US, Israel strongly oppose airing of new Ramadan TV series “Al Shatat”

Published October 30th, 2003 - 02:00 GMT

The US State Department has expressed its disappointment with the Syrian and Lebanese government for allowing the airing of the new Ramadan TV drama series “Al Shatat” (The Diaspora), which reflects strong anti-Semitism views, on the Hizballah television channel “Al Manar”.  

 

“We are strongly opposed to any and all displays of anti-Semitism and view programming that includes scenes recognizing the so-called “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, which is an anti-Semitic forgery, as unacceptable,” US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. “Such programs do not contribute to the climate of mutual understanding and tolerance that the Middle East so desperately needs. We have been in touch with the Lebanese and Syrian governments”. 

 

Al-Manar television airs the 26 episodes Syrian-made mini-drama it advertised as portraying the history of the Zionist movement. Al-Manar is airing the series, “Al-Shatat” Arabic for “The Diaspora” in daily segments during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when television audiences peak.  

 

Al-Manar’s program director, Nasser Akhdar, stressed that the series was “purely historical” and that it was based on some 250 sources written by Jews. The program covers the history of the Jews and the Zionists between 1812 and 1948, he said, and underlines the Jewish emigration to Palestine, the Balfour Declaration, and the European policies regarding this issue during that period. 

 

“It offers a clear image of what the Zionists have committed in the social, political, and ideological fields,” Akhdar said. “It is a voice against all those who wish to hide the truth.” He said US complaints were an attempt to “misguide public opinion,” adding that this was part of the US strategy of hegemony over the media to “cancel other people’s opinions.”  

 

Akhdar said that the program showed the difference between Jews and Zionists, adding that some Jews were against the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, but “it seems that those Jews have disappeared now.”  

 

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), a Jewish rights group based in Los Angeles, California, said in a statement last week that the program “alleges Jews forged the Bible and follow the dictates of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” But Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center, said that the SWC was not certain that the Protocols really do play a part in the series. The SWC has gleaned its information about the series mainly from promotions aired on Syrian state television, which had been expected to broadcast the program, he said.  

 

Cooper also complained that the series portrayed the main character, a leading Zionist activist, as “immoral” and “manipulative.” “If the authors of the Protocols were alive today, they could sue the producers for copyright infringement,” he added.  

The SWC said the series, which describes the origins of Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel, would run on Syrian state television, but Boucher said this did not appear to be the case. Syrian television channels have not listed the series in their programming and the US Embassy in Damascus has learned that they do not intend to run it, he said.  

But Al-Manar, which is based in Beirut and broadcasts by satellite to much of the Middle East, would airs it, he said.  

 

Last year Israel and the United States criticized Arab governments for allowing their state-run televisions to broadcast another series alleged to give credence to the Protocols.  

Jewish lobbyists were in rage over the Egyptian drama “Faris Bila Jawad” (Knight Without a Horse). Top Israeli officials had harshly criticized the Egyptian government for giving the go ahead to airing the series, which is based on the book "Protocols of the Elders of Zion".  

 

Countless efforts were made by Jewish lobbyist to cancel the drama, but members of the Media and Culture Committee at the Egyptian Parliament declined their demand, saying that no party has the right to ask for such action. The members also added that “the series does not hold any racial views against any religion, and on the contrary, Egypt respects all beliefs and the drama only expresses facts from the past.” The Egyptian government strongly stressed that it refuses to take any actions repressing freedom of speech and expression. 

 

Negative opinion over the series was all over the US New York Times and The Washington Post, leading Arab journalist to strike back with commentaries and articles criticizing the stances taken by the American media over a series even before it was aired. The Washington Post posted an article by Daniel Waken, an American journalist from Cairo, that defends the right of the Egyptian media to air the series. Daniel wrote his article after holding talks with Nabil Othman president of the Media committee. 

 

The daily added that the Jewish lobby went as far as the US Congress, whom they knew, would immediately take their side and call for their demands to be met. “All the commotion that the lobby is causing is of no use due to the fact that Egypt will not take any action whatsoever against the drama series,” the daily added. - Albawaba.com 

 


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