BBC continues to promote anti-Israel campaign with ‘ancestral lands’ theme

h/t AM

With the BBC now having produced over a week’s worth of reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt organised by Hamas and additional terror factions in the Gaza Strip together with foreign Muslim Brotherhood linked activists, we can begin to identify patterns of reporting in the corporation’s multi-platform coverage.

One theme that has been repeatedly evident on a variety of platforms is context-free promotion of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’. BBC audiences have not however been told on what that demand is based, what its aim actually is, what it means for the internationally accepted ‘two-state solution’ or why the people making that demand continue to be categorised as refugees.

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

On April 6th a spin-off from that theme appeared: the description of Israel as “ancestral lands” of Palestinian refugees:

BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue

One may have thought that BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality would have prompted the use of terminology such as “what Palestinians see as their ancestral lands” (particularly seeing as only two years of residency in Mandate Palestine is required to meet the UN definition of refugee) but that was not the case in either the written article or in radio reports promoting the same theme.

The April 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included an item (from 29:05 here) billed thus:

“Palestinians say Israeli troops have killed at least six people on Gaza’s border with Israel. As Israel is criticised by human rights groups inside and outside the country we hear from a military spokesman.”

Presenter Chris Mason introduced that item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Mason: “When you hear or use the word smokescreen, the chances are the conversation is actually indulging in a spot of imagery about a ruse designed to disguise someone’s real intentions. But along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip today, a smoke screen was a literal description of the tactic deployed by Palestinians. The choking black clouds – the result of burning tyres – had a simple purpose: make it harder for Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border to shoot protesters in Gaza.”

Obviously listeners would be likely to erroneously conclude from that portrayal that anybody and everybody protesting “in Gaza” is liable to be shot – rather than those engaged in violent rioting right next to the border fence or attempting to infiltrate it. Mason then promoted another falsehood with the claim that all Palestinian refugees were “forcibly displaced”.

Mason: “This was the second week of a planned six-week protest set to end on the 15th of May – the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian ‘Nakba’ or catastrophe in which more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Israeli forces in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.”

He continued with promotion of another now well-established theme: unquestioning repetition of casualty figures provided by the “Palestinian health ministry” – but without clarifying that the ministry concerned is run by Hamas – one of the organisers of the publicity stunt.

Mason: “Today six Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces according to the Palestinian health ministry and – as they did last week – the forces fired teargas to repel those at the border.”

Listeners then heard the “ancestral lands” theme.

Mason: “The protesters are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to ancestral lands that are now in Israel but Israel says the militant group Hamas which dominates Gaza is staging the rallies in order to launch attacks. Our correspondent Yolande Knell has spent the day with a 72 year-old Palestinian man who was one of the protesters today.”

Knell: “This is Jabaliya; one of eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. It’s really overcrowded. The streets are narrow with breeze-block buildings. I’ve come to the home of a retired English teacher Ahmed Abdullah to hear his story.”

Abdullah: “Here are the deeds. This was recorded in 1940 through the British Mandate. My mother took me there and she showed me every inch belongs to me.”

Knell: “Ahmed and his mother were the only survivors from their large family in the fierce fighting that followed the creation of the State of Israel. He comes from Hulayqat village, just to the north of Gaza but was brought up here. His family’s land is now an agricultural community in Israel.”

Listeners were given no context whatsoever to that story. They were not informed that Hulayqat was located along the route linking Jewish communities in the Negev to the centre of the country or that in the rioting that preceded the War of Independence, together with the inhabitants of two more hostile neighbouring villages, the residents of Hulayqat regularly harassed Jewish travelers along that road and blocked it. Neither were they told that armed Egyptian volunteers were already located in the area or that Hulayqat was the site of a British military post from which it was possible to control the route to the Negev. With the expectation of invasion by Arab armies, immediately before the War of Independence began the Palmach conducted Operation Barak in order to prevent the Jewish communities in the Negev from being cut off by the Egyptian army. Hulayqat was taken on May 13th 1948.

