Palestinians Urge NBC to Cancel Show that Aids Israel’s Jerusalem Land Grab

December 17, 2013

By Ali Abunimah via Electronic Intifada

Palestinians are calling on the American media network NBCUniversal, owners of NBC television, to cancel the filming of a new drama series in eastern occupied Jerusalem.

In a statement, the Civic National Commission on Jerusalem – a coalition representing dozens of Palestinian organizations – says that the production of the series scheduled to air in the autumn “will give legitimacy to Israel’s policies of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and colonization in occupied Palestinian Jerusalem.”

Dig, according to The New York Times, will be “an action series set (and shot) in Jerusalem and based in the world of archaeology” that will run on NBCUniversal’s USA cable channel.

Jeff Wachtel, chief content officer for NBCUniversal, told the newspaper he hoped it would be “the big, buzz-worthy project” that USA has been looking for.

The Palestinian coalition also sent a letter to Wachtel on 23 November, a copy of which was shared with The Electronic Intifada, urging him to cancel the project and providing documentation of Israel’s abuses.

Jerusalem, including its eastern sector occupied by Israel in 1967, is not recognized as part of Israel under international law.

Israel’s demolitions, land seizures and settlement construction flagrantly violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and numerous UN Security Council resolutions.

Filming amid war crimes

The NBC series is to be filmed in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood where Israeli occupation forces are systematically demolishing homes and displacing families in order to build Jewish-only settlements and facilities, particularly the so-called “City of David National Park” run by the extremist settler organization Elad.

Elad is directly involved in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem.

In August, Human Rights Watch called on Israeli occupation authorities to “immediately end unlawful demolitions of Palestinian homes,” including specifically in Silwan.

These demolitions, Human Rights Watch said, may amount to “forcible transfer of residents of an occupied territory, which is a war crime.”

Targeting children

As Jewish settlers encroach on Silwan, Palestinian children have been particular targets of the occupation forces’ violence.

Last month, Israeli occupation forces invaded a home in the middle of the night to arrest a four-year-old boy.

In February 2012, occupation forces destroyed a newly-completed community center, described as “the only place for children in Silwan.”

Tayma Fteiheh, a 13-year-old Silwan schoolgirl, described what life was like for children in the area in a recent video from Defense for Children International-Palestine Section (DCI-PS).

“All the houses here are under threat of demolition [by Israel],” Tayma said. “They want to throw Palestinian families on the streets so that they can build parks for their own children.”

Israeli propaganda or entertainment?

Dig is the co-creation of Gideon Raff, who created the hit show “Homeland,” first on Israeli television and then in the US.

Columbia University professor Joseph Massad has written that Homeland is “reflective of American and Israeli fantasies of anti-Muslim American multiculturalism.”

Israeli occupation officials have celebrated the new NBC project as another major triumph for Israel’s efforts to sell itself and legitimize its occupation of Jerusalem.

Nir Barkat, the mayor of the occupation municipality in Jerusalem, hailed Dig as “a significant milestone on the road as Jerusalem becomes an attractive location for international productions.”

Barkat has promised the show’s makers “wide access to the historical areas of the Old City and other landmarks,” the Times reports, without saying that these are occupied territories over which Israel has no legal jurisdiction.

Naftali Bennett, an Israeli cabinet minister and leader of the virulently anti-Palestinian “Jewish Home” party, said the series would “help brand Jerusalem as an international tourism destination.”

But Palestinians see Dig as another element of the assault being carried out with Israel’s bulldozers to erase them from their city.

“From occupied East Jerusalem, we call upon the NBC to terminate immediately all involvement in this project,” the Civic National Commission on Jerusalem statement says.

“We appeal to filmmakers, journalists, media networks and all people of conscience worldwide to support our call and engage the NBC management.”

Full text of statement

Palestinian Civil Society and National Institutions to NBC:

Terminate the NBC film project promoting Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing and colonization in occupied East Jerusalem

Respect corporate responsibility for international law and Palestinian human rights

We, the undersigned Palestinian civil society organizations and national institutions, condemn in the strongest terms the plan of the American TV company NBC to produce and broadcast a drama series that will give legitimacy to Israel’s policies of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and colonization in occupied Palestinian Jerusalem. The NBC’s engagement in such a film project is deeply unethical. It also entails reputational risks and legal responsibility for complicity in the serious violations of international law, war crimes and human rights abuses committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian city. We urge the NBC’s management to respect basic standards of ethics, law and human rights of the Palestinian people and to terminate immediately all involvement in this film project. We also appeal to filmmakers, journalists, media networks and all people of conscience worldwide to support our call and engage the NBC management.

