Ross Kemp – Middle East : Israel

Jerusalem, Dome of the rock, in the background...
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So to the second installment of Ross Kemp’s mission to the Middle East on Sky One and his time in Israel had a very different feel to the first programme’s trip to Gaza. Perhaps reflecting the westernised, more affluent nature of the country, this felt far less sensational and risky – more Michael Parkinson than Jeremy Bowen.

The production started poorly with limited shots from a taxi which gave no real flavour of the impact of the sites Kemp was visiting – places where terrorist ‘spectaculars’ had been perpetrated to devastating effect by suicide bombers of the ilk depicted the previous week. This was frustrating, as were the pieces with members of the Border Defense force and the Police which revealed little in terms of threats, history, politics or even progress.

The apparent religiously-driven settlers – whereby 500,000 Israelis now illegally occupy homes in territory denied to Israel by the UN and various peace accords – are perhaps the equivalent of Arab extremists elsewhere. Or so I thought until Kemp described the Ultra Jewish Orthodoxy – particularly in West Jerusalem – who consider their own Police to be Nazis and detest any secularist tendencies from their government. As Kemp points out, faced with such extremists within one’s own ‘ranks’, it is no wonder that Israel is as much threatened from within. Pity then that he chose to avoid any attempt to interview Jews on the Ultra right; restricting himself to the nutty “Queen of the Settlers”, Daniella Weiss who arrogantly and depressingly stated that “…Arabs will never have a state of their own…” because “God gave it to us”. Does this not sound strikingly similar to rhetoric of the Islamic extremists ?

The taxi driver who featured at the start – Amos Levy – was an interesting chap who lost his 17 year old daughter to such an attack in 2002. Despite the obvious pain, Levy appeared phlegmatic and almost resigned to the presence of perpetual conflict in Jerusalem. Amplified at their daughter’s grave, he felt that there will never be peace because of the endemic hatred. This segment was dominated by his ex-wife Abigail whose contributions I was about to dismiss as she was understandably distraught. However, she said something which I thought was particularly revealing: the conflict was “…not about land, it was about hate”. Whereas the earlier sections on land-grabs, settlers and UN illegalities got me thinking about action against Israel to stop these geographical injustices, her words made me realise how pointless that would be. What is really needed is what Kemp infers at the close – a community led approach which brings all parties together to speak out against the extremists on both sides.

Not much to take away from this other than a lingering sense of depression that a ‘solution’ is unlikely down the current path being followed by all parties, including the international audience. I wonder whether a new political party or movement – inclusive, which acts to bring the community together to solve problems regardless of their origin or religion – is ever possible. To achieve what was done in Northern Ireland in this part of the world would be a true miracle.

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