Fury as BBC demands anti-Semitic bus attack victims reveal identities

Fury as BBC demands teenagers who suffered anti-Semitic abuse in Oxford Street bus attack should reveal their identities before it responds to legal complaint over report suggesting 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
  • Responding to victims’ lawyers, BBC asked them to identify their clients 

The BBC has demanded that teenagers who suffered anti-Semitic abuse in Oxford Street should reveal their identities before the corporation responds to a legal complaint over its report suggesting victims used ‘anti-Muslim slurs’.

Last 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, but in its original report of the incident, BBC News said ‘racial slurs about Muslims could be heard inside the bus’.

The claim was criticised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and lawyers acting on behalf of the victims, who ‘categorically deny’ the slur was said, wrote to the corporation to contest it.

In response, the BBC said: ‘We will be unable to substantively further progress your legal complaint until you identify your clients.’

Leading legal expert Lord Carlile said the BBC’s demand was ‘wholly unacceptable’, while Jonathan Turner, executive director of UK Lawyers for Israel, accused the corporation of ‘attempting to intimidate the youngsters into dropping the claim’, the Jewish Chronicle reported. 

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


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

It comes days after Rabbi YY Rubinstein, a contributor to BBC programmes including Good Morning Sunday and the Thought For The Day, resigned in a letter to the corporation.

Jewish broadcaster resigns from BBC over ‘inexcusable’ anti-Semitism

 by Dan Sales

A Jewish BBC broadcaster resigned after the corporation’s coverage of an anti-Semitic attack wrongly accused the victims of making offensive Muslim slurs. 

Rabbi YY Rubinstein, a contributor to BBC programmes including Good Morning Sunday and the Thought For The Day, quit via a letter.

He released it on Facebook, addressed to a member of staff, only known as Gabby.

The letter said: ‘The current crisis over anti-Semitism at the Corporation and its attempts to turn the victims of the recent anti-Semitic attack on Jewish children in London and claim that the victims were actually the perpetrators, was and is inexcusable. The obfuscation, denial that followed, was and is utterly damning.

‘The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles actually includes the BBC in its annual global anti-Semitism, ‘Top Ten’.

‘This does not in any way reflect on your own production company whose own record in this regard is exemplary. It also does not apply to many of the individuals I have worked with at the BBC over three decades.

‘They were among some of the most courteous, kind and talented people I ever met or worked with. The same applies to you and your colleagues.

‘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.’

His letter, which he released on Facebook, addressed a member of staff, only known as Gabby, and said: ‘The current crisis over anti-Semitism at the Corporation and its attempts to turn the victims of the recent anti-Semitic attack on Jewish children in London and claim that the victims were actually the perpetrators, was and is inexcusable. The obfuscation, denial that followed, was and is utterly damning.

‘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.’ 

The Board of Deputies of British Jews 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 publicly apologise, and said the Board of Deputies would be holding a meeting with Director General Tim Davie later this 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’.

At the end of last month, the BBC stood 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.’ 

MP Theresa Villiers, who is also vice-chairwoman of Conservative Friends of Israel, told the Jewish Chronicle that the ‘BBC’s reporting of this shocking incident falls below the standards of impartiality’ expected from it.

She said the situation had been ‘made worse by the corporation’s failure to correct its article and by its defensive and unhelpful response to the complaint from lawyers acting for the victims’.

Tory MP John Whittingdale said the issue has ‘left a damaging stain on the BBC in the eyes of the Jewish community’.

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.


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

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

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!’

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

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