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On September 1st, BBC Two screened the first of a five-part series called The Story of the Jews’, presented by Simon Schama. In a Radio Times interview this month, Schama describes himself as a ‘historian-Zionist’ and says he will make ‘the moral case for Israel’ in the final episode of the series.

Here we have the BBC giving a platform to a Zionist to make a ‘moral case for Israel’, unopposed, unchallenged and unanalysed.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign and five other leading organisations have written to Janice Hadlow, controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, to question the BBC’s impartiality over this broadcast. The letter also asks why the BBC pulled Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story from its schedule, but is happy to broadcast Schama’s pro-Israel programme.

Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story was due to be shown on BBC Four in April. The documentary uses archaeological evidence to claim that the mass exodus of Jews from Jerusalem in 70AD – the story on which Zionists claim the right to ‘return’ and colonise Palestinian land – never happened.

Open letter to Janice Hadlow

3 September 2013

Open letter

Dear Ms Hadlow

In June, we wrote to the BBC to express our concern at the removal of the documentary Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story from the BBC Four schedule with no credible explanation.

We note that an edited version of the documentary is now due to be shown in November, with an accompanying discussion programme. The discussion programme, according to the BBC, is intended to provide balance and context to the documentary.

We also note the new BBC Two series The Story of the Jews, presented by Simon Schama. In an interview in the Radio Times (31 August-6 September), Schama describes himself as an ‘historian-Zionist’ and says he will be making ‘the moral case for Israel’ in the final episode of this five part series.

We find it alarming that the BBC is giving a platform to an openly pro-Israeli commentator to make the ‘moral case’ for Israel. Schama’s views will go unopposed, unchallenged and unanalysed. This is a far cry from the balanced and impartial broadcasting that the BBC claims to champion.

The difference in the BBC’s treatment of Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story and The Story of the Jews is a further indicator of the organisation’s lack of impartiality in its treatment of Palestinian and Israeli issues.

Why can the one documentary only be screened with an accompanying discussion programme, while the other will be broadcast with neither balance nor context?

We await your clarification on this matter.

Yours sincerely


Sarah Colborne, Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Daud Abdullah, Middle East Monitor

Professor 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