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New Jerusalem-Based NBC Series 'Legitimizes Israel's Occupation, Apartheid,' say Critics

"Dig" to take place in occupied Jerusalem on illegal park

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

An upcoming series on the USA Network, owned by NBC Universal, will "give legitimacy to Israel’s policies of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and colonization in occupied Palestinian Jerusalem" and should be dropped, a group of Palestinian civil society organizations has charged.

Excavations in Silwan, in occupied East Jerusalem. (Photo: fritzmb/cc/flickr) Slated for airing in 2014, Haaretz reports that the drama series called "Dig" from "Homeland" creator Gideon Raff and "Heroes" creator Tim Kring and developed by Israeli company Keshet Media Group

revolves around an FBI agent investigating the murder of an American archaeologist in Jerusalem, and is set in the City of David, a major archaeological site in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

But Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognized by the international community.

Archaeological digs have been going on in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, which residents have blamed for landslides and the expulsion of more families.

The New York Times says Rick Rosen, "a principal at the WME talent agency, who represents every significant player involved in the creative side of the project, and who worked with Mr. Nir and Mr. Raff to bring “Homeland” to Showtime," told the paper that 

... what distinguishes "Dig" is its connection to Israel, which, in recent years, has become a fount of television ideas for American networks. [Chief executive of the Keshet Media Group Avi] Nir had been especially aggressive in seeking to bring an American television series to Israel for full production

The project has received the praise of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who called "Dig"

a significant milestone on the road as Jerusalem becomes an attractive location for international productions. Jerusalem’s rich history attracts series and films with great stories to tell.

“When Hollywood and the Holy City meet, the sky is the limit," Variety quotes Barkat as saying.

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi slammed the new series, saying:

Such a production will legitimize the annexation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the authenticity and character of the occupied city. Any business or organization that deals with Israel in Occupied Palestine is in flagrant breach of international law, conventions, and consensus, respectively.

It is evident that these efforts coincide with Israel's intensive and accelerated efforts to annex and ethnically cleanse Jerusalem. The choice to film the series in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem is designed to endorse the occupation and the bitter reality experienced by Palestinian Jerusalemites.

A number of Palestinian civil society and national groups including The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee and Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations have also expressed outrage over "Dig," issuing a statement calling for NBC to drop its involvement in the series as it would be "an act of complicity in [Israel's] serious violations of international law."

Their statement reads, in part:

We, the undersigned Palestinian civil society organizations and national institutions, condemn in the strongest terms the plan of the American TV company NBC to produce and broadcast a drama series that will give legitimacy to Israel’s policies of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and colonization in occupied Palestinian Jerusalem. The NBC’s engagement in such a film project is deeply unethical. It also entails reputational risks and legal responsibility for complicity in the serious violations of international law, war crimes and human rights abuses committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian city. We urge the NBC’s management to respect basic standards of ethics, law and human rights of the Palestinian people and to terminate immediately all involvement in this film project. We also appeal to filmmakers, journalists, media networks and all people of conscience worldwide to support our call and engage the NBC management.

[...]

[O]ccupied East Jerusalem is not Israeli but Palestinian under international law, and Israeli settlements, “national parks” and “tourist sites” there are illegal. The United Nations’ Security Council has repeatedly condemned Israel’s 1967 annexation and the transfer of Israeli civilians (settlers) into occupied East Jerusalem, characterizing these policies as acquisition of territory by force and forced population transfer. The International Court of Justice has confirmed that Israel is responsible for these serious violations of international law which undermine the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. A UN investigation concluded in 2013 that the Israeli settlements result in systematic racial segregation and discrimination, and in war crimes which fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. All of this applies to the Israeli “City of David national park” in Silwan. Representatives of the EU and UN agencies in Jerusalem confirm that this Israeli “tourist site” has been established in occupied East Jerusalem in violation of international law. They alert of the on-going demolition of Palestinian homes and forced eviction of Palestinian residents of Silwan by Israeli authorities and the settler organization El’ad, who are seeking to expand the illegal site.

Under international law, business enterprises such as the NBC have an obligation to respect human rights and abstain from – or terminate – involvement with the illegal Israeli annexation and settlement enterprise in occupied East Jerusalem. As members of the oppressed Palestinian people, we were appalled to learn that the NBC considers the Israeli-promoted drama series in the “City of David national park”, which has become a symbol of Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing and colonization of occupied East Jerusalem, to be “the big, buzz-worthy project” that the company has been looking for. We consider the NBC’s involvement in this project, which aims to captivate, thrill and influence the perceptions of millions of viewers around the world, to be deeply immoral, shameful and an act of complicity in the serious violations of international law, including war crimes and human rights abuses, committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.

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