Knell’s interviewee went on:

Abdullah: “Now Israelis called it Heletz. They built a moshav on the land, on the village, and called it Heletz. Because the Israeli thought one day that the oldest will die and the smallest will forget. We cannot forget. We cannot forget. We know that this is our country and one day we will return back. One day. After 10 years, after 50 years, after 1,000 years – we will return back.”

Knell: “How do you feel about the protests that have been taking place here?”

Abdullah: “I’ve been there. I should be in the front. I lived the whole tragedy. I lived all my life as a refugee. They are talking about my life, about my land, about my future for my sons and grandsons. All people, all the people in the whole world they have countries. They live in countries. We as Palestinians, our country live inside us.”

Knell: “But Israel completely rejects the Palestinians’ right to go back to that land. Is it realistic to keep talking about the right of return to those villages?”

Abdullah: “Of course. It is like an [unintelligible]. We started in Gaza; we began to put pressure on the Palestinians who [unintelligible] to move, move you are a refugee not to leave us alone in Gaza and we will ask the Palestinian refugee in Lebanon to move and also the Jordanian. We want to return back.”

Although it has been clear in some of her other reports that Yolande Knell knows full well that Hamas is one of the co-organisers of this publicity stunt – and is also financing it – listeners then heard another recurrent theme: the downplaying of Hamas’ involvement.

Knell: “When the Israelis say it’s just Hamas that’s trying to stir up violence…”

Abdullah: “It is not Hamas. It is not Hamas. It is people. I’m not Hamas. I don’t believe in Hamas thoughts. I’m secular, not religious. So I took a part.”

Knell: “So you think they’re just one of the parties?”

Abdullah: “Yes but they [Israel] want to cover it with Hamas to show us as we are terrorists. We are not terrorists. We are the victim of terrorism.”

Knell: “So Ahmed, you and some of your 25 grandchildren and I have come now to the protest camp east of Jabaliya on the border with Israel. There’s a big crowd here and we can see Israeli soldiers by the fence across a field. There are tyres burning. There’s been some tear gas fired. It feels very dangerous. The idea is to continue these demonstrations until the middle of May. Are you ready to keep coming back?”

Abdullah: “Yeah. We are not fed up. We are not tired. We will continue day by day. We are on the right way to implement our right of returning to our home and land.”

That item continued with Chris Mason interviewing the head of the political NGO B’tselem about his organisation’s call for Israeli soldiers to disobey orders (also promoted in a written BBC report on the same day) and that was followed by an interview with an IDF spokesperson.

A TV version of Yolande Knell’s one-sided and totally context-free amplification of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ was also seen by viewers of BBC Four’s ‘World News Today’ and an edited version of Knell’s interview with Ahmed Abdullah was heard by listeners to the April 6th evening edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ (from 18:05 here), with presenter Julian Marshall once again unquestioningly quoting Hamas casualty figures and telling listeners that:

“…in similar protests last Friday in support of the demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel, 16 Palestinians lost their lives.”

Listeners to an earlier version of ‘Newshour’ on the same day (from 49:32 here) heard similar promotion of Hamas-supplied casualty figures that have not been independently verified by the BBC and were told by Yolande Knell that:

“The Palestinians…they’re calling for the right of those original 1948 Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Gaza – which is about 1.3 million of the 2 million population – to be allowed to go back to their land which is now in Israel. Israel has long rejected such a claim but the Palestinians here say they’re going to keep up these protests until the middle of May when it will be the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel when those hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes or forced to flee.”

The BBC has now had well over a week in which to provide its audiences with the background which would facilitate their understanding of why Israel (and the pro two-state solution international community) ‘rejects’ the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’. In light of its continued failure to produce any such reporting, one can only conclude that the BBC’s intention is not to meet its remit as a supplier of “impartial news and information” but to provide amplification for that anti-Israel political campaign.  

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

BBC News claims Gaza stone throwers engaged in ‘peaceful demonstrations’

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

BBC Radio 4 dusts off the ‘expert’ hats and ‘disproportionate’ meme

No BBC reporting on preparations for upcoming Gaza border stunt

BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue





One to watch out for on BBC One and BBC Four

The BBC’s Easter programming will include a two-part programme titled “Painting the Holy Land” presented by Scottish artist Lachlan Goudie.

