Limits to BBC interest in Middle East historical sites

In recent weeks the BBC has produced several reports with an archaeological theme. In February the Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell did two reports on the subject of Israeli excavations of Herodion and more recently Raffi Berg wrote an article about a specific handful of sites included in Israel’s ongoing heritage investment project. 

The common denominator between those three reports is not however- as may perhaps first seem – the wish to inform BBC audiences about Middle East archaeology and the preservation of historic sites, but the advancement of a specific political narrative. And as we see from the story below, BBC interest in Middle Eastern archaeological sites which cannot be used for such a purpose has its limitations.

The Gaza-based journalist Abeer Ayyoub recently wrote in Al Monitor about the bulldozing by Hamas of part of the 3,000 year-old Anthedon Harbour in Gaza – chosen by UNESCO to be a candidate for the status of ‘World Heritage Site’. 

“Earlier last month, amid overwhelming criticism from public figures and nongovernmental organizations, the military wing of the Islamic movement of Hamas, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, bulldozed a part of the ancient Anthedon Harbor in northern Gaza along the Mediterranean Sea. The Brigades damaged the harbor in order to expand its military training zone, which was initially opened on the location in 2002…”

Hamas’ Deputy Minister for Tourism, Muhammad Khela, told Al Monitor:

“We can’t stand as an obstacle in the way of Palestinian resistance; we are all a part of a resistance project, yet we promise that the location will be limitedly used without harming it at all,”

Curiously, the BBC’s generously staffed Jerusalem Bureau has so far shown no interest whatsoever in reporting this story. So, whilst critical reports on Israeli projects to preserve important archaeological and historic sites are thick on the ground, the destruction of a prominent ancient archaeological treasure by a terrorist organization remains unreported. 

29 comments on “Limits to BBC interest in Middle East historical sites

  1. Historic preservation advocates tend to be leftist. They’ll gladly rush to sacrifice a World Heritage site to have a chance to kowtow to their Islamist masters.

  2. I am looking for online comment on the last minute cancellation of “Jerusalem, an archaeological mystery story” on BBC 4. Google led me here, but I find no mention of this mystery. Why is that? Does it not fit in with your ideas?

      • From the Radio Times website.
        “Archaeology is politics in the Middle East. The precarious balance of Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy sites in the ancient heart of Jerusalem is informed as much by what’s below ground as what’s above. Which is why evidence revealed here, suggesting that the Jewish exile from Jerusalem in AD 70 may never have actually happened, has such severe ramifications for relations in the region.

        Film-maker Ilan Ziv explores the archaeological challenges to the traditional narrative of the Jewish Diaspora, long buried in the sands of Galilee and beneath the streets of Jerusalem, and asks what this means for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

        This was in the schedules printed in yesterday’s newspapers, but another programme was shown without explanation. I have found very little comment on the web.

        If you need further elaboration do ask.

        • The article shows a definite political bent, exactly what Hadar says. Congratulations on proving the point.

          • Well, I naively thought that this site was dedicated to the belief that the BBC was biased against Israel.

            From your launch statement.
            “The BBC’s Middle East editor frequently displays an egregious lack of objectivity, portraying Israel in an overwhelmingly negative light and the Palestinians in a positive light.”

            This suddenly cancelled programme might be thought by some to be unwelcome to those who are partisans for Israel.
            The blurb, not an article, seems to express that view. If it is wrong I am pleased to hear that the programme would have been welcomed by BBC Watch.
            I have not seen the programme, and neither has any other member of the public. There has been no explanation of the sudden cancellation.
            There has been no discussion of this issue here, so far.
            What is the political bent of the “article”?
            Should there be no discussion of Ilan Ziv’s ideas and their possible implications?

          • First of all, I am not the webmaster of this site, so it’s not my launch statement.

            “Documentary by Ilan Ziv looking at new evidence which suggests the majority of Jewish people may not have been exiled after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.”

    • Michael wrote.”First of all, I am not the webmaster of this site, so it’s not my launch statement.”
      ““raising ethical questions about its impact on modern Middle Eastern issues.”

      Is this evidence of bias? Should the implications of this programme not be raised?
      Bear in mind that the blurb you base your criticism on is a puff piece in the listings magazine, not an article. The author may not have realised that mentioning possible implications to puff a programme could be interpreted as showing a “political bent”.
      Back to my original point. Does this unexplained cancellation shed any light on BBC bias?

      • I suggest you read your own comment. Saying “your launch statement” is what is disingenuous.

        Furthermore, the “puff piece” is talks about the purpose of the program so what difference does it make as long as its an accurate summation?

        Maybe you should also try reading Hadar’s commentary. The point is that there is no mention of destroying a UNESCO World Heritage site, while there are at least three articles on Israeli archaeological excavation with political commentary.

        Bias? It would seem so.

