The events that took place in Colleyville, Texas last weekend took the world by surprise, but one thing was entirely unsurprising: the antisemitic coverage and media bias. The Associated Press (AP) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) failed to address the key motive of the incident. In doing so, the AP and BBC have endangered Jewish communities around the world. Both the AP and BBC should be ashamed for denying the obvious antisemitism of a terrorist who held a synagogue hostage.
Let’s be real: history teaches us that smart people are capable of doing stupid things. This went beyond that: it could not have been a more clear affront to Jews. As the Sabbath concluded, Jews around the world were horrified to learn that Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three of his congregants were being held hostage – in their synagogue. As this news broke, media outlets seemed to be competing with each other to see which could most egregiously bend the facts to support their preferred narrative. The AP published the following headline: “Hostage taker was not focused on Jewish community”. Not wanting to be outdone, the BBC went with “Texas police respond to ‘hostage’ situation.” Yes, they literally put “hostage” in quotation marks. At the same time, outlets such as Newsmax, Fox, and CNN got the story right, calling the hostage-taking situation what it was: an attack on the Jewish community.
Both outlets twisted themselves into knots to report that the radical Islamic terrorist who attacked a Jewish house of worship was not motivated by antisemitism. As overwhelming evidence about the attack began to surface, we learned that the attack was 100% motivated by antisemitism. On livestream footage from inside the synagogue, Malik Faisal Akram claimed that the U.S. “only cares about Jewish lives…” and that “Jews control the world. Jews control the media. Jews control the banks.” This was all while Akram demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani national who is serving an 86 year prison sentence for stealing an assault rifle and firing it at American service members. Siddiqui blamed “Zionist Jews” for her conviction and requested that all her jurors be given a blood test to determine if any of them had Jewish ancestry.
When the politicians provide the public with more accurate information than the free press, you know something is seriously wrong. Leaders in the Jewish community applauded the responses by President Joe Biden, Governor Greg Abbott, and many senior leaders in the American Muslim community, all of whom condemned the incident as an antisemitic terrorist attack. The AP deleted its tweet and issued a correction. Though notably remorseless, the AP’s misgivings were not nearly as blunt as those by the BBC, which failed to do anything but shrug its shoulders at the Jewish community.
One need not look any further than the history of the BBC to know what happens when the media fails to report on atrocities faced by Jews or any minority group. In the past decade alone, the BBC’s antisemitic and anti-Israel bias has emerged from the darkness into plain sight. Just last month, when a group of Jewish teenagers was physically attacked on a public bus in London, the BBC falsely reported that they were taunting the attackers with “Islamophobic slurs” just because they were speaking Hebrew. About a year ago, the BBC issued an apology for allowing an editorial broadcast of a convicted Hamas terrorist who planned and executed homicide bombings. Antisemitism at the BBC has not gone unnoticed: the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in my hometown of Los Angeles, named the BBC to its “2021 Global Anti-Semitism Top Ten”, an annual report on global forces in antisemitism.
As antisemitism continues to hold a death grip on the worldwide Jewish community, media outlets must make an important decision: will they report the facts, or, will they promote an antisemitic agenda? Failing to call out antisemitism in coverage of this attack warrants both an apology from and correction of the record by the AP and BBC. Until their own antisemitic rhetoric is addressed, both Jews and the credibility of the BBC and AP will continue to suffer.