Episode one will be shown on BBC One on Friday, March 30th and on BBC Four on Sunday, April 1st.

“In the first episode, Lachlan follows Jesus’s last days on earth, travelling from the north of what is now Israel to Jerusalem. It’s a pilgrimage that millions undertake and a story of love and suffering that has inspired some of the world’s most remarkable masterpieces. […]

Along the way, in a series of surprising encounters, Lachlan meets locals who have their own take on daily life in the Holy Land. This is personal odyssey for Lachlan, exploring the places his father painted but never saw, rooted in the past but brimming with life in the present day.”

Episode two will be shown on BBC One on Sunday, April 1st and on BBC Four on Monday, April 2nd.

“Lachlan Goudie traces the story of Mary through the gospels with a personal question – why is the life of the Mother of God barely described in the Bible, but so well-represented in art?

He looks at her role in the story of the Resurrection and the subsequent events up to Pentecost, fifty days after Easter. In Nazareth he visits the well where legend states the teenage Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, and at one of seventeen Churches of the Annunciation sees the wealth of imagery that has helped secure for Mary a place in the hearts of the faithful. In Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, now in a grotto beneath the Church of the Nativity, he watches and draws pilgrims from all over the world. […]

During this journey Lachlan discovers that Mary and her miraculous story are inspiring not just to Christians. Mary the Mother of Jesus is a major figure to Muslims, the only woman named in the Koran.”

Clips from the second programme can be seen here and here.


BBC 4’s ‘Storyville’ resurrects an old theme

The BBC Four’s ‘Storyville’ series – which describes itself as “showcasing the best in international documentaries” – has featured several Israel related films in its past seasons:

2013/14 season: “The Law In These Parts“, “The Village that Fought Back: Five Broken Cameras” (discussed here), “The Gatekeepers” (discussed here).

2015/16 season: “The Six Day War: Censored Voices” (discussed here)

On December 4th at 22:00 UK time, ‘Storyville’ will air a film titled “Forever Pure – Football and Racism in Jerusalem” which is described in the synopsis as follows:storyville-beitar

“Documentary which follows events at Israel’s most notorious football club. Beitar Jerusalem FC is the most popular team in Israel and the only club in the Premier League never to sign an Arab player. Midway through a season the club’s owner, Russian-Israeli oligarch Arcadi Gaydamak, brought in two Muslim players from Chechnya in a secretive transfer deal that triggered the most racist campaign in Israeli sport and sent the club spiralling out of control.

Forever Pure follows the famous football club through the tumultuous season, as power, money and politics fuel a crisis and shows how racism is destroying both the team and society from within.” [emphasis added]

Longtime readers will not be surprised by the BBC’s decision to showcase such an allegation: the actions of a specific group of hooligans at a specific football club have long been employed by various BBC journalists to promote sweeping notions of ‘racist Israel’.

The BBC, football racism and Israel

Obsession: four BBC ‘Beitar’ articles in under a week

BBC binge reporting on Beitar comes to abrupt halt

In which the BBC ignores prejudice in Israeli football

Comparing BBC reporting on English and Israeli football hooligans

BBC 4’s Storyville and the ‘Censored Voices’ that weren’t

On December 7th BBC Four’s ‘Storyville’ series aired a film it titled “The Six-Day War: Censored Voices”.

Readers in the UK can find the programme on iPlayer for a limited period of time here and it can also be viewed here.

Viewers saw the following at the beginning of the film:

Storyville tripled

That latter statement is of course inaccurate and misleading because Israel “as we know it today” does not include 90% of the land captured during the Six Day War due to the fact that Israel returned the entire Sinai Peninsula to Egyptian control under the terms of the 1979 peace agreement. No mention is made of the Khartoum Declaration and although the film does make use of archive footage to explain Nasser’s blockade of the Straits of Tiran, it is not clarified that the act in itself was a casus belli. Moreover, viewers receive no information concerning the repeated threats of annihilation made by Arab leaders against Israel in the run-up to the war, even though that topic is relevant to the film’s later content.

