Israel cuts off ties with BBC
By Anat Balint, Haaretz Correspondent June 29, 2003
Israel declared over the weekend that it is cutting off ties with the BBC to protest a repeat broadcast on non-conventional weapons said to be in Israel.
The program was broadcast for the first time in March in Britain, and was rerun Saturday on a BBC channel that is aired all over the world.
The boycott decision was made by Israel's public relations forum, made up of representatives from the Prime Minister's Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Government Press Office.
It was decided that government offices won't assist BBC producers and reporters, that Israeli officials will not give interviews to the British network, and that the Government Press Office will make it difficult for BBC employees to get press cards and work visas in Israel.
Before the broadcast Saturday, Israeli officials tried to pressure the BBC to cancel the broadcast, saying that the program was biased and presented Israel as an evil dictatorship, ignoring the existential threat it was facing.
The forum members were furious at the trailers to the program, which showed pictures of the Dimona nuclear reactor and the biological institute in Nes Tziona, with the narrator saying, "Which country in the Middle East has not declared the nuclear and biological weapons in its possession?"
The trailer also says that there is no external supervision over Israel, "which is holding in custody for 17 years a man who has leaked its secrets."
The broadcast deals with Israel's attempts to maintain a policy of ambiguity on its nuclear weapons, through the Va'anunu affair, the trial of Brigadier General Yitzhak Ya'akov and the incidents of cancer among the Dimona nuclear reactor workers.
Danny Seaman, the head of the Government Press Office, has been saying for some time that the BBC has a clear anti-Israel policy, bordering on anti-Semitism. Seaman told Army Radio on Sunday that the BBC broadcast was an attempt to tarnish Israel.