Danny Cohen, the director of television at the BBC, is usually in the news to talk about the next big thing in British television. He is known for helping commission popular British shows such as the coming-of-age sitcom “The Inbetweeners” and the BAFTA award-winning “Skins.” Now he oversees the BBC’s four main channels.
However, on Sunday, Cohen gave the discussion about anti-Semitism in Europe a potent jolt.
“I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I’ve felt in the last 12 months,” Cohen told Israeli television anchor Yonit Levi at a conference in Jerusalem. “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.”
Cohen is a native Londoner who has lived in the UK his entire life. A month and a half earlier, Parliament’s opposition leader, Ed Milliband, posted about the rise of British anti-Semitism on Facebook.
Amid spikes in anti-Semitism across Europe, anti-Semitic incidents in England skyrocketed during the war in Gaza this summer.
Cohen’s position near the top of the BBC, which took a lot of heat for its coverage of the Gaza war, has helped draw great attention to his comments, including from some who suggested he use his position of influence to defend Jews.
The UK Jewish News laid the blame in part at the feet of the BBC, saying its coverage of this summer’s war was biased. Times of Israel blogger Aron White suggested the BBC display more photos of Israelis killed in terrorist attacks and commission a documentary on Hamas.
“Jews have lived in Britain for hundreds of years, and you, as one of those many British Jews who has an influential position in society, can help defend Jews from the libels and accusations that threaten our continuity,” White wrote.