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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 12:03 GMT
BBC issues apology over Thought
Radio microphone
The remarks were made on BBC Radio 4 earlier this month
The BBC has apologised after receiving complaints over a recent edition of BBC Radio 4's Thought For The Day.

In the programme, on 10 February, the Reverend John Bell of the Iona Community spoke of meeting an Arab man conscripted into the Israeli Army.

Dr Bell told listeners the 19-year-old corporal had been jailed for refusing to shoot Palestinian schoolchildren.

However, the remarks angered many members of Britain's Jewish community, who said the account could not be true.

'Factual errors'

Several people told the BBC that Israeli Arabs are exempt from conscription into the army. Moreover, it would be impossible for a 19-year-old to rise to the rank of corporal.

Dr Bell has since admitted, in a letter to the BBC, that his account contained "two factual errors".

"One was that the soldier was 21 and not 19, thus he would have been of the age to be a corporal.

"The second is that he did not say he was conscripted. My presumption regarding conscription is wrong as regards Arab Israelis.

"I perfectly understand that at a time when Jewish sensitivity in Britain is running high because of anti-Semitism that part of my remarks might have been interpreted as furtive racism.

"However, such a conjecture would be completely untrue. For any unintended dismay I may have caused, I apologise unreservedly."

The BBC added their own apology, on the Thought For The Day website, acknowledging that the facts should have been checked prior to broadcast.

"We have talked to the Israeli authorities and we are unable to find any evidence to support the story told to Dr Bell and recounted by him on Thought for the Day.

"The Religion and Ethics Department apologises on behalf of the BBC and regrets the offence that was caused."

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