But the most interesting aspect of the airing of this film by the BBC is the way in which its claims concerning “censored voices” – including in its title – have been promoted and amplified apparently without adequate fact checking.

On the webpage devoted to the film, visitors find the following synopsis:Storyville webpage

“Documentary about a long-withheld piece of oral history – a series of tape-recorded interviews conducted with returning Israeli soldiers after Israel’s land gains in the Six-Day War of 1967. Led by the author Amos Oz, a group of kibbutzniks joined together in intimate, taped conversations directly after returning from battlefield.

At the time only a few of these recordings were permitted to gain a public hearing by the Israeli government, but this film reveals them to the public for the first time. The uncensored testimonies suggest that the soldiers were not euphoric about the outcome, but instead were profoundly depressed about what the victory cost.

In this brilliantly-conceived documentary, director Mor Loushy takes the old testimonies recorded by the Israeli soldiers in the immediate aftermath of the war, and plays the recordings back to the now-aged veterans and observes their responses.” [emphasis added]

Those scrolling down the page will find a section in which the director “answers the Storyville Q&A” which includes the following:

“I somehow always search for places that are difficult to get to. The tapes of Censored Voices were hidden for 48 years. It was hard to get them from Avraham Shapira, the editor of the book who initiated the conversations, and then it was hard with the Israeli censorship, but we made it!” [emphasis added]

Near the beginning of the film, viewers see the following:

Storyville 30 per cent claim

In other words, BBC audiences are encouraged to believe that they are viewing previously “long-withheld” material subjected to dark Israeli government censorship not once, but twice. But is that actually the case?

As Martin Kramer has documented, Loushy has in fact publicly acknowledged that her own film “was not censored at all”. Regarding the claims of earlier censorship, Kramer’s research shows that the story is nowhere near as simple and straightforward as Loushy and the BBC make out.

“Shortly after the June 1967 war, a book entitled Siaḥ Loḥamim (“Soldiers’ Talk”) appeared. It consisted of transcripts of tape-recorded discussions and interviews involving some 140 officers and soldiers, all kibbutz members. […]

The book struck a chord: Soldiers’ Talk was a phenomenal success, selling some 100,000 copies in Israel, and its kibbutznik editors and participants became minor celebrities, frequently appearing on the lecture circuit and in the media. Its fame also spread abroad: in the words of Elie Wiesel, this was “a very great book, very great,” thanks to “its integrity, its candor. No sleights of hand, no masks, no games. This is the truth, this is how it was.” Eventually the book was translated into a half-dozen languages, most notably in an abridged English version under the title The Seventh Day: Soldiers’ Talk About the Six-Day War. The dialogues even provided fodder for a play performed in New York.”

In other words, the written version of that piece of oral history was not “long withheld” at all. As Kramer reveals, the first edition of the book “was printed privately for circulation in kibbutzim. Clearly marked “internal, not for sale,” and issued between drab covers in October 1967, it didn’t trigger the need for approval by the censor.” Later, as outside interest in the book grew:

“…the editors decided to pursue commercial publication—a step requiring submission of the private edition to the chief military censor, Col. Walter (Avner) Bar-On. There the project became stuck: […] “the chief censor proposed to delete nearly every politically loaded sentence, every sentence describing moral dilemmas such as looting, treatment of prisoners, refugees, etc.”

Had the process ended there, Soldiers’ Talk would have been gutted. But it didn’t end there. In January 1968, the editors contacted the army’s chief education officer, Col. Mordechai (“Morele”) Bar-On (no relation to Walter/Avner Bar-On), and pleaded for his intervention. Impressed by the project, he took it under his wing, asking the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, for permission to assume responsibility for all content that didn’t expose military secrets. Rabin agreed, and Mordechai Bar-On became instrumental in seeing the project through censorship. […]

Bar-On, later one of the founders of Peace Now, is still active at eighty-six and takes some pride in the fact that he managed to get Soldiers’ Talk through military censorship with few changes. “I became the spokesperson for the book [in the army],” he recently recalled. “Here and there I softened some sentence, but overall, not much.” […] When I asked him about the claim that the censor had nixed 70 percent of the material, he scoffed: “Maybe two or three percent.””

