The Board of Deputies has questioned the timing of a BBC1 Panorama programme on violent Israeli settlers which was broadcast on Monday, the second night of Rosh Hashanah.
Reporter Jane Corbin investigated the phenomenon of “price-tags”, revenge attacks on Palestinian villages by young militants opposed to the demolition of West Bank outposts ruled illegal by the Israeli courts.
The Board’s Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko said that the timing would be “viewed cynically by the community, aired on one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar”.
It was, she said, “a shame that Panorama chose to focus on an extremist and unlawful segment of Israeli society, the activities of which have been denounced in the strongest possible terms after every attack, both by the Israeli government and indeed the Prime Minister of Israel.”
According to the programme, hundreds of price-tag incidents have taken place, often involving graffiti threats and abuse sprayed on Palestinian property in night raids.
But they also included arson against mosques and petrol bombs thrown at Palestinian cars, causing serious injuries.
Video footage, shot by a Palestinian villager acting for an Israeli human rights organisation, showed Israeli soldiers standing by as settlers descending from the hills fired on Palestinians throwing stones.
According to the settlers, the Palestinians had started fires in the surrounding land, while the Palestinians argued that it had been the other way round.
One price-tag leader, Alex Ostrovsky, recently released after six months in jail, boasted: “If it helps me stay in my homeland, they can call me a terrorist.”
A young woman, under house arrest after being caught on video participating in an incident in a Palestinian village, declared: “I only care what God thinks, I act for Him alone.”
While Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad contended that Israel should be doing more to prevent such attacks, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said that the security services had been given orders that there was to be “no tolerance for this phenomenon whatsoever”.
Zionist Federation director Alan Aziz commented: “While we strongly condemn the actions of a tiny minority, the programme unfairly demonised Israel. It conflated the whole issue of the disputed territories with the price- tag attacks, which is incorrect.
“Moreover, the programme gave the false impression that price tag attacks were condoned by the IDF”.