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France 24 Investigates the Staff of its Arabic Service



The Arabic Service of international broadcaster France 24 has had problems with its staff similar to those experienced by the BBC’s Arabic Service in 2021. It has suspended four of its journalists over their antisemitic social media posts. A preliminary Jihad Watch report is here, and more on the staffing problems of France 24’s Arabic Service can be found here: “Broadcaster France 24 Suspends Arabic-Language Journalists Over Antisemitic Social Media Posts,” Algemeiner, March 15, 2023:

Four journalists working for the Arabic service of international broadcaster France 24 have been suspended pending an investigation into allegations of antisemitic incitement.

The announcement follows the publication of a report by the media monitoring organization CAMERA outlining the antisemitic outbursts of the four reporters in their social media feeds, including praise for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and support for Palestinian terrorist operations against Israel.

In a statement confirming the suspension, France 24 said the decision “taken in the context of this situation aims to protect the integrity of the work of all the Arabic-speaking editorial staff of France 24, whose editorial content, both on the air and in digital environments, makes it a balanced channel, non-partisan, verifying the facts and cultivating constructive debate thanks to the professionalism of its journalists.”

The broadcaster added: “As in all the languages of France 24, the Arabic-speaking channel is illustrated [sic] every day by its commitment to the fight against antisemitism, racism, and discrimination.”

The investigation into the journalists will be conducted by France Médias Monde, a state-owned company that supervises French public broadcasters, the news outlet Le Figaro reported on Wednesday.

Released last week, the CAMERA report combed through the social media feeds of Joelle Maroun, the network’s correspondent in Beirut, Jerusalem-based Laila Odeh, Geneva correspondent Dina Abi-Saab and general reporter Sharif Bibi.

Among Maroun’s antisemitic tweets was a joke about the Holocaust. “They asked Hitler, ‘What did you do with the Jews?’ He said, ‘Nothing extraordinary, [just having] barbecue with the guys,” she tweeted. On another occasion, she tweeted, “Rise, sir Hitler, rise, there are a few people that need to be burned.”

Joelle Maroun had apparently posted many antisemitic tweets, but particularly offensive were her zany-laff-riot jokes about the Holocaust. One has Hitler alluding to the crematoria in which Jews were burnt alive, and Jewish corpses reduced to ashes, as just a bit of “barbecue with the guys.” And in another, Maroun asks Hitler to return to continue his good work, because “there are a few people [Israeli Jews] who need to be burned.” That should be enough to have her dismissed from her job; how could such a creature possibly report on the Jewish state, or on its mortal enemy Hezbollah (Maroun is based in Beirut) with any hope of impartiality?

This is akin to the controversy at the BBC two years ago. In February 2021, the BBC Arabic Service was accused of ignoring the corporation’s own impartiality guidelines when an investigation by the Jewish Chronicle revealed large numbers of examples of apparent anti-Israel bias and inaccuracies. More on the aftermath of this investigation can be found here:

The infringements included systematically downplaying terror attacks on Israelis; repeatedly using Hamas-inspired language; showcasing extreme anti-Israel views without challenge; and publishing a map in which Israel was erased.

Once it had studied the evidence compiled by the Jewish Chronicle, the BBC was forced to acknowledge 25 mistakes in its Arabic coverage of Israel in just over two years, issuing on average nearly one correction every month.

One high-profile BBC apology came after Ahlam Al-Tamimi — a Hamas terrorist who masterminded the killing of 15 Israelis in 2001 [the suicide bombing at the Sbarro Pizzeria] before becoming a celebrity in Jordan — was the focus of a fawning BBC story, causing concern and distress to the victims’ families.

“I apologise for this lapse in our editorial standards,” Jamie Angus, head of the World Service, said in response to the outrage. “[We] will ensure that the appropriate lessons are learned.”

But Arnold Roth, 69, whose teenage daughter was killed in Al-Tamimi’s 2001 plot, responded: “From the poison they are putting out, I sense a toxic culture at BBC Arabic.

Other BBC apologies have been issued for describing Jerusalem as “the occupied city”, the Israeli army as the “Israeli Occupation Forces” and the PLO as “the Palestinian Resistance” in Arabic language coverage.

