uploaded : Monday 21st May 2007 at 04:43
by : Carol Gould
(‘Battle for the Holy Land: Jerusalem’ -
Channel Four Television primetime Great Britain broadcast May 19 2007; Love thy Neighbour 21 May)
Had I known nothing or even very little about Jewish, Zionist and Israeli history I would have come away from former MP Paddy Ashdown’s two-hour documentary on British Channel Four’s primetime Saturday 19 May slot thinking the Jews are just about the most disagreeable race on this planet. Were I an Arab or Muslim I would believe the Jews of the Holy City are the scum of the earth. The following Monday evening, Channel Four presented another film by Rod Liddle about those wicked, pesky Jews of the West Bank and Hebron.
In his film Ashdown managed to label the Jewish authorities of Jerusalem ‘racism masquerading as bureaucracy,’ ‘discriminatory and inhumane’ and ‘waging a forty-year war over the Haram al Sharif.’ In Liddle’s film he did what every British journalist does: hang around waiting for settlers and soldiers to lose their cool as Palestinians are revealed to be hungry, penniless, stomped-on victims of ‘apartheid.’ Liddle also makes a factual error: he fails to mention the heroic victory by the Israeli army in Sinai, driving back the mighty Egyptian forces. He does not tell the audience that Menachem Begin -- whom every Briton loves to tell me was a lifelong terrorist -- handed the Sinai back to Anwar Sadat at Camp David. The peace-seeking Arabs thanked Israel for its generous gesture by assassinating Sadat. Liddle, Ashdown and Carter, who brokered the Sinai deal, never mention the fact that Sadat was murdered because the Muslim Brotherhood want all of Israel in Arab hands and the Jews driven into the sea or worse.
Once again a British television programme has taken the complex and tragic story of Israel and turned it into a polemic about the endlessly victimised Palestinians and those brutal, hate-filled, despicable Jews.
This is not just a British phenomenon. In the United States former President Jimmy Carter has been castigating Israel for everything under the sun. For those of us with family and friends -- Jewish and Christian -- in Israel, the picture painted by the Carters and Ashdowns of this world is virtually unrecognisable. Since 1948 the State of Israel has not known a day’s peace due to the intransigence and violence of its hostile neighbours. This very weekend innocent Israelis are being bombarded with rockets and some are having to be evacuated from their towns and cities. The rockets come from Gaza, which ‘brutal occupier’ Israel left last year.
It is common to have breakfast with an Israeli chum and be attending his or her funeral the same afternoon. It is possible to meet cheerful, optimistic Israeli women who have lost husbands, fathers, sons and brothers in perpetual wars but who still have hopes for peace with their Muslim neighbours. The image of violent and ruthless Jewish immigrants who want to kill and starve Palestinians is a calumny that is becoming a disturbingly frequent one. Israel is far from angelic but the distorted and deeply unjust image projected in the British media of this tiny but vibrant nation makes me sick to the core of my being.
During the Second World War the Grand Mufti sided with Hitler and many Arabs sought to join the SS. When this fact was raised by Alan Dershowitz at SOAS (University of London) last year, the young Muslims sitting near me in the audience were genuinely stunned. Afterwards we stood outside, the young people smoked and reflected, and we agreed we had much to learn from each other and not from TV pundits, rabbis or Imams. It is this sort of fact-telling that is painfully absent from television programmes like Ashdown’s.
In the documentary he asserted that after 1967 and the rise of Zionism things went from bad to worse for the Arabs of Jerusalem. Mr Ashdown needs reminding that the birth of the Zionist movement took place in the 1890s after centuries of brutal and relentless European and British anti-Semitism, culminating in the trial of Alfred Dreyfus and the publication of ‘J’Accuse’ by Emile Zola. Why are these facts never offered in British programming or articles? The original Zionist movement was a noble enterprise led by Jewish Socialists hoping to establish co-operative farms alongside their Arab neighbours. Furthermore Jews have lived in the Holy Land for thousands of years and are not new, irritating arrivals, as is so widely promulgated by the mass media and the anti-Zionist New Left.
Jews have lived in the Arab village of Piqu’in since the time of Jesus and only recently, when a female failed to have a child was the ancient local synagogue handed over to new caretakers. Why are broadcasters willing to provide young and impressionable audiences in an increasingly multicultural Britain with utter nonsense about the Jews, whom they portray as rapacious, avaricious invaders determined to make Arabia a giant Jewish Empire? All Paddy Ashdown need do is read ‘Days of Our Years’ by Pierre van Paassen and learn about the valiant efforts of the early European Jewish settlers to create peaceful and productive agricultural and scientific endeavours with local Arab Christians and Muslims.
Frankly, I consider this kind of programming bordering on the criminal because the extreme bias against Israel and Jews could very easily incite young Muslims to attack Jewish targets after watching two hours of ‘bad Jews, racist Jews, violent Jews’ and their relentless campaign of pillage against helpless Palestinians. It needs to be mentioned here that I started life as a passionate advocate of Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) in the Rabin years but am not able to stomach the recent demonisation of the Jewish State, which remains a bastion of freedom and advancement in a woefully backward region.
Ashdown did, to his credit, mention that in 1967, before the Six Day War, Israel faced annihilation. He did mention massacres of Jews, but his programme spent the rest of its duration finding every possible way to show how Arabs are victimised from all sides -- even by the tiny Greek Orthodox community!
