Members of the Jewish community in north London .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – The BBC has apologized and amended a general election guide it had produced mainly for use by its journalists, following complaints that a description of a constituency’s wealthy Jews was anti-Semitic.
In describing the Blackley (pronounced “Blakely”) and Broughton constituency in North Manchester, the online guide referred to the “multicultural seat” containing “significant Muslim, Irish, West Indian, Sikh and Polish populations.”
However, the document went on to state that there was a “Jewish community concentrated in a wealthy pocket of large detached houses in the Higher Crumpsall and Broughton Park areas.”
It also noted that the constituency houses the King David School, “a predominantly Jewish institution that regularly ranks as one of the best performers in the country.”
The constituency’s Labor MP since 1997, Graham Stringer, who secured 54.3 percent of the vote in the last election in 2010, said the words the guide used had produced a flood of complaints from Jewish constituents, and that parts of the area’s Orthodox community suffered from some of the highest poverty levels in the country.
In his complaint to the BBC, Stringer said the description was a “racist distortion,” as it made references to other groups within the constituency but described only the Jewish community in terms of its wealth.
“It’s a view of the Jewish community as being rich, whereas in actual fact, the hassidic Jewish community has intense poverty. Jewish social services are regularly trying to help that community” he said.
Not only was the description not fair, he went on, it was also “as offensive as Charles Dickens’s caricature of Jewish people in Oliver Twist in the character of Fagin.”
A BBC spokesman said the profiles aimed to portray constituencies in a few sentences.
“We regret [that] part of our description of Blackley and Broughton did not accurately reflect the area, and we have now changed the wording accordingly,” the spokesman said.
An amended version of the constituency guide was subsequently put up on the website, with the Jewish community listed among the other minority groupings, and the new line reading, “There is a pocket of large detached houses in the Higher Crumpsall and Broughton Park areas.”
A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews told The Jerusalem Post that the body was sorry to see the BBC making “such ill-considered comments.”
He added that racial stereotyping was always distorted, and this was no exception. “The Jewish community is no different from society as a whole. It includes the whole range, from deprived and financially struggling to the better- off. We hope that the BBC takes care to be better informed and avoids lazy assumptions in future.”