BBC Director-General Tim Davie has insisted that inviting an Islamist who has praised acts of terror, including the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, to express his views on the BBC was in the “public interest”.
The Jewish Chronicle reports that Mr Davie’s comments, made in a letter to 36 prominent critics, were dismissed by Lord Alex Carlile, the government’s former terror czar, as “mostly characterised by obfuscation”, while former BBC governor Baroness Ruth Deech described the 517-word message as “vacuous”.
In addition to Baroness Deech and Lord Carlile, signatories of the original open letter included Lord David Triesman, the former Labour minister responsible for the World Service, historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, playwright Steven Berkoff and all major Jewish community groups.
The open letter demanded that the BBC stop inviting Islamist Abdel Bari Atwan as a commentator on its flagship programmes in English and Arabic.
Atwan, who recently expressed sympathy for the Rushdie assailant’s extremism on the BBC, wrote in a recent article: “I support [Mahmoud Abbas’s] refusal to apologise for the killing of 11 Israeli participants at the 1974 Munich Olympics (sic), and his use of the term ‘holocausts’ to describe the many massacres to which Palestinians have been subjected by Israeli forces.”
He has a history of honouring terrorists as “martyrs” and has described the murder of three Israelis by a Palestinian gunman in Tel Aviv earlier this year as a “miracle”.
Atwan also appeared to express sympathy with the attacker of novelist Salman Rushdie in an appearance on the BBC’s flagship Dateline London programme.