BBC boss Danny Cohen says rise in hate places future of Jews in UK in doubt


One of The BBC’s most senior executives has questioned the long-term future of British Jewry in the light of rising antisemitism.

Danny Cohen, director of BBC Television, said: “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I’ve felt in the past 12 months.

“It’s made me think about, you know, is it our long-term home? Because you feel it. I’ve felt it in a way I’ve never felt before actually.”

Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem on Sunday, Mr Cohen, 40, added: “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. And having lived all my life in the UK, I’ve never felt as I do now about antisemitism in Europe.”

A former pupil of the Rosh Pinah Primary School in Edgware, north-west London, Mr Cohen is one of the most influential figures in British television and a former controller of both BBC One and BBC Three.

It is thought that this is his first ever public comment on antisemitism.

Mr Cohen’s comments — made at the Comedy for a Change conference — have led some to question whether he had his own organisation in mind. The BBC has regularly been accused of anti-Israel bias by Jewish viewers and last month defended comments by a news presenter that “prominent Jewish faces” would not want to pay the mansion tax.

Mr Cohen’s friend, journalist Tom Gross, told the JC: “Danny Cohen is in a delicate 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.”

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