Another element that is never discussed in programmes like these is the absence of leadership in the Arab world. Where are their Mandelas, Kings, ben Gurions, Churchills, Roosevelts or Lincolns? Scenes of utter squalor and deprivation are shown, but where are the leaders and infrastructure in the Palestinian and Arab sectors? Billions in aid have poured in for decades; where has it all gone? It was explained in the programme that Palestinians’ garbage is left uncollected for weeks at a time by the Jerusalem authorities, and that one man needs a permit to enter his house. Where is the leadership in their community to put this right? That Sheikh Maktoum of Dubai has today offered a staggering $10 billion to the region to put the Arab world in tandem with the West is an indication that oppression, poverty and primitive public services are not the fault of Israel but a grave problem in the wider Muslim world. The BBC reported in the story about Sheikh Makhtoum that more books are published in Turkey per annum than in the entire Arab world.
When Jewish aid agencies have sent money to Israel over the decades it is put into remarkable enterprises like the Weizmann Institute, the Nervous Disease Centre in Herzliya, the multi-cultural Hebrew University and the Hadassah Hospital, where Arabs are treated as equals with anyone else; are Jews treated in Pakistani, Libyan or Saudi hospitals? ORT, the generous Jewish charity, helps all peoples across the globe, whatever their faith or colour. Why does Paddy Ashdown never examine this aspect of the progress of the two peoples?
The constant complaining about the Arabs being second-class citizens in the Jewish State I answer thus: for twenty-eight years I lived in the UK as a non-EU citizen. I had no rights whatsoever although I paid tax, National Insurance, Council Tax and VAT. I could not vote in any election, belong to a political party or hold office. As a non-Anglican I could not hope to marry a Royal or any distantly-related gentry. It was an unwritten rule that I knew I could not aspire to certain clubs or sectors of society because of my background. Yes, it is different for Arabs in Israel because they were born there and they should have full citizenship rights, but we all have our crosses to bear. Their life in Israel is far better than that in corrupt Palestine. Again, if they have a valid grievance, where are their leaders?
Conversely, nearly a million Jews were expelled from or fled hostile Arab countries in the past sixty years, and yet they are not asking for their homes back, or having Paddy Ashdown holding their hands and sobbing with them about their homes being taken, as he did with Arabs on this programme. Daniel Pearl went to Pakistan and promptly got beheaded for being a Jew.
Ashdown seemed particularly incensed throughout the programme about the ‘Jewish immigration’ to the Jerusalem area and kept repeating phrases about ‘more Jews’ moving in. He referred to ‘ huge waves of Jewish immigration’ in the time leading up to the 1948 War, but never once mentioned the genocide of the Nazi Holocaust and the remnant of European Jewry trickling into Palestine. He never told the story of British forces beating Jewish refugees as they tried to disembark. He never mentioned the quotas imposed. The ‘huge waves’ he describes ( estimated to be 850,000) included Jews from seven Muslim countries who fled persecution, not to mention the thousands who fled the West Bank and Gaza after the 1948 War.
What is so infuriating about the iniquitous way the history of the Jewish State is depicted in every media form in the United Kingdom is the lack of context and the constant mantra of the millions of hostile Arabs being entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.
I have always been of the contention that it would have been so nice if the Arabs had said ‘Welcome, Jews -- come help us make a garden out of a wasteland.’
That is exactly what the Jews did, and with no help -- only violence and fury-- from the surrounding Arab nations. Israel is a technological marvel and an oasis in the desert of staggering agricultural development, scientific advancement and cultural wealth. Take, for example, the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the Six Day War for her survival. A Syrian wasteland was turned into a world-class wine-producing region, with Israeli Yarden wines winning prizes at the Bordeaux Festival.
There are more symphony orchestras in Israel -- the size of Wales -- than in the whole of Africa and the Arab world. Did Paddy Ashdown mention this? No. He even had the audacity to accuse the world-revered Israel Antiquities Authority of refusing to consult with the Arabs about works being conducted a good distance from the al Aqsa compound. Anyone who knows about Israel will be aware of the esteem with which the Israel Antiquities Authority is held worldwide and of the excellence of its work for sixty years.
Watching a programme like this, one does wonder if some in the white Christian world, deep down inside, do not have a gene that just hates Jews and everything to which they aspire. Paddy Ashdown made a point that he abhors any thought of Israel’s destruction but spent an entire programme cherry-picking situations that put Jewish nationhood in a bad light. He interviewed Geula Cohen and Effi Eitan, both of whom do not by the wildest stretches of anyone’s imagination represent mainstream Israeli opinion. His cameras kept focussing on religious Jews in long coats and hats. When he interviewed David Rubinger and less militant Jews they had only dire visions of doom. He never interviewed cool secular Jewish kids in Jerusalem’s cafes, theatre and concertgoers, students or musicians.
Channel Four ought to be ashamed of having allowed the broadcast of a programme with such obvious bias and lack of research. One suspects even al-Jazeera would have presented a more balanced view of the Holy City!
Now, here is a radical view: after having been intimidated and insulted to the core of my being last Monday by my fellow NUJ ( National Union of Journalists) members about the evils of Jews, Zionists, Americans and Israel, I suggest it is time for it is time for well-meaning liberal Guardianistas to get their obsessed minds off the wicked Hebrews and devote their energies to the crises in Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Enough is enough of the demonising of the Jews, who have given the world more Nobel Prize winners, Broadway composers, playwrights and lyricists, symphony musicians, solo virtuosi and conductors than any other minority group in the history of mankind.
And as it is a state with a conurbation of six million such brilliant, enterprising, enlightened, sober and hard-working Jews, the message to Channel Four, Jimmy Carter, Paddy Ashdown and those who choose to demonise its every action is: get a life, and whilst you are at it, hands off Israel.
And may peace reign over all the peoples of the Holy City.
Carol Gould is a former ITV Drama Executive and author of ‘Spitfire Girls,’ about the British women pilots of WWII. She is now Editor of ‘Current Viewpoint.com’