Media blog

Be Scared!

Islam in Europe According To Channel 10

September 8 2012


Tzvi Yehezkieli and Channel 10 have chosen an interesting subject for their mini-series "Allah Islam". At the same time, it seems that its agenda has been determined in advance, that the program is full of carelessness, distortion, and falsification of facts.



"Allah Islam", Tzvi Yehezkieli's new documentary series on Channel 10, is already a success. The first episode, which was broadcast last week, received 20 percent of the viewers' share, and reached the top of the daily ratings. This is an incredible achievement for a documentary, and for Channel 10.


According to an advertisement, this is a flagship program in which "Tzvi Yehezkieli impersonates a Muslim and goes on an unprecedented and dangerous journey into the heart of the darkness of Islamic extremism in Europe." The promo doesn't leave much room for doubt – the threatening music, the dramatic graphics, and the editing which emphasizes, again and again, the words "danger", "weapon" and "Islam" – all of this prepares the viewers for a series in which the brave presenter penetrates behind enemy lines.


According to the first episode, the promo delivered exactly the message that Yehezkieli intended. The episode deals with isolation, crime and religious extremism by Muslim immigrants, about which Yehezkieli leaves the viewers with a clear feeling: Islam is an existential threat to Europe, and Muslims are about to take control of the continent. Or, in the words of Yehezkieli himself, in an interview with Radio without Pause: "Religious identity will always overcome national identity. European democracy will surrender to will be a slow occupation of the public space..."


Apart from the high ratings, the first episode also received strong criticism from the TV reviewers at Haaretz and YNet, who claimed that the research was tendentious, and that its agenda was to make the viewers frightened of Islam in Europe.


Keshev decided to check Yehezkieli's research, and were ourselves even surprised by the disturbing conclusions.



False statistics: Fake identities and footage listed from elsewhere


The method of "Allah Islam" is simple. Yehezkieli and his team travel around poor neighborhoods in European cities, pretending to be a Palestinian film crew. They meet (coincidentally?) people and talk with them. Some of them receive a lot of screen time, some of them make do with a single sentence. Between the meetings is footage of violent clashes between police and youth, burning cars, and other violent scenes.

Amidst all this, Yehezkieli tosses out different statistics that give an "objective" feel to the coverage: "There are 200,000 Iraqis in Sweden", "Malmo is 20 percent Muslim [40 percent according to his radio interview]", "Crime here increased 600 percent over the last year", etc. In order to increase the objectivity there are also interviews with public intellectuals and police figures.

But our research found that this episode was distorted, deceptive, and unreliable.



Fake identities of interviewees


Throughout the episode there were interviews with professionals, who were supposed to complete the general picture that was described in the interviews with the immigrants on the streets. These figures were presented as independent, objective professionals from across the political spectrum. But, from our research, it becomes clear that most of the interviewees were presented inaccurately. Here are a few examples:


- Lars Hedegaard – Presented as a "historian and socialist, active in the left-wing in Denmark" In reality he is a member of the national right-wing Danish Party. In 2011, he was convicted of hate speech against Islam, after he claimed in an interview that "girls in Muslim families are raped by their uncles, their cousins, or their dad", and that "Muslims lies and distort the truth wherever possible" (he was eventually acquitted by the Danish Supreme Court after he claimed that he hadn't seen the final versions of the interviews and that he wouldn't have wanted them to be published in their original form).

- Rafael Deri – Presented as a "sociologist and expert on immigrant communities." In reality he is a professor of political education and an expert on biblical research, who is well-known in France for his anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim views.

- John Levi Breur
– Presented as a "former judge and an expert on fighting terror." In reality, he is active on the French right. When he worked for the police he was criticized by human rights groups for his interrogation techniques.


These are only a few of the mistakes, but we have made do with the most blatant ones. More than the problematic way in which the immigrants were chosen, as opposed to the right-wing intellectuals, there is a major problem here of deceiving the audience. "Professionals" give the program its tone. They present it as neutral and objective – when really they have a clear agenda. But this is intentionally hidden from the viewers in order to serve a certain purpose. It's difficult to believe that the research of Channel 10's flagship program would mistakenly present a right-winger who has been convicted of a hate crime as a socialist.


It's legitimate to interview right-wing personalities, but it's not legitimate to pretend they're something they're not. Similarly, it's not professional to bring a certain opinion without bringing an opposing view. This deception of the viewers is a form of propaganda, sometimes with a touch of conspiracy theory. This is not how a serious investigative journalist works.



