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Media Analyses





PBS Doubles Down on Anti-Israel Films


The PBS promotional video for the documentary series POV declares, “The most interesting films are films that take very strong points of view and bang them up against each other.” By that definition, two of the POV documentaries scheduled this season are not interesting at all, presenting only one point of view – the anti-Israel point of view.

Furthermore, of the fifteen new films being broadcast in the 2013 season, two of them, over 13 per cent, are anti-Israel. Of the thousands of documentaries released in recent years on all subjects – medical advances, pollution, political corruption, architecture, famous crimes, literature, internet dating, the life of Elvis – why is PBS selecting two in one season that are anti-Israel? And airing them in successive weeks?

“The Law in these Parts” airs August 19 and “5 Broken Cameras” on August 26. Both focus on Israel's “occupation” of disputed territories without providing any context or historical background so viewers can understand the situation. Neither film explains that these territories were won in a defensive war in which Israel faced an existential threat. Neither film mentions that, in exchange for peace, Israel has made repeated offers of statehood to Palestinian leaders who continue to incite hatred against Israelis and Jews rather than prepare their people for co-existence and cooperation. Neither film paints a fair picture of the security threats Israelis face nor the extent of the Palestinian terrorist attacks they have endured.

According to the PBS Web site, “PBS' mission is to create content that educates, informs and inspires.” With this season of POV, PBS fails to educate, misinforms and inspires hatred of Israel.

“The Law in These Parts”

PBS describes “The Law in These Parts” as an “exploration of the evolving and little-known legal framework that Israel has employed to administer its 40-year military occupation of the West Bank and, until 2005, the Gaza Strip.” Note that the description does not mention the reason that Israel's administration of the Gaza Strip ended in 2005, namely that Israel unilaterally withdrew from the region, forcibly removed Jewish residents and turned over working businesses that were summarily destroyed by the Palestinian Arabs who remained. The film also ignores these facts.

Both the description and the film ignore the thousands of rocket, missile and terrorist attacks that have targeted Israel since the withdrawal. Both ignore the fact that the area is now ruled by Hamas, recognized by the United States as a terrorist group. Both ignore the complete absence of human rights, women's rights, gay rights, and minority rights in the Strip since Israel's departure. Any of these facts would serve to create a more complete picture of circumstances.

The film contains an incredibly brief acknowledgment of the plague of terrorist attacks inflicted upon Israelis known as “the intifada.” The filmmaker calls it “a decade during which Palestinian residents of the occupied territories carried out mass suicide attacks in cities in the heart of Israel.” This whitewashes the violent terrorist attacks and entirely ignores the thousands of Israeli casualties.

The documentarian is described by PBS as “celebrated Israeli filmmaker Ra'anan Alexandrowicz,” but the network ignores the fact that Alexandrowicz has a history of making films that unfairly cast Israel in a negative light.

Much of the film consists of interviews with lawyers and judges who administered the military justice system in the disputed territories, but even the filmmaker admits, “I decide which parts of our conversations to show and which to leave out.” He goes on to say, “The viewer can't ask [the interviewee] what he thinks about how I edited the interview. The viewer is free to judge what he hears. But all the information comes only from me.” That information is at best incomplete and in fact misleading.

The filmmaker ends the film by reading a lengthy statement by Bassem Tamimi, who he describes simply as a “defendant.” He never explains that Bassem Tamimi has frequently organized violent protests against Israelis near his town of Nabi Saleh, even encouraging his own children to engage in stone-throwing. The violence does not end there. Even a New York Times Magazine story, sympathetic to the Palestinian narrative, related:

In 1993, Bassem told me, his cousin Said Tamimi killed a settler near Ramallah. Eight years later, another villager, Ahlam Tamimi escorted a bomber to a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed, eight of them minors. Ahlam, who now lives in exile in Jordan, and Said, who is in prison in Israel, remain much-loved in Nabi Saleh.

In other words, Alexandrowicz provides a megaphone for a family of murderers. Though the filmmaker has the right to his point of view, POV ought to share these details with viewers in order to truly “educate, inform and inspire.” The network should set the record straight, instead of running yet another anti-Israel film the very next week…

“5 Broken Cameras”

In promotional materials, PBS claims:

‘5 Broken Cameras' really is about those cameras. The lifespan of each camera frames a chapter in the struggle of the Palestinian village of Bil'in – joined by activists from Israel and elsewhere – against expanding Israeli settlements and the path of the country's approaching security fence.

In fact, the film really is about the editing. In a broadcast on Israeli television, a group of soldiers who are featured in the film contest the narrative presented by the documentary. The Israeli journalist explains:

To the soldier-actors the ritual of Bil'in is very familiar. Friday, around midday, residents of the village leave their homes and go up to the direction of the fence. They demonstrate against the construction, sometimes it's a suspense movie; the demonstration ends and they go home. Sometimes it's an action movie; the protest gets out of control, the demonstrators throw stones, throw Molotov cocktails.

In fact, the scenes are edited to present a picture of non-violent Palestinian protesters set upon by oppressive, over-reacting Israeli soldiers. A soldier describes one such sequence:

Now notice this. [A protester] is lying on the ground – shouts whatever he shouts, protests, and in another second, look what happens. With no connection at all to where he is, now - look; […] But he's not even – it's not the same frame, it's not the same thing. […] The whole thing is not true. It's not that he lay on the ground and didn't do anything, and a pile of soldiers jumped on him and then he was arrested. It wasn't even close [to the reality].

The film doesn't actually document reality, but instead creates a false narrative. Multiple incidents over a number of days are edited to appear as if they occur on one day. In one sequence, one of the featured protesters appears in three different shirts. At another point, green Israeli army uniforms become blue police uniforms. There are a number of instances where footage from multiple cameras had to be combined to create a staged reality, and indeed, additional photography is credited.

Numerous allegations – that Israeli settlers burned olive trees, for example – are made in the film that are not shown or otherwise documented. Furthermore, the movie omits important facts. Though ostensibly the story of the security barrier, viewers never hear that until the rise in violence emanating from the West Bank in the 1990's, there was no security barrier. As Myths & Facts explains:

By pursuing a violent campaign of terror against Israel's citizens, [Palestinians] have forced Israel to set up barriers to make it as difficult as possible for terrorists to enter Israel or travel through the territories to carry out acts of violence.

[…]

Barriers are not set up to humiliate Palestinians, but to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens. Frequently, when
Israel has relaxed its policy and withdrawn checkpoints, Palestinian terrorists have taken advantage of the opportunity to launch new attacks on innocent Israelis.

So, the film is really not about those broken cameras but about a broken narrative meant to distort the truth.

Conclusion

On an Israeli television broadcast about the soldiers' objections, Gidon Ganani, the manager of Israel's Makor Fund for Cinema and Television Fims, declares “If you make a pro-Zionist film, which is well made and shows our rights to this country, the chance for that film to be accepted to a festival – apart from some Jewish festival – is very slim.” And the chance for it to be aired on PBS is very slim as well. But take heart, the network will certainly air a
program or two meant to appeal to a Jewish audience… during pledge week.


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