The new leader of the English Defence League’s Jewish division has encouraged British Jews to back the extreme right-wing group and “defend liberal democracy”. James Cohen, 52, who is based in Ottawa, Canada, said his dealings with EDL leaders had led him to believe they were “affable, intelligent, right-minded people” who had been “wrongly maligned” by the British media.
Mr Cohen, a writer and activist who previously lived in Israel, admitted he had “done some soul-searching” after being asked to lead the division following July’s departure of Roberta Moore. He said he hoped British Jews would join EDL members at protests and in campaigning.
But the Board of Deputies said it condemned the EDL “unreservedly”. A spokesman said: “It is clear for all to see that the EDL are solely intent on causing divisions and mistrust between different groups in British society. When they wave Israeli flags at a rally or demonstration, they do so only to goad the Muslim community and to stir communal tensions. This, and everything that the EDL stands for, is utterly abhorrent. All right-thinking people should be repulsed by extremism from any quarter.”