According to Israeli and US press reports, the NBC-owned cable and satellite TV network USA is cooperating with Israeli authorities, film makers and the Keshet Media Group to produce an action series entitled DIG mainly in occupied East Jerusalem, near the Old City. Most of the filming will take place in the so-called “City of David national park”, which is located in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan and operated by the Israeli settler organization El’ad and the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority. The film project was initiated by Nir Barkat, the Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, who considers it to be “a significant milestone on the road as Jerusalem becomes an attractive location for international productions.” “It was clear to me”, says Barkat, “that we would succeed in connecting between Hollywood’s great success and Jerusalem’s huge potential … the City of David, the place where it all began.” Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett also praises the project: “The series will help brand Jerusalem as an international tourism destination.” It is no surprise, therefore, that Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality will take part in the funding of the project, along with the Israeli Ministry of Economy, the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Tourism.

However, occupied East Jerusalem is not Israeli but Palestinian under international law, and Israeli settlements, “national parks” and “tourist sites” there are illegal. The United Nations’ Security Council has repeatedly condemned Israel’s 1967 annexation and the transfer of Israeli civilians (settlers) into occupied East Jerusalem, characterizing these policies as acquisition of territory by force and forced population transfer.1 The International Court of Justice has confirmed that Israel is responsible for these serious violations of international law which undermine the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people.2 A UN investigation concluded in 2013 that the Israeli settlements result in systematic racial segregation and discrimination, and in war crimes which fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.3 All of this applies to the Israeli “City of David national park” in Silwan. Representatives of the EU and UN agencies in Jerusalem confirm that this Israeli “tourist site” has been established in occupied East Jerusalem in violation of international law. They alert of the on-going demolition of Palestinian homes and forced eviction of Palestinian residents of Silwan by Israeli authorities and the settler organization Elad, who are seeking to expand the illegal site.4

Under international law, business enterprises such as the NBC have an obligation to respect human rights and abstain from – or terminate – involvement with the illegal Israeli annexation and settlement enterprise in occupied East Jerusalem.[^5] As members of the oppressed Palestinian people, we were appalled to learn that the NBC considers the Israeli-promoted drama series in the “City of David national park”, which has become a symbol of Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing and colonization of occupied East Jerusalem, to be “the big, buzz-worthy project” that the company has been looking for. We consider the NBC’s involvement in this project, which aims to captivate, thrill and influence the perceptions of millions of viewers around the world, to be deeply immoral, shameful and an act of complicity in the serious violations of international law, including war crimes and human rights abuses, committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.

From occupied East Jerusalem, we call upon the NBC to terminate immediately all involvement in this project.

We appeal to filmmakers, journalists, media networks and all people of conscience worldwide to support our call and engage the NBC management. Occupied East Jerusalem, November 2013,

The Civic National Commission on Jerusalem, including:

  • Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations
  • Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)
  • Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)
  • Council of National Forces in Palestine
  • Jerusalem Clubs League
  • Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem
  • General Union of Palestinian Women
  • Palestinian Theatres League
  • Coalition for Jerusalem
  • Arab Studies Society/Faisal al Husseini Foundation
  • Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall)
  • The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee
  • Silwan Youth Club
  • Al Thouri Youth Club
  • Silwan Graduates League
  • Silwan Women’s Society
  • Wadi Helwa Information Center, Silwan
  • Al Bustan/Silwan Committee

  1. See, for example, UN Security Council resolutions 252 (1968), 267 (1969), 298 (1971), 446 (1979), 452 (1979), 465, 471, 476 and 478 (all 1980).
  2. International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in Occupied Palestinian Territory, 9 July 2004.
  3. Report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, A/HRC/22/63, 7 February 2013 (FFM/Israeli settlements).
  4. EU Heads of Mission Jerusalem Report 2012. OCHA-oPt, East Jerusalem: [^5]: Key Humanitarian Concerns, March 2011. UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (endorsed by the Human Rights Council on 16 June 2011). Also: FFM/Israeli settlements, para. 117.
Photo: Decode Jerusalem