(JTA) — A British rabbi who has been a contributor to the BBC for three decades said he was ending his associations with the broadcaster over its reporting on a recent antisemitic incident.
Rabbi YY Rubinstein, who has appeared on numerous BBC radio and TV programs, mostly about religion, announced his decision on Tuesday in an open letter, the Jewish Chronicle of London reported. The letter cited the BBC’s disputed reporting that victims of an antisemitic incident in London uttered an anti-Muslim slur during the encounter with their attackers.
“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,” Rubinstein wrote.
The letter was over the BBC’s handling of a Nov. 29 incident in which several young men were filmed harassing young Jews celebrating Hanukkah in central London.
In a video of the incident, the men can be seen pounding on the windows of the bus with their hands and shoes while shouting “Free Palestine,” spitting on the bus and flipping their middle fingers at the passengers as the bus drives away. At least one of the men performs what appears to be a Nazi salute.
BBC asserted in an article about the incident that “racial slurs about Muslims” could be heard inside the bus. This was later amended to say that only one slur was heard. But the Board of Deputies of British Jews said that their own expert analysis of the video had determined there was no evidence of an anti-Muslim slur, and that it is likely the BBC had misinterpreted a Hebrew phrase instead.
“I believe the Board of Deputies has proven the lie of the BBC’s claim,” Rubinstein wrote in his letter.
About 250 demonstrators gathered last month outside the BBC headquarters to protest its coverage of the incident. The Board of Deputies said it is scheduled to speak to the director-general of the BBC later this month about its reporting.
Rubinstein said the incident was part of a larger pattern of anti-Israel sentiment and intolerance for dissenting views within the BBC. He also wrote that practicing Christians hid their faith at the BBC so as not to harm their chances of promotion, and that anyone seen reading The Daily Telegraph, a right-wing newspaper, “wouldn’t last ten minutes.”
Rubinstein is a Glasgow-born Orthodox rabbi whose contributions to the BBC over the years have included writing and presenting several series on Jewish life.
“We are sorry to hear of Rabbi YY Rubinstein’s decision as he has always provided thoughtful and compassionate contributions to our programmes, which have been deeply appreciated by our listeners,” a BBC spokesperson told JTA in a statement. “Anti-Semitism is abhorrent and we strive to serve the Jewish community, and all communities across the UK, fairly.”
The spokesperson told JTA that the BBC had “consulted a number of Hebrew speakers in determining that the slur was spoken in English,” but would not elaborate on the nature of the slur referenced in its reporting.