BBC series to culminate in “historian-Zionist” making “moral case for Israel”

At the end of September, the BBC will give an unopposed platform to a self-declared Zionist to make what he calls “the moral case for Israel.”

British historian Simon Schama is being presented with a prime-time Sunday evening slot to argue Israel’s case during an hour-long program.

It will be the final program in a five-episode series called The Story of the Jews, which began on BBC Two on 1 September. The series is written and presented by Schama.

The Jewish Chronicle reports: “The last program takes the viewer up to the present day, focusing on the impact that the Holocaust has had on the modern state of Israel.”

Schama expounds further in a Radio Times article about the series. Writing about the final program, he explains in the print edition: “As I say in one of the programs in my new series, it was not just what the Nazis did to the Jews, but what the rest of the world failed to do that makes the moral case for Israel.”

Schama goes on in the article to describe himself as a “historian-Zionist.”

Glossing over ethnic cleansing

The BBC has a commitment, under the terms of the Agreement accompanying the Royal Charter, to exercise impartiality in its broadcasting. And yet here it is, allowing a “historian-Zionist” to “make the moral case for Israel” with no challenge from those who have suffered as result of Israel’s creation. There is no balance in this whatsoever.

In order to “make the moral case for Israel,” Schama will have to gloss over the slaughter of 13,000 Palestinians between 1947 and 1948 and the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 more during that period. It was through this terror, killing and forced eviction that Israel was created.

He will have to omit the facts about the ethnic cleansing of another 350,000 Palestinians in 1967 following Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and he will have to find excuses to explain why that brutal military occupation, accompanied by the occasional massacre in Gaza or in the refugee camps of the West Bank, is still ongoing.

It should be impossible to make a moral case for a state created and sustained through slaughter and forced transfer, a state which is involved in the longest military occupation in modern history, a state which subjects the people whose land it occupies to a cruel system of apartheid.

It should be impossible, but the BBC is going to let Schama have a go.

BBC’s free rein to Zionists

Defending the forthcoming program, a BBC spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada:

The Story of the Jews is not a series about the state of Israel, it is a historical series by an eminent academic and award-winning presenter that covers a wide range of topics over five episodes. In the final episode, Simon Schama encounters a range of opinions about the state of Israel – from a cross-section of dissenting voices. In recent weeks he has taken part in a number of challenging news discussions across the BBC to discuss the topics raised in the series.

It may be that Schama includes one or two Palestinians in the program, in order to give an appearance of “balance,” but it is his program, and how they are edited and presented, and how much time they are allocated, will be up to him. He does, after all, have a case to make, and it’s unlikely that he’ll allow anyone to derail his argument.

Schama may also declare he is in favor of two states – as he puts it in the Radio Times: “… a state for the Jews and a state for the Palestinians sharing the same land.” It is a disingenuous argument, used by Zionists to make themselves sound reasonable when they know full well that Israel’s rapacious settlement building has not left enough contiguous stretches of land in the West Bank on which to create a viable Palestinian state. Furthermore, Schama’s wish for a Jewish-only state is an argument for the expulsion of the nearly two million Palestinians still living in historic Palestine.

The sight of the BBC giving free rein to a “historian-Zionist” to promote Israel to its audience is disturbing enough. But the situation deteriorates even further when the BBC’s reverential attitude to Schama, whose book of the same title is being plugged alongside the series, is compared with how it treated the documentary Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story in April.

This film was due to be shown on BBC Four on 25 April but, as I covered at the time, was pulled at the last minute with the BBC claiming it “did not fit editorially” with its series on archeology.

Palestinian scene “too emotive”

The documentary, made by Israeli director Ilan Ziv, uses archaeological evidence to question whether a mass Jewish exile from Jerusalem 2,000 years ago really happened.

It is on this story that many Zionists base the Jewish “right of return” to Palestine and justify their colonization of Palestinian land. If the story is nothing but a myth, then it could be argued that Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story was making the case against Israel.

