The Metropolitan Police Service is investigating as a hate crime an attack on a bus that travelled down Oxford Street on 30th November carrying a group of visibly Jewish teenagers celebrating the Jewish festival of Chanukah. Videos taken by passengers on the bus appeared to show a group of men hitting the vehicle with their hands and then their shoes, spitting on it, trying to break windows and performing Nazi salutes, as well as shouting antisemitic insults and swearing. Further footage was published showing that the teenage passengers had been dancing in the street before being accosted and forced back onto the private bus.
Originally, the BBC reported on its website that the explicit expressions of antisemitism evident in the video were merely “allegations”, but the BBC simultaneously claimed — alone among all media outlets — that “some racial slurs about Muslims can also be heard from inside the bus,” an assertion made with no evidence to support it and which was even contradicted in the article by a witness from the bus who said that she heard no such slurs. On its BBC London Evening News, the BBC even suggested that “it’s not clear what role [the supposed slurs] may have had in the incident.” The BBC appears to have fed this unsubstantiated claim to the Met, which assured the Corporation that the incident will be looked at “in its entirety.”
The public reacted to the article with fury, with nobody able to identify any “anti-Muslim slurs” in the audio accompanying the video. Despite justifiable calls for the BBC to release the evidence for its assertion, it has failed to do so, instead merely amending the article to refer to an “anti-Muslim slur” in the singular. A BBC spokesperson stated that: “The audio appears to show that a slur can be heard coming from the bus. We have changed our story to clarify only one such slur can be heard clearly.”
Still, however, nobody is able to discern any slur — let alone being able to hear one “clearly”, as the BBC has insisted — and no evidence has been provided. Moreover, the alleged slur is still reported as fact while the obvious antisemitism remains a mere “allegation”.
In our letter, we also noted polling that we conducted last year, in our Antisemitism Barometer, which revealed that two thirds of British Jews are deeply concerned by the BBC’s coverage of matters of Jewish concern, and 55% by its handling of antisemitism complaints. In view of these figures, we trust that you will take these concerns seriously.
We have called on the BBC to reveal its evidence that an anti-Muslim slur can be heard on the bus and explain why the claim that an anti-Muslim slur can be heard is asserted as fact (despite nobody else being able to discern such a slur) while the evident antisemitism is caveated as mere allegation.
We have also once again called on the BBC to adopt the International Definition of Antisemitism, and have again offered antisemitism training, as previous offers to the former Director-General, Lord Hall, were repeatedly rebuffed.
Campaign Against Antisemitism monitors traditional media and regularly holds outlets to account. If members of the public are concerned about reportage in the media, they should contact us at [email protected].
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