October 25, 2008

Jewish Chronicle wrong, shock!

I just can't find my way around the Jewish Chronicle website these days. Nor, it seems, can Deborah Maccoby. She very kindly typed out a letter from today's JC and posted it to the Just Peace UK list. Here it is:
DEFENDING CHANNEL 4'S HURNDALL FILM

There were a number of errors in your review of Channel 4's film "The Shooting of Tom Hurndall", which we would like to correct.

Simon Round stated that Thomas Hurndall saw himself as a peace activist. He was a photo-journalism degree student who had gone to the Middle East to take photos as part of his work. There is no evidence that he was in Israel as a "peace activist", nor was he, as you suggest, an ISM activist.

Simon Round takes issue with the words attributed to the British military attaché regarding the backgrounds of Israeli prime ministers. The film does not assert that all Israeli prime ministers have been decorated generals, but that many have been. The military attache qualifies his comment by saying that "the army calls the shots". This is informed opinion, not a statement of fact, as you assert.

The suggestion that the bombers of Mike's Bar had a relationship with the ISM is disingenuous, and perhaps intended to smear the ISM, and by association Tom Hurndall. Despite raiding ISM offices, the Israeli authorities have found no evidence linking the Mike's Bar bombers with the ISM, nor any evidence that the ISM is anything other than a non-violent organisation.

Simon Round asks why a film couldn't be made about the excesses of the British military in Iraq. In fact, the subject was dramatised in C4's 2007 film "The Mark of Cain".

Finally, the Hurndall family had no right of veto over the film. They, like other characters in the film, were allowed to check the factual accuracy of key scenes. We reject Alex Brummer's assertion that the film was a "Hurndall family production". Others had integral parts in the making of the film, including lawyers in the IDF, who were interviewed during the research phase. The overall views of the film are those of the production team and not the Hurndall family.

Charles Furneaux, executive producer, and Simon Block, writer

Channel 4 Television,
London
SW1P 2TX
I know zionists claim to be sticklers for context so we'd better take a look at the Simon Round article:
On April 11, 2003, Thomas Hurndall, a 21-year-old student photographer and peace activist was shot in the head and killed in the Gaza town of Rafah, near the border with Egypt. The man who pulled the trigger was Sergeant Taysir Hayb, an IDF sniper. Hayb was sentenced to eleven-and-a-half years for the manslaughter of Hurndall.

These are the basic facts. However, this is the Middle East and the facts do not begin to explain the complexity of events surrounding the killing of Hurndall. His parents, Jocelyn and Anthony, pressed the IDF for explanations - not out of revenge, they claim, but to understand what really happened to their son. This powerful drama revisited the events and their consequences.

The film, written by Simon Block and directed by Rowan Joffe, does attempt to represent all viewpoints. Hurndall saw himself as a peace activist and was attempting to rescue Palestinian children under gunfire when he was shot.

But was he an impartial bystander? The International Solidarity Movement which he represented is Palestinian-funded and is regarded by Israel and a hostile organisation. Hurndall was given two days' training before being put in the front line of a war with high casualties on both sides. He had repeatedly photographed the watchtower from which he was killed. There was a suggestion from one character that because Palestinian casualties excited little worldwide publicity, Hurndall's death and the attendant fallout may not have been a completely negative event for the Palestinian hierarchy.

Then there is the undisputed fact that Gaza was a terribly dangerous place to be a civilian or a soldier. Joffe was at pains to show the watchtower from which Hurndall was shot coming under sustained fire by Palestinian gunmen in separate incidents. Although there was no justification for Tayb's action, it was easy to see how soldiers could crack under those circumstances.

Tayb was quoted saying he "wanted to teach Hurndall a lesson". He claimed he had been commanded to keep a "sterile area" around the watchtower at all costs. The fact remains that he shot an unarmed, clearly identifiable and unarmed civilian.

Despite the IDF's prosecution of Tayb, and his conviction, the Hurndalls, played compellingly by Stephen Dillane and Kerry Fox, continued to blame IDF policy. At one point it was suggested that, because Tayb was a Bedouin Arab rather than a Jew, the Israelis may have been more keen than otherwise to offer him up as a sacrificial lamb.

Would a documentary have better served the arguments? Drama, by its very definition, seeks to interpret events, and to portray the emotions as well as the bare facts. Block's film depicts the IDF as severe, unsympathetic and unhelpful to the Hurndalls. One could even imagine a touch of racism directed towards Tayb and his family.

In contrast, the British embassy staff come across as humane and sincere (although badly briefed: the military attaché tells Anthony Hurndall that was practically impossible to become Israeli Prime Minister without having been a decorated general. Really? Try telling that to David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Shimon Peres or Ehud Olmert).

Hurndall's killing was a criminal act and tragic for his family. Yet, as Dillane, playing Anthony Hurndall, acknowledged: "Israel is a democracy". Israel's Attorney General ordered an independent inquiry which resulted in Tayb's prosecution.

Meanwhile, only 19 days after the killing of a British civilian in Gaza, another British civilian, Asif Muhammad Hanif, walked into Mike's Place bar in Tel Aviv and detonated a suicide bomb killing three Israeli civilians and injuring 50 more. He and his accomplice, Omar Khan Sharif, had dropped in on the ISM for a coffee and chat a few days before carrying out the outrage. So who exactly were the good guys here?

The Hurndalls are of course not the only family to have lost a family member following criminal action by soldiers. Only months after Hurndall's death, an Iraqi, Saha Mousa was beaten to death by soldiers of the British Royal Military Police. Of the nine accused, all but one was acquitted.

What price a two-hour drama about the death of Saha Mousa?
I can't give the url for the page because I found it by way of the search facility in the top right corner of the JC's homepage. I think (but I don't know if) it's java where it finds the content but doesn't show its original url. I so wanted the url I googled a bit of a sentence and sure enough, Round's article was the only hit. But when I clicked on the link, this is what I found. Hmm, page not found. What's all that about? Are they doing an Engage? You know, disappearing an embarrassing article.

Well no, it can't be that. Alex Brummer's article was just as embarrassing and they haven't disappeared that.

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