Channel 4 attacked over 'biased' Mid-East film

Paul Salahuddin Armstrong

Paul Salahuddin Armstrong

Channel 4 has been criticised for featuring a series of "one-sided" and "distorted" television programmes about Jewish and Muslim relations.

Last week, seven 90-second films entitled Can Jews and Muslims ever find peace? aired as part of the 4Thought series. It is broadcast every day on Channel 4 in the evening and is also covered on the Channel 4's website.

The episodes included clips from Christian student and "friend of Israel" Sam Hailes, Muslim musician Kareem Dennis, and Roberta Moore, head of the English Defence League's Jewish division.

Other participants were Muslim interfaith worker Suna Umair, Israeli Jew Yael Kahn, Jewish performance artist Danny Raphael, and Muslim convert Paul Salahuddin Armstrong.

Roberta Moore

Roberta Moore

Channel 4 has received six complaints in total, three claiming the programmes were pro-Palestinian and the rest accusing them of being pro-Israel.

Mr Dennis, also known as Lowkey, said in his film: "I believe Israel is largely to blame for the lack of peace in the Middle East. Zionism in its essence is a supremacist ideology. It's definitely a racist ideology."

In her film, Yael Kahn, who left Israel in 1991, said: "Palestinians and how Israelis were treating them - it is like the Nazis. My experience is that Israel is an extremely racist state.

"They call us Arab-lovers as if it's the most disgraceful thing you can be. This is like antisemitism that was in Nazi Germany. In that sense Israeli society is very much like a Nazi society."

Responding to Mr Dennis's film, Jack Welby, from Edgware, said: "It wasn't balanced and was very anti-Israel. I was very offended by it."

Another Jewish viewer from Glasgow, who did not want to be named, said: "I saw the first episode and thought it really demonised Israel. I felt worried because of the distortion.

"It was one-sided and presented a very odd history. It left out important things. I felt angry watching it."

Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust, said: "It is appalling that Channel 4 would broadcast these highly provocative views over more representative and less extreme views."

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, said: "This programme has a fantastic opportunity to inform and educate the public on a wide variety of issues, and one would expect Channel 4 to ensure that they offer balanced debate instead of skewed narrative."

A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: "Given the ongoing, deep-rooted conflict between Israel and Palestine, the strand raises the question of whether Jews and Muslims can ever find peace.

"Contributors for each themed week are sought to reflect as broad
a range of views as possible on a single subject.

"Context and balance is provided by the range of contributions across each week. It is worth noting that across the week, the majority of contributors believe it is possible for Jews and Muslims to find peace."

Earlier this year, the series featured seven episodes about Jewish mothers, featuring comedian David Schneider and harpist, Lucinda Belle.

Last updated: 1:48pm, January 6 2011