Film on Israeli medical aid for Syrian refugees 'too Zionist' for British TV, fears director

Respected documentary maker David Cohen gained unprecedented access to film Israel's humanitarian effort to treat victims of Syria's civil war on its northern border


A revealing documentary containing footage of Israel’s ground-breaking medical relief effort and treatment of more than 4000 Syrians caught up in the country’s civil war is considered “too Zionist” for mainstream British television, its director David Cohen has claimed.

Love Your Enemies was premiered at a special Westminster screening organised by the Israel Britain Alliance group on Tuesday evening, and was enthusiastically received by an audience including  former Cabinet Minister and Conservative Friends of Israel chair Stephen Crabb, Labour’s Ian Austin, Andrew Percy MP, and Israeli deputy ambassador Sharon Bar-li.

But in a question and answer session following the one hour long film - which featured interviews with both medics and patients offered pioneering surgery on often horrific wounds at hospitals in Nahariya and Safed in the Western Galilee  -  Mr Cohen revealed that discussions over purchase of the film with both the BBC and Channel 4 had so far proved  fruitless.

Mr Cohen, who has directed numerous TV shows in the past , said: “The feedback seems to be that the film is being very well received – but that this subject matter is not their priority.

“I have heard it suggested from one channel that the film is deemed to be too easy on Israel.  It is my interpretation that it was felt to be too Zionist.”

Mr Percy suggested it was becoming increasingly hard to secure coverage of positive Israeli humanitarian efforts such as that on the Golan Heights border because media organisations were always quick to raise alleged negative issues affecting the nation such as the crisis in Gaza.

The film's makers – who include long-standing JC correspondent Jenni Frazer who worked as assistant producer on the documentary - were given unprecedented access by Israeli security forces and medical officials to film and interview victims of the brutal Syrian civil war.

In moving scenes a young man who was a nurse in Syria  and who was given pioneering face transplant surgery was interviewed.

Medics described the harrowing ordeal of treating wounded men, women and children who cross the border, often in secret, to be treated in Israel, and then not being able to learn of how they manage to return to everyday life once they leave hospital and return to Syria.

One young male patient admits: “In Syria we are taught that Israel is the enemy – but all I have seen since I have been here is humanity.”

Mr Cohen told the JC: ”I am not sure there is another example to be found a humanitarian effort like this. Israel and Syria are two enemy states, and yet a decision has been made by the Israelis to provide help to those on the other side hurt by this horrendous war.”

Sharon Bar-li, Israel's deputy ambassador to the UK, confirmed to the audience that Israel had now treated more than 1,000 Syrian children out of more than 4,000 victims of the civil war who had entered Israeli hospitals.

She also revealed Israel had funded the building of a hospital across the border in Syria which was recently hit by a missile fired by troops loyal to President Bashar Assad. Despite the attack, the hospital remained open, she said.



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