(JTA) — A BBC journalist defended his claim that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exploited the Holocaust to further his agenda.
Jeremy Bowen, the Middle East editor for the British Broadcasting Corp., made the claim on Twitter on Tuesday during Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress about nuclear talks with Iran.
Netanyahu pointed to Holocaust memoirist and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who was in the gallery, as a living reminder that the Jewish people can never be passive again.
“I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned,” Netanyahu said.
Bowen wrote, “He acknowledges Elie Wiesel in audience. Once again Netanyahu plays the Holocaust card. Don’t repeat mistakes of the past.”
Fending off criticism, Bowen wrote on Wednesday, “Suggestions I’m an anti-Semite, or a denier of the Holocaust, are untrue and offensive.”
In an Op-Ed published Wednesday by The Jewish Chronicle, Alan Johnson, a senior research fellow at the pro-Israel Bicom lobby group, accused Bowen of promoting an “idea of the Bad Faith Jew, [that] is unmistakably dripping in the assumptions and myths of classic antisemitism.”
In 2009, a BBC complaints panel determined that Bowen breached the broadcaster’s guideline on accuracy and impartiality in referring to Zionism’s “innate instinct to push out the frontier” and saying Israel’s settlements were “in defiance of everyone’s interpretation of international law except its own.”
Bowen was not the only journalist to say Netanyahu was exploiting Wiesel. Ravit Hecht, a columnist for Haaretz, wrote in an Op-Ed published after the speech that Netanyahu was using “Wiesel as a rag doll from the Holocaust.”
Netanyahu’s controversial speech, delivered despite opposition from the Obama administration, congressional Democrats and a number of Jewish groups, exposed a rift in the leadership of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Chronicle reported.
On Thursday, the paper reported that the board’s vice president, Jonathan Arkush, rebuked the organization’s treasurer, Laurence Brass, for writing on Twitter: “Netanyahu boards plane for Washington: ‘I go as an emissary of the entire Jewish people’ … you are not my emissary.”
Brass’ term is expected to end in May. Arkush said Brass should have waited to express his opinion until he is no longer an official representative of the organization.