Jonathan Cook: the Blog from Nazareth -

BBC baulks at myth-busting documentary

It’s difficult to overestimate the weak-kneed position of BBC senior editors in relation to Israel nowadays. But even by the corporation’s craven standards, this one takes the biscuit.

Last night BBC4 (the BBC’s slightly more highbrow channel) was due to show a documentary on archeology in Jerusalem. It’s a fascinating topic, given Jerusalem’s rich history, but also a very controversial one, given the fact that Israel is using its illegitimate rule over occupied East Jerusalem to exploit archeology for political ends.

The documentary, by Israeli film-maker Ilan Ziv, probably wasn’t gong to deal with much of that. But it was going to raise a very contentious – for Zionist Jews – issue by examining the evidence that “the Jewish exile from Jerusalem in AD 70 may never have actually happened”.

This is actually a fairly accepted scholarly position, and one given popular exposure recently by Tel Aviv historian Shlomo Sand. But it does give the lie to Zionist claims that, in creating Israel, Jews were “returning” to the Promised Land. If they were never exiled, how could they be returning? And if they never left, would that not make the Biblical Jews today’s Palestinians?

Is the BBC up for that kind of scholarly but challenging approach to Zionist mythology? Of course, not. The programme was pulled at the last minute. (What’s more surprising is that it ever got so close to being shown. Obviously BBC4 is a bit of a backwater and those senior editors have not been keeping a tight enough grip.)

On the Radio Time site, there’s lots of accusations of censorship. One viewer says she was told by the BBC that “it does not fit editorially” with the History of Archaeology series, and that the BBC “no longer plans to show it as part of the series”.

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