The thing about the BBC documentary series, “The Holy land and Us: Our Untold Stories” is that it is perfectly balanced on screen-time and perfectly unbalanced in terms of content and contributors.
Indeed, if you were setting out to produce a “documentary” that peddled every lie and libel from the Palestinian playbook; that used omissions and elision to serve the false “Palestinian” narrative and to offer a counterfeit version of the region’s history, you really could not have done better than to assemble these two co-presenters and these particular – and wildly asymmetric – “stories.”
Also by carefully selecting the visuals and events from history, you could diminish the “balance” further and give that Palestinian narrative an extra push.
By disguising this piece of anti-Israel propaganda as an impartial “documentary,” the BBC has helped to further embed lies that are harmful to Jewish people and Israel and have colluded in distorting history.
The first clue that this two-part documentary might not be completely balanced came in a press release declaring that it would “explore the personal stories of families of Jewish and Palestinian heritage.”
In that phrase “families of Jewish and Palestinian heritage” the documentary-makers reveal that they have acquiesced in the Arab-Muslim fiction that “Palestinian” can be only Muslims (or perhaps Christians, as one of the stories of “dispossession” was from a Christian “Palestinian”). But definitely not Jews.
The inconvenient truth is that throughout the centuries there were Jewish Palestinians, too.
The objection to this use of “Palestinian heritage” is not semantic. It is entirely false and represents deliberate identity theft that goes to the heart of the issue of who has the “right” to be in Palestine.
And despite the persistent claims of “Palestinian” propagandists (by which, obviously I mean Muslim Palestinian, or perhaps Christian Palestinian, propagandists) that only they are “Palestinian,” the inconvenient truth is that throughout the centuries there were Jewish Palestinians, too, including as a majority for some four centuries of the Common Era and with Jewish Palestinians continuing to play an important role in Palestinian life even when they were no longer a majority and with Jewish charities around the world – including Anglo-Jewry’s Joint Palestine Appeal – raising funds for Jewish Palestinians.
As we know, Muslim Palestinians have deliberately appropriated the “Palestinian” identity for themselves as a way to deny Jews rights or legitimacy in their own historic homeland. Because they have done this, it is particularly important in a quasi-historical context such as a documentary – and especially one purporting to be “fair” – to not perpetuate such a fundamental falsehood.
Instead, the makers of this documentary failed to state unequivocally that Jews were a significant part of the population of Palestine throughout the centuries. And by juxtaposing that cavernous omission with footage of 20th century Holocaust survivors and with “Palestinian” voices asserting their “dispossession”, they have colluded in distorting history. They have helped to further embed a very big lie about “dispossession” which, as we also know, is a lie that effectively plays into and feeds antisemitism.
According to this documentary, the Jews simply rocked up to Palestine after the Holocaust, or maybe in 1909 after Pogroms. This wholly erroneous idea – which so perfectly feeds the Arab Palestinian narrative – was endlessly reinforced by visuals of Holocaust survivors, and by emotionally-charged but sadly clueless comments from co-presenter Rob Rinder.
Rob Rinder’s apparent lack of knowledge, plus his “soft” comments about Israel’s creation offering “hope” and a “haven” contrasted sharply with his “Palestinian” co-presenter, Sarah Agha.
Unlike their Muslim counterparts, these Jewish refugees from Arab lands were not viewed as a propaganda tool or as political pawns. Their land and property had been seized, their businesses looted and some were killed. They were under no illusion they would one day return.
A softly-spoken, well-informed polemicist, she grabbed every opportunity to promote a Palestinian Muslim version of history – regardless of objective truth – and to relentlessly push the myth of Palestinian victimhood by portraying “Palestinians” as innocent victims of the Jews. She missed no opportunity, either, to cite examples of Israeli “oppression” while conveniently ignoring vital context, such as the lengthy security checks she was subjected to while entirely failing to note that reason for such rigorous security was Palestinian airline terrorism.
The choice of “stories” also cleverly served the “Palestinian” narrative. The Jewish family in Part 1 were the Gantzes, a father and son from Hendon, north London. Mr Gantz senior’s father – also a Londoner – fought in Israel’s War of Independence. This, like the Holocaust survivors and Rinder’s family story, handily fed the Muslim-Palestinian narrative of Jews “parachuted in” to “their” land to dispossess them.
Meanwhile Shereen from Leicestershire was brought along specifically, it seems, to highlight Deir Yassin where a massacre allegedly took place. I say “allegedly” as it has been claimed by some historians that the “massacre” is another myth from the Palestinian playbook; that it was a clash between Jewish and Arab forces which, after losing, the Arabs rebranded as a “massacre” for PR purposes.
Yes, 115 Muslim Palestinians died in Deir Yassin on April 9th 1948. But the Grand Canyon-sized omission in the Palestinian playbook – and in this documentary – is any mention of “Palestinian” massacres of Jews, in particular the massacre before Deir Yassin of 129 Jews at Gush Etzion in March 1948; or 78 Jewish doctors, nurses and students in a medical convoy slaughtered on April 13th; or the massacre of 29 Jews in Hebron in 1929.
But Deir Yassin is the event viewers have probably heard of as an example of Jews’ alleged blood-thirsty cruelty. And if they hadn’t heard of it before this documentary, Shereen’s Deir Yassin walkabout and repeated mentions, will ensure they do now. Meanwhile the massacre of Jews is handily ignored or glossed over, as yet another example of how this BBC documentary colludes in the distortion of history.
Another omission, of course, was that while the Muslim Palestinians’ were suffering their so-called “Naqba “ (catastrophe) with some 750,000 Muslim Palestinians leaving their homes in the new State of Israel (many believing they’d return after the Arab “victory”), some 900,000 Jews were experiencing a Naqba as they were expelled from their homes across the Arab lands.
But unlike their Muslim counterparts, these Jewish refugees from Arab lands were not viewed as a propaganda tool or as political pawns. Their land and property had been seized, their businesses looted and some were killed. They were under no illusion they would one day return. They were immediately absorbed into Israel or into the Jewish diaspora allowing this Naqba to be conveniently ignored. Or in the case of this documentary, glossed over when touched on in part two by Cairo-born Viviane.
But, handily, Viviane’s perspective in 1948 was of a young child. Unlike her Palestinians counterparts, Viviane was no polemicist and had almost no knowledge of the fate that befell Jews when a convulsion of fury gripped Arab regimes. Stories of “dispossession” had not been handed down to her and her parents had not indoctrinated her. She could only talk of two much-loved aunts who mysteriously disappeared and weep tears of joy at reconnecting with their descendants in Israel, with none of the drama or bitterness drilled into the Palestinians and regurgitated for BBC viewers throughout this “documentary.”