Let’s Talk About Tim Willcox

Image Source: Mail Online (www.dailymail.co.uk)


So I hear that Tim Willcox apologised. For those of you who do not know, Willcox is a BBC reporter who was covering the Paris rally in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack. He came under fire for doing something as messed up as asking a random Jewish woman about Israeli atrocities in Palestine. Here’s a report:

During a live report from the streets of Paris, Willcox was speaking to a number of participants in the march, including one woman who expressed her fears that Jews were being persecuted, and ‘the situation is going back to the days of the 1930s in Europe.’

To this, Willcox, who was broadcasting on the BBC News channel replied: ‘Many critics though of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.’

When the woman, shaking her head, responded saying: ‘We can’t do an amalgam’, he told her: ‘You understand everything is seen from different perspectives.’

She was identified during the broadcast as ‘Chava’, and told Willcox when she was introduced on screen that she had lived in France for 20 years, but was originally from Israel.

In no time the social media started trending #WillcoxMustGo and very rightfully so. The repercussion was so much so that he had to apologise for the question the very next day. The case should have closed then and there. But today in my news feed I see that a few in my friends list had found it in them to condone his statement; the reasons being free speech and Willcox’s supposed “bravery” to point out the plight of the Palestinians.

The notion that Tim Willcox’s freedom of expression was suppressed is both misguided and, to say the least, absurd. Of course one has the right to express oneself, but that does not give one the right to be an insensitive fool. Willcox wasn’t being brave when he asked that question, he was being stupid and also borderline bigoted. The attack in Paris has only recently highlighted the spiraling anti-semitism in France, which triggered the flight of thousands in 2014. The attack on the kosher store has, reportedly, created a situation of heightened fear and anxiety among the Jewish population in Paris, who barely even got the chance of moving on from the anti-semitic violence that erupted last year at Sarcelles in a pro-Palestinian rally. In a situation like this, when you as a journalist find a Jewish woman ready to speak to you about the experiences of the Jewish people, it doesn’t take a genius to know that making her answer for the atrocities committed by Israel on the Palestinians is not only irresponsible but outright racist.

In the end, I find the incident, while unfortunate, a little ironical. Where else do we hear about persons of a community being made to answer (and sometimes pay) for the crimes of extremists among them?


  1. GregB says

    Actually, the right to express oneself exactly includes the right to be (in some other person’s opinion) an “insensitive fool”.

    The very idea of free expression makes no sense if you allow for the idea that other peoples’ claimed “sensitivities” gives
    them a veto on an individual’s speech rights.

    Pretty basic stuff…

  2. says

    Did I give out the impression that I want him prosecuted or something? Sorry for that.

    My argument was Willcox screwed up and he should apologise. But the demand for apology itself made many declare him to be a victim of a witchhunt and one of the martyrs of free speech. Much like the Shirtstorm incident a few months ago.

    His expression did not attract legal sanctions, but it did attract the ire of a whole lot of people, and that doesn’t count, at least not to me, as infringing upon an individual’s liberty. It was more like forced into taking up the responsibility of one’s actions.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Context matters.

    How much do French news audiences hear about the routine atrocities of Israel on Palestinians?

    If plenty, Willcox was being purely an ass. If as little as USAnians hear, he was showing some courage (with, admittedly, awful timing).

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