This evening, hundreds of protestors attended our “BBC News: Stop Blaming Jews!” rally outside Broadcasting House in London, which was endorsed by Lord Grade and Dame Maureen Lipman.
The rally was prompted by the BBC’s appalling coverage of an antisemitic incident on Oxford Street over Chanukah, when a group of Jewish teenagers celebrating the festival were accosted by racist thugs who forced them back onto their bus and began 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.
The BBC reported on its website that the explicit expressions of antisemitism evident in the video were merely “allegations”, and 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.” After public fury, the BBC amended the article to refer to an “anti-Muslim slur” in the singular, but failed to show any evidence why a supposed slur that nobody could hear with certainty was described as “clearly heard” and reported as fact — and even implied to have been a cause of the antisemitic harassment — while the harassment itself remained mere “allegation”.
Lord Grade, a former Chairman of the BBC, described the BBC’s rapportage as “shoddy journalism” and called for answers in a video supporting the protest, while Dame Maureen Lipman encouraged people to attend “Because you care, and you will be demonstrating against my often-times employer asking for parity with other victims of racism, prejudice and abuse.”
At the rally, Gideon Falter, Chief Executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said to the crowd: “We don’t want to be here, but we have to be here, because we have to say: ‘BBC News, stop blaming Jews’.” He added: “We see no evidence for the BBC’s claim, which is a distraction from the real story, which is that Jewish teenagers were prevented by racist thugs from celebrating Chanukah.”
The founder of Muslims Against Antisemitism, Fiyaz Mughal OBE, observed that “It’s sad we have to come out here again, when Jews are blamed by institutions that we think we should have trust in.”
The crowd demanded: “BBC News where’s the proof! BBC News tell the truth!”
The rally came after the BBC failed to respond substantively to contact from Campaign Against Antisemitism and other Jewish organisations about its recent coverage, which is not out of the ordinary for the public broadcaster. Polling that we conducted last year for our Antisemitism Barometer 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. These figures reflect years of eroding confidence in the BBC on the part of the Jewish community.
We have submitted a complaint to the BBC and have also written to the Chairman and Director-General of the BBC to voice our concerns. In our letter, we called on the BBC to reveal their 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 also reiterated our call for the BBC to adopt the International Definition of Antisemitism and once again offered to provide the Corporation with training in how to identify and deal with antisemitism, which will go some way to restoring what little remains of the confidence of the Jewish community in our nation’s public service broadcaster.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Tonight’s rally sends a message to the BBC that the Jewish community has had enough of years of the BBC victim-blaming Jewish people for antisemitism, downplaying racism towards Jews, platforming antisemites and fuelling antisemitism in Britain. We demand explanations over the BBC’s outrageous coverage of the recent antisemitic incident on Oxford Street, when the BBC’s reports victim-blamed Jewish teenagers for being attacked. We also call on the BBC to finally adopt the International Definition of Antisemitism and accept antisemitism training from us for its staff and reporters.”
We will be discussing the incident and the rally further in our podcast this Thursday, which will also feature a full interview with Lord Grade.
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].
Image credit: Nathan Lilienfeld