BBC’s Brook misleads on Israeli film

On July 25th a filmed item headlined “Home movies tell Israel’s story” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East and Arts & Entertainment pages. The clip is from Tom Brook’s ‘Talking Movies’ film news and review programme which is broadcast on BBC World News. 

Talking Movies - kach rainu

The report relates to a film called Kach Rainu (‘This is how we saw it’) in Hebrew and ‘Israel: A Home Movie’ in English, which was made by Israeli film-makers Arik Bernstein and Eliav Lilti and which is composed exclusively of footage from home movies filmed in Israel between the 1930s and 1970s. As one reviewer of the film wrote:

“A prismatic meditation on an entire nation, Israel: A Home Movie is history as abstraction. Culled from hours of 8mm, 16mm, and Super 8 film from the 1930s to ’70s, the film chronicles the Israel timeline not as objective documentation, but as a living memory, with scenes so fleeting as to emulate the transitory nature in which we witness real-life events and how they’re stored.”

And as another reviewer noted:

” “Israel: A Home Movie” is neither a newsreel or documentary film, but a tapestry of images woven together by a group of master film weavers under Eliav Lilti’s direction. It offers no political message, but instead wishes to convey visually the story of a people and its unique connection with a land.”

Brook and the BBC, however, insist upon categorising the film as a documentary, with Brook saying in his summing up at the end of the report:

“To appreciate this documentary you need to have a good knowledge of Israeli history. Sometimes you can’t fully understand what’s going on because even with the voice-over narration, insufficient context has been given.”

Most of the excerpts from the film which Brook elects to show his own audiences are not accompanied by explanation on his part, with the notable exception of images of an Egyptian plane in Sinai on the opening day of the Yom Kippur war and footage of Palestinian refugees, with Brook saying in the voice-over:

“There are images that have rarely been seen: Palestinian refugees fleeing a small town in 1948 with their possessions, thought to be heading for Jordan.”

But as other reviews of the film – along with its trailer – indicate, the footage which Brook elected to overlook is no less significant.

“Even more powerful is the section of the film that draws on footage from the early ’60s, juxtaposed with a soundtrack of poet Ronny Someck recounting his introduction as an Iraqi Jewish schoolboy, growing up in Israel, to the Holocaust. A neighbor’s wife commits suicide and when Someck innocently asks what she died of, the widower replies, “She died of Buchenwald.” This cryptic remark sends the kid back to his mother who explains with startling immediacy, triggering a lifelong concern for Someck.”

That particular section of the film can be seen in Hebrew here and footage of the ‘marbarot’  (temporary camps for the new immigrants, including many who had fled Arab lands) in the harsh winter of 1951 can be seen here. It is not unreasonable to assume that images such as those “have rarely been seen” by BBC audiences either – and perhaps even less than they have seen footage of Palestinian refugees.

Despite having been told in the interview with Arik Bernstein that the raw material for the film was gathered from members of the public by means of adverts in the papers, word of mouth and appeals on radio shows, in his final summing up of the film – on the back of his misleading categorization of it as a documentary – Brook opines:

“Also missing are home movies shot by Israeli Arabs…”

Israelis, it seems, will not be allowed to have their own intimate moments of recollection without the BBC demanding that they be more objective about it than any other nation remembering its history. Some might call that double standards.

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BBC’s ‘Talking Movies’ provides platform for BDS activist

The latest episode of the BBC World News programme ‘Talking Movies’, presented by Tom Brook, includes an item about Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri’s film “The Attack” which was also featured on the ‘Entertainment & Arts’ page of BBC News website.  

Talking Movies

As stated, the film has been banned in Doueiri’s native Lebanon – ostensibly because he filmed it in Israel – and also (in what these days must be a rare show of unanimity) by the entire Arab League.  

“The Arab League ban was not limited to commercial theaters, Doueiri said. He said his wife was warned that if she proceeded with a screening for friends in Beirut she would be arrested. “So we canceled it,” he said.”

Oddly though, such reactionary attitudes – and the type of archaic censorship they impose – do not appear to cause too much concern to the ‘liberal‘ BBC, with Brook even suggesting to Doueiri:

“Looking back – might it have been prudent in a way not to have filmed in Israel?”

Apparently in order to present an impartial view of the subject, Brook interviews a film critic who presents the side of the argument according to which the film should not have been banned in Arab League member countries. To get the opposing view, however, Brook does not bring either the voice of the Lebanese government or the Arab League to his report, but instead features an interview with Andrew Kadi, whom he presents in very euphemistic terms.

“Palestinian rights activist Andrew Kadi is boycotting the film. He refuses to see it. He believes the director took the wrong course of action.”

Kadi then says:

“By Ziad Doueiri going to Israel, hiring Israeli staff …emm… and making a film where in fact he couldn’t get a Palestinian to play the part – one of the starring roles – and so he got a Jewish Israeli to play a Palestinian – this was extremely problematic. He violated what both Lebanese people and the Lebanese government were calling for, which was not having relations with the State of Israel.”

It is difficult to imagine that the BBC would elect to describe a member of the EDL or BNP as an ‘English rights activist’ and even more doubtful that it would bother to run an interview with such a person in which he objected to, say, a mixed-race actor playing the part of an Englishman.  But Andrew Kadi’s no less archaic and reactionary opinions are nevertheless given BBC airtime and notably, his actual activities are disguised behind the cuddly term “Palestinian rights activist”.

Andrew Kadi is a member of the steering committee of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation – as is briefly noted in a Kadicaption, but which will of course mean nothing to the vast majority of viewers. He is also an activist with Adalah-NY and a member of Al Shabaka. As such, Kadi is active in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, with one of his most recent activities being the (failed) attempt to persuade Alicia Keys to cancel her concert in Israel. 

Of course the BDS campaign is no more about ‘Palestinian rights’ than the BNP is about ‘English rights’: the end game of the BDS campaign is in fact to deny the Jewish people the right of self-determination in their own state.  Oddly, the BBC’s ‘liberal bias’ apparently does not equip it with the ability to recognize the BDS campaign’s anti-liberal foundations even after such a reactionary rant from Andrew Kadi and so the BBC willingly provides a platform for the promotion of BDS.

According to the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines, audiences have the right to be informed of a contributor’s political affiliations.

 “We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

Tom Brook’s failure to make clear to audiences that the variety of bodies with which Kadi is associated are in fact active in campaigning to bring about an end to Jewish rights of self-determination is clearly a breach of those editorial guidelines and his misleading description of Kadi as a “Palestinian rights activist” further compounds that breach.