Jason Isaacs typically plays “elegant villains.” (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia)
Harry Potter star Jason Isaacs says he doesn’t support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement but is very aware of Palestinian protests about his latest project, which is partly funded by the Israeli government.
Isaacs, who “frequently plays elegant villains,” is best known for his role as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films.
He is now playing an FBI agent in the NBC show Dig that is being filmed in eastern occupied Jerusalem and other parts of the occupied West Bank.
Isaacs made a number of comments about the controversy on the Dig set in an impromptu conversation with the Jerusalem resident known to readers of The Electronic Intifada as “Zalameh” (Zalameh posted the image of the set below on the photo-sharing site Instagram.)
Dig, to be shown on NBCUniversal’s cable network USA, has generated strong protests from Palestinians who see it is as part of Israel’s effort to consolidate its control and advance the Judaization of the militarily occupied city.
No country in the world, not even the United States, officially recognizes Israel’s claim to eastern occupied Jerusalem, and its annexation of the city has been declared “null and void” by the United Nations Security Council.
Faced with growing protests, Cory Shields, executive vice president of communications at NBCUniversal, assured Palestinian officials last December that “NBC Universal Cable Entertainment reiterates that there are no plans, and there will be no plans, to film ‘DIG’ in the City of David National Park or the village of Silwan.”
Palestinians in Silwan and surrounding areas of occupied Jerusalem are targets of persistent Israeli home demolitions, settler aggression and other measures designed to force them off their land to build a Jewish-themed park and Jewish-only housing projects.
But as the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has reported, NBC is violating this promise and is filming in several sites in eastern occupied Jerusalem.
Speaking to Jason Isaacs
Zalameh was able to enter the Dig set as the show was filming deep inside the so-called Solomon’s Cave, underneath the Old City of Jerusalem:
There Zalameh was able to speak directly to Isaacs and guest director SJ Clarkson. Zalameh told Isaacs why Palestinians objected to the show, including that the Israeli-funded series “is being used by Israel to whitewash its occupation” while “just meters from us Palestinians are targets of ethnic cleansing.”
The Israeli government and Jerusalem’s occupation municipality are providing the series a $6.3 million grant, as “part of an effort to brand Israel’s control of Jerusalem in a ‘positive light,’” according to the US Campaign.
Isaacs also heard that “his role in the show is not innocent” and “he cannot absolve himself from personal responsibility.”
According to Zalameh, Isaacs “was very receptive to talk to me and he had an immediate smile.” Isaacs said he had read all of the letters about the issue very carefully and intended to issue a reply.
But Isaacs also said, according to Zalameh, “I don’t support BDS” – an indication that the actor is nonetheless fully aware of the movement.
Zalameh learned that the series would be going on to film at several sites deep in the occupied West Bank, including Nabi Musa, near Jericho, indicating the extent of NBC’s complicity in the Israeli occupation.
Zalameh also said that Isaacs claimed that the series script was “balanced” and that he planned to “reach out to the other side.”
Such assurances are unlikely to assuage Palestinians and other campaigners deeply troubled by Dig’s role in helping Israel to dispossess Palestinians and remake Jerusalem as an exclusivist enclave where its indigenous population are not welcome.
The conversation ended when Isaacs was called back to resume filming. Isaacs posted this image of himself on set on his own Instagram account:
“Israel has misused archaeology projects in occupied East Jerusalem to strengthen settlements, evict Palestinians, and damage their homes,” the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation quotes Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, as saying.
“If NBC plans to make a fictional mini-series in East Jerusalem, it should avoid filming in any location that would make it complicit in this illegality.”
It appears that NBC and Isaacs are doing the exact opposite.