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PBS postpones documentary on evangelicals and Israel for ‘editorial review’

Broadcaster delays release of ‘Til Kingdom Come’ after accusations from pro-Israel watchdog group that director misleadingly spliced together two parts of Trump speech

From 'Til Kingdom Come,' a new documentary about the unlikely relationship between Jews and evangelical Christians, premiering on Kan 11 on October 28, 2020 (Courtesy Maya Zinshtein)
From 'Til Kingdom Come,' a new documentary about the unlikely relationship between Jews and evangelical Christians, premiering on Kan 11 on October 28, 2020 (Courtesy Maya Zinshtein)

JTA — PBS, the US public broadcaster, has decided to postpone airing the documentary “Til Kingdom Come,” which examines the close relationship between American evangelicals and Israel, in the light of accusations that the film misleadingly spliced together two separate parts of a speech by former US president Donald Trump.

The film, which was directed by the Russian-Israeli documentary filmmaker Maya Zinshtein, was released as a rental for in-home viewing in late February ahead of a planned broadcast premiere on March 29 as part of the “Independent Lens” series on PBS.

But the documentary did not air as scheduled on Sunday, and the “Independent Lens” website and Twitter account said the broadcast had been postponed for an “independent editorial review.”

“PBS takes the issue of editorial integrity very seriously,” PBS told JTA in a statement Tuesday. “After consulting with our producing partners at Independent Lens, we have decided to postpone PBS’s broadcast of ‘Til Kingdom Come’ while an independent review of the film is conducted.”

The review appears to have been triggered by a report, issued March 21, by the pro-Israel watchdog group CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

CAMERA said the documentary contained inaccurate editing of a quote by Trump during a January 2020 appearance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after releasing his long-awaited Middle East peace plan.

Per CAMERA, the documentary presented the Trump’s quote as stating that “the United States will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territory that my vision provides to be part of the State of Israel, including the West Bank described so vividly in the Bible.”

This is the actual quote by Trump: “The United States will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territory that my vision provides to be part of the State of Israel,” with the reference to “the West Bank described so vividly in the Bible” coming from a different part of the speech. The word “including” also is not part of the original quote.

Trump’s peace plan called for a Palestinian state with restricted sovereignty in Gaza and in most of the West Bank, with additional land swaps from inside Israel, while allowing Israel to annex some 30 percent of the West Bank including all its settlements and the Jordan Valley, and to keep nearly all of East Jerusalem. The Palestinians rejected the plan, outright, while Netanyahu pushed ahead with annexations, until giving up on the effort as part of the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates.

A CAMERA statement said PBS has notified the watchdog group that the editorial review is in progress, the premiere has been postponed and the Trump quote has been corrected.

“CAMERA commends PBS for taking seriously concerns about the film’s editorial integrity,” the organization said on its website.

PBS has not said how long it plans to take for the editorial review.

“Til Kingdom Come” remains available for rental.

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