London (archive)
London (archive) Nati Shohat/FLASH90

UK Jewish leaders and politicians are urging the BBC to adopt the leading international definition of antisemitism in the wake of increasing concern over problematic reporting on Jews and Israel by the public broadcaster.

With the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) ranking the BBC third on its yearly “Global Antisemitism Top Ten List,” behind only Iran and Hamas, Jewish groups and lawmakers are calling for the BBC to abide by the IHRA working definition of antisemitism as a step to regain the trust of the community.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Daily Mail that it might come as a surprise to see the BBC on their list. But he noted that “the decision to place the BBC at number three came after months of intense debate and discussion.”

Rabbi Hier castigated the BBC for its reporting of an attack on a bus full of Jewish teens celebrating Hanukkah in London.

“The BBC falsely reported that a victim on the bus used an anti-Muslim slur,” he said. “But what was heard on tape was a distressed Jewish man speaking in Hebrew appealing for help.”

Jewish leaders, including the president of the Board of Deputies Marie van der Zyl, will reportedly meet with the head of the BBC in early 2022 to speak about their concerns over its coverage of the Jewish community and Israel.

According to the Jewish Chronicle, SWC, the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) along with MPs Stephen Crabb and Robert Halfon, and Lord Eric Pickles are demanding that the BBC adopt the IHRA definition.

They said that doing so would be a sign that the broadcaster was serious about preventing future incidents.

Van der Zyl plans to ask BBC Director General Tim Davie when she meets with him to provide BBC staff with antisemitism awareness training.

"Once the trust of a community is lost it is difficult to regain it,” Pickles said. “The UK expects the BBC to set an example in tackling antisemitism. It could do so by following other international and UK institutions adopting and implementing the IHRA modern definition on antisemitism.”

Claudia Mendoza, co-chief executive of the JLC, added that adopting the IHRA definition would be “helpful in terms of allowing institutions to understand what modern antisemitism looks like, but it is not a panacea. The BBC should make sure it has an ongoing dialogue with the Jewish community.”