The BBC’s Director of Television has said that he has “never felt so uncomfortable as a Jew in the UK” due a rising level of anti-Semitism.
The Jewish Chronicle reports that Danny Cohen told a conference in Jerusalem about rising levels of violence, citing murders and attacks over the summer, calling the situation “grim”.
“I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I’ve felt in the last 12 months. And it’s made me think about, you know, is it our long-term home, actually? Because you feel it. I’ve felt it in a way I’ve never felt before,” he said.
“You’ve seen the number of attacks rise. You’ve seen murders in France. You’ve seen murders in Belgium. It’s been pretty grim actually.”
“Having lived all my life in the UK, I’ve never felt as I do now about anti-Semitism in Europe.”
As the head of television services for the BBC, Cohen is one of the most influential figures in the British media, although he rarely speaks out publicly. He was previously the youngest ever director of TV channel BBC One, with the Times describing him as the “boy wonder” of British television.
The number of attacks on Jews in Britain and across Europe shot up over the summer following Israel’s war with Hamas and its bombardment of the Gaza strip. Vivian Wineman of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said the number of anti-Semitic incidents was at its highest level since records began.
Journalist Tom Goss told the Jewish Chronicle that Cohen is in a difficult position: “Because he has an obviously Jewish-sounding name, he is often asked to defend what many see as BBC News’s biased coverage of Israel.
“But the truth is that BBC News and Current Affairs is a separate entity over which Danny does not have any editorial control.
“Danny is, as far as I know him, politically neutral. He is certainly not one to hide his Jewish identity. He is proud of his roots, had a Jewish wedding in Bevis Marks Synagogue at which the then Chief Rabbi Lord Sachs officiated, and has visited Israel a number of times.
“One would have to address James Harding, the head of BBC News and Current Affairs regarding BBC news bias.”