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Like so many – that also drew our attention to this matter – we were profoundly shocked and disturbed by the recent SVT/UR documentary ‘Israels mediestrategi i USA’/’The Occupation of the American Mind’.
A terrible piece of propaganda, featuring a variety of notorious anti-Semites, Holocaust negationists and rabid detractors of Israel with not even the semblance of balance – and playing on all the myths of Jewish illicit influence.
No doubt this was a terrible choice of a ‘documentary’ for educational TV to air. Indeed, a disclaimer of sorts was made in a short introduction added by SVT. But if the bias was to some extent tacitly acknowledged – why at all to air it?!
And since it was aired, what documentaries presenting an Israeli perspective in a similar manner are to be aired in order to ensure that SVT/Utbildningsradion live up to their absolute OBLIGATION to maintain impartialness and a balanced attitude?
All of these are very legitimate questions – which we chose to express in an official letter to the head of Utbildningsradion, Sweden’s educational TV, Christel Willers – with a copy to head of SVT Hanna Stjärne.
We were quickly informed by SVT Director Stjärne that I was to expect my answer from Director Willers at Utbildningsradion. When almost two weeks had passed, the Embassy sent a kind reminder to inquire about the letter.
Following another wait, we did receive an extremely short letter by an SVT LAWYER to the effect that my letter had NOT been received by UR Director Willers – and clearly there was no wish to receive it or even know its contents. If I so wished, I could feel free to address any possible misgivings to the SVT complaints board.
This is hardly the way to treat the official letter of a foreign representative – and even more, the very serious concerns raised in the letter.
It is more fitting for Swedish license payers to address the complaints board as suggested by Director Willers. However, long experience tells us that these formal complaints are of little avail. Given the repeated maltreatment of Israel by Swedish State Media, unfortunately I see no other way but to urge the Swedish public and taxpayers – who are the ones financing the activities of SVT and Utbildningsradion – to choose a different avenue to express their very legitimate concerns. Especially as it is the intention for this terrible, inciting documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind’ to be available at UR Play for another year.
Since I have been made to understand that no reply is to be expected to my letter, I have decided to make it public and for all to read. I do this only reluctantly and with no pleasure, since no other realistic means of redress remains open to us.
I urge you all to spread it and then – importantly – to send your complaints directly to head of Utbildningsradion Christel Willers at email@example.com and head of SVT Hanna Stjärne at firstname.lastname@example.org
We should all protest this disgrace!
Here is the e-mailed letter sent 2 weeks ago:
Stockholm, November 11 2016
Dear Christel Willers,
It is with considerable surprise that I became aware yesterday to the screening by Utbildningsradion of the documentary ‘The Occupation of the American mind’.
Even the title would be enough to indicate the bias of this production.
Very problematically, a number of the participating pundits and experts clearly fall outside the spectrum of accepted and respectable opinion. Max Blumenthal is almost universally acknowledged to be a vicious anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist, no less. Norman Finkelstein was condemned across the world for his terrible book ‘The Holocaust industry’ – an atrocious insult to the memory of the Holocaust, and its victims. The interviewees thus are no ‘ordinary’ critics of Israel – in several instances their criticism has long crossed the line of any respectable criticism to turn into outright anti-Semitism and even Holocaust negationism.
Furthermore the narrator, musician Roger Waters, has been widely condemned for a ‘no holds barred’ hostility towards Israel and his high-profile support for the often very anti-Semitic BDS movement – something which recently caused many of his sponsors and associates to break off all cooperation.
No background WHATSOEVER is given in particular to the reasons for the outbreak of the last Gaza war. The claim that the last Jewish presence in the historical Jewish homeland dates to 3000 years ago is patently false and absurd – that was the beginning of a Jewish presence despite all unbroken until this day. Sweeping and completely unfounded statements abound such as ‘Palestinians have NO rights’ – a statement which could hardly be more obviously false.
Even the explanatory comments by the Swedish expert at the beginning, meant to somehow nuance and balance – partly are very questionable. When he states that: the Israel lobby is ‘just like the arms lobby, the oil lobby – nothing abnormal in a US context’ – this can hardly be taken to be a very flattering company in which to appear, at least in the eyes of the intended Swedish audience. Indeed, it would have been more correct to describe the very large ‘pro-Israel’ movement in the United State as a grass roots and popular movement of the kind usually cherished in Sweden.
The documentary suggests an altogether comfortable dominance – achieved by devious means – for the pro-Israel narrative in the United States. Nothing could be further from reality.
Indeed, if SVT wishes to be up to date – only recently there have been numerous illustrations of the virtual impossibility of advocating Israel on US and British campuses – in the face of incredible threats, violence and intimidation. Why Israel cannot safely be advocated by ordinary citizens in Western democracies, could be one example of an urgent subject appropriate as follow-up to the documentary in question.
Of course, if indeed there were enough reservations to result in the cautious introductory comments – one could ask why such a partial and unbalanced piece was in the end aired at all. Since it was, one must assume that in the name of elementary balance and fairness a similar documentary – with the same disclaimers if necessary – will be aired presenting an opposite, pro-Israeli perspective.
I find it highly irregular for an educational channel at all to air such a film – which will also be available on your website until 2018.
As Ambassador of Israel, I am writing to ask that you make sure proper balance is achieved by the airing of comparable pro-Israel material.
As a state-owned channel – and an educational channel at that – the demands on impartialness, balance and fair reporting are particularly pressing in your case.
My question to you is therefore: what have been or what will be the pro-Israel materials aired appropriate to balance such an extremely anti-Israeli program? I shall be looking forward to your answer!
Ambassador of Israel