The clearly misleading claim of “censored voices” is obviously both promotional and political in motivation. Mor Loushy’s political aspirations for her film are not concealed in the Q&A appearing on the webpage or in the film’s promotional material.

“I stand 100% behind my film. I believe in the film and I believe in those voices. I believe that my son, who is two-and-a-half-years-old, needs another future in Israel. I’m fighting for a different future. I’m fighting for a better future – for a future of peace and for a future of two states side by side or any other solution. I don’t want to keep being in this bloody circle. I do believe that democratic states should be transparent in our history. If this film is a part of that, then I’m proud to be a part of that. Truly, I’m not afraid.”

However, BBC audiences who just viewed the film itself on Channel Four without visiting the webpage were given no inkling of the political agenda behind it. Neither were they given any clue as to the problematic presentation of some of the allegations made in the film, as Martin Kramer also notes.

“Footage is shown to illustrate some of the claims—bodies of enemy soldiers strewn along the road, refugees trudging with their possessions on their backs—but it isn’t actual footage of the scenes described by the speaking soldiers, and it bears no identifying captions. We hear voices making confessions or allegations, but we don’t know who is speaking, and the soldiers are identified by name only at the end. (“For the most part,” notes one American reviewer, “the men are treated as interchangeable.”) In these circumstances, the veracity of any individual allegation is difficult if not impossible to establish.”

Only in the fast-moving final credits are viewers informed that “the people shown in the archival footage are not the same individuals speaking on, or described in, the audio tapes created in 1967”.

Those familiar with previous ‘Storyville‘ choices of films relating to Israel (see below) will not have found its decision to broadcast an obviously politically motivated film, gravely lacking in context and purporting to give a platform to “censored voices” that were not in fact censored, surprising in the least.

Related Articles:

BBC Four’s documentary series ‘Storyville’ to show Palestinian propaganda film

BBC commissioning editor ‘explains’ his claim of ‘half-covered-up atrocities’ in Israel

BBC commissioning editor ‘explains’ his claim of ‘half-covered-up atrocities’ in Israel

h/t A

Earlier this month we noted a passage in an article which appeared in the Observer and was written by the commissioning editor of the BBC 4 documentary series ‘Storyville’, Nick Fraser. In that article Fraser wrote: 

Think of other half-covered-up atrocities – in Bosnia, Rwanda, South Africa, Israel, any place you like with secrets – and imagine similar films had been made. Consider your response – and now consider whether such goings-on in Indonesia are not acceptable merely because the place is so far away, and so little known or talked about that the cruelty of such an act can pass uncriticised.” [emphasis added]

Thanks to a reader who wrote to Nick Fraser regarding his decision to broadcast the film ‘5 Broken Cameras’, some insight has now been gained into exactly which “half-covered-up atrocities” Fraser was thinking of when he wrote those words. Here is a part of his reply as it was received:

“First, I intend no slur in relation to Israel by referring to half-reported atrocities – you will notice that among those I noted in my piece was the British collusion in the Bengali famines, which was the work of British officials. The half-failure to acknowledge events is alas quite common – democracies are not immune to this trendency [sic]. Most Israelis would agree with me that the story of the massacre at Sabra and Chatila – not the work of Israeli soldiers – falls in this category. So, too, do the events that occurred in Lod in the war that occurred at the time of the founding of Israel – and the New Yorker excerpted an account from a book recently published.”

So, whilst Fraser is clearly aware that the Sabra and Shatila massacres were “not the work of Israeli soldiers”, he nevertheless did not see fit to include Lebanon on his list. He also elects to ignore the fact that Israel (unlike Lebanon) initiated a commission of inquiry into the events at Sabra & Shatila: a fact which clearly negates Fraser’s claim of a “half-failure to acknowledge events”.

