7 December 2021

From Wiley to the Oxford St attacks, some people always think Jews deserve it


Yesterday ‘godfather of grime’ Wiley was back spouting off about his favourite hate subject; Jews. In a rambling YouTube video, the British star, who was thrown off of Twitter and YouTube for antisemitism, but is back on both, asked, as if he had come to some amazing new realisation: ‘Why did that happen between them and Hitler? Why? Why did Hitler hate you? Exactly.’

Antisemites always think Jews deserve to be hated. It is baked into Christian culture – the Jews killed Christ and deserve to be punished. We may be a largely secular society but that view persists in some quarters. Perhaps its clearest expression can be found in The Great Replacement theory being spread by white supremacists. Coined by the French writer Renaud Camus, who has been found guilty in his home country of inciting racial hatred, part of the ‘theory’ posits that because Jews fought for more immigration rights, feminism and the decriminalisation of homosexuality, they want to replace white Christians. It was adherence to this warped ideology that led a white supremacist to kill 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.  

On much of the contemporary left, Jews are seen as fair game because of Israel. Only the ‘good Jews’ – the ones who openly denounce the only Jewish majority state in the world will be allowed to be part of their ‘progressive’ circles and even then, they will be viewed with suspicion. For the hard left in particular, Jews deserve to be punished for speaking up against the sainted Jeremy Corbyn’s antisemitism. Indeed, people with ‘anti-racist’ or ‘peace and love’ in their Twitter bios are still remarkably keen to tell me, a Jewish writer, that ‘the Jews deserve what is coming for attacking Jeremy Corbyn’.

So when a group of religious Jewish kids, who had been singing and handing out doughnuts in celebration of Chanukah, were attacked by a group of people in Oxford Street last week, while most people were simply outraged, some – including in a BBC newsroom –  asked: ‘What did they do to deserve it?’.

In its report of the incident, the BBC suggested that the Jewish victims had been making racial slurs against Muslims. This accusation is based on video footage that emerged after the group had retreated to their coach. Frightened young people are speaking in Hebrew saying things like, ‘call someone for help’ and ‘let’s get out of here’. Outside, a group of men of Middle Eastern appearance are spitting and banging on the window and one has his arm out and appears to be doing a Nazi salute. Amid the unclear mix of languages being spoken on the coach, someone at the BBC convinced themselves they had heard the words ‘Dirty Muslims’ shouted at the men outside. And then they wrote it as fact.

Even more staggeringly, the blatantly antisemitic behaviour which had prompted police to say they were planning to make arrests, was described as ‘allegations’ of antisemitism. The piece also claimed ‘some racial slurs about Muslims can also be heard from inside of the bus’ and added that the police were investigating both things, as if they were of equal weight.

When I asked the journalist who wrote the story why they had done this, he told me that his team ‘thought it important to reflect there was abuse going both ways’. Quite where they got the idea that abuse was ‘both ways’ without a shred of proof remains to be seen.

The audio that they used to make these assertions have been listened to again and again using all sorts of digital technology. It still isn’t clear among the cacophony of noise, but Hebrew speakers are convinced that the phrase in question (three seconds in) was ‘Tikra lemishehu, ze dachuf’ (‘call someone, it’s urgent’), while the person who took the video insists that everyone on the bus was speaking Hebrew.

Unsurprisingly both the incident and the subsequent has caused growing anger within the Jewish community; the mother of one of the boys – who on Sunday night went back to Oxford Street to light Chanukah candles, but this time with security – said she was furious that the BBC had ‘demonised’ her son.

The BBC has since amended its story after the Board of Deputies of British Jews complained. It changed ‘some racial slurs about Muslims’ to the singular ‘a slur about Muslims’ and it also included a quote from someone who was on the bus who denied anything ‘provocative’ had been said to the group of men threatening the children. But the central lie remains on the most popular English language news website in the world and I can only think this must be because they believe the Jews did something wrong and deserved it. The most generous view is that it was a cack-handed attempt at achieving editorial ‘balance’ – but there’s nothing remotely balanced about misreporting the true nature of an event.

The saddest thing about this incident is how unsurprising it has become. For most Jewish people the idea of being attacked in the street isn’t that outlandish; our schools, our synagogues, our kindergartens all have complex security because we know we are a target of hatred simply for existing.

2021 was the most threatening year for British Jews on record – the Community Security Trust, a charity which protects the Jewish community, recorded 89 violent incidents on Jews from January to June – 87 of them were assault, a further two were extreme violence and there were also 56 incidents of damage and desecration of Jewish property. 

And no, Jews don’t deserve it. 

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Nicole Lampert is a freelance journalist.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.