The BBC’s Director of Television has joined the Chair of Conservative Friends of Israel and the Vice Chair of Labour Friends of Israel in calling for Israel to be protected from cultural boycotts.
Danny Cohen added his name to a letter published in the Guardian last week, claiming Israel was being singled out as a boycott target, alongside other public figures.
These include Eric Pickles MP, Chair of the pro-Israel lobby group in Parliament, Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), and Michael Dugher MP, Vice Chair of its Labour equivalent, the Labour Friends of Israel.
Of 12 other MPs who have signed the letter, seven are Parliamentary Officers of CFI and five are either members of the lobby group or have been on one of its delegations to Israel.
There are no pro-Palestinian MPs among the signatories.
Sarah Colborne, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said Cohen’s decision to give his support to the letter put a question mark over his impartiality regarding the situation in Palestine and Israel.
She added: “This is a highly politicised letter, dealing with controversial subjects, and the decision of the BBC’s Director of Television to get involved calls not just his impartiality into account, but also his judgement.”
Sarah continued: “Palestinian civil society called on the international community in 2005 to back boycotts as a peaceful way of trying to end Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Since then, those who support the Palestinian right to freedom and self-determination have become involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, while supporters of Israel have opposed boycotts.
“It is therefore highly disturbing to see Danny Cohen, who has huge influence within the BBC and is a member of its executive board, publicly speaking out against a cultural boycott of Israel.
“The Royal Charter, which is the constitutional basis of the BBC, demands that the organisation must be impartial in its reporting, and impartiality must also be a key requirement of its staff. The fact that Danny Cohen has signed this letter, in the company of openly pro-Israel figures, without subsequent censure from the BBC, reveals that this does not appear to be the case.”
Cohen oversees the BBC’s four main channels, BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, and BBC Four in addition to BBC iPlayer, and online content for BBC Television. He also oversees the Drama, Entertainment, Knowledge and Comedy genres and BBC Films. Further responsibilities include the BBC Television archive and BBC Productions, Europe’s largest television production group.