The BBC has a serious issue with Jews

Last night's 10pm News report was simply grotesque in its refusal even to mention antisemitism


COLLEYVILLE, TX - JANUARY 17: Congregation Beth Israel synagogue is shown on January 17, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. A 44-year-old British national over the weekend stormed into the synagogue with a gun and held four people hostage for more than 10 hours. (Photo by Emil Lippe/Getty Images)

January 18, 2022 11:55

I’m guessing that in the long history of the Jewish people, not many of us have been subjected to full-throated booing in shul.

Well, I have. It was some years ago and I was taking part in a panel session on BBC bias. I was arguing that while BBC reporting of Israel was clearly biased against it – this was in the days of Orla Guerin – it was wrong and counter-productive to argue that it was institutionally antisemitic. Cue the boos.

That’s a position I’ve maintained down the years and to which I still hold. Just. The idea that BBC employees en masse hold an animus against Jews, and that the BBC as an organisation finds ways wherever it can to do down and attack Jews, has always struck me as ridiculous.  

Which brings us to more recent events. I have to admit, it has become steadily more difficult to convince myself, let alone other people, that the BBC does not have a problem with Jews – as Jews. 

Take last night’s coverage of the Beth Israel shul siege in Texas, when a rabbi and three other Jews were taken hostage in the synagogue. Not once in its report on its flagship 10pm news did it mention antisemitism. Not once, at any point, did Ed Thomas, the BBC’s Special Correspondent, even hint that the gunman might even possibly, just perhaps, you never know, have had an issue of some kind with Jews. 

Mr Thomas began his report by asking: “What made Malik Faisal Akram leave Blackburn, the place he called home, to travel to Texas , arm himself with a gun and hold people hostage inside a synagogue?” A real mystery that, eh? I don’t know, Ed. I am really struggling to think what might have motivated him. But obviously it had nothing to do with Jews.

The entire report was predicated on gunman Malik Faisal Akram having mental health problems, as if he was some kind of tortured soul for whom we really should have pity.

Mr Thomas went on to say: “The US president has described what happened here as an act of terror” - which is indeed correct, President Biden did say that. But he also – as did our own PM – labelled it as an antisemitic attack. You know, what with the rabbi, the Jews and the synagogue. But no, for the BBC, this is clearly not about antisemitism. It was just a coincidence that the rabbi and the Jews were in the building he walked into, which just happened to be a synagogue. Damned unlucky all round.

The real outrage, it seems, was that he was killed, with the report including a friend of Akram’s family attacking the US police: "It's the way he was killed, he was shot - that shouldn't have happened." Ed Thomas continued that this raised a series of questions, which he itemised. None were about why Akram hated Jews so much he flew to Texas to get them.

I don’t think I have ever seen a more grotesquely skewed report of a major terrorist incident than last night’s BBC report, which could only have happened if all involved went through a series of intellectual contortions to avoid mentioning antisemitism. 

The report would be bad enough on its own. But in the context of the ongoing row over the BBC’s reporting of the Chanukah assault on a group of Jewish children in Oxford Street, it is difficult not to sense a pattern.

At every stage of this fiasco, the BBC has behaved as if it regarded those who were angry with its reporting of the attack – such as the Board of Deputies - with pure contempt. Indeed, when the boys’ lawyer wrote to the BBC, it demanded the lawyer hand over their names as a condition of engaging with the complaint – an astonishing, outrageous attempt to remove the anonymity of the victims of an assault. 

This follows on from the flawed original report, of course – which by accusing one of the boys of making an “anti-Muslim slur”, made it seem as if the Jewish boys were themselves somehow to blame.

The BBC has consciously and deliberately spurned every opportunity to apologise for its flawed reporting of this incident and it has refused even to try to conciliate the Jewish community, which through the Board of Deputies has gone out of its way to offer the chance for the BBC to say sorry. It is genuinely difficult to avoid the conclusion that the BBC actually wants to have a fight.

On and on it goes. The BBC may not be institutionally antisemitic. But the evidence is now all too clear that it has a serious issue with Jews. 




January 18, 2022 11:55

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