Footage from unrelated events


During the episode there were video clips of clashes between police and demonstrators, and of murderous acts. None of this footage included the time or the place from where it was taken. From our research it became clear that at least some of the video footage used in the video was taken from archives dealing with completely different events. For example, footage that was presented as Muslim riots in Rosenborg, a suburb of Malmo, was really from a left-wing Swedish demonstration against Operation Cast Lead, during a tennis match against Israel. Most of the detainees at the event weren't even Muslims, but young Swedes.


Other pictures from riots in Malmo in 2009-10 were described as immigrant riots, which was true. But Yehezkieli chose not to reveal the cause of these riots - a Swedish right-winger shooting 12 immigrants over the course of several months.


Other video excerpts from France, showing murderous scenes, are not dated, nor is a location shown, making it impossible to understand what they related to, above and beyond the general impression given in the piece.



False data


During the episode, Yehezkieli mentioned in passing statistics regarding hate crimes in Sweden, and quoted the head of the crime branch in Malmo: "It's can't always connect the isolation and the crime rites in Rosengard and Malmo to the Muslim population." Yehezkieli rushes to call his statement "political correctness in Europe."

Yehezkieli dismisses the security expert's remarks as "politically correct", and leaves us with the impression that crime is indeed connected to the separatism and hatred of Muslim migrants. But statistics from the Swedish police show a completely different picture to the one Channel 10 chose to present. According to the official report by the Swedish police, 97 percent of hate crimes in Sweden were carried out against minorities. 83 percent of these were by majority vs. minority (14 percent by other minority groups). In addition, the most common cause of a hate crime was Islamophobia. This is different to the view presented by the program. In reality, Muslims in Sweden are the ones suffering the most from hate crimes targeted against them.

In addition, Yehezkieli also distorts statistics about the number of migrants, increasing them by tens and sometimes hundreds of percent from the two figures which appear on government reports. For example, contrary to the impression that was given, most of the migrants in Sweden, and especially in Malmo, are not Muslims. Even among the immigrants from Iraq, most of them are Assyrian Christians who were driven out of their land.



In conclusion


The subject chosen by Yehezkieli and Channel 10 for a mini-series was very interesting, as was the method of investigation. At the same time, it seems that the agenda and the results of the research were chosen beforehand. As Arianna Melamed wrote in her column:


"Yehezkieli could have done more to show the complicated situation of the relationship between Europe and Islam. This is a giant puzzle of contradictions, problems, major demographic changes, and great uncertainty regarding the future. But at the foundation of the view of reality he brings to the screen stands fear...and not an attempt to understand the new reality that's being created in Europe.

If your bones shook with fear during the first episode, it's a sign that Yehezkieli succeeded in his mission. If you asked yourself more questions about what you saw, then the answers will soon arrive, but they will have been grown on a bed of racism, judgmental, one-sided, and extremely unbalanced. It's sad, and outrageous, and more than that doesn't serve the needs of Israeli Jews to understand a little more what's happening there, in the classical Europe of the postcards, where in the fantasy there isn't a single Arab."


To this we want to add: The first episode in the mini-series showed carless, unprofessional and sometimes deceptive journalism. Important facts weren't mentioned, points of view which didn't fit to the script were hidden, and the raw material was edited tendentiously. When we're talking about a flagship show, with such high viewing figures, this is even more unfortunate. We deserve a media that will present us seriously with the facts, with fairness and professionalism, so that we can form our own opinion of this complicated world, full of contradictions and threats. Some of these threats are real, but some of them are fabricated by a press who makes us scared instead of informed.


Daniel Argo and Shiri Iram (Keshev)




From an interview of Keshev with Tzvi Yehezkieli in 2006:


My mission was to help Israelis understand more, and it's turned into my life mission.

The image that the viewer gets from watching television fixes their views on the subject. This image quickly takes control of people. The word 'Hamas' comes with the image of people running in the streets. Here I believe that it's possible to make a difference; I say – let's bring them something different; let's talk about ringtones in the mosque, let's see how many gyms there are in Damascus – that will surely teach me something...

When I read 'Yedioth Ahronoth' or 'Maariv', I understand that the image takes control of me. It strengthens what's already part of me and takes it another step forward. My approach is to break the image. To break, in order to smash the building and to try to build it again. That's what I try to do with the Arabs. In my opinion, all coverage of Arabs so far on TV sins against the real trends taking place in the Arab world. Egypt isn't only Mubarak, and Syria isn't only Assad


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