Final part of Schama’s ‘Jews’ series

September 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm (anti-semitism, BBC, history, israel, Jim D, Judaism, Middle East, palestine, religion, revolution, secularism, TV, zionism)

The fifth and final part of Simon Schama’s The Story Of The Jews airs tonight [Sunday 29 Sept] at 9.00pm on BBC 2.

In my opinion this has been a superb series and one of the finest examples of so-called ‘popular history’ ever to have appeared on TV: accessible but not simplistic, personal but scholarly, and passionate whilst remaining objective.

Schama makes no secret of his Zionism – albeit a liberal, two-states Zionism that acknowledges the suffering experienced by the Palestinians. On screen he wears a yarmulke much of the time, and lets viewers know what his personal views are, up to and including a statement concluding with the rarely-heard (at least on the BBC) words ” … that’s why I’m a Zionist.”

This has enraged the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) who wrote a most revealing letter of complaint to the BBC, including the following:

“We also note the new BBC Two series The Story of the Jews, presented by Simon Schama. In an interview in the Radio Times (31 August-6 September), Schama describes himself as an ‘historian-Zionist’ and says he will be making ‘the moral case for Israel’ in the final episode of this five part series.

“We find it alarming that the BBC is giving a platform to an openly pro-Israeli commentator to make the ‘moral case’ for Israel. Schama’s views will go unopposed, unchallenged and unanalysed. This is a far cry from the balanced and impartial broadcasting that the BBC claims to champion.”

In other words, these people (who sometimes – especially when seeking trade union backing – claim to support two states) actually object to the idea of someone presenting the case for the very existence of Israel.

The final part of Schama’s series, tonight, deals with the creation of Israel and Jewish relations with the Palestinians and the Arab world, bringing the story up to the present. Watch it, judge for yourself how fair it is, and feel free to send us your thoughts.

NB: the BBC2 series is based upon Schama’s book of the same name, which we will be reviewing shortly.


  1. Mark Wallace said,

    Surely what they’re objecting to is the fact that an entire major prime-time BBC series is being presented from an openly Zionist position with no similar representation of Palestinian views. It’s hardly fair to jump from what they wrote (via “in other words”) to the accusation that they are against any presentation of the case for Israel.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    They say: “We find it alarming that the BBC is giving a platform to an openly pro-Israeli commentator to make the ‘moral case’ for Israel”…

    They present it as a matter of “balance” but these people’s true agenda is to “delegitimise” Israel and make any expression of support for Israel’s right to exist (even behind 1967 borders), beyond the pale. Hence their enthusiasm for the “apartheid” analogy.

    Anyway: I’ve just watched the final part of Schama series: it was admirably fair and balanced. Schama was clearly disturbed by recent developments and visibly unhappy while talking to a religious settler who argued for a greater Israel taking in Syria and Iraq.

  3. Mick O said,

    Yes, they would have a point if the programme had been presented by someone with the views of the religious settler. Schama is a respected historian and I saw nothing in this series to compromise his reputation.

  4. richardarmbach said,

    He was very dishonest in dealing with the land grab wall. Anyway ” The Story of the Palestinians ” would be an interesting sequel.

    • Jim Denham said,

      “He was very dishonest in dealing with the land grab wall”: in what way?

      • richardarmbach said,

        Well he didn’t make it clear that the main purpose was to grab land.

    • Jim Denham said,

      “Well he didn’t make it clear that the main purpose was to grab land.”

      But surely that *isn’t* the main purpose of the wall, though it’s a reprehensible secondary purpose, due to the geographical positioning of the wall. That’s to be condemned, but still, the main purpose is to prevent suicide bombings and other attacks.

      • richardarmbach said,

        Well this would turn into an argument about what is/was in certain people’s minds. I guess Jim you will have your theories on that and I will have mine o:))

  5. Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) said,

    they hate it when jews speak don’t they. only jews aLLOWED TO SPEAK ARE Miriam Margolyes and cunts like that

  6. Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) said,

    mind you schama is a shit historian. liberal dick

  7. richardarmbach said,

    I very much doubt jelly that you are conversant with his work as a historian, and even more do I doubt your qualifications for evaluating it.

    The PSC whine was pretty silly except for the valid point that the programme was aired in marked contrast to the pulling of the programme on the dispersal after the Roman destruction of the Temple. This would suggest that some sensibilities are more equal than others.

    This was a story, told from a very personal perspective. To demand ” balance” is ridiculous. It was a story, brilliantly told., and as the story teller he had every right to gloss over aspects that didn’t ” fit “.

    It is not the Oxford Union, or any other debating society, the demand for ” balance ” is as stupid as the hasborafia demand that Greenbelt be ” balanced” .

    It was the story of the Jews and the Jewish/Israeli narrative on the State of Israel thing is what is relevant to that story.

    But like I say the story of the Palestinians would make an interesting sequal.

  8. s4r4hbrown said,

    There was some confusion around exactly what was going on with that particular documentary – but I agree that it should not have been pulled.

  9. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    I dislike Schama but will give this series a look before it disappears from iplayer.

    • jimmy glesga said,

      Excellent historical series by Schama. It will no doubt have upset the Christians and Muslims that look forward to the regular pogroms against the Jews. The Jews now have a reasonable chance of survival by having their own state.

  10. Bablu Rahman said,

    Yes to watch the last episode but so far so good. Quite a touching series to boot.

    I think Zionism has a major PR problem. One the one hand you have Bibi at the US Congress taking of Judea and Samaria while on the other hand you have Galloway equating it with Nazism. The Zionism Simon Schama speaks of is drowned out by these two extreme interpretations.

    • Bablu Rahman said,

      ‘Yet’ to not ‘Yes’ to. Just in case it’s not obvious.

    • jimmy glesga said,

      PR will never negate the hatred and scapegoating of Jews by Christians and Muslims.
      Israel has to maintain a strong defense including nuclear weapons. Any weakness in its part will invite attack. Jews should trust no one to defend them especially the Catholic Vatican scum that moved the Nazis to safe places.

      • Bablu Rahman said,

        Not really aimed at them because those who hate are almost certainly a lost cause. But there are a lot of people out there who don’t understand the ‘Theodor Herzl’ original meaning of Zionism.

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