Actor and TV presenter Ross Kemp has said he was anxious about the impact of his new programmes on the Israel/Gaza conflict, for fear they could give extremists a “publicity platform”.
Mr Kemp, best known for his work on EastEnders, spent a month in Israel and Gaza for a two-part series which concludes on Sunday (January 10) on Sky1.
The actor, who has also filmed in Afghanistan and Kenya, told Sky News that he made the programme to give access to the on-going and complicated conflict to those who would not usually be interested.
He said: “We wanted to bring in an audience who wouldn’t normally watch a current affairs programme like this.
“They have been fighting in Israel, internally or externally, every year since the state was born and it’s become the elephant in the corner of the room.
“That was the main reason for going. I didn’t understand what was going on. It’s been in the background of my life, all my life. We set out to look at what was interesting to people and to show places people didn’t know existed.”
In the first programme, shown last Sunday, Mr Kemp travelled to Gaza where he met an Islamic Jihad terrorist faction, who showed him where they were planting a bomb on the Israeli border. In another scene, he came face-to-face with a suicide bomber.
He said: “You have to be careful making these programmes, that you’re not being led towards being a publicity platform for extremists. But you also have to tell a story.”
He also climbed into one of the tunnels on the border with Egypt used to transport black market goods into Gaza, and met children in the Gaza Community Mental Health Project who had lost family to the conflict.
In the second part, to be screened on Sunday, Mr Kemp visits Israel and speaks to families who have lost members to suicide bombers, residents who live on the border with Gaza, settlers in east Jerusalem and IDF soldiers.
He said that capturing the effects of the conflict on Israel was harder to show, because the physical destruction was not as visible.
He told Sky News: “Hopefully, people could see the effects, even though you can’t see the destruction in Israel. People in Sderot and elsewhere are living daily with the fear of being rocketed and having a suicide bombing occur next to them.”
He also expressed shock at the divisions within the Jewish community in Israel, after visiting Mea Shearim, the strictly Orthodox neighbourhood in Jerusalem, and said Israel is a “nation of division, not just with its neighbours, but itself”.
Mr Kemp added: “It’s a subject people don’t want to talk about. It is a highly sensitive subject. If people are upset, I’m sorry, but I would put that against the result of people being more informed about the situation. That’s part of the road to getting peace.
“If we’ve done our job correctly, we’ve made an honest documentary that’s an observation of the situation in the Middle East.”