Parents of the Jewish victims of last week’s antisemitic incident on Oxford Street have accused the BBC of "demonising" their children, as outrage continues to mount in the community over the corporation’s reporting of the story.
A line in the BBC’s coverage read: “A slur about Muslims can also be heard from inside the bus. The Met Police has said the incident will be looked at ‘in its entirety’.”
“BBC News has demonised my son, who was on that bus, to serve their anti-Jewish agenda,” said Yechiel Wilhelm in a tweet. It also came to light that a packing crate was thrown at the children as they fled.
Rabbi Schneur Glitzenshtein, who organised the original bus trip, confirmed that none of the victims had used Islamophobic language. “Not one word,” he said.
"Only good things. Happy words, happy songs. We came with the light, with happiness.”
He added: “Everyone can see we just came, we danced and were happy.”
Last Monday, a bus of Jewish children who had gone to watch the Chanukah lights were accosted by a group of thugs as they danced on Oxford Street.
The BBC originally claimed that several "racial slurs” were expressed by the Jewish children. On being contacted by the JC, the corporation rowed back, saying that one person inside the vehicle had said “dirty Muslims”, and the article was amended to reflect that.
The person who filmed the viral clip of antisemitism on Oxford street has categorically denied that any anti-muslim slurs were said inside the bus. pic.twitter.com/238QG5uWMH— The Jewish Chronicle (@JewishChron) December 6, 2021
But the GnasherJew Twitter account said on Friday that it had investigated the clip and found the phrase “Tikra lemishehu, ze dachuf” translated into English as "call someone, it's urgent" could be heard rather than a slur.
The Board of Deputies called on the BBC to apologise, saying: “The BBC thought that they heard a slur in English. What they were actually hearing was a distressed Jewish man speaking in Hebrew appealing for help.”
Joanne Order, a Chabad member, was on the bus looking after the deeply religious children. She told the JC that it was unthinkable that they would ever use such bad language.
“We were basically all speaking Hebrew to each other,” she said. "Some people spoke English, but mostly between us we speak Hebrew… Nobody could say that, you could even hear on the video nobody is saying it.
“It doesn’t make sense at all, because I saw what happened and it’s not what happened.
“People are always going to twist things, but I was there and I saw what happened. It was just a group of teenagers, me, and the Rabbi of Chabad who organised the event.”
The victims spoke out against the BBC as they defiantly lit the menorah at the same place where the attack had happened just six days earlier.
Many of the original attendees were there, including a number of young teenagers who had been on the bus when it was attacked. Jewish passers-by joined in the celebrations, as doughnuts were handed out and participants danced in the street.
The Oxford Street menorah after it was lit a week after the Chanukah incident. (Nov 2021)
Rabbi Glitzenshtein explained it was important to return to the same spot to celebrate. “We are coming with the light, and the lights of the Jewish nation will continue,” he said.
Responding to the BBC’s allegation, Rabbis Glitzenshtein told the JC: "Even if you see there is darkness outside and people want to show you not in the correct way, we will show that the light is stronger.”
Ms Order aded: "The kids were shaken, they were scared, they were nervous, they were panicking. Tonight we had to come in with police escort and security. It’s not fair.”
Labour Councillor Ruth Bush, Deputy Lord Mayor of Westminster and Chair of Westminster Council’s Faith Exchange attended the defiant candle lighting. “[I want to] demonstrate as best that we can the real objection to the behaviour that happened the other night,” she said.
Rabbi Yisroel Lew (right) with Councillor Ruth Bush (second from left) and Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North (third from right) at the ceremony
Asked if the BBC should provide evidence of their allegation that someone called the attackers “dirty Muslims”, she said: “Of course they should. It’s a serious thing to say and they need to back it up or apologise if it’s wrong.”
Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North also joined the celebration in Oxford Street. She had only recently heard about the BBC’s accusation against the group, responding that “all news should be evidenced… if a story is reported then generally one would expect it to be based on a form of evidence.”
When approached for comment about the original BBC article featuring the claim that several anti-Muslim slurs were audible from the Jewish boys on the bus, a BBC spokesperson said: “The article is about the police’s appeal for information. The main focus is the actions of the individuals the police want to identify. The audio appears to show that a slur can be heard coming from the bus. We have changed our story to clarify only one such slur can be heard clearly.”
The BBC was approached for further comment regarding the allegations made by the children's parents.