Jewish leaders set to confront BBC chief Tim Davie to demand apology

Jewish leaders are set to confront BBC chief Tim Davie to demand public apology over ‘colossal error’ in its report on anti-Semitic bus attack that suggested the victims used ‘anti-Muslim slurs’

  • Video earlier this month showed men hurling abuse and spitting at Jews on a bus
  • Incident treated as a hate crime by police and condemned by the Prime Minister
  • In its original report, BBC News said ‘racial slurs about Muslims could be heard’
  • Independent report by forensic audio experts and linguist said this was untrue

Jewish leaders are set to confront BBC chief Tim Davie to demand a public apology after an investigation revealed a ‘colossal error’ in its reporting of an anti-Semitic attack on Oxford Street.

Earlier this month, a video emerged of a group of men hurling abuse and spitting at a group of Jewish teenagers sitting inside a bus, before banging on the windows as it pulled away.

The incident was treated as a hate crime by police and was condemned by the Prime Minister and by the Mayor of London.

But in its original report, BBC News said ‘racial slurs about Muslims could be heard inside the bus’, a claim criticised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism.

The incident on Oxford Street earlier this month was treated as a hate crime by police and was condemned by the Prime Minister and by the Mayor of London

And the board has now commissioned its own independent report by forensic audio experts and a linguist which concluded there were no anti-Muslim insults.

It found the phrase thought to be a slur was actually a Hebrew phrase, ‘Tikrah lemishu,ze dachuf’ meaning: ‘Call someone, it is urgent.’

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl described the BBC’s ‘misreporting’ as ‘a colossal error’, which ‘has added insult to injury in accusing victims of antisemitism of being guilty of bigotry themselves’.

She continued: ‘What takes this from an egregious failure to something far more sinister is the BBC’s behaviour when confronted with its mistake. Instead of admitting it was wrong, it has doubled and tripled down.’

Ms Van der Zyl demanded the corporation to publicly apologise, and said the Board of Deputies would be holding a meeting with Director General Tim Davie next month, which will include ‘a full and frank discussion of this issue’.

She said the corporation’s behaviour ‘raises serious questions about deep-seated biases within the BBC towards Israelis, and indeed towards Jews in general’.

The BBC is standing by its report of the incident, and a spokesman 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.

‘There was a brief reference to a slur, captured in a video recording, that appeared to come from the bus. 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.’  

Footage showed the group of Jewish teenagers dancing as they celebrated Hanukkah moments before the attack


The men were seen shouting abuse and gesturing at the bus after the teenagers got on board  


 The men banged on the windows and spat at the bus as it pulled away from Oxford Street 

Hundreds of Jews gathered outside Broadcasting House for a protest about the story two weeks ago, with attendees holding banners and chanting ‘BBC News where’s the proof!’ and ‘BBC News tell the truth!’

Dame Maureen Lipman encouraged people to join the demonstration ‘because you care, and you will be demonstrating against my often-times employer asking for parity with other victims of racism, prejudice and abuse’. 

It came as the BBC was ranked third – behind Iran and the Palestinian terror group Hamas – in a ‘Global Antisemitism’ list compiled by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the US.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, the head of the centre, said the BBC was ‘guilty of several incidences of antisemitism during the past year’.

He told the Mail on Sunday: ‘People might assume we would put neo-Nazi groups on our list but the BBC is there because when a globally recognised organisation allows antisemitism to creep into its reporting, it makes it all the more insidious and dangerous.

‘People around the world trust the BBC and rely on it for truthful reporting of world events.’

Rabbi Hier said the decision to include the BBC on the annual list had come ‘after months of intense debate and discussion’.

He singled out the broadcaster’s reporting of an attack on a bus carrying Jewish teenagers by a group of men who chanted anti-Israel slogans.

The attack took place on Oxford Street in Central London and video footage appeared to show a group of men shouting threats, spitting, hurling abuse and banging on the bus’s windows.

The Jewish Board of Deputies said it would be holding a meeting with Director General Tim Davie next month, which will include ‘a full and frank discussion of this issue’

The incident was treated as a hate crime by police and was condemned by the Prime Minister and by the Mayor of London.

Rabbi Hier said the BBC had ‘falsely reported that a victim on the bus used an anti-Muslim slur’.

He said: ‘What was heard on tape was a distressed Jewish man speaking in Hebrew appealing for help.’

The BBC issued a statement earlier this month saying its story was a ‘factual report’ that ‘overwhelmingly focused on the individuals the police want to identify; those who directed abuse at the bus’.

The Wiesenthal Center’s report also criticised the BBC for ‘often’ referring to Israelis as ‘settlers’ and cited a video tweeted by a senior BBC producer, Alaa Daraghme.

The video was captioned: ‘An Israeli settler ramming a Palestinian man near the Lions’ Gate.’

Rabbi Hier said: ‘In fact, the car drove on to the pavement after an attempt by Palestinians to lynch the Jewish driver who lost control of the vehicle.’

A BBC source told the Mail on Sunday the original tweet was posted when there was ‘some confusion’ over the incident. Mr Daraghme later published another tweet clarifying what had happened.

Hundreds of Jews gathered outside Broadcasting House for a protest about the story two weeks ago, with attendees holding banners and chanting ‘BBC News where’s the proof!’ and ‘BBC News tell the truth!’

The Wiesenthal Center report also criticised former BBC reporter Tala Halawa, who posted a series of tweets including ‘Hitler was right’ and ‘Zionists can’t get enough of our blood’ in 2014.

The tweets were posted three years before she began working for the BBC and she no longer works for the broadcaster.

She later said she had made the comments as ‘a young Palestinian woman tweeting in the heat of the moment’ and said the ‘offensive and ignorant words’ did not reflect her views. She also said she had been known for ‘impartiality and professional journalism’ during her time at the BBC.

The Wiesenthal Center report is due to be released tomorrow (Tues) and ranks Iran as the worst offender for antisemitism, followed by the Palestinian group Hamas.

It also includes ‘social media giants’ in its top ten for allowing hate to spread online, and the Unilever corporation, which owns Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Ben & Jerry’s announced this year that its products would no longer be sold in the West Bank, but denied it amounted to a boycott of Israel. 

The founder of Muslims Against Antisemitism, Fiyaz Mughal OBE, spoke at the protest. He said: ‘It’s sad we have to come out here again, when Jews are blamed by institutions that we think we should have trust in’

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