French-German TV channel Arte’s cancellation of an anti-Semitism documentary backfired after a controversy over the decision drew far more attention to the film than if it had been aired as scheduled.
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Arte says the documentary “Chosen and Excluded — The Hate for Jews in Europe” was supposed to focus on rising anti-Semitism in Europe but instead "concentrates primarily on the Middle East." Publications like the European Jewish Press cite allegations that the documentary wasn't broadcast because it was “too pro-Israel.”
For 24 hours the film was made available on German tabloid Bild’s website with the headline “Jew-Hatred: Bild Shows the Documentary That Arte Won’t.” The site added commentary from historians and other scholars praising the documentary and criticizing Arte for its decision. The work remains available in German only for viewing on YouTube.
In explaining its decision to show the film, Bild said “the fact it is considered politically unacceptable because it shows anti-Semitism” was “staggering.”
“Germany is certainly not the country in which anti-Semitic prejudices should be glossed over, concealed, papered over,” Bild said. “Our historical responsibility obliges us to resolutely counter the inadequacies that this documentary displays. We all need to know what we are dealing with.”
Arte said it would not sue Bild, adding in a statement that it had “no objection to the public forming its own opinion of the film.” Still, it stood by its decision not to broadcast the documentary.
Arte made its decision to drop the 90-minute work last week. The film was produced in Germany by Joachim Schroeder and Sophie Hafner, who in 2013 had released a documentary “Anti-Semitism Today — Just How Anti-Jewish Is Germany?”
“Chosen and Excluded” had been co-commissioned with Arte, a publicly funded channel, and produced by the German public broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk. WDR approved the completed film late last year, but after Arte rejected it, the project did not move forward and was not dubbed into French as planned. The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany protested the decision and called for Arte to reconsider airing the film, but the channel stood firm.
The film, which tackles the issue of violent anti-Semitism in France and Germany, and examples of anti-Semitism in the European parliament, also touches on incitement against Jews in popular culture and journalism. In its treatment of incitement, it includes footage from the Palestinian territories.
Alain Le Diberder, program director at Arte, told the European media that the film strayed too far from the concept that had been arranged with the documentary’s producers.
“Questions of principle arose .... Programs must adhere to editorial guidelines, which cannot be altered by producers on their own initiative. No broadcaster or newspaper would accept those kinds of deviations from the concept originally agreed upon,” he said in a statement published by Germany’s international public broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.
Diberder said the documentary was supposed to focus on rising anti-Semitism in countries such as Norway, Sweden, Britain, Hungary and Greece but instead “concentrates primarily on the Middle East.” He said any implication that the film had been canceled as a result of anti-Semitism was “grotesque. Arte has demonstrated its commitment to combating anti-Semitism for the past 25 years and will continue to do so in the future.”
Schroeder shot back in an interview that Arte’s complaints were merely “used as a pretense to not air the documentary” and from the beginning of the project there had been “a great deal of resistance” against it. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post last week, Schroeder complained that Arte failed to acknowledge that “modern antisemitism is anti-Zionism” and that in the current environment in Europe “you can’t make a film on anti-Semitism without saying every three minutes that the Palestinians are the victims of Israelis.”
The dispute was widely covered in the German and French media, with numerous artists, historians and politicians criticizing the film’s cancellation.