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BBC Director General faces claims that political pressure led BBC to drop film on ‘Jewish exile’
Six leading pro-Palestinian organisations have written to the BBC’s Director General asking for answers over the pulling of a documentary which claims that the mass Jewish exodus from Jerusalem in 70 AD may never have happened.
The documentary,Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story, was due to be shown on BBC Four, but disappeared from the schedule at the last minute, leaving viewers confused.
Its director, Ilan Ziv, has accused the BBC of bowing to political pressure in its decision to suddenly remove a film which it had been promoting widely.
The supposed exile of nearly 2,000 years ago is used by Zionists to justify what they refer to as the Jewish ‘right of return’ to Palestine, and to colonise Palestinian land.
Publicising the programme, the BBC’sRadio Timesmagazine wrote: “… evidence revealed [in the programme], suggesting that the Jewish exile from Jerusalem in AD 70 may never have actually happened, has…severe ramifications for relations in the region.”
Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Storywas due to be shown on 25 April as part of BBC Four’s series on archaeology. After failing to receive any reason since then for its non-broadcast, other than a response from the Complaints Department that it “did not fit the season editorially”, the six organisations have now written directly to Lord Hall, the BBC’s Director General.
The organisations are: Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Middle East Monitor, British Committee for Universities for Palestine, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, Friends of Al Aqsa and Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
Sarah Colborne, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “We find it deeply disturbing that, despite a number of queries, the BBC has not seen fit to publicly answer Ilan Ziv’s accusations of political pressure being a factor in the disappearance of this documentary from the BBC Four schedule. The BBC is funded by licence-fee payers and has a duty to be open and honest about its decisions, but in this case there has been, and continues to be, a total lack of transparency.””
Text of the open letter to the BBC Director General:
Dear Lord Hall
It has now been more than a month since the BBC prevented the documentaryJerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Storyfrom being broadcast, and it has yet to provide a credible explanation for this decision.
Individuals who have written to the BBC have been told that the documentary did not fit ‘editorially’ with BBC Four’s season on archaeology, but have not been told in what way it did not fit, or why this was not noticed by BBC producers until almost the moment it was due to air.
With no comprehensible reasons being offered by the BBC, licence-fee payers are left with the words of the documentary-maker, Ilan Ziv, who, in his blog detailing the BBC’s reasoning over pulling his film, describes ‘a mixture of incompetence, political naivete [and] conscious or subconscious political pressure’.
It is the potential of political pressure, whether conscious or subconscious, being involved in the pulling of this documentary that most concerns us. If any has been applied, and succumbed to, then the BBC’s commitment to impartiality has been compromised.
We write to ask if a reason can be provided for removingJerusalemfrom the BBC’s schedule that can disprove the reasons given by Mr Ziv.
Yours sincerely
Sarah Colborne, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Daud Abdullah, Middle East Monitor
Jonathan Rosenhead,  British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
Abe Hayeem, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
Ismail Patel, Friends of Al Aqsa
Diana Neslen, Jews for Justice for Palestinians

notes for the editor
  1. Ilan Ziv’s blog on the BBC’s decision to pullIlan Ziv’s blog on the BBC’s decision to pull Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story
  2. The Radio Times’ promotional article for the documentary

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