New Expert Reports Disprove ‘Beyond Any Doubt’ BBC’s Accusation Against Victims of Antisemitic Attack
Experts in audio analysis and linguistics confirmed in two new reports commissioned by the Board of Deputies of British Jews that the BBC’s claim that the victims of an antisemitic attack used anti-Muslim slurs is false.
The incident took place on Nov. 29 in London, when a group of Muslim men surrounded a bus carrying Jewish teenagers celebrating Hanukkah — spitting and shouting threats at them before banging on the vehicle’s windows.
The BBC’s coverage of the incident claimed that Jewish teens inside the bus had responded to their assailants with anti-Muslim slurs, an allegation that was forcefully rejected by community leaders.
Multiple sources later revealed that a phrase BBC producers had apparently heard as “dirty Muslim” was in fact a mishearing of a Hebrew phrase — “tikra lemishehu, ze dachuf,” which in English means, “call someone, it’s urgent.”
The BBC has thus far refused to correct the report, although it did amend the article to change an earlier assertion that more than one supposed slur was heard in the footage.
Now, two independent reports commissioned by the Board of Deputies have shown that the BBC’s accusation against the victims “has been proved beyond any doubt to be inaccurate,” the Jewish communal group said Thursday.
The first report, by D3 Forensics, involved a native Hebrew speaker analyzing an enhanced version of the audio file using noise reduction filters and other tools to extract the spoken words.
The analysis, the company states, “unequivocally confirms that the audio does not contain any racial slur, neither the word ‘dirty’ nor the word ‘Muslim’ could be heard in the soundtrack.”
The second report is by Professor Ghil’ad Zuckerman, who is Chair of Linguistics and Endangered Languages at the University of Adelaide in Australia and also a native Hebrew speaker.
“I listened to the footage various times and I could hear both native Israeli and nonnative English throughout the footage,” he said. “However, around the 3 second mark I can only hear native Israeli [Hebrew].”
He confirmed that the audio in question is indeed native Hebrew for “call someone, it’s urgent.”
“I have listened to the rest of the clip in its entirety and was unable to detect any anti-Muslim slur at any point in the footage: neither in Israeli nor in English,” Zuckerman concluded.
Marie van der Zyl, President of the BOD, commented, “It should not have been left to us, a Jewish communal organization, to commission an independent report to prove this point. The BBC should have done this itself, rather than apparently conducting an internal investigation and finding no wrongdoing.”
“To us, this apparent attempt to mark its own homework is reminiscent of the behavioral pattern the corporation has displayed amidst past scandals,” she said. “Once again, instead of approaching a potential error with an open mind, its default response appears to be to circle the wagons and deny everything. This is clearly a calamitous approach to retaining the public’s trust.”
Reached for comment by the UK’s Jewish Chronicle, a BBC spokesperson said, “Antisemitism is abhorrent. We strive to serve the Jewish community, and all communities across our country, fairly.”
“Our story was a factual report that overwhelmingly focused on the individuals the police want to identify; those who directed abuse at the bus,” they said.
“There was a brief reference to a slur, captured in a video recording, that appeared to come from the bus,” the spokesperson claimed. “We consulted a number of Hebrew speakers in determining that the slur was spoken in English.”
“The brief reference to this was included so the fullest account of the incident was reported,” they said.