‘I am a Jew’: Stephen Fry condemns rise in antisemitism

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‘I am a Jew’: Stephen Fry condemns rise in antisemitism

Former host of QI and star of sitcom Blackadder will deliver Channel 4’s 2023 Alternative Christmas Message

Stephen Fry expressed sympathy for all innocents killed in the current conflict.  Photo: Channel 4/Adam Lawrence
Stephen Fry expressed sympathy for all innocents killed in the current conflict. Photo: Channel 4/Adam Lawrence

Stephen Fry will deliver Channel 4’s 2023 Alternative Christmas Message and condemn the rise in antisemitism since Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel.

In his speech, the actor and comedian, 66, will talk of the “violence and destruction that’s unfolding” amidst the Israel-Hamas conflict and address the reported rise in antisemitism in the UK, including shop windows being smashed and Jewish schools being forced to close.

The former QI host and star of sitcom Blackadder will begin by wishing viewers a “Merry Christmas” before talking about his sexuality and how it led to him apprehending a “long, lonely line of Christmases” when he was growing out of childhood.

He will say: “Exclusion, exile and disgrace had been and surely always would be the fate of the homosexual.

“But, look, in my short lifetime – well, I think of it as short – Britain has moved towards an understanding and acceptance of gay love.

“All right, it’s not, it’s not perfect of course, but what an improvement over the grim culture in which I grew up.”

The London-born celebrity will then talk about his Jewish identity and how, unlike his sexuality, he never thought it would be something he “had any cause to worry about in this country”.

He will say: “I don’t think of myself as especially Jewish. Indeed, sometimes people rather embarrassingly refer to me as ‘quintessentially English’, whatever that means.”

Fry will then say he accepts and claims his Jewish identity “with pride”, declaring: “I am Stephen Fry and I am a Jew.”

Speaking about the Israel-Hamas conflict, he will add: “The horrendous events of October 7 and the Israeli response seem to have stirred up this ancient hatred.

“It’s agonising to see all the violence and destruction that’s unfolding, and the terrible loss of life on both sides brings me an overwhelming sadness and heartache.

“But whatever our opinions on what is happening, there can be no excuse for the behaviour of some of our citizens.”

Fry will cite figures from the Metropolitan Police, which describe an increase in antisemitism in London since Hamas’s incursion on October 7, and say there have been: “Shop windows smashed, Stars of David and swastikas daubed on walls of Jewish properties, synagogues and cemeteries.

“Jewish schools have been forced to close”, he will add.

In October, the Met said antisemitic offences in London had increased by more than 1,000% compared to the same month last year.

“There is real fear stalking the Jewish neighbourhoods of Britain,” Fry will say.

“Jewish people here are becoming fearful of showing themselves, in Britain, in 2023.”

The star will end his speech by calling on viewers to “speak up” and “stand” with Jewish people.

“Be… proud to have us as much a part of this great nation as any other minority”, he will say.

Speaking about the message, Channel 4’s chief content officer, Ian Katz, said: “It’s inevitable that the horrific events in Israel and Gaza have caused strong feelings across the world, but the sharp rise in antisemitic incidents in this country has been profoundly shocking and left many British Jews feeling fearful and isolated.

“I hope Stephen’s brave and personal intervention will draw attention to a form of racism that does not always attract the same concern and condemnation as other forms of hate and remind us that we all have a role to play in defending British values of respect and tolerance.”

First airing in 1993, the channel’s annual broadcast has served as an alternative to the monarch’s annual televised address and aims to bring viewers a message about that year’s events.

In previous years the message has been delivered by a varied selection of presenters, including former president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, The Simpsons; former speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow and actor Danny Dyer.

In 2022, one of the world’s most advanced robots delivered a speech generated entirely by AI.

  • The Alternative Christmas Message with Fry will air on Channel 4 at 5.10pm Christmas Day.
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