Elkan’s view from Netanya


Like most people of my generation I can remember when Panorama, chaired by the unfogetteble Richard Dimbleby, embodied all the qualities inculcated into the BBC by its founder Lord Reith. When my iPlayer offered a Panorama programme entitled “The Train That Divides Jerusalem” I assumed that the programme might be made with some integrity. “We Believe In Israel” (if you have not put yourself on their emailing list please do so right away) then asked me to protest to the BBC. I therefore watched the programme with both interest and trepidation, to discover that all my worst reservations were true.

The filmmaker is Adam Wishart who begins by saying that he is a British Jew who 30 years ago went on a Zionist educational tour of Israel and whose grandparents were Zionists. This evidently gives him authority to speak for British Jews and to have special knowledge about Jerusalem; neither is true. As the programme proceeds he presents distortions as facts.

Wishart claims that the purpose of the light rail is to enable Jews to travel more easily to the Arab parts of the city, completely ignoring that it also enables Arabs to travel all over the city, to its hospitals malls cafes cinemas etc. To represent the Jewish view he interviews Rivka Shimon, an activist on the political fringe. She claims that Jews will soon build the Third Temple “no matter that Muslim holy places are here already”. Wishart therefore adduces the light rail as proof of increasing Jewish domination of East Jerusalem, and even suggests that her views are “gathering support from within the mainstream”, a sensationalist hypothesis which has no basis in fact.

Wishart ignores the status of the city between 1948 and 1967 when it was occupied illegally by Jordan,  doesn’t mention the political educational and social benefits enjoyed by all Israeli Arabs, and finally deduces as proof of his distorted views the fact that the line finishes in Pisgat Ze’ev, an “illegal settlement” within the city boundaries. A little research would have shown him that the land was purchased by Jews before the Second World War mainly by those of whom nothing was heard after the Holocaust. What price the truth?