NEW YORK (Aug. 2)
Despite a storm of protests and criticism, plans to air the Public Broadcasting Service’s controversial documentary “Days of Rage: The Young Palestinians” continue, and programming that will frame the film is now under production.
The PBS affiliate in New York that is sponsoring the film, WNET-TV, last week taped a panel discussion, which will be edited and presented after “Days of Rage.” Crews from WNET are also currently in Israel, shooting footage for additional programming to be shown both before and after the film.
WNET executives believe this programming will balance the pro-Palestinian slant of “Days of Rage.”
The estimated cost of the “wraparound” programming is $150,000, while the 90-minute documentary itself cost only $180,000 to produce.
Preparations for the airing of the film, scheduled for Sept.6, follow claims by numerous Jewish organizations that the documentary is an anti-Israel propaganda piece.
Numerous letters of protest have been sent to both PBS and WNET, asking that they reconsider their decision to show “Days of Rage.” Some WNET members, who make yearly contributions to the station, have threatened to cancel their memberships if the documentary is shown.
The participants in the taped panel discussion were Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; James Zogby, director of the Arab American Institute; Richard Murphy, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs; Walter Ruby, New York correspondent for the Jerusalem Post; and Alan Keyes, who served as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs during the Reagan administration.
A ‘HORRENDOUS’ DOCUMENTARY
The discussion was moderated by Hodding Carter, who was the State Department spokesman during the Carter administration.
Reich said he was pleased with the nature of the panel’s discussion, but that it remains to be seen what portion of it ends up on the cutting room floor.
The panel discussed issues surrounding the intifada and the Middle East peace process, as well as the question of whether “Days of Rage” should have been aired at all.
Reich said that he would have preferred that the documentary not be shown, but that once WNET made its decision, he welcomed the opportunity to take part in the panel.
As for the content of “Days of Rage” itself, Reich called it “horrendous.”
“It wasn’t even a documentary,” Reich said. “It was political commentary. Any suggestion that there was any objectivity is ridiculous.”
While agreeing that the film was “badly flawed” factually, Ruby conceded that on an emotional level, “Days of Rage” was deeply powerful and affecting.
Ruby accused producer Jo Franklin-Trout of using “heavy-handed technique to siam home her message of advocacy for the Palestinian cause.” But he felt “the film also contains moments of exceptional power and truth.”