Fry strongly condemns the surge in antisemitism and underscores the genuine anxiety experienced by the Jewish community in Britain.
Stephen Fry, a self-declared atheist and humanist, is set to deliver the 2023 Alternative Christmas Message. In his passionate address, he urges everyone to acknowledge and denounce antisemitism as a form of racism.
Inspired to speak out by the concerning increase in antisemitism in the UK following the October 7th Hamas attacks and Israel’s subsequent response, Fry discloses that he has openly asserted his Jewish heritage to confront antisemitism and combat “hateful abuse.”
In his deeply personal speech, Fry reflects on the progress Britain has made in embracing and tolerating diversity since his youth. He shares that while growing up, he feared rejection due to his sexuality, never anticipating that it would be his Jewish heritage that instilled fear of others’ reactions.
He says, “One truth about myself however, that I never thought for one single second would ever be an issue about which I had any cause to worry in this country, was that I’m a Jew.”
Quoting the Metropolitan Police statistics on the 1350% increase in reported incidents of antisemitism in London since October 7th, Fry lists, “Shop windows smashed, Stars of David and swastikas daubed on walls of Jewish properties, synagogues and cemeteries. Jewish schools have been forced to close.”
Adding “There is real fear stalking the Jewish neighbourhoods of Britain. Jewish people here are becoming fearful of showing themselves. In Britain, in 2023. Can you imagine, Jews afraid to be themselves in the open for fear of reprisal?”
Whilst Stephen Fry grieves that Jews feel unsafe in Britain in 2023, he is relieved his grandparents are not alive to witness the upsurge in antisemitism in the country they fled to for safety. He states, “My Jewish grandparents loved Britain, believing that Jews were more welcome here than in most countries. I am glad they aren’t alive now to read newspaper stories that would have reminded them of the 1930’s Europe they left. They believed Britishness meant being fair and decent, but what can be more unfair or indecent than race hatred, whether antisemitism, Islamophobia or any kind?”
In a rousing plea for solidarity, Fry calls on all of us to stand up to antisemitism as we would any form of racism stating, “Standing upright means speaking up and calling out venomous slurs and hateful abuse wherever you encounter them.” He adds “Knowing and loving this country as I do, I don’t believe that most Britons are ok living in a society that judges hatred of Jews to be the one acceptable form of racism. So speak up, stand with us, be proud to be Jewish or Jew-ish – or, if not Jewish at all, proud to have us as much a part of this great nation as any other minority, as any of you.”
Channel 4’s Chief Content Officer, Ian Katz, comments: “It’s inevitable that the horrific events in Israel and Gaza have caused strong feelings across the world but the sharp rise in anti-Semitic 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, Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message has served as an alternative to the monarch’s annual televised address to the nation to bring viewers a thought-provoking message that is pertinent to the events of the past year.
The message has previously featured an illustrious and varied selection of presenters, including the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; whistle-blower Edward Snowden; Afghan war veteran Major Andrew Stockton; William Pooley, the British nurse who survived Ebola; Adam Hills; Katie Piper; Quentin Crisp; the Reverend Jesse Jackson; Doreen and Neville Lawrence; children who survived the Grenfell Tower disaster; The Simpsons; 9/11 survivor Genelle Guzman; former speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow; Danny Dyer, a ‘deepfake’ digitally created depiction of Her Majesty The Queen, Tom Daley OBE, and most recently, in 2022, from Ameca, one of the world’s most advanced robots, who delivered a speech generated entirely by AI.
The 2023 message was produced by Ben Turner and Leo Pearlman for Fulwell 73. It was commissioned by Cimran Shah and Timothy Hancock for Channel 4.
The Alternative Christmas Message will air at 17:10, Christmas Day on Channel 4.