The director of BBC Television said rising anti-Semitism has made him question the long-term future for Jews in the UK.
Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem on Sunday, Danny Cohen said the past year had been the most difficult for him as a Jew living in the United Kingdom.
“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 actually,” he said in a conversation with Channel 2’s anchor Yonit Levi.
Cohen went on: “And 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. And having lived all my life in the UK, I’ve never felt as I do now about anti-Semitism in Europe.”
Cohen, who grew up and went to school in London — including to a Jewish elementary school — is a TV whiz kid. Still only 40, he was previously the controller of BBC1 TV, the youngest appointee to that post, before taking over a director of BBC Television last year.
Cohen made the comments as one of the international television and comedy professionals participating in a two-day conference at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on the ability of comedy to drive forward social change.
Last month, Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who is also Jewish, decried the rise of anti-Semitism in Great Britain and called for “a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism in the UK.”
Miliband, the son of Holocaust refugees, cited figures from the Jewish Community Security Trust that indicate a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents. He praised Britain’s tradition of tolerance but warned that “the recent spate of incidents should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who thought the scourge of anti-Semitism had been defeated and that the idea of Jewish families fearful of living here in Britain was unthinkable.”
The summer’s Israel-Hamas war saw a striking increase in anti-Semitic incidents, with more than 100 hate crimes reported in July alone — more than double the usual number. Among the reported incidents were the physical assault of a rabbi in Gateshead, attacks on synagogues and an attack by an Arab woman wearing a niqab on a Jewish boy riding his bicycle in northern London.