Jews accuse BBC of intimidating teenagers into dropping claims against false coverage.
By Pesach Benson, United With Israel
The British Broadcasting Corporation sparked new anger among UK Jews when it demanded the identities of the teen victims of an antisemitic attack, the Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday.
The BBC has been embroiled in controversy since Chanukah over its coverage of an antisemitic attack on a London bus carrying Jewish children celebrating the holiday. On Oxford Street in the heart of downtown London, they were harassed by young men shouting “Free Palestine,” making Nazi salutes, spitting at the windows, banging on the windows and making profane gestures.
The attack was caught on video but police still have no suspects.
The BBC falsely reported that Islamophobic slurs could be heard from inside the bus, though none were heard in the video. A linguist and forensic audio expert commissioned by the Board of Jewish Deputies concluded that the words in question were somebody saying in Hebrew, “tikra lemishehu, ze dachuf,” which in English means, “Call someone, it’s urgent.” The BBC has not furnished any evidence to its report that one of the children was heard saying “dirty Muslims.”
According to the Chronicle, lawyers working on behalf of the victims contacted the BBC to challenge the report. The victims are demanding the allegations be withdrawn and that the BBC offer compensation.
“The report fails to make clear that the antisemitic abuse was entirely unprovoked and significantly understates its seriousness,” the letter said.
The letter added that the BBC may have also violated the 2010 Equality Act by discriminating against the teens on grounds of religion and/or race.
The BBC responded by letter, saying, ““We will be unable to substantively further progress your legal complaint until you identify your clients.”
However, legal experts quoted by the Chronicle castigated the BBC’s demand.
“It is wholly unacceptable for the BBC to try to force frightened teenagers to reveal their names, particularly as there is film of the incident anyway. It is not part of a civil action. All they are doing at this stage is seeking answers from the BBC and an apology,” said Lord Alex Carlile, who teaches law at Swansea University.
“The BBC is just wrong, and it goes against public interest to insist that people who have been subjected to an attack should identify themselves at this stage,” he added.
Jonathan Turner, executive director of UK Lawyers for Israel, accused the corporation of trying to intimidate the children into dropping their claim.
“The BBC does not need to know who the claimants are to investigate the veracity of their own report,” Turner told the Chronicle, adding that the BBC’s request was “pure prevarication.”
Former BBC chairman Michael Grade called on the news service in December to “provide the evidence to support their defense or rethink and issue an urgent correction and apology.”
The BBC’s credibility took a further hit this month when Rabbi YY Rubinstein resigned from the BBC after 30 years of contributing to various TV and radio programs. His resignation letter posted on Facebook denounced the Corporation’s “inexcusable antisemitism,” adding, ““I simply don’t see how I or in fact any Jew who has any pride in that name can be associated with the Corporation anymore.”
On the heels of the BBC being ranked third on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of global antisemites, pressure has mounted for the Corporation to adopt a definition of antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
BBC Director-General Tim Davie is due to meet with the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, later in January.
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