Last night, the BBC broadcast a documentary by John Ware titled ‘Israel: Facing The Future‘.
The hour-long program highlighted key issues including settlements, the secular-religious divide and the peace process.
Here are my five highlights:
Real people – All of the interviewees were fascinating characters. The diversity in background and opinion was welcome.
Great stories – Even the more obscure or lesser known stories were given exposure. For example, the disruption of Habima’s performances here in England and the construction of the Israel-Egypt fence were both given coverage.
Balanced and fair – For the most part Ware demonstrated an excellent understanding of some of the subtleties of Israeli life and the conflict with the Palestinians.
Non judgemental – Ware asked probing questions, but in a polite and respectful manner. He got the best out of his interviewees and did his best to understand everyone’s point of view. By the end of the program it was obvious he had listened to the many sides of this complex discussion.
Surprising – As someone who regularly studies Israel from a political, current affairs and biblical/religious viewpoint, there’s little that surprises me anymore. Two trips to Israel have further cemented some of my deeply held convictions. But this documentary did a great job of challenging my own thoughts, opinions and yes, prejudices.
The program wasn’t without its faults.The negative aspects ranged from omission of important facts to only telling half the story. Here’s 5 things I took issue with:
The capital of Israel? – Ware’s first blunder was on the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem where his phrase about going to “Israel’s spiritual capital” was delivered in a way that implied Jerusalem wasn’t Israel’s political capital. It’s not a partisan political statement to say Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It’s the truth. Journalists shouldn’t be afraid to speak the truth.
Who does Israel answer to? – Ware asked the viewer why Netanyahu was so popular when “the rest of the world” sees him as being out of step with the peace process. While it may perhaps be a fair question, it again rather sadly demonstrates how “the rest of the world” thinks that Israel’s government must always answer to them – the international community. No other country (my own included) is expected to take orders from other nations on internal security issues.
Dismantling settlements – Ware posited that the more West Bank settlements Israel builds, the harder peace becomes. This is a common assumption. Yet Israel managed to remove 7,000 of its citizens from Gaza settlements in 2005 and pull out in search of peace, so clearly building homes doesn’t equate to ending the peace process!
One sided wall – While it’s unfair to attack Ware for something he didn’t say, it was disappointing to view yet another piece of journalism on the security fence/wall which failed to mention Israel’s side of the story. This side of the story has never justified the barrier being there, but it can help people understand why Israel felt it was necessary in the first place. What am I talking about? The fact that suicide bombings have dropped by 90% since construction began. No one loves it, we all loathe it, but the truth is the wall saves lives.
‘Overwhelming force’ – Like most Western media outlets, the BBC again chooses to paint Israel as the aggressor using the phrase ‘overwhelming force’ to describe Israel’s action in Gaza while failing to mention the precision technologies which minimise civilian casualties. Yes, the force was overwhelming (all force, by definition should be!), but it was also strategic and targeted.
These five critiques are all relatively minor within the big picture. Overall it was a positive documentary which I would encourage people to watch. The BBC gets a lot of flak from Israel supporters so when the corporation does something well, they deserve praise. Ware is a decent journalist who has covered tricky topics very well.
One of the most insightful moments came from Ware’s interview with a young Palestinian protester. The Palestinian described the West Bank as “nothing…Just rocks and hills”. Yet contrast this with the settlers’ attitudes. Whether or not you agree with their politics, the majority have a deep seated love for that area of the Holy Land. Bible students will be aware that Judea and Samaria are very much ‘the biblical heartland’ of Israel, so the land is therefore special to Jews and Christian. It’s not “just rocks and hills”.
This young Palestinian said he didn’t mind who rules Israel/Palestine he just wants freedom of movement and a dismantling of the checkpoints. It was a strong argument. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to describe Israel as Israel. He referred to Jaffa as being in Palestine.
As long as people think in this way (calling ALL of the land Israel or ALL of the land Palestine) there will never be a two state solution. That much is obvious. But this man was arguing for a one state solution. He said he didn’t mind who was in charge, but if he’s uncomfortable even uttering the word ‘Israel’, then it’s hard to imagine him being happy living under a Jewish/Israeli government.
All in all, this was a documentary which went deeper behind the headlines. It cut through ideology and got to the heart. It reminded me that people always come before politics and once again demonstrated that (as Ware himself acknowledges) Israel is full of surprises. Credit where credit is due: Well done and thank you to the BBC!