B-nighted

Israeli satirical show ridicules alleged BBC bias

In skit, anchor and reporter based in ‘illegal colony of Tel Aviv’ lampoon UK state brooadcaster’s swift initial acceptance of false Hamas claim that Israel blew up Gaza hospital

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Liat Harlev as a BBC anchor, and Yuval Semo, playing Middle East correspondent Harry Whiteguilt, lampoon a BBC report about the bombing of a Gaza hospital, in a skit screened on October 28, 2023. (Screenshot from Eretz Nehederet. Keshet Channel 12, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Liat Harlev as a BBC anchor, and Yuval Semo, playing Middle East correspondent Harry Whiteguilt, lampoon a BBC report about the bombing of a Gaza hospital, in a skit screened on October 28, 2023. (Screenshot from Eretz Nehederet. Keshet Channel 12, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Keshet TV’s long-running satirical show “Eretz Nehederet” (“A Wonderful Country”) has lampooned the BBC for what many Jews and Israelis see as pro-Palestinian bias in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The skit on the program — the Israeli version of “Saturday Night Live” — aired on Saturday and quickly went viral, ridiculing the BBC’s reporting on Hamas’s claim that Israel had bombed Gaza’s al-Ahli hospital on October 17, killing hundreds.

The claim quickly grabbed headlines across the globe, including on the BBC, sparking mass protests throughout the Muslim world. Jordan and the Palestinian Authority canceled a planned meeting with US President Joe Biden in Amman to protest what Reuters quoted them as calling “the war and the massacres against Palestinians.”

But Israel and Washington offered multiple pieces of evidence that the cause of the blast — which occurred in a hospital parking lot, not the hospital itself — was a misfired rocket launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The death toll is also believed to have been in the dozens, not the 500 or more that Hamas initially claimed. Israel says Hamas immediately knew that the PIJ was responsible, but jumped on the opportunity to blame Israel anyway.

The BBC subsequently apologized for its coverage, saying it had been too swift to assign blame.

The parody, in English, features Liat Harlev as a BBC anchor called Rachel, and Yuval Semo playing Middle East correspondent Harry Whiteguilt, reporting from “the illegal colony of Tel Aviv.”

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Posted by ‎ארץ נהדרת‎ on Saturday, October 28, 2023

The anchor reports the killing of 500 people at the hospital, then asks for “more, more” deaths, saying 750 is “much better.”

As proof of Israel’s guilt, Whiteguilt shows a video he says is from Hamas, ”the most credible not-terrorist-organization in the world,” in which a paper airplane passes over the hospital and bombs it.

He then suddenly announces the “terrible news” that in fact, Israel did not bomb the hospital. Rachel, flustered, responds: “I guess it’s gonna be one of those things we can never be sure about.” She goes on to spout antisemitic conspiracy theories about the Jews knowing of 9/11 in advance.

Palestinians check the site of an explosion at al-Ahli hospital, in Gaza City, October 18, 2023. (Abed Khaled/AP)

But, says a triumphant Whiteguilt, it was still Israel’s fault after all: Israel’s military blockade of Gaza — aimed at stopping Hamas from receiving weapons and other materials to be used for war — had prevented the organization from getting properly functioning missiles.

The BBC, which prides itself on being impartial, has resisted requests over the years to call Hamas gunmen terrorists rather than militants, as have many global news outlets.

On October 11, veteran war reporter John Simpson answered, “It’s simply not the BBC’s job to tell people who to support and who to condemn — who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.”

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