Palestinians slam Saudi documentary about Israel’s founding

Amid rumors of warming ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Palestinian groups have lashed out against a recently released documentary series from Saudi-owned television news channel Al-Arabiya that depicts the lead-up to and the creation of the Jewish state.

The two-part series, titled The Naqba, is rich with imagery from the Holocaust and from the Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish population. It interviews Israelis, Arabs and historians in what it says is an attempt to depict the controversial topic in an unbiased light.

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The documentary “reconstructs the story of the birth of Israel in a way that is free of ideology or partisanism” by reviewing the crucial “moments of this chapter of the 20th century through testimonies and interviews with eyewitnesses and historians on both sides,” the TV channel’s description of the show reads in Arabic.

However, the series depicts the dire situation of European Jewry following the Holocaust with the narrator saying things like “Israel was born, and the dream became reality” and “Arab neighboring armies invaded Palestine [following the UN partition plan].” As a result, many Palestinians have complained that the show is an attempt by Saudi Arabia to normalize the Jewish country.

“It seems that Al-Arabiya decided to take off its Arab dress,” the Forum of Palestinian Journalists wrote in a statement on its website. “The Naqba addresses the circumstances of the establishment of the occupation on the land of Palestine according to the Zionist narrative, speaking of what it calls the ‘Naqba of the Jews’ [the Holocaust], which forced them to establish their homeland in Palestine, in a suspicious attempt to obliterate the facts of history.”

“This documentary,” the statement continued, “stripped of all the values ​​of humanity, nationalism and religion, is even more dangerous in light of the plans for the liquidation of the Palestinian cause through the ‘deal of the century,’ promoted by the American administration led by President Donald Trump,” referring to a much-hyped Israel-Palestinian peace plan expected to be revealed by the US soon that Trump has claimed will be “the deal of the century.”

The Palestinian Anti-Normalization Center – which describes itself as a “group of Palestinian and Arab activists who stand by the just cause of the Palestinian people” – also slammed the new series.

“We condemn, in the strongest terms, this media catastrophe, which is scandalous and comes in the context of the series of normalization and the promotion of a false story of the establishment of the Zionist entity,” the group wrote, adding, “The history of the Palestinian cause is a clear and present history. Al-Arabiya TV and others will not succeed in falsifying the facts of history.”

Malachi Chisdai contributed to this report.