Saturday, March 2, 2024 -
Print Edition

Should British Jews be worried? Should we?

The treatment of European Jews is a harbinger for American Jews

Talk about blaming the victim.

Back in November, a group of young Jewish Lubavitcher chasidim took to the streets of London to celebrate Chanukah. As they were singing and dancing in joy, they were viciously attacked by a group of people yelling “Free Palestine” as they swore, spat and pounded at the bus with the retreating Jews.

This incident was disturbing in and of itself. What made it especially pernicious was how the venerable state broadcaster, the BBC, chose to report it.

The original news story stated that the Chanukah celebrants made anti-Muslim slurs, implying that somehow this was a “tit for tat.”

The problem is, the people on the bus denied it and a forensic audio specialist hired by the Board of Jewish Deputies (the UK equivalent of Jewish Federations of North America), heard no such slur. Actually, it was a Hebrew phrase calling for help.

Having been to many Chabad-Lubavitch Chanukah celebrations, we find it hard to believe the BBC’s version. These gatherings are driven by and filled with joy.

After being confronted by British Jewry’s anger, the BBC doubled down, sticking to its “slur” story, without any evidence — certainly, no evidence it could fully substantiate.

Marie von Zyl, head of the Jewish Board of Deputies, demanded a meeting with the BBC chair. She wanted to share with him the vileness of British Jews being blamed for an anti-Semitic attack against them. To our knowledge, two months later, the meeting has yet to take place. An investigation at the BBC has taken place, with extremely disturbing results.

The only thing the BBC has done is to add that the claim has been disputed. An “amendment” at the end of the article explains the dispute and links to the findings of the independent Executive Complaints Unit, which states:

“It follows that the online article as it stands must now be regarded as no longer meeting the BBC’s standards of due accuracy and, to the extent that the anti-Muslim slur claim has itself become controversial, it also lacks due impartiality in failing to reflect alternative views. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to the television item, though that could not have been updated as an online item can.”

If so, why is the article still online? Why isn’t the BBC eating humble pie?

It is the BBC’s type of marginalization of anti-Semitism that leads to more anti-Semitism. It is no coincidence that the UK is now seeing an uptick in anti-Semitic acts. Just last week two older Jewish gentlemen were viciously attacked on a London street. Was that attacker emboldened by the BBC?
Remember, this is Britain’s state broadcaster. This is a global media behemoth and carries no small amount of cultural, political and social weight. In the 1940s, when Menachem Begin was fighting the British, he still said he counted on the BBC more than any other media for getting the story right.When such an institution fails to acknowledge its contribution to the marginalization of British Jewry, the BBC sends a larger message.

In the US, immediately after Colleyville, the anti-Semitic nature of the hostage taking was played down by some government officials. Jews were baffled that there could be any lack of clarity since it was a synagogue that was scoped out and its rabbi and congregants who were taken hostage by a perpetrator who bought the anti-Semitic trope that Jews are puppetmasters, able to facilitate the release of any maximum security prisoner.

There was a gaslighting aspect to it — much like the celebrating Jews in that London street and British Jewry generally experienced.

Fortunately, in the US, a multitude of faith and political leaders, including here in Colorado, joined Jewish leadership in recognizing the severity of the anti-Semitic Colleyville attack, and in standing in solidarity. Not so in Britain. Not so at the BBC.

As recently as five years ago, security at synagogues and Jewish institutions was something European Jews had to contend with. Now it’s the norm in American Jewish life, too.

Is the gaslighting of Jews the next European import American Jews have to fear?

Cppyright © 2022 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Leave a Reply