BBC stands by bus attack report, insisting: ‘Anti-Muslim slur WAS spoken in English’

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BBC stands by bus attack report, insisting: ‘Anti-Muslim slur WAS spoken in English’

EXCLUSIVE: Broadcaster accuses Jewish News of "misrepresenting" its coverage, saying it “consulted Hebrew speakers" in determining an Islamophobic slur was uttered on the bus, as Chief Rabbi writes to director-general to express his concern.

Richard Ferrer has been editor of Jewish News since 2009. As one of Britain's leading Jewish voices he writes for The Times, Independent, New Statesman and many other titles. Richard previously worked at the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, edited the Boston Jewish Advocate and created the Channel 4 TV series Jewish Mum Of The Year.

A Middle Eastern looking man in his 20s stands on a bench and makes insulting gestures towards the bus passengers.
A Middle Eastern looking man in his 20s stands on a bench and makes insulting gestures towards the bus passengers.

The BBC has claimed its coverage of an attack on a busload of Jewish youngsters on Oxford Street has been “misrepresented” and revealed it “consulted Hebrew speakers” in determining an anti-Muslim slur was spoken in English as the bus was under attack.

Jewish News can also reveal that Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has written privately to Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC, to express his concerns.

The broadcaster’s reporting of the sickening assault on a group of Charedim celebrating Chanukah sparked unbridled anger across the Jewish community and beyond, with the BBC report blaming victims for “a slur about Muslims” while describing the shouting, spitting and Nazi salutes from outside the bus as “alleged” antisemitism.

In the audio someone is heard saying in apparent Hebrew: “Tikra lemishehu, ze dachuf” – “Call someone, it’s urgent”. It is understood the BBC took this be someone shouting in English: “Dirty Muslims”. Former BBC chairman Lord Michael Grade has urged the corporation to prove its claim or apologise.

Writing to Jewish News on Monday afternoon, BBC nations director Rhodri Talfan Davies said: “We have been cautious in our response because of the ongoing police investigation but we want to address the accusation the BBC has acted unfairly.

“Our story was a factual report that overwhelmingly focused on the individuals the police want to identify. In the eighth paragraph of the article, there was a brief reference to a slur, captured in a video recording, that appeared to come from the bus. The slur was expressed in English and can be heard in the recording. Our report reflected this.”

He adds: “It has been claimed what we considered to be an abusive term in English was in fact someone speaking in Hebrew. We have consulted a number of Hebrew speakers in determining that the slur was spoken in English.

“The brief reference to the slur was included to ensure the fullest account of the incident was reported. The idea it was included to ‘balance’ our coverage is simply untrue. Nor was it included to diminish the trauma suffered by those on the bus or justify the actions of those shouting abuse. We have never repeated the actual words of the slur, as has been suggested.

Finally, our subsequent reporting of ‘allegations of anti-Semitic abuse’ reflects the fact that the events are now part of a live police investigation. Our intentions have been misrepresented. We strive to serve the Jewish community, and all communities across our country, fairly.”

Jewish News understands conversations between the corporation and Chief Rabbi’s office have been ongoing since last week, specifically in regard to an adequate explanation for the anti-Muslim racial slur claim.

• Campaign Against Antisemitism is planning a protest about the coverage outside Broadcasting House, W1A 1AA, at 6:30pm on Monday 13 December.

Can you help catch the culprits? Anyone with information about the bus attack is asked to call police on 101 or tweet @MetCC quoting 6184/29Nov. Alternatively, call the Charing Cross Hate Crime Unit on 07900 608 252 or email
To contact police anonymously call independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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