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April 23, 2009

Misrepresenting Israel on National Geographic TV (Again)

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Islam’s Dome of the Rock is the signature imagery of this National Geographic one-hour documentary originally aired in 2007

“We stand by our film and do not intend to make any changes.”

With these words (in an August 16, 2007 letter), National Geographic Television’s President, Michael Rosenfeld, dismissed CAMERA’s recommendations for changes to the network’s “Secrets of Jerusalem’s Holiest Sites.” The recommendations were related to inaccuracies and distortions pointed out in a July 2007 CAMERA letter to Mr. Rosenfeld and later posted on-line in an October 3, 2007 CAMERA article. The film's serious flaws remain in the recent re-broadcasts on Sunday, April 12, 2009 (5PM Eastern) and Tuesday, April 14 (5PM).

The basic problem is that this film favors key Muslim and Arab viewpoints regarding Israel that are either inaccurate or distorted.

National Geographic Television would be taking a major step toward accuracy and fairness if Mr. Rosenfeld and his associates in Washington D.C. were to honestly scrutinize and then, accordingly, revise this seriously flawed film. However, this appears to be unlikely since NGT, like its parent, the enormously prosperous “non-profit” National Geographic Society, has been able thus far to view itself as impervious to criticism. Such changes would also require overcoming National Geographic’s traditional anti-Israel bias.

Almost half way into the broadcast, the narrator inaccurately explains the cause of the 1948 war: “Arabs reject the deal [U.N. partition plan] outright. 1948 – fighting breaks out between Israel and its neighbors.” Why is this explanation lacking in truth? Because the war didn’t just “break out.” Arab aggression caused the war when, within hours of Israel’s declaration of independence (in accord with the U.N. plan), the armies of five Arab nations (Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Iraq) attacked Israel in order to destroy the new nation.

The very first spoken statement in the film sets its tone and shows an acceptance of Islam’s view of the location known to Judaism and Christianity as the “Temple Mount”: “[T]he world’s most sacred sites – Judaism’s Western Wall, the Islamic Noble Sanctuary, and the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulcher.” (The sense of this characterization is repeated throughout the film).

But the ancient Israelites – the Jews – established the Temple Mount (today called by Muslims, the “Noble Sanctuary” or “Harim al-Sharif”) twenty centuries before the origin of Islam and it’s the Temple Mount not the Western Wall that’s the most sacred site for Judaism. Furthermore, the film, only four minutes into the broadcast, misleadingly says “Jews call the Noble Sanctuary the Temple Mount” but the more chronologically accurate language would be “Muslims call the Temple Mount the Noble Sanctuary.” How can one justify the fact that “Harim al-Sharif” is mentioned at least six times in the film but there’s not even a single mention of the Hebrew term, “Har Ha'ba'it,” for the same location? How can one honestly defend the distorted, unfair phraseology of this film?

Posted by MK at April 23, 2009 01:27 PM

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