FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY, June 18, 2014 – Twenty New York human rights advocates protested this morning at NBC’s Today Show and NBC’s headquarters at Rockefeller Plaza in midtown Manhattan, chanting and holding signs calling on NBC to stop filming its new archeological drama DIG in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem with support and funding from the Israeli government. The crowd, crew and security at NBC’s Today Show turned to look at the colorful signs and Palestinian flags, and to listen to the chants as the protesters circled the plaza.
NBC received a $6.2 million grant from the Israeli government to film DIG as part of an Israeli government initiative to “brand Jerusalem and the State of Israel in a positive light.” NBC is filming DIG now in East Jerusalem despite letters of protest from Hanan Ashrawi of the PLO, and from Palestinian and US human rights groups. A Jerusalem-based human rights advocate recently walked onto the DIG set in a tunnel in East Jerusalem and spoke with the show’s star, Jason Isaacs, explaining to Isaacs that, “just meters from us Palestinians are targets of ethnic cleansing.”
Last December, NBC VP Cory Shields promised in writing to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), that NBC would not film in Silwan in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian neighborhood being subjected to intense Israeli settlement. However, a DIG film crew was photographed there ten days ago, and other information shows plans to film DIG in Silwan, and other East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
Mindy Gershon from Adalah-NY, one of the groups organizing the protest, explained, “In May we tried to deliver a petition with 5000 signatures and to talk with NBC Vice President Cory Shields at NBC’s headquarters, but NBC refused to take the petition or to meet with us. We came back today to tell NBC that whitewashing the Israeli government’s construction of settlements in East Jerusalem in violation of international law, and Israel’s denial of the rights of Jerusalem’s Palestinians residents is unacceptable.”
The protesters marched back and forth between NBC’s headquarters and the plaza where the Today Show was being filmed, carrying signs saying, “NBC, Go Dig Somewhere that’s Not Occupied,” and “NBC, Free Palestine, Stop Dig Now.” They gave out flyers to passersby, and chanted in front of the crowd at the Today Show, “NBC, you can’t hide, you support apartheid,” and “One, no dispossession. Two, no home destruction, Three, we want justice in Jerusalem now!”
Donna Nevel, a Board Member from Jewish Voice for Peace who attended the protest, commented, "We join with organizations across the globe that call upon NBC to stop filming DIG in occupied Palestinian Territory. NBC should understand that its actions only help to legitimize a brutal occupation and Israeli government control over East Jerusalem. NBC should not allow its desire for profit to put itself on the side of injustice.”
Israel’s Ministry of the Economy, one of the Israeli Ministries thanked in February by NBC for providing funding for the show, is headed by Naftali Bennett. The New Yorker has quoted Bennett saying, “‘I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state,’ he says of the Palestinians. No more negotiations, ‘no more illusions.’” Bennett, who recently met DIG’s cast and crew, was quoted in The Times of Israel saying this about DIG, “A picture is worth a thousand words — sometimes shooting a series in Israel is worth more than a thousand publicity tours of the country.”
Commenting recently, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, explained, “With its production of the DIG series, NBC Universal is engaging in a deliberate act of deception by presenting this Palestinian city of East Jerusalem, which is illegally annexed by Israel, as though it were actually an Israeli city… NBC is thereby being complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its blatant violation of international law and international consensus.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch, added, “Israel has misused archaeology projects in occupied East Jerusalem to strengthen settlements, evict Palestinians, and damage their homes. If NBC plans to make a fictional mini-series in East Jerusalem, it should avoid filming in any location that would make it complicit in this illegality.”