On Sept. 16, while most of British Jewry was celebrating the Yom Kippur break-fast, Britain’s most popular television channel, ITV1, aired a ferociously anti-Israel documentary entitled, “Palestine is Still the Issue.” The program was produced by Australian-born John Pilger, a columnist for the UK Daily Mirror with a 25-year record of anti-Israel activism.
Scant effort was made to provide context, Israeli perspective or even explanation, with Prof. Ilan Pappe used as a token academic Israeli historian. However, Pappe is far from objective, having run for the Knesset on the radical Communist Party ticket, and is disgraced and discredited in Israel for falsifying historical evidence. Coupled with his post-Modernist perspective and active engagement with Palestinians in an attempt to discredit Zionism, it is unsurprising that Pappe supports Pilger’s thesis concerning Israel’s fault.
HonestReporting questions not only the biased content of the program (detailed below), but also the decision to broadcast — on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar — such a clear affront to the Jewish community. Furthermore, Pilger’s discussion of the program on the Gloria Hunniford chat show (carried on British TV Channel 5) was aired on Yom Kippur afternoon, when few Jews were available to participate.
To accompany the documentary, Pilger also published an article in The Mirror, one of Europe’s leading dailies with several million readers. Entitled “Israel’s Routine Terrorism,” Pilger’s article mirrors the gross violations of media objectivity seen in his TV documentary.
Read the Mirror article at:
Read info on Pilger’s documentary at:
The chairman of Carlton Television, Michael Green, strongly criticized his own company’s documentary, John Pilger’s “Palestine Is Still The Issue.” Green said the program was “factually incorrect, historically incorrect,” and a “tragedy for Israel so far as accuracy is concerned.”
In the meantime, Pilger himself bellyached against HR members in a column in the UK Guardian, saying that critics are “orchestrating an email campaign against my film; curiously, many of the emails are coming from America, where it has not been shown.”
===== CRITIQUE OF THE DOCUMENTARY ====
From start to finish, Pilger’s documentary is a veritable encyclopedia of every anti-Israel canard in existence today:
- Referring to Israel’s War of Independence (following Arab refusal to accept the UN partition plan), Pilger’s documentary simply stated: “In 1948 the Arab world rose up, when Palestinians were forced to flee from their homes in a blitz of fear and terror.” Read carefully: Pilger suggests that the 5-nation Arab attack was in response to Israeli aggression.
- The Six Day War is described similarly: “In 1967 Palestinians were forced to flee again when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, describing it as an act of self defense.” Pilger insists that 1967 was simply an Israeli fantasy about Arabs wanting to destroy it.
- Operation Defensive Shield is portrayed as a deliberate attempt to vandalize and destroy Palestinian culture; no mention is made of the wave of suicide bombings that forced Israel to defend itself.
- Pilger suggests that Israel systematically murders Palestinians, claiming that 90% of Palestinians killed are civilians. In fact, scholarly studies show that in the last two years of violence, 39% of Palestinian deaths are “non-combatant” — versus 79% of Israeli deaths are “non-combatant.” (See study at
- Pilger suggests that the victims of terror are morally equivalent to the terrorist, and asserts that killing a terrorist before he can murder is also “terrorism.”
- Pilger decries the inconvenience of IDF checkpoints, but fails to mention that the checkpoints were set up as a response to terrorism. Nor does he mention how the editor of the notoriously anti-Israel Guardian found that the average wait was 20 seconds to pass a checkpoint, with the soldiers being polite to the Arabs.
- Pilger claims that checkpoints have destroyed the Palestinian economy, while ignoring the fact that violence against Israelis forced the loss of tens of thousands of Palestinian jobs. Pilger also omits mention of the severe damage to the Palestinian economy due to corruption of Palestinian Authority officials; Arafat’s personal wealth has been estimated at $1.3 billion.
- Pilger interviews an Arab couple who claim that their newborn baby died due to alleged IDF harassment at a checkpoint. The woman says: “This is how they treat all Palestinians. I’m sorry to say this, but they would rather help an animal than an Arab.” Pilger offers no counter-claim, and declares that such a story is “typical of the everyday treatment of the Palestinians.”
- Pilger characterizes the 1948 refugee issue as “ethnic cleansing.” However, it is a historical fact that most Arabs were persuaded to leave by Arab leaders who promised to invade and destroy Israel. Time Magazine (May 3, 1948) reported that “The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by orders of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city… By withdrawing Arab workers, their leaders hoped to paralyze Haifa.”
Pilger of course selectively omits mentioning the equal number of Jewish refugees who fled from Arab countries, and settled in Israel. He also omits that in the 1880s there was no native Palestinian population to displace (as the journal of Mark Twain and other contemporary sources confirm), except in about 5% of “Palestine.” In fact, as is thoroughly documented in Joan Peters’ classic work, “From Time Immemorial” (available at http://www.amazon.com), most Arabs immigrated into “Palestine” after the Zionist pioneers had worked hard to cultivate land that they had legally bought from absentee Arab landlords, bringing commerce to the region.
- Pilger compares Israel’s treatment of Arabs like that of apartheid South Africa. He fails to note, however, that Arabs living under Israeli rule enjoy a far greater freedom of speech and freedom of the press than do Arabs living under the PA, and that the first Middle East country to grant Arab women the right to vote was Israel — not Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, or any of the 20 other Arab Middle East states. Nor does Pilger mention how in much of the Arab world, Jews and other non-Muslims are treated as second-class citizens (the despised Dhimmi).
- Pilger categorizes at least 3 Israeli prime ministers as “terrorists.”
- Pilger claims that “For much of their resistance, the Palestinians have fought back courageously with slingshots.” However, he omits reference to the Hebron riots of 1929 when 67 Jews were slaughtered. Or the period of 1951-55, when more than 3,000 armed attacks were launched against Israeli civilians, resulting in the deaths of 922 Israelis and foreign tourists. Or the Oslo period (1993-2000), when 300 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. (To cite a few of the many historical examples.)
- Pilger accuses the Jewish world of carrying out a conspiracy to manipulate the non-Jewish world into believing that any crit
icism of Israel is “anti-Semitic.”
- Pilger complains that Israel is being heavily supplied by America, but he selectively omits mention that America gives billions of dollars annually to Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan.
- For his final thrust, Pilger employs the classic canard of suggesting that Israel’s battle against Palestinian terror is akin to Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. The conclusion of the documentary, to paraphrase Pilger, is that the world stood silent during the Holocaust — “will they stay silent again?”
If you believe that Pilger’s documentary is biased, write to:
101 St Martin’s Lane
London WC2N 4AZ
Complaints can also be directed to the ITC television standards commission, responsible for consumer complaints. Go to:
HonestReporting members should note that Pilger’s documentary will be broadcast in Australia on SBS television on October 8th at 8.30 p.m.
Send comments to: comments@sbs.
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.