BBC Documentary Draws International Interest and More Israeli Ire
Controversy around the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary "Israel's Secret Weapon" extended into the summer months, as it continued to be broadcast around the world.
On June 28, the program about Israel's nuclear weapons and its imprisoned nuclear whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu, was shown on BBC World.
Israel's harsh and defensive reaction immediately followed - they cut off ties with the BBC. According to a report in Ha'aretz, the decision was made by representatives of the Foreign Ministry, Government Press Office and Prime Minister's Office. It was decided that Israeli officials will no longer give interviews to the BBC, nor will government offices assist any BBC reporters or producers.
Furthermore, the Government Press Office will make it difficult for anyone employed by the BBC to get work visas and press cards in Israel.
Following this lead, the management of Hotel Jerusalem Gold decided not to let BBC television crews stay at the hotel. A banner was draped on the hotel facade saying: "BBC crews, you are not wanted in this hotel." Hotel manager Ariela Shmida-Doron approached the chairperson of the Jerusalem Hotels Association, Rachel Goldberg, asking for all of Jerusalem's hotels to join a "hospitality boycott" of BBC crews.
Before the BBC World broadcast, officials in Israel attempted to get the BBC to cancel it. They objected that the show was not balanced and that it portrayed Israel as having an evil dictatorship, while ignoring the existential threat it faces.
For some time, Danny Seaman, the head of the Government Press Office, had been accusing the BBC of having an anti-Israel policy, bordering on anti-Semitism. After "Israel's Secret Weapon" was broadcast on BBC World, he claimed that the program was an attempt to cast Israel in a negative light.
The fact that the documentary caused Israel to break relations with the BBC only served to create even more interest in its important message.
A week after it was broadcast on BBC World, Channel 10 in Israel aired a special program with selections from the documentary. Also included was a panel of the station's security and defense reporters, information about Israel's nuclear program, and questions and answers.
In mid-August, the program was telecast on stations in Norway, Australia and on the Worldlink TV cable station in the U.S. The Sydney Morning Herald gave prominent space to a review of the program and listed it as the program of the week. As a result of "Israel's Secret Weapon" being shown throughout the world, people are visiting the U.S. and U.K. campaign websites and sending sympathetic e-mail messages, wondering what they can do to help free Mordechai Vanunu.