But most revealing is Fraser’s citation of “the events that occurred in Lod” which, from his reference to the New Yorker, we can conclude he learned about from Ari Shavit’s book “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel” because the chapter of that book relating to Lod was indeed reproduced in that magazine in October last year.

However, Fraser does not seem to have sought out any additional information on the battle which took place in Lod (Lydda) in 1948 from other sources and he appears to have adopted Ari Shavit’s narrative as accurate despite the fact that – as noted in this review of Shavit’s book:

“The section on Lydda focuses on another nameless IDF “brigade commander.” The source notes claim these are composite characters, but it harms the narrative and makes it read like historical fiction.”

Other issues concerning Shavit’s book in general and his portrayal of the events in Lod in particular have been raised by Allan Gerson and Professor Ruth Wisse. Our colleague at CAMERA, Alex Safian, took the time to fill in the parts of the story not told by Ari Shavit – and hence presumably unknown to Nick Fraser.

“In Shavit’s very deceptive and even contradictory recounting, Israeli soldiers led by a certain Lt. Col. Moshe Dayan, and armed with:

a giant armored vehicle mounted with a cannon, menacing half-tracks, and machine-gun-equipped jeeps

joined other Israeli forces attacking Lydda (and its neighbor Ramle) during Israel’s War of Independence. Led by Dayan’s marauding forces the Israelis took control of “key positions” in the town, but the next day fighting flared again, and:

in thirty minutes, two hundred and fifty Palestinians were killed. Zionism had carried out a massacre in the city of Lydda.

Is this really what happened? Well let’s start with the matter of the “giant armored vehicle,” a phrase which could only stun anyone the least bit familiar with Israeli military history. It was actually just a lightly armored scout car – with regular inflated rubber tires – standing about seven feet high and just six feet wide. Here’s a picture of the actual vehicle, at the Israeli Armored Corps Museum at Latrun:

"Giant" Armored Vehicle

Read about the rest of Ari Shavit’s numerous – and more grave – distortions and omissions in this article.

Clearly, Fraser’s promotion of the notion of “half-covered-up atrocities” in Israel is based on the wobbly foundations of a half-covered-up story which he obviously did not bother to research fully before putting into the public domain, but which fits in with his already existing narrative. Rather like the commissioning process for ‘5 Broken Cameras’, it seems.

In the same reply Nick Fraser wrote:

“As for your observations about FIVE BROKEN CAMERAS, the film-makers would dispute them. The film appears to us to be an honest account of some aspects of the Israeli occupation. It doesn’t pretend to be other than what it is – a partial account from one side. And, importantly, one of the film-makers is an Israeli, and thge [sic] film has been widely shown in Israel. STORYVILLE, the series in which the film was shown, exists to show provocative, interesting films. Having read all accounts of the film – in Israel and elsewhere – we felt it was appropriate to show FIVE BROKEN CAMERAS.”

Fraser continued:

“We are showing THE GATEKEEPERS, another excellent Israeil [sic] film, later this year.”

What a surprise.

BBC Four’s documentary series ‘Storyville’ to show Palestinian propaganda film

h/t A

In the February 23rd edition of The Observer the commissioning editor for the BBC Four documentary series ‘Storyville’, Nick Fraser, wrote on the topic of the Oscar-nominated documentary film about the murders of half a million people in Indonesia some fifty years ago – “The Act of Killing” – and why it should not, in his view, receive that award.  

Among the persuasive arguments presented, Fraser wrote:

“I’d feel the same if film-makers had gone to rural Argentina in the 1950s, rounding up a bunch of ageing Nazis and getting them to make a film entitled “We Love Killing Jews”.

He then added:

“Think of other half-covered-up atrocities – in Bosnia, Rwanda, South Africa, Israel, any place you like with secrets – and imagine similar films had been made. Consider your response – and now consider whether such goings-on in Indonesia are not acceptable merely because the place is so far away, and so little known or talked about that the cruelty of such an act can pass uncriticised.” [emphasis added]

Can Fraser make an evidence-based case for his claim that Israel is a “place…with secrets” and “half-covered-up atrocities”? Can he objectively and factually maintain that Israel belongs in the same lumped-together category with genocide-blighted Bosnia and Rwanda? Of course he cannot, but that sentence perhaps gives us a glimpse of the accepted wisdom of the man in charge of commissioning “the best in character-driven documentaries with strong narratives”, as defined by the BBC.

