Anti-Jewish libels have taken on multiple forms through the ages. They are variations on the same theme: Jews as a collective – or, in modern times, the Jewish state as a collective – conspire to kill, destroy or otherwise harm non-Jews – especially children – for ritual purposes, monetary gain, or power.
The most recent blood libel has come from BBC news presenter Anjana Gadgil in a jaw-dropping interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on July 4, 2023 regarding the IDF counter-terrorism operation in Jenin. She began by suggesting that despite Israel calling this a military operation, Israel was deliberately targeting children under the age of 18.
When Bennett explained that it was quite the contrary, that the operation targeted those involved in terrorist attacks to murder Israeli civilians and children, Gadgil doubled down and proclaimed “the Israeli forces are happy to kill children.”
Partial transcript of first 2:30 minutes:
Anjana Gadgil: First of all, the Israeli military are calling this a ‘military operation,’ but we know that young people are being killed, four of them under 18. Is that really what the military set out to do? To kill people between the ages of 16 and 18?”
Naftali Bennett: Quite the contrary! Actually, all 11 people dead there are militants. The fact that there are young terrorists that decide to hold arms is their responsibility. Look, at the end of the day, over the past year or so, we’ve had over 50 Israelis murdered. In many cases by terrorists who were sent from Jenin Camp, armed, trained, and sent to kill and murder Israelis in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and across Israel. Jenin has become an epicenter of terror. So we, unfortunately, had to enter this hornet’s nest of terror and neutralize the terror. Otherwise they’re going to continue killing us. So, in fact, all the Palestinians that were killed are terrorists in this case.
Gadgil: Terrorists, but children. The Israeli forces are happy to kill children.
Bennett: You know it’s quite remarkable that you’d say that because they’re killing us. Now, if there’s a 17-year old Palestinian that’s shooting at your family, Anjana, what is he?
Gadgil: Under your definition, you are calling them terrorists, the UN are calling them children.
Bennett: No, no, I’m actually asking you, what would you call a 17-year old person with a rifle shooting at your family and murdering your own family. How would you define that person?
Gadgil: We’re not talking about that. The UN has defined them as children.
Bennett: That’s exactly what we’re talking about.
Gadgil: The UN has defined them as children. And we know that four children between the ages of 16 and 18 have been killed in this targeted attack. Let’s not forget it’s a targeted attack. The Israeli forces are going in and looking for these people.
Bennett: Yes, but these are terrorists. I’m missing something. You know a 17-year-old terrorist can murder civilians. There’s a fundamental difference between what they’re doing, which is explicitly and deliberately targeting civilians and what we’re doing, which is targeting terrorists. That’s exactly the opposite– we’re doing the right thing, they’re killing civilians and the fact that you’re creating a moral equivalence there, or even worse, I think it’s unacceptable.
The Jewish community and Jewish organizations, sensitized by a history of such blood libels and their consequences, loudly protested to the taxpayer-funded BBC, which issued a semi-apology/justification of their news presenter’s blood libel. According to London’s Jewish Chronicle, a BBC spokesperson insisted that the network covered the wider events in Jenin in an “impartial and robust way,” but apologized for Gadgil’s phrasing in this particular interview, saying:
BBC News has received comments and complaints concerning an interview with Naftali Bennett broadcast on the BBC News channel about recent events in the West Bank and Israel.
The complaints raised relate to specific interview questions about the deaths of young people in the Jenin refugee camp.
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.
Meanwhile, Gadgil’s LinkedIn and Twitter accounts have been removed.
As is apparent from the BBC spokesperson’s response, it is only robust pushback by large numbers of people — in this case, Jewish organizations, activists and community members — that ensures that media outlets (like the BBC) are prevented from normalizing such anti-Jewish hate rhetoric, libels and tropes.