When BBC Arabic promised to investigate the views of Jews who had moved to Israel from Arab Countries, CAMERA Arabic was hopeful that the broadcaster would introduce some balance into its content. Disappointingly, a second programme in the BBC ‘Xtra’ series interviewed an anti-Zionist ultra-orthodox Ashkenazi, and an Iraq-born Jew who had once lived in Israel but now lives in London (with thanks: Lucille):
The BBC Arabic programme ‘Xtra’ interviewed an anti-Zionist Ashkenazi
The highlighted question is a seemingly promising novelty since Jewish Israelis have been largely excluded from the discourse surrounding Middle Eastern Jews in Arabic language media and their opinions seldom sought, even when mentioned.
That exclusion is particularly notable given that Israelis make up well over 99% of the Jews who live in the region today, that the vast majority of Jews with Mizrahi ancestry now live in Israel and that they form a majority among the Jews of Israel.
In a previous “Xtra” programe broadcast eleven days earlier which dealt with the Jews of North Africa (the Maghreb), the BBC had shown some signs of taking a different path. The program featured a brief interview with a Jewish man, Amnon Sofer from the Israeli city of Ashkelon, who visited his birthplace in Tunisia which he left as a toddler fifty years ago. As Sofer was shown walking down a street in Djerba, the voiceover of a Tunisian Rabbi was heard, pointing out one of the most politically sensitive aspects of the issue of Middle Eastern Jews:
“One cannot enter [Tunisia,] his land, […] without the consent of a high official, just because he departed to live in Israel.”
What then was “the view of the Jews who moved to Israel” presented in this second program? The BBC’s attempt to present an answer to the question they themselves posed was weak at best. The first of the programme’s items was based on a complete distortion of the question through the “exoneration of Zionism” lens, featuring a person who was introduced as a “Jew of Palestine” and who identifies completely with the campaign to deprive Jews in Israel of their right of self-determination.
The last item was more appropriate but had one major flaw: the interviewee, despite being an Israeli citizen who was unafraid to speak favourably of the country (a view rarely aired by BBC Arabic), had only lived in Israel between 1973-1987 and has resided in London ever since.