Outrage as BBC Demands Jewish Victims of Baseless Slur Reveal Identities
For more than a month, the BBC has refused to retract and apologize to Jewish teenagers who were victims of an antisemitic assault in central London in late November, after the British national broadcaster insinuated in an article on its website that they had leveled “anti-Muslims slurs” at their attackers.
On November 29, a group of Jewish teenagers celebrating Hanukkah on Oxford Street in central London were attacked by a group of men. A video from the scene shows the men spitting and hurling antisemitic insults, and hitting a bus that the Jewish victims had boarded.
In its reporting of the incident, the BBC alleged that “anti-Muslim slurs” were heard from within the bus – despite no evidence to back up this claim.
The protracted debacle has now taken yet another turn, after it emerged late last week that the BBC is now demanding that the Jewish teenagers reveal their identities.
The demand comes almost a month after it was revealed that the Metropolitan Police would not be looking any further into the BBC’s claims that “anti-Muslim slurs” were heard.
With no apology forthcoming, a number of demonstrations were held outside the BBC headquarters, with hundreds chanting “BBC News, where’s the proof?” and “BBC News, tell the truth!”
Yet despite the refusal of the police to investigate the matter, and the anger and pain expressed by members of the Jewish community, the BBC has thus far failed to take down the baseless claim from its website.
And now, instead of attempting to rectify the wretched situation, the BBC has compounded matters by requesting that the victims of the antisemitic attack reveal their identities before responding to a legal complaint filed by lawyers acting on behalf of the victims.
The move has sparked outrage from numerous Jewish leaders. The Jewish Chronicle reported that Jonathan Turner, executive director of UK Lawyers for Israel, accused the corporation of “attempting to intimidate the youngsters into dropping the claim,” and that legal expert Lord Carlile decried the BBC’s demand as “wholly unacceptable.”
The controversy centers around a brief passage of audio, which BBC journalist Harry Farley claimed features anti-Muslim insults. Writing on Twitter, Farley claimed that, “At about 3 seconds into the video you can just about hear someone on the bus saying ‘dirty Muslims’. This was actually something picked up by my editors not me and they wanted to reflect that briefly in the piece.”
However, an independent forensic audio report by the GnasherJew activist collective concluded that no anti-Muslim insults were audible, but the words in question were actually a phrase in Hebrew: “Tikra lemishehu, zeh dachuf,” meaning, “Call someone, it’s urgent.”
This episode is just the latest in a string of incidents that call into question the BBC’s impartiality regarding Israel and Jewish people over the last year.
In May 2021, HonestReporting helped expose the antisemitic tweets of reporter Tala Halawa, following a lead by GnasherJew. After an HonestReporting tweet went viral, the issue received widespread media coverage, and the BBC eventually fired Halawa some weeks later.
In November 2021, our investigation uncovered numerous antisemitic social posts by another BBC employee, Nasima Begum.
But it was hardly surprising for an organization that has for years suppressed a report that would have exposed its deep-seated anti-Israel bias.
Back in December, HonestReporting filed dual complaints to the BBC and Ofcom, the government-approved independent regulatory body responsible for the British media.
We noted that, contrary to the BBC’s allegations, “the Metropolitan police have examined the evidence and heard no such slur,” before making clear that the “claim is an utter sham and deeply offensive to the Jewish community. There are no ‘two sides’ here. Jews were being abused. They did not do any abusing of their own. Insinuating that they did is outrageous.”
We also noted the BBC’s failure to adequately address the problem, despite widespread condemnation from Britain’s Jewish community:
The BBC has repeatedly parried complaints about this false accusation instead of doing the decent thing and admitting that the claim simply has no basis. It’s outrageous and deeply offensive. It’s bad enough when Jews are attacked on the streets of London, but for them to then be falsely accused of hurling abuse themselves constitutes a total failure to meet basic journalistic standards.
While the latest events have caught public attention, it has been abundantly clear to the Jewish community for some time now that the BBC has a serious problem that must be urgently addressed.
The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.