France24 Welcomes Bigoted Journalists Back Into Its Arabic Service Ranks

France24 has formally ruled that a woman whose social media activity is studded with extreme anti-Jewish bigotry, vitriolic anti-Israeli hostility and appalling ignorance is fit to serve as the Arabic service’s main on-site source covering Israeli and Palestinian affairs.

That’s the main takeaway from France24’s audit confirming the findings of CAMERA Arabic’s investigation documenting gross antisemitism in social media posts of several Arabic-speaking journalists and the subsequent decision to nevertheless keep several of the offenders in their jobs, albeit with minor slaps on the wrist.

Regrettably, following a brief suspension during the several-day audit, the French public broadcaster welcomed three of the investigated journalists back into their respective positions, without even compelling them to retract — let alone apologize for — their hateful social media posts.

Laila Odeh, who holds the key post as France 24 Arabic’s Jerusalem correspondent, has in particular distinguished herself with fever pitch expressions of hatred, including support of Palestinian terrorism.

While stationed with France24 in Jerusalem, she has said that a terrorist who planted a bomb on a Tel Aviv bus, wounding dozens, “ascended to the highest heavens” and likewise repeatedly glorified as “martyrs” additional terrorists who targeted civilians, killing them.

In a Facebook post stealthily removed or hidden following the publication of CAMERA Arabic’s exposé, Odeh charged that Israel has become “a version of Hitler.” (See screenshot at left.) Holocaust inversion, or “[d]rawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” is straight from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, adopted by dozens of governments, including France’s.

Odeh has demanded that Arab states provide her with weapons so she may retrieve land that Israel allegedly took from her in 1948; she has differentiated between Palestinian “martyrs” and Israeli “dead” killed during a fire exchange between Israel and Gaza; and she alleged that the Balfour declaration came after the British foreign secretary “felt sorrow” for the Jews “because of the Holocaust” (which, of course, occurred more than two decades later).

Perhaps France24’s decision to continue employing her even after these radical expressions came to light is based on the naive premise that a firewall exists, or can exist, between her extremist social media activity and her reporting for the purportedly “neutral” outlet.

Alas, Odeh’s on air France24 coverage, rife with anti-Israel bias, displays no such firewall.

For example, in a four-week period spanning April and May 2022, she demonized Jews visiting Jerusalem’s Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary as “settlers storming al-Aqsa Mosque” in no fewer than seven France24 news reports. Four times, she delegitimized Israel within its internationally-recognized lines as “the 1948 lands,” and once referred to Israeli land alongside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as “Palestinian land.” Twice she claimed that the 1948 war resulted in Israel “occupying Palestinian land,” further editorializing that Israel in its entirety is illegitimate.

Odeh’s total identification with the Palestinian cause was apparent again that month as she fondly recalled the funeral of PLO official Faisal Husseini in 2001, reminiscing:

the Palestinians were able […] to liberate Jerusalem. Jerusalem seemed liberated then, there was not any Israeli security presence, the Israeli flags were taken off from Salah ad-Deen street and the streets of the city of Jerusalem, and Palestinian flags were put by young Jerusalemites. Jerusalem was liberated that day by Faisal al-Husseini. (Emphasis added.)

Partisan coverage of recent attacks against Jewish civilians in Israel also exposed as baseless France24’s confidence that Odeh is capable of keeping her broadcasts neutral and free of extremism.

For example, here’s how Odeh contextualized France24’s initial report on the February 2023 ramming attack in Ramot, Jerusalem, where two children, ages five to seven, along with another civilian, were all murdered:

The story until now from Israeli sources is that of a ramming operation by a private car belonging to a Palestinian. Available information says that he a 31-year-old father of two, from the town [i.e. neighborhood] of ‘Isawiyya in Jerusalem. The ramming operation was carried out when several Israelis were situated at one of the bus stations in Jerusalem, namely near the Ramot settlement, which is built on the lands of Palestinian Lifta and Beit Iksa. (Emphasis added.)

