Jewish group slams the BBC's 'hypocrisy' for response to employee's boycott stance

Danny Cohen, a former television director for the corporation, signed a petition last October in which over 150 artists opposed the cultural boycott of Israel.

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January 27, 2016 18:36
2 minute read.
A satellite transmission dish is seen near BBC Television Center at White City in London

A satellite transmission dish is seen near BBC Television Center at White City in London. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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After signing a letter opposing the cultural boycott of Israel, the BBC openly criticized one of its former employees, stating that the move was "inadvisable" and regretted the "impression" it had created, British news weekly The Jewish Chronicle reported Wednesday.

Danny Cohen, a former television director for the corporation, signed a petition last October in which over 150 artists, including Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, opposed the cultural boycott of Israel, adding that boycotts only worked as a "barrier to peace."

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"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. 

The letter stated that it was written in response to a letter from UK artists published in February in which a group of UK artists announced their intention to culturally boycott Israel.

The Guardian, which first published the letter, reported that a complaint was filed against Cohen for signing. The BBC replied to the complaint by stating in an email that Cohen’s actions were ‘inadvisable,’ and added that employees at the BBC "should avoid making their views known on issues of current political controversy.”

The BBC also said that his involvement in the issue “had no bearing on his ability to do his day job” and added no punitive actions would be enacted against Cohen.

Following the events of the controversy, the Guardian sent another email this month to BBC chief complaints adviser Dominic Groves, who stated that “The BBC agrees that it was inadvisable for him to add his signature given his then seniority within the BBC as director of television but in practice it had no bearing on his ability to do his day to [his] job; a role which does not involve direct control over BBC news.”



Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said in response to the BBC's comments that: “Sadly, we don’t expect much from the BBC given its lack of balance on issues concerning Israel. It was therefore thoroughly hypocritical to criticize its former director of television for allegedly not being impartial," according to The Jewish Chronicle. 

"Moreover, to 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," the Chronicle added.

 


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