BBC defends use of expert on Arabic service who said ‘October is month of victory’

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BBC defends use of expert on Arabic service who said ‘October is month of victory’

Media monitoring organisation Camera Arabic says retired Egyptian army general celebrated Hamas's attacks on Israel

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Camera Arabic estimates the BBC has used Samir Ragheb as an expert commentator nine times since Israel’s war against Hamas began
Camera Arabic estimates the BBC has used Samir Ragheb as an expert commentator nine times since Israel’s war against Hamas began

The BBC has pushed back on complaints about a frequent contributor to its Arabic service, a retired Egyptian army general who, it is claimed, celebrated the events of 7 October.

Samir Ragheb’s social media comments have been closely monitored by Camera Arabic, an organisation that flags up anti-Israel material online.

One of its analysts told Jewish News that Ragheb had not only celebrated the Hamas attacks on a Facebook post on 7 October but had “mocked Israeli civilians going to shelters following Hamas’s rocket attacks, suggested questioning the Holocaust was not allowed in the West because ‘these people are quietly fooling us’ and called the 1973 war ‘the war against the Jews’”.

Writing on Facebook on 7 October, Ragheb said: “For the first time in half a century, the legend of the military that is never defeated is shattered – it is defeated in six hours. A new military miracle by all criteria – strategic, operational and tactical. October is the month of victory.”

Previously, Camera Arabic said that Ragheb had also shared a link to download the notoriously antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and had declared that the 1982 return of Sinai to Egypt was an act of “purifying it from the Jews’ filth”.

But a BBC spokesperson said: “BBC News Arabic is committed to hearing from a range of contributors to offer a variety of views and perspectives across our output. Samir Ragheb is a retired senior officer in the Egyptian army and has previously been interviewed as a military expert across media, including on BBC News Arabic. As with all our interviews, we challenge the views provided by contributors on air, as our audiences would expect.”

The spokesperson did not respond to a question as to why a presenter would not make it clear to the audience what were Ragheb’s previously expressed opinions, specifically on Jews and Israel.

Camera Arabic estimates that the BBC has used Ragheb as an expert commentator nine times since Israel’s war against Hamas began, eight “on strictly Israel-related issues, from Israeli takeover of the Rafah crossing through drug trafficking via the Israeli-Egyptian border to the ‘ingenuity’ of Gaza-manufactured weapons against the IDF”. The ninth appearance, Camera says, was “a broader overview on Egypt’s strategy, which is also about its other neighbours”.

Its spokesperson told Jewish News: “Often seeking an ‘expert opinion’ about Israel from retired Egyptian generals, this is not the first time that BBC Arabic has failed to be put off by its guests’ antisemitic record. By describing the ‘ingenuity’ of Hamas weaponry after citing ‘the war against the Jews’ on social media, Samir Ragheb joins the same echo chamber of fake experts and mock intellectuals.

“All of them feed off each other’s bigotry while relying on BBC Arabic’s refusal to run due background checks about them before they are invited — despite the prominence of such heinous views in broader Arabic discourse. Meanwhile, BBC management still insists that its Arabic service covers the war ‘accurately, impartially and diligently’, despite an ever growing pile of evidence suggesting the exact opposite.”

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