James Norton and Juliet Rylance in McMafiaBBC
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BBC Drama ‘McMafia’ Hit With Accusations of Anti-Semitism

The UK Lawyers for Israel group accused the show of using “gratuitous slurs” against Israelis

Jesse Bernstein
January 04, 2018
James Norton and Juliet Rylance in McMafiaBBC

The hit new BBC drama McMafia is the story of Alex Godman, the British-educated son of a Russian gangster, who finds himself pulled into the world of international organized crime after an attempt on his uncle’s life. However, one Jewish group is taking issue with the portrayal of a rival Israeli businessman on the show. The real catch–the book on which the show is based didn’t even have Israelis.

The UK Lawyers for Israel (UKFLI), a pro-Israel advocacy group, issued a statement that accused McMafia of using “gratuitous slurs against Israeli businessmen” and of making “references to Israel which aren’t mentioned in the original book, McMafia, by Mischa Glenny” (Glenny’s 2009 book investigated international crime). The businessman in question is Semiyon Kleiman, an Israeli businessman played by David Strathairn (an inspired bit of casting, to say the least; Strathairn has also played über-WASP Edward R. Murrow).

The group also noted a distortion of the Mossad’s motto, changed from “For by wise guidance you can wage your war,” to “By deception we will do war.”

“The use of the word ‘deception’ in substitute for the words ‘wise guidance’ attacks the integrity of Mossad and insinuates that Israel officially sanctions deception in its intelligence activities,” the statement read.

Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.

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