Tuesday, 23 Apr 2024

BBC locked in antisemitism row after exec hugged pro-Palestine protester

The BBC has become locked in an antisemitism row after a Palestinian film maker was allowed to “rant” at a film festival and was then hugged by one of the national broadcaster’s executives.

Emma Hindley, commissioning editor for the BBC’s Storyville, was supporting Mohammed Almughanni’s film Son of the Streets at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam, about a Palestinian boy growing up in a Beirut refugee camp, which will be shown on the BBC next year.

When speaking about the film those present have alleged that he began “ranting” and chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, which some Israel supporters claim is antisemitic.

He also reportedly told the audience of industry executives “if you don’t agree with me, I don’t want your money” before being hugged by Ms Hindley at the end of his speech.

Jewish and Israeli audience members said they were offended by the speech, while Francine Zuckerman, a Canadian producer and director who has worked with the BBC described the incident as “uncomfortable”.

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She told the Telegraph: “It’s one thing to stand up there to support a project but not in a situation like this when somebody is ranting something that is terribly offensive to any of the Jewish or Israeli film-makers in the audience. To take that position, it totally took me aback.

“It was so devastating and so uncomfortable to be in that room that as soon as it was over I just ran out as quickly as I could and was in tears on the street because it just felt so offensive.”

Ms Hindley says she did not mean to offend anyone and hugged Mr Almughanni as he was “visibly distressed”.

She told television magazine, Broadcast: “I hugged Mohammed because he was visibly distressed. Hugging him wasn’t a political statement or an endorsement of anybody’s views, it was an instinctive human reaction. I’m sorry if my actions have upset anyone – my intentions were quite the opposite.”

Jewish and Israeli film makers who have worked with Storyville released a statement following the incident condemning Ms Hindley’s actions, which they claimed contradicted the BBC’s commitment to impartiality.

One told the Telegraph: “We, as Israeli and Jewish people working with BBC Storyville, feel compelled to address the incident that transpired during the recent IDFA festival

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“During a pitching event, a Palestinian film maker took the stage and expressed offensive sentiments, including the slogan ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ and advocating for a return to pre-1948 borders.

“What deeply disturbed us was the visible support extended by BBC executive Emma Hindley to the film-maker, even after the use of offensive language. It is not common practice for commissioners to stand next to people pitching at IDFA.

“Emma is a senior leader at the BBC and should have known that her impartiality would be compromised not just by standing next to the film-maker but by hugging and kissing him before and after his highly offensive statements.”

Following the incident a BBC spokesman said Ms Hindley’s reaction was not an endorsement of the film makers views.

He said: “We recognised that this is an incredibly distressing time for all those impacted by the ongoing conflict.

“Son of the Streets was commissioned by Storyville in 2022 and Emma Hindley was on stage in her capacity as series commissioner.

“Emma’s actions were a human response to the director, Mohammed Almughanni, who became visibly distressed during the pitch and were not in any way an endorsement of his views.”

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