Anger over Melanie Phillips' Gaza famine denial on BBC Question Time

Anger over Melanie Phillips' Gaza famine denial on BBC Question Time
Melanie Phillips’ has come under fire from viewers for her comments on Gaza on BBC’s Question Time, claiming there is no famine in Gaza.
3 min read
15 March, 2024
Melanie Phillips' appearance on BBC Question Time was met with anger due to her history of Islamophobia [GETTY]

Melanie Phillips, known as one of the UK's leading right-wing and pro-Israel journalists, has been slammed by viewers for her comments denying there is a famine in Gaza on the BBC's Question Time programme on Thursday night.

The audience could be heard laughing after Phillips claimed there is no famine in Gaza, saying, "go on YouTube and see pictures of stocked food markets" in the Palestinian enclave.

Gaza has suffered a devastating siege and breakdown in security after Israel launched a devastating assault on Gaza on 7 October, leading to mass hunger across the enclave and death by starvation in the north.

Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times but also contributes to The Jerusalem Post and The Jewish Chronicle. Her appearance on the BBC show was met with anger due to her history of posting allegedly Islamophobic views.

Phillips was joined by Scottish National Party (SNP) Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, Conservative minister Lee Rowley, Labour's Jonathan Reynolds and broadcaster Ayesha Hazarika.

Flynn spoke about the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and advocated for an immediate ceasefire when the journalist argued that his concerns were "distorted and so untrue".

Phillips went on to allege that Israel was not limiting aid to Gaza but supplies were being "stolen by Hamas", leading to an intervention from the host, Fiona Bruce, highlighting the United Nations (UN) and humanitarian organisations' reports of children dying of starvation.

The veteran right-wing columnist then claimed that Hamas "operatives" had "compromised" the UN, referring to the so-far unfounded Israeli allegations that United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) staff were involved in Hamas's surprise attack on 7 October.

UNRWA has reported that half a million people in Gaza are facing starvation, and all 2.3 million experience acute food shortages.

While vital food aid is needed, Israeli forces have disrupted north Gaza's aid distribution with numerous attacks and delivery being deliberately held up by Israel.

Even the EU's top envoy Josep Borrell recently accused Israel of using starvation as a weapon of war.

So far, at least 27 people have died from the effects of starvation in the Gaza Strip. 

On Thursday night, Israeli forces killed over 20 Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza City in an Apache helicopter attack.

Phillips has a long history of espousing Islamophobic views and controversial defences of Israel. 

She caused public outrage in 2019 after describing Islamophobia as a "bogus label" that excuses antisemitic behaviour in an article for The Jewish Chronicle.

In March of last year, she wrote on her Substack that Palestinians did not exist as an ethnicity but were actually "Arab colonialists" seeking to wipe out Jewish Israelis. 

The Muslim Council of Britain had previously penned an open letter to BBC Director General Tony Hall for giving a platform to "far-right" figures. 

The MCB Secretary General Harun Khan has singled out an occasion where Phillips was invited as a guest on the Politics Live programme, just days after she said that deception is a mainstream Muslim belief in a column for The Times.

Phillips' appearance on the programme has led to the BBC of being accused of "normalising" Islamophobia.