        • ” Saying “your launch statement” is what is disingenuous.”
          You will have to explain this. I really do not see what is disingenuous about quoting BBC Watch’s own statement about the site’s purpose.
          As I wrote in my last post, I am interested in the BBC’s reason for cancelling the programme. I have no prior knowledge of Hadar’s commentary and I have no wish to get involved in it.
          I don’t think it is reasonable to use a note in a listings magazine as evidence of anything very much. Nether of us know whether it is an accurate summation, in any case.
          I do imagine that the blurb has some relation to the content though, and I wonder why you take exception to it. Presumably Ziv has got some sort of evidence for what is said to be the thesis of the programme,
          Do you have an objection to this thesis, and to it being raised?
          Is it not extraordinary that events two thousand years ago have so much importance relative to the present?
          I would like to think that Ziv’s ideas could be examined without arousing partisan passions.
          I am just an layman with an academic (small “a”) interest in the matter of the programme, which is about a topic interesting to Jew, Muslim or even an atheist from a Christian culture, like myself. I see I have stumbled into a community which is less reasonable than I had naively hoped.
          It will be interesting to find out more about the circumstances of the cancellation.

          • Maybe you need a remedial English course. Let me be as clear about this as possible: I AM NOT THE BLOGMASTER OF BBC WATCH! I AM NOT HADAR SELA!
            THEREFORE, IT IS NOT MY LAUNCH STATEMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
            Beyond that, do you have examples of inaccurate listings for tv programs? I don’t think that I’ve seen that very much. Maybe the date and time are off, but not much else.
            I also don’t take exception to the content. I find it interesting myself. I simply take exception to the BBC’s bias in its reporting. There is an oversupply of news items concerning Israel and how Israel must be to blame for some problem somewhere. The fact that something as significant as destroying a world heritage site to construct a terrorist training camp doesn’t really matter to the BBC, but doing archaeological digs with political commentary becomes important if it can be somehow connected to Israel.

    • dis·in·gen·u·ous (d s n-j n y – s). adj. 1. Not straightforward or candid; insincere

      Do you agree with the launch statement or not? From your last post it is pretty clear you do. (If you don’t, apologies.)
      In my posts I have made only one reference to Hadar, and that to say I am making no comment, reference or response to him. Why you keep bringing him in I can’t imagine.
      I began by commenting on one topic only, the programme on BBC 4. I have no desire to widen the discussion to BBC bias in general and I have not raised this.
      Since you find the content interesting I imagine you too deplore the cancellation. Why not say so.
      What is it about the listings note that you find to be biased, or to have a “definite political bent”.
      I have just noticed why you keep bringing in Hadar. I inadvertently inserted my initial comment into the existing thread. My mistake. I apologise. Please be good enough to confine your resposes to the words I write, not the implications which you deduce from this ineptitude.
      Don’t shout.

      • I think that you should realize that the purpose of this blog is to discuss anti-Israel bias at the BBC. That is also the underlying theme of this thread. Your desire to find out why the program was cancelled would probably be better suited as a private message to Hadar as she’s the webmaster.

        I also do not know why the cancelled the program, however just to elucidate the BBC’s broadcast magazine, Panorama, once did an expose on the Mavi Marmara incident. Arabists and leftists were furious at the show for being not condemning Israel enough and showing the Israeli side. Using that as a basis, I would hypothesize that maybe the show wasn’t political enough i.e., they didn’t do enough to appease Arabists.

        • I do realize the purpose of this blog. Discussion does involve opposing points of view, being expressed.
          Why do you think Hadar (apologies to her for calling her him) has any special knowledge about this cancellation?
          If you say that you cannot see why it might be suspected that Jewish protests may have led to the cancellation of this programme I will call you disingenuous again.
          Your suggestion that it was cancelled because it did not do enough to appease Arabists risks that epithet anyway.

          • No one has denied anyone else an opposing point of view. I also don’t know if Hadar has any special knowledge, except that since she runs this blog and does all of the research, she may have come across something.
            Are you also suggesting that cancelling the show because of a Jewish agenda is reasonable, but doing so because it doesn’t serve an Arabist one isn’t?
            That’s more than disingenuous.

          • Well, Namesake, you seem to have misunderstood me again. Or perhaps I misunderstand you. Anyway, cheerio.

  3. Call me pedantic but I find this detail interesting.

    The Radio Times synopsis says, “Which is why evidence revealed here, suggesting that the Jewish exile from Jerusalem in AD 70 may never have actually happened, has such severe ramifications for relations in the region.”

    The above can be read, perhaps, to suggest that Jews have no connection to Jerusalem and the diaspora is a fake.

    On the other hand, this synopsis suggests that Jews have never in fact left Jerusalem:

    This feature documentary looks at new evidence that suggests the majority of the Jewish people may not have been exiled following the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Travelling from Galilee to Jerusalem and the catacombs of Rome, the film asks us to rethink our ideas about an event that has played a critical role in the Christian and Jewish traditions.

    The devil, as they say, is in the detail…

    • Shlomo Sand has been hitting this exact straw man, presumably because he feels it aids his anti-Israel narrative. One thing people should be asking is why it’s being treated as an amazing ‘new’ fact, when Bibi Netanyahu mentioned it 20 years ago?

  4. The documentary apparently tries to show that the Jews weren’t exiled, but remained in Galilee. According to this review, they don’t manage to prove anything either way. However the “editorial misfit” may be the possibility raised (but not proved in any way apparently) that the remaining Jews converted to Islam and are in fact the ancestors of the current “Palestinians”! Now wouldn’t that put the cat among the pigeons? lol The full documentary is available on Youtube but not in my country (Israel). If you Google the full title, the Youtube link comes up.

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