TEL AVIV (Aug. 2)
NBC and Israel have reached an accord to end the ban on interviews with Israel’s three top leaders which was imposed in response to a critical program on Israel since the Six-Day War, following an agreement by NBC to air Israeli objections to the program.
Last week, the Israeli government announced that Premier Yitzhak Shamir, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin would refuse interviews to the network’s correspondents and would not appear on NBC news programs because NBC had not responded to the government’s letters of protest against the documentary, “Six Days Plus 20 Years: A Dream Is Dying.”
Shamir’s spokesman, Avi Pazner, said last week that the program, narrated by Tom Brokaw and broadcast July 1, was a “completely biased and one-sided documentary on Israel.” Pazner complained that only non-representative Israeli officials were interviewed on camera.
In turn, NBC complained that the officials’ refusals to be interviewed constituted a boycott of the network. The Foreign Press Association in Israel was reported examining the issue, saying that a boycott of a foreign news agency was a dangerous and undemocratic precedent similar to that practiced by the Soviet bloc nations.
NBC vice president Ed Planer was in Israel last week to discuss the imbroglio with media advisors to the three leaders. At a meeting in Jerusalem on Friday, Planer agreed to permit an Israeli official to explain Israel’s objections to the program on the “Today” show. NBC Israel Bureau Chief Larry Weidman acknowledged two “inaccuracies” in the program but denied it being either unfair or unethical. Weidman said the network stands “firmly behind the program” but is “always interested in hearing honest objections.”
CRITICS AND ADVOCATES INTERVIEWED
In the program, Brokaw interviewed both critics and advocates of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, including a lengthy discussion with various members of the Angel family of Jerusalem, who espoused different views on the administered territories and current problems in Israel between Jews and Palestinians.
He ended the program with a first-ever and warm meeting between Jerusalem rabbi and philosopher David Hartman and Palestinian spokesman Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, a lecturer of Medieval Moslem philosophy at Bir Zeit University.
The program focused on Israeli patrols of neighborhoods in the territories and Palestinian youths throwing stones at the soldiers and explaining their hatred of them. An NBC correspondent, Peter Kent, said of armed Israeli civilians that “They block us from recording face slapping and humiliating treatment.”
As the camera panned Palestinians lined up under Israeli guard, awaiting identification checks and possible arrest. Kent said, “This is what Palestinians fear every day: being in the wrong place at the wrong time… This is what the occupation is all about.”
The NBC documentary was but one of several aired recently on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Israel’s administration of the West Bank, in addition to many newspaper and magazine articles on the subject, all of them highly critical of Israeli policy towards the territories and the Palestinians.
The Public Broadcasting System aired two strong documentaries on the issue prior to the NBC program, one by Israeli filmmaker Ofra Bikel, who lives in New York, and another by a British Jew. Victor Shoenfeld. Criticism of these by the Israel government has not been heard.