The service has also repeatedly referred to the West Bank, Gaza and even Israel as “Palestine”, despite its own style guide outlawing the term, as “there is no independent state of Palestine today”. In 2017, the channel was forced to apologise after it referred to victims of a terror attack as “nine Jewish settlers.”In fact, four of the dead were not Jewish and none of the victims were settlers.

In a concerning sign, the corporation employed a correspondent who had formerly worked at the Hezbollah-owned TV station Al-Manar. The channel was designated a “Terrorist Entity” by the United States after the US claimed that a member of Al-Manar staff had carried out military surveillance for the Lebanese terror group, under cover of his job. It was found to be providing support to a variety of active terrorist organisations.

A different journalist who also worked at the Hezbollah-run channel was recruited to work for BBC Arabic in senior editorial roles over a period of more than 10 years, with responsibility for shaping the channel’s output as recently as last year.

BBC Arabic has also regularly given a platform to the British-Palestinian pundit Abdel Bari Atwan, who caused fury when he said on Lebanese TV that if Iran attacked Israel, he would “go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight.”

In another incident last May 2020, BBC Arabic showcased social media comments which celebrated a sci-fi drama that envisioned the destruction of the Jewish state.

The corporation has also appeared to depart from editorial standards in its Arabic output with respect to reporting terror attacks.

According to the BBC style guide, journalists must “report acts of terror quickly, accurately, fully and responsibly.”

But while the BBC reported in English on 34 fatal terror attacks on Israeli civilians between 2015 and 2020, its Arabic service covered just 25 of these, analysts said, seriously downplaying the extent of Palestinian brutality.Comment:

We needn’t worry any more about the BBC Arabic Service’s failure to be impartial. As part of a cost-cutting measure, many of the BBC foreign-language broadcasts were ended earlier this year. The BBC Arabic Service was shut down on January 27, 2023. So that problem has been solved.

The Algemeiner report on France 24 continues:

Odeh — the sister of a Palestinian Fatah terrorist killed during a clash with the IDF — separately tweeted: “Because I am a Palestinian refugee, I demand of the Arab League to arm me so that I retrieve my land which Israel has unlawfully occupied. And because I am a sister of a martyr, I demand of the Arab League to arm me so that I retrieve the body of my martyr brother.” She also described Moshe Agadi, a 58-year-old father of four who was killed during a Hamas rocket strike, as an “Israeli settler in Ashkelon.”

How is it that Odeh, who reports from Jerusalem for France 24, has been allowed to continue in such an important post, given that her own brother was a Fatah terrorist killed by the IDF? Did no one at France 24 realize that such a family connection was enough to disqualify her? And her tweet, in which she melodramatically asks the Arab League to arm her, both so that she can fight the Israelis who have “unlawfully occupied” her land, and so that she can “retrieve’ the body” of her “martyr brother,” surely ought to be enough for her prompt discharge. France 24 ought not to be employing close relatives, and enthusiastic supporters, of terrorists and terrorism.

CAMERA’s executive director, Andrea Levin, said in a statement that she commended “France 24 for promptly investigating this serious situation, and we hope that the news outlet cuts ties with these apologists for Nazism and terrorism.”

Levin commented that “[P]rofessional journalists are expected to hold up basic standards of objectivity, which obviously includes not cheerleading for Hitler and Hamas-inspired terrorism.”

We still don’t know what other posts these two – Joelle Maroun, pining for Hitler, and Laila Odeh, the sister and celebrator of a murderous “martyr” – have posted on social media. Nor do we know what CAMERA investigators found in the social media posts of the other two mentioned in the article, Geneva correspondent Dina Abi-Saab and general reporter Sharif Bibi. But we can be sure that when revealed, they will make for most unpleasant reading. Why is it that France 24 had not performed due diligence on these members of its Arabic Service? Wouldn’t you think that their social media posts would have been looked at and constantly monitored by someone at France 24, given the sensitive nature of their reporting? Why was it left up to CAMERA to uncover the hideous biases of these Arab journalists? And finally, how does France 24 plan to vet its Arabic-language hires in the future, to make sure such a scandal does not happen again?