Further on in his essay, Fraser wrote:

“But documentary films have emerged from the not inconsiderable belief that it’s good to be literal as well as truthful. In a makeshift, fallible way, they tell us what the world is really like. Documentaries are the art of the journeyman. They can be undone by too much ambition. Too much ingenious construction and they cease to represent the world, becoming reflected images of their own excessively stated pretensions.”

“Ingenious construction” is a very apt way of describing the editing process which brought about the creation of Emad Burnat’s film ‘Five Broken Cameras’, in which many of the most controversial scenes consist of footage from different occasions spliced together to create an impression of excessive and unprovoked violence on the part of Israeli soldiers dealing with the weekly riots at Bil’in. The product of that politically motivated editing process – combined with the amateur dramatics of some of the film’s Palestinian participants – does indeed “cease to represent the world”, instead promoting the political propaganda enabled by a deliberately distorted view of events on the ground – under the guise of factual documentary. As Nick Fraser might have put it, ‘Five Broken Cameras’ “teaches us nothing” about the realities of either the micro situation in Bil’in or the macro of the Palestinian political campaign which aims to shackle Israeli counter-terrorism methods and defame and delegitimise in the process. 

One would perhaps expect that a seasoned documentary watcher and commissioning editor such as Nick Fraser would be easily able to identify the propaganda genre and to distinguish between it and genuine documentary – and perhaps he indeed can. But nevertheless, Nick Fraser has elected to broadcast ‘Five Broken Cameras’ as part of the ‘Storyville‘ series on BBC Four on March 3rd at 22:30 GMT under the title “The Village that Fought Back“.


Perhaps that Observer essay by Fraser provides a clue as to why this film is misleadingly being promoted by the BBC as a documentary  – i.e. “a film or television or radio programme that provides a factual report on a particular subject”. But what remains is the question of how an organization obliged under the terms of its constitutional charter to “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” can justify the screening of blatant political propaganda under the guise of factual content.


One to watch on BBC Four – or at a PSC event

h/t GB

Readers may remember that back in April the BBC cancelled the broadcast of a scheduled programme then titled ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’.  

“We’re sending this update to everyone who contacted us earlier this year about the programme ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’ which was not shown on 25 April in the BBC Four Archaeology season.

We thought you would like to know that this has now been rescheduled and will be transmitted this weekend on BBC Four as ‘Searching for Exile: Truth or Myth?’, which explores the historical and archaeological evidence for the Exile of the Jews. This will be transmitted on Sunday (3rd November) at 9pm on BBC Four. It will then be followed at 10pm by a debate chaired by Ed Stourton featuring the film maker and leading historians discussing the implications of the film for our understanding of the Exile of the Jews.

We hope this is helpful and thank you for contacting us earlier this year,

BBC Audience Services”

Ilan Ziv film BBC 4

Ilan Ziv film debate BBC 4

On the website of the film’s producer, Ilan Ziv, we find the following press release:

“This authored documentary by Ilan Ziv sets out to explore the historical and archaeological evidence for the Exile of the Jews after their defeat in Jerusalem at the hands of the Roman Empire, and its relevance to today.

Tracing the story of Exile from the contemporary commentator Josephus, to 1960s Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin, to the modern city of  Rome and finally to the ruins of a Palestinian village, Ziv asks where the roots of this story lie and what evidence there is for it.

At the centre of the film is the ancient town of Sepphoris (on whose ruins stood the Palestinian village of Saffuriya until 1948) and the lessons its multi-layered history may have to offer.”

On the same website, the film-maker announces a screening of the full-length version of the film in Manchester.

 “I will be showing the original long  version of EXILE A MYTH UNEARTHED in Manchester on Monday  November 4th. Please inquire and RSVP with  LindaClair

Linda Clair is of course a member of the Manchester branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the screening is promoted on that organisation’s website. 

