UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

BBC urged to abandon slanted City of David programme

UKLFI has written to the BBC’s director general Tim Davie to request that a forthcoming documentary, critical of Jerusalem’s City of David Foundation, should be abandoned or re-made.  This follows news that the programme’s producer, Rosie Garthwaite had a history of anti-Israel social media activity, and that the forthcoming programme would be politically slanted and promote a particular agenda, rather than a balanced examination of the true position.

UKLFI pointed out that Garthwaite’s conduct has plainly violated the BBC’s Guidance on Social Media which states, under the heading “Personal Activity”:   “Where individuals identify themselves as being linked with the BBC, or are programme makers, editorial staff, reporters or presenters primarily associated with the BBC, their activities on social media have the potential to compromise the BBC’s impartiality and to damage its reputation.” 

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI commented:  “We believe that the programme  should either be abandoned or be re-made by a new producer and editorial team of unchallenged impartiality, duly taking into account the concerns raised by ourselves and others, and ensuring that the facts and different views on the sensitive issues are accurately and fairly represented.”

According to information received by UKLFI:

  • The programme makers intend to claim that the City of David Foundation (also known as “Elad”, a transliteration of its Hebrew acronym) conducts archaeological investigations in violation of international law.

UKLFI pointed out that the Foundation does facilitate archaeological investigations of some of the most important archaeological sites in the world by leading professional archaeologists under the supervision of the Israel Antiquities Authority. However, it is highly contentious to claim that these investigations are contrary to international law.

Whether or not this area of Jerusalem is part of Israel is a disputed issue.  Even if it is regarded as “occupied territory”, properly conducted archaeological investigations are not prohibited.   Even if archaeological investigations are only permitted to protect cultural heritage, the Foundation’s activities do precisely that.

UKLFI added that the programme will be misleading on this last point if it does not mention that there is a serious risk of destruction of the cultural heritage of the Jewish people in this area, unless this heritage is investigated, exposed to view and documented – as evidenced by the serious destruction of antiquities carried out by the Muslim Waqf administering the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and by the extensive destruction and theft of antiquities in areas administered by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

  • UKLFI understands that the programme makers intend to claim that the Foundation encourages Jewish people to live in this area and that this breaches international law.

UKLFI pointed out that this is not contrary to international law. Even if the area is treated as “occupied territory”, it is not illegal for Jewish people to live in the area or for a non-State Foundation to encourage them to do so. On the contrary, it is a racist claim that Jewish people must not live in this area.

  • The programme makers intend to claim that the City of David Foundation is assisting legal proceedings to evict the Sumarin family from their home, with the implication that it would make them homeless. However, evidence given in court proceedings showed that the Sumarin family has significant assets including a residential building in Jerusalem with six apartments.  It would be misleading not to mention this and to suggest that they would be homeless if they are evicted on the basis that they do not own this particular property.