BBC Journalist's Tweet on Netanyahu Speech Labelled anti-Semitism

'Once again Netanyahu plays the Holocaust card.' Jeremy Bowen tweeted when Netanyahu acknowledged the presence of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel in the Congress chamber.

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Elie Wiesel and the prime minister's wife Sara during the speech to Congress.
Elie Wiesel and the prime minister's wife Sara during the speech to Congress.Credit: Reuters

A prominent BBC journalist has been forced to deny charges of anti-Semitism after tweeting during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to congress on Tuesday that: “Once again Netanyahu plays the Holocaust card”.

Jeremy Bowen's tweet came after Netanyahu acknowledge the presence in the chamber of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

"He acknowledges Elie Wiesel in audience," Bowen tweeted. "Once again Netanyahu plays the Holocaust card. Don't repeat mistakes of the past."

Bowen's statement was pilloried online and in the media.

“Mr Bowen’s idea is that when an Israeli leader mentions the Holocaust he is being tricksy, manipulative, acting in bad faith, ‘playing a card’ to get narrow advantage in contemporary politics, not really expressing a genuine thought about the Holocaust itself or a genuine fear about a second, nuclear, Holocaust," wrote academic Alan Johnson on the Jewish Chronicle website.

"Benjamin Netanyahu had every right — nay, a duty — as Israel’s prime minister, to remind the world what happens when we appease murderous tyrannies that promise genocide against the Jews."

Bowen responded on Twitter on Wednesday morning, saying comments that he was anti-Semitic or a Holocaust denier were “untrue and offensive.”

“Jeremy was using Twitter and journalism shorthand whilst live-tweeting PM Netanyahu’s speech," a BBC spokesman said.

"The context of his comment is that a major part of PM Netanyahu’s critique of the proposed Iran deal was based on the specter of another holocaust. Jeremy’s tweet was designed to reflect that context. He absolutely refutes any suggestion of anti-Semitism.”

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