Toronto Star columnist writes about:
Two not-so-subtly different versions have already aired this week. Both about two hours in length, one ran in French, on CBC’s sister networks Radio-Canada and the all-news RDI, the other in English on PBS. (A three-hour edition also aired to rave reviews in Israel.)
The PBS version repeats Sunday at 3 a.m.on WNED.
The French edition is what Montreal-based producer Ina Fichman calls the “international version,” which was sold to Italy’s RAI, Australia’s SBS and elsewhere.
It depicts, among other historical facts, the expulsion of thousands of Palestinians by the Israeli army, a move the narrator delicately describes as “the first change to the demographics of the West Bank.” It shows, through the eyes of a former Arab resident and an Israeli who photographed the event, that, where large villages stood, now are forests (many planted with Canadian charitable donations).
There is also a sequence, as related by the American-born Abdullah Schleifer, editor of Palestine News, as well as an Arab whose home was destroyed, about the overnight razing of a 700-year-old Palestinian neighbourhood in Jerusalem by the triumphant Israeli defence minister, General Moshe Dayan.
“When I saw this destruction, there was a part of me that felt tremendous dread, that a whole new problem was going to be created,” says Schleifer. He says this in the PBS version as well, but the horrifying context is stripped away for American sensibilities.
“PBS is really not a liberal left-wing broadcaster,” says Fichman. “It’s subscription and sponsor-based, with members of the Jewish community among its supporters.”
Fichman said that PBS demanded entire scenes and sequences come out, and others be softened.
The sad part is that, unless the feature-length “director’s cut” by Israeli-born filmmaker Ilan Ziv gets distribution, Canadians will not get to view what the rest of the world, including Israel, has.
CBC-TV, for example, did not buy it because PBS already had North American rights. The film also did not fit with its focus on “contemporary political and social issues.”
And so, we get the whitewashed version of history. Not surprising.
As the narrator says, “The Six-Day War will prove to be an unfinished war, just one battle in a conflict that has never ended.”
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