Tel Aviv – A leader in Britain’s Jewish community has blasted the BBC for criticizing a former employee for his opposition to a cultural boycott of Israel, calling the broadcasting corporation “hypocritical” for suppressing its former TV chief’s right to stand up to “bigotry.”
“Sadly, we don’t expect much from the BBC given its lack of balance on issues concerning Israel,” Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said. “It was therefore thoroughly hypocritical to criticize its former director of television for allegedly not being impartial.”
The BBC’s former director of television, Danny Cohen, signed a letter alongside 150 other public figures that included author JK Rowling opposing a cultural boycott of Israel.
In response to complaints, the BBC said that it was “inadvisable” for Cohen to add his name to the letter and it regretted the “impression” created.
The letter was written in response to an announcement in February by UK artists stating their intention to culturally boycott Israel.
“We do not believe cultural boycotts are acceptable or that the letter you published accurately represents opinion in the cultural world in the UK,” the letter read, adding that boycotts only worked as a “barrier to peace.”
The BBC said that it acknowledged that senior individuals “should avoid making their views known on issues of current political controversy.”
However, in an interview with British weekly The Jewish Chronicle, Arkush contested the BBC’s characterization of the cultural boycott.
[T]o talk of BDS as an issue of current political controversy is wrong. The bigotry against Israel, not repeated in relation to any other country in the world, is not a political but a moral issue, on which people should be free to speak their mind.”
Cohen stopped working for the BBC in November.