Israeli envoy urges Swedes to protest screening of anti-Israel film by state TV
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Ambassador says pro-Israel film should now be shown to correct imbalance

Israeli envoy urges Swedes to protest screening of anti-Israel film by state TV

'Inciting' documentary 'The Occupation of the American Mind,' narrated by Roger Waters, was recently broadcast by Educational TV

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

A screen shot from the website of the documentary "The Occupation of the American mind: Israel’s public relation war in the United States" at http://mediaed.org/occupationmovie
A screen shot from the website of the documentary "The Occupation of the American mind: Israel’s public relation war in the United States" at http://mediaed.org/occupationmovie

Israel’s ambassador to Stockholm called on the Swedish public to join him in protesting to the country’s state-owned educational television station over its airing of a one-sided anti-Israel documentary. He also demanded that a pro-Israel documentary now be screened to correct the imbalance.

Earlier this month, Utbildningsradion, the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company, aired “The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States,” which features some of the world’s most prominent critics of the Jewish state.

Narrated by former Pink Floyd singer and vocal anti-Israel activist Roger Waters, the film contains interviews with Amira Hass, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Max Blumenthal, Stephen Walt, Rashid Khalidi, Yousef Munayyer and other “leading observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” according to its website.

The hour-long documentary presents footage from interviews top Israeli officials gave to US media outlets during the 2014 Gaza war, interspersed with comments by “experts” analyzing Jerusalem’s ostensible success in manipulating American public opinion in Israel’s favor. “What gets pushed out of the frame entirely [in American coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] is the fact that for almost 50 years Palestinians have been systematically dispossessed from their land and denied their most basic human rights,” one interviewee argues. Another charges that Israelis “have been allowed to defend the indefensible to the American public through mis-education and misinformation campaigns, through effective talking points.”

After the film was aired on Utbildningsradion — it will remain available on its website until March 2018 — Israel’s envoy in Stockholm, Isaac Bachman, wrote an angry letter to the station’s director, Christel Willers, and to Hanna Stjärne, the head of Sweden’s public service television company SVT.

“Very problematically, a number of the participating pundits and experts clearly fall outside the spectrum of accepted and respectable opinion,” Bachman wrote. He further lamented the film’s claim that the last Jewish presence in the land of Israel dates 3,000 years back. The claim “is patently false and absurd,” he said, assailing as well the assertion that Palestinians have no rights.

“The documentary suggests an altogether comfortable dominance — achieved by devious means — for the pro-Israel narrative in the United States. Nothing could be further from reality,” the Israeli envoy fumed in his November 11 letter.

On the contrary, it is virtually impossible to speak out on Israel’s behalf on American and British campuses “in the face of incredible threats, violence and intimidation,” Bachman continued.

The Swedish broadcaster had shown the film only after a disclaimer acknowledging its one-sided slant, he wrote, but if there were enough reservations about the work’s fairness, “one could ask why such a partial and unbalanced piece was in the end aired at all.”

For the sake of balance, the channel should now present “an opposite, pro-Israeli perspective,” Bachman demanded.

On Friday, about two weeks after he sent the letter, Bachman angrily took to Facebook to complain about the “extremely short letter” he received by a lawyer representing SVT, who told him that he may address “any possible misgivings to the channel’s complaints board.” Clearly, the diplomat wrote on his profile, the TV executives are not interested in engaging him on this matter.

“This is hardly the way to treat the official letter of a foreign representative – and even more, the very serious concerns raised in the letter,” he posted.

Ambassador Isaac Bachman (courtesy Israeli embassy Stockholm)
Ambassador Isaac Bachman (courtesy)

Writing in English, Bachman went on to state that it is “more fitting for Swedish license payers” to complain about the station’s screening of the controversial documentary.

“However, long experience tells us that these formal complaints are of little avail,” he wrote. “Given the repeated maltreatment of Israel by Swedish State Media, unfortunately I see no other way but to urge the Swedish public and taxpayers — who are the ones financing the activities of SVT and Utbildningsradion — to choose a different avenue to express their very legitimate concerns.”

This was especially urgent since “The Occupation of the American Mind” — a film he called “terrible, inciting” — will remain available at the channel’s website for over a year.

He called on his followers to complaint directly to the head of SVT and Utbildningsradion and added their respective email addresses. “We should all protest this disgrace!” he concluded in the post.

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