First it was Channel 4’s Jon Snow with his unbelievably one-sided programme on Gaza; misrepresenting totally what last Summer’s war between Hamas and Israel was all about. This week it was the turn of the BBC’s Panorama, via the services of film-maker Adam Wishart.
As a programme supposedly marking the same anniversary as Channel 4’s, one wonders why the chosen hook upon which to hang further criticism of Israel was miles away from Gaza, focusing on the supposedly divisive effect of the Jerusalem Light Rail network.
Panorama used to be the mecca of solid investigative and documentary reporting, but maybe that was back before the BBC was over-run with liberal “luvvies” and became politically biassed. Saddened by the depths to which our national broadcaster has sunk, I duly set out to complain about Monday night’s programme “The Train that Divides Jerusalem” (broadcast Monday 20th July).
Unfortunately, my 550 or so words were too many for the text box on the complaints form and I had to truncate all that I wanted to say. So you, dear reader, get the whole complaint while the BBC got a shortened version. I guess I could probably prophesy what their reply will read like, but in case my points are of any help to anyone out there, here is the full text I planned to send…
I regret the BBC has become known for unbalanced and biased reporting concerning the Israel/Palestinian conflict and Israel in general. This edition of Panorama was no exception to that.
Mr Wishart said that he had not been in Jerusalem for over 30 years and this showed in his ignorance of some very basic facts about the city and the light rail system he was reporting on.
- The title of the programme is emotive and incorrect. The Light Rail System was conceived following the second intifada as a way of UNITING Jerusalem, not dividing it. It has achieved that goal. Jews, Arabs and Israeli soldiers travel next to one another every hour of every day on the trains. The train system has been very good for Palestinians, who can easily travel to the West of the city, get better jobs and shop more easily.
- Mr Wishart placed a lot of emphasis on the Temple Mount and the groups desiring to rebuild the Jewish temple there. They are a very small and generally insignificant minority, who occasionally cause some tension on the Mount. What he failed to mention was the very mainstream movement of incitement to hatred of Jewish people by the Palestinians and their leaders. Nor did he mention that it is this incitement that causes the increase in terrorist attacks.
- Israel did not just “occupy east Jerusalem” in 1967. Israel begged Jordan not to join the war Israel was fighting against Egypt, but that country attacked Israel across the barrier that had been built by the Arabs in 1949, dividing the city. Israel was forced to defend herself and in doing so legitimately took the eastern half of the city in a defensive action. “East Jerusalem” is not a separate city, it is legitimately part of the capital of the Jewish State.
- Mr Wishart interviewed the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. Mr Barkat has vastly improved services for Arabs in the eastern part of the city and is building homes for Arabs that are far better than the illegal ones they had built themselves. In the Panorama report, however, he is made to come across as some extremist Jewish supremacist. Mr Barkat has been very good for both Jews and Arabs in the city, but Mr Wishart is not interested in that.
- The Shuafat refugee camp is indeed an island of poverty. However, this is largely because the UN and the Palestinians persist in keeping generations of these poor people in poverty and squalor so that they can be used as political pawns for a “right of return” that can never take place. The city of Jerusalem has offered money to the area, which has been refused. Although the camp is within the city boundary, the threat of terror attacks from it have forced the wall to be built separating it from the rest of Jerusalem.
Panorama has had an excellent name for its documentary and investigative reporting for decades. The inclusion of such a biased and mis-representative programme does its reputation, and that of the BBC, no good at all.
When the BBC (and others) begin to treat the Middle East conflict with the balance its people on both sides deserve, maybe it will regain some journalistic credibility.
Thank you for reading my points.