To Odeh, the fact that the site where civilians, including children, were murdered is adjacent to a neighborhood built “on Palestinian land,” is noteworthy even in her initial reporting on the attack.

Significantly, Odeh, with her extreme anti-Israel tilt, is in no way an outlier among the France24 Arabic staff. To the contrary, her bias is very much in line with the organizational culture.

Indeed, a few weeks prior, France24 host Dounia Nouar likewise contextualized the Neve Yaakov shooting attack. Introducing Odeh, who reported live from Jerusalem, Nouar said:

Our viewers, welcome to France24, this is special coverage of the latest development in Jerusalem, where eight [sic: seven] Israelis were killed and ten others wounded in a shooting operation on occupied Jerusalem tonight, Friday, according to official Israeli sources. So we will move [the broadcast] there to follow the latest developments, with the Israeli police saying it killed the perpetrator of the operation which occurred in the Nabi [Neve] Yaakov area, northern Jerusalem. No party has assumed any [kind of] responsibility for this operation. It is worth mentioning that the shooting comes a day after the operation that Israeli military carried out in the Jenin [refugee] camp, resulting in the killing of nine Palestinians, with the Palestinian factions vowing to retribute. (Emphasis added.)

Note Nouar’s use of the word “operation” to refer to both the terror attack in Jerusalem and the Israeli military raid in Jenin targeting terrorists. Coupled with her omission of the basic fact that various Palestinian factions by that time had identified seven of the nine Palestinian fatalities as members of armed terror organizations, her attempt to create a false equivalence between the two cases is transparent.

Another France24 Arabic figure who shares Odeh’s and Nouar’s collegial propensity for anti-Israel sentiment is pundit Khaled al-Gharabli, who routinely supplies biased rants masquerading as “analyses.” He provided an even more problematic response to the Neve Yaakov attack, stating:

In my estimation, it is most likely that the escalation will get worse, and there will be more violence. Why? Firstly, the surrounding environment. The environment is the occupation. What happened in Jenin [is that] Jenin is an occupied territory. According to the [UN] Security Council’s resolutions, this is an occupied territory which Israel is required to vacate. What happened in Silwan in East Jerusalem [is that] East Jerusalem is an occupied area. Even if Israel considers it the capital of the Israeli state, in the bottom line, according to the Security Council resolutions, these are occupied territories, where the occupier often tries to get what he wants by the use of armed force even if he has no right there.

Consequently, there is a reaction from the other side, a reaction governed by human nature – self defense, a reaction which right and legitimacy both confer. International legitimacy, the UN Charter in article 51, permits self defense for individuals and groups [alike. This is] a reaction similar to Israel’s, which uses force to defend its interests. Consequently, it is natural for the Palestinian side to use force in self defense, on the condition that such conduct respects international law. One of these conditions [for the conduct to pay such respect] is that no civilians are subjected to it. (Emphasis added.)

Remarkably, in their lengthy discussion, neither al-Gharabli nor host Hassania Malih found the time to acknowledge the fact that all seven of those killed in Neve Yaakov were indeed civilians, ages 14 to 68

Moreover, as CAMERA Arabic advisor Dr. Meir Masri previously documented (in Arabic), al-Gharabli’s four-minute monologue contained additional falsehoods. Namely, the France24 commentator falsely alleged that UNSC decisions require Israel to get out of the entire West Bank (they don’t; they affirm that “a just and lasting peace” arrangement in the region should include Israeli withdrawal from “territories” the state had occupied, without specifying which territories and how much, as numerous media corrections have been compelled to acknowledge.) 

France24’s unfortunate decision to settle for a mere warning for Odeh, along with the network’s failure to probe systematic anti-Israel bias within the Arabic service, extends a carte blanche to the entire staff, thereby encouraging, as opposed to curtailing, on air misconduct.

Research and translations by CAMERA Arabic. Editing by Tamar Sternthal. For the French version of this article, please see InfoEquitable. For the Arabic version, please see CAMERA Arabic.

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