Right-wing fury at Israel's TV history

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The Independent Online
ISRAEL'S public service television is fighting off angry demands from right-wing ministers and MPs to pull a critical 22-part series on the first 50 years of the Jewish state.

The series, Tkumah ("Rebirth"), has shone a harsh light on Israel's treatment of its Arab minority and its oriental Jewish immigrants in the 11 episodes screened so far. A surprise hit with Israelis, it mercilessly showed how national heroes such as Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan squandered the opportunity for peace in the years between the 1967 and 1973 wars.

A programme to be screened next month will depict what Israelis call "terror" and the Palestinians "armed struggle" from both sides of the barricade, using footage from PLO archives captured during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, as well as interviews with Israeli victims and fighters.

Yehoram Gaon, a popular actor and singer who introduced each episode, sparked the row by resigning from the series.

Limor Livnat, the Likud Communications Minister, demanded that the broadcasting authority take it off the air immediately and urged the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to intervene. "I don't know any normal nation that would present the other side's position so favourably," she said. "That ... has caused severe damage to the state of Israel."

Hanan Porat, a settler MP, called on Tkumah's producers to make a second series from a "national" perspective. Moshe Peled, the Deputy Education Minister, accused the documentary makers of presenting half-truths in the guise of history.

The authority rejected these strictures, though it will follow the more controversial episodes with a live debate. One veteran broadcaster said privately: "We have grown up. We're no longer living in the days when the news was controlled from the prime minister's office."

Spokesman Zvi Lidar told The Independent: "We knew we were picking at open wounds. But each programme was made with the help of ... historians representing different political views and different approaches to history."

Ronit Weiss-Berkowitz, who directed the episode on armed struggle, defended her treatment. "At times the film adopted the other side's point of view and those are pictures we are not used to seeing," she said. "One of the objectives was to understand that blood was spilt on the other side as well."

Ilan Pape, a historian at the university of Haifa who has challenged the Zionist version of the Israeli state's formative years, said Tkumah was a sign that such criticism had become legitimate. "It will be more difficult to limit the debate now," he said.