Gadgil.
“Complaints raised relate to specific interview questions about the deaths of young people in the Jenin refugee camp,” said a BBC spokesperson. “The United Nations raised the issue of the impact of the operation in Jenin on children and young people. While this was a legitimate subject to examine in the interview, we apologise that the language used in this line of questioning was not phrased well and was inappropriate.”