PSC Ziv film

The significance of the BBC electing to screen a version of a film considered by the PSC to be suitable PR material will not be lost on BBC Watch readers.


The BBC’s temple of Alice Walker

For those of us with years of familiarity with the BBC under our belts, it is perhaps difficult to envisage any other scenario than the one in which the persona which is Alice Walker is revered by members of that organisation as an almost divine font of unchallengeable sound bite wisdoms.

Indeed, one only has to look at the frequency of Walker’s various BBC appearances to appreciate how many ‘right on’ boxes she ticks for so-called ‘progressives’.

 Lyse Doucet’s March 2013 World Service radio interview with Walker was conducted in reverential tones under the banner of ‘truth’, even when her guest came out with stereotypical racist and sexist remarks about white European women which – had they been uttered by Betty Walker from Bolton in relation to a supposed unsuitability of  African or Asian women for leadership due to some centuries-old collective trauma – would rightly have resulted in wall-to-wall raised eyebrows at the BBC.

In the May 24th 2013 edition of Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ Alice Walker selected former BBC presenter and conspiracy theorist David Icke’s off-the-wall tome as her book of choice, with presenter Kirsty Young unable to bat an eyelid and Walker predictably unchallenged by anything which could be called journalism. 

On July 7th 2013 BBC Four aired a one hour film about Walker –  under the title of ‘Beauty in Truth’ – made by MercuryMedia and directed by Pratibha Parmar.

 The programme is available on iPlayer here and for those outside the UK, in the video below.

BBC 4 Alice Walker

Having spent fifty-three puffery-saturated minutes idealising and idolising Walker, her work and her activism,  the pseudo-documentary then turns to the subject of her anti-Israel campaigning – although of course it is not presented in that way.

At 53:23 in the video above, she is asked by a ‘Democracy Now’ presenter:  Walker film 3

“You go in the book from Rwanda to Eastern Congo, to Palestine, Israel. It was your first trip?”

Walker answers: “To Palestine? Yes.” After which the film cuts to images of Walker in the Gaza Strip, with her saying in the voice-over:

“It’s easy to make the connection between the Freedom Rides of fifty years ago to the South that helped to bring down apartheid USA and what is happening there in Palestine with the wall and with the abuse of the Palestinian people. It’s very similar. I mean it’s more intense in Palestine.”

The film then cuts to footage of Walker’s participation in the 2011 flotilla, with her saying:  Walker film 5

“My name is Alice Walker and I am with the US boat to Gaza.”


“This is a fine tradition of going to people who need us, wherever they exist on the planet. This is our responsibility.”

Despite the fact that the BBC’s editorial guidelines – including of course those on accuracy and impartiality – apply to commissioned programmes as well as to BBC-produced content, absolutely no attempt is made in this film to balance Walker’s vicious fictions concerning “Palestine” with facts or to make audiences aware of the significance of the practical consequences of the  ideologies to which she subscribes, such as the boycotting of a language or the Walker film 1collaboration with Hamas and its supporters in the flotilla stunt.

Instead, in this programme as in others, the untouchable Alice Walker is yet again permitted to spout her often offensive opinions as though they were fact, with editorial standards apparently an optional extra for patron deities of the BBC Parthenon. 

BBC 4 programme cancellation sprouts conspiracy theories

On this recent thread a visitor to the comments section appeared to think that BBC Watch should have some kind of inside information – and opinion – on the cancellation of a programme scheduled for broadcast on BBC Four a few days ago. 

Ilan Ziv

Like everyone else, we have not seen the programme – which we understand to be a shorter version of a feature film.  We are, therefore, obviously unable to comment either on the programme itself or on the speculations surrounding the reasons for its cancellation. 

Over at Harry’s Place, however, is a link to a blogpost on the subject of the cancellation written by the filmmaker Ilan Ziv. In the comments to a separate blogpost included in the HP article, one notes the sprouting of conspiracy theories connecting the cancellation of the programme to a recent (and unrelated) BBC appointment which has not even come into effect. 

How tediously predictable and… sad.