Jewish Chronicle invents defamatory story about call for BBC balance
Simon Schama and BBC attacked over Story of Jews
By Marcus Dysch,
September 12, 2013
Activists have attacked historian Simon Schama’s documentary series on the history of the Jews, claiming it should not include his opinions on the creation of Israel.The fifth and final episode of The Story of the Jews will focus on the relationship between the Holocaust and the creation of the modern-day state of Israel.
But supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have complained to the BBC, claiming it was “alarming” that Professor Schama should be allowed to discuss the Shoah. (our emphasis)
The BBC defended the programme and said the coverage was “balanced, fair, accurate and impartial”.
The PSC sent a letter to BBC Two controller Janice Hadlow following the series’ debut last week. Among the signatories were PSC director Sarah Colborne; Daud Abdullah, who previously threatened violence against British troops; and Ismail Patel, a leading supporter of blood libel cleric Raed Salah.
They were joined by Diana Neslen of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Professor Jonathan Rosenhead of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine.
Their complaints followed Prof Schama’s explanation that “it was not just what the Nazis did to the Jews, but what the rest of the world failed to do that makes the moral case for Israel”.
In the letter to Ms Hadlow the activists wrote: “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.”
Their letter claimed the Corporation had acted inconsistently in allowing Prof Schama’s programme to go ahead when earlier this year it had pulled from its schedules a documentary about the archaeological history of Jerusalem.
“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,” they concluded.
A BBC spokeswoman said: “The Story of the Jews is not a series about the state of Israel, it is a historical series by an eminent academic and award-winning presenter that covers a wide range of topics over five episodes.
“In the final episode, Simon Schama encounters a range of opinions about the state of Israel – including a cross-section of dissenting voices. In recent weeks he has taken part in a number of challenging news discussions across the BBC to discuss the topics raised in the series.”
Prof Schama declined to comment.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign, website post
September 03, 2013
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
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.
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, a signatory of Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Letter from Diana Neslen to Jewish Chronicle
Your article “Simon Schama and BBC attacked over Story of Jews” (September 12, 2013) on the open letter to the BBC by a number of organisations has just been brought to my attention. Contrary to the report in your paper, we did not attack Simon Schama and the BBC over the programme, nor did we say or even imply that it was alarming he should be allowed to discuss the Shoah.
Rather we challenged inconsistency within the BBC in allowing Schama, proud to call himself a ‘historian Zionist’, to make ‘the moral case for Israel’, while denying the opportunity to those who challenge his perspective to put their case.
The BBC always insists that items with a Palestinian perspective are balanced by an Israeli point of view. The letter simply asked the BBC to live up to their claim of ‘balance and impartiality’ by airing the fact that the ‘moral case for Israel’ is a contested area which needs a response. Jews have always set great store by disputation and debate – something Schama was happy to stress during the series. Surely those who support Professor Schama’s position recognise that by denying an alternative point of view, they are standing against the very freedom of speech they expect for themselves.
A complete untruth
From Amena Saleem, media officer at PSC
“At no point in our letter did we mention the Holocaust or say that we were alarmed that Schama was ‘being allowed’ to discuss it. Each of the named signatories of the letter could view the JC’s claim as potentially libellous. That sentence is a complete untruth.”
And see also
JfJfP slandered in Jewish Chronicle January 2012. A letter to the JC correcting their ‘facts’ was also not published