This is the program that was pulled, while Schama’s program, attempting to make the “moral case” for Israel, will be shown.

On his website, Ziv writes that the BBC spoke to him after his film had been pulled. He recounts that BBC executives wanted to make substantial cuts, including removing one scene about the Palestinians which, Ziv wrote, was deemed “too emotive” by an internal BBC review.

The BBC has told the Palestine Solidarity Campaign that it is now planning to show an edited version of Jerusalem in November, although a date has to be confirmed. The documentary will be accompanied by a discussion program, the BBC says, to add “context and balance.”

Where will the context and balance be when Schama presents his “moral case for Israel”? Where is the accompanying discussion program, which will allow those with a different point of view to make their case?

The BBC has been pulled up on its hypocrisy by PSC and five other leading organizations which campaign for Palestine in a letter sent this week to Janice Hadlow, controller of BBC Two and BBC Four.

The groups write:

We find it alarming that the BBC is giving a platform to an openly pro-Israeli commentator to make the “moral case” for Israel. Schama’s views will go unopposed, unchallenged and misanalyzed. This is a far cry from the balanced and impartial broadcasting that the BBC claims to champion.

Referencing the disparity in treatment between Schama’s program and Jerusalem, the letter adds: “Why can the one documentary only be screened with an accompanying discussion program, while the other will be broadcast with neither balance nor context?”

Hadlow’s reply, if it comes, is unlikely to provide any reassurance to those who wish to see the BBC treat Palestine and Israel in an equal manner.

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This quote from funding Palestinian reparations: "Israeli settlements can also be considered as a potential part of an Israeli contribution to a compensation package. The potential value of ex-settler housing stock is uncertain, depending on the outcome of territorial negotiations, the number of settlers electing to remain in the West Bank and Gaza, and the method used to value housing stock (purchase price? potential selling price? Israeli government compensation amounts for settlers? house construction or replacement costs?) Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that this might be worth between $280 million and $1.4 billion, providing housing for between 84,000 and 210,000 returnees."

We are being brainwashed that those buildings on Palestinian land are 'facts on the ground'--hogwash! And the Palestinians will take back all the infrastructure--legitimately! Only tricky part is that the Israelis might do what they did in Gaza (for which I can't find any condemnation)--they RAZED all the buildings in the illegal 'settlements'--contemptible!

If I build a house for my daughter on my neighbour's land, the land is still his no matter how quickly my daughter moves her furniture in.

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it is well known that the BBC is invaded and governed by the zionists aswell.
So why bet on unbiased prgramming of the BBC. It is superfluous.

Under the disguise of objectivity the BBC is making the case for ethnic cleansing, apartheid,landrobbing, subjugation, exploitation and expelling.

Not any different from the political parties in the UK.
"Making up" their mistake by not presenting Palestine in 1948 Palestinian
rein?

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It's puzzling how the widely held conceit that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is 'the longest military occupation in modern history' contributes to an argument about the legitimacy of a Jewish ethnocracy. In any case, the US has held its colonies, like Guam, under military occupation since 1898. Granted, that military occupation is not 'exactly the same' as Israel's, but if we narrow the definition of 'military occupation' that much, the accusation that it is the longest becomes vacuous.

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As a black South African who has been the recipient of British duplicity, collaboration and support of Apartheid it surprises me little that the Zionist lobby has ensnared the BBC and has become effectively a source of propaganda for the Isreali regime not unlike Lord Haw Haw was for the Nazis.

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Well, you haven't exactly commented on the Indians displaced by Muslims in India when Pakistan was set up, have you?

Perhaps we're all self serving hypocrites that tries to push an agenda that serves our kind, whilst trampling all over the rights of groups of people that are different to ourselves.

Amena Saleem

Amena Saleem's picture

Amena Saleem is a journalist and activist, working with Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK. She has twice driven on convoys to Gaza with PSC. More information on PSC’s solidarity work is available at www.palestinecampaign.org