BBC producer admits documentary examines 'settling Jews in occupied land'

Rosie Garthwaite's latest project, a documentary on Israeli activities in east Jerusalem, has been accused of not being impartial.

A pedestrian walks past a BBC logo at Broadcasting House in central London (photo credit: OLIVIA HARRIS/ REUTERS)
A pedestrian walks past a BBC logo at Broadcasting House in central London
(photo credit: OLIVIA HARRIS/ REUTERS)
A senior BBC producer who is currently working on a documentary focused on Israeli activities within east Jerusalem has been accused of not being impartial in her research. She is also found to have posted anti-Israel content to her social media accounts.
Rosie Garthwaite, who has in the past worked on the BBC's flagship news program Newsnight and for BBC Radio 4, as well as Al Jazeera, has made a number of posts accusing Israel of appropriating land from the Palestinians, and for keeping Palestinians confined in Gaza, The Jewish Chronicle has revealed.
In January, Garthwaite retweeted a tweet which contained an image of four maps claiming to show how Palestinian territory had diminished over the last century. The maps had previously been held up at a press conference by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in response to America's unveiling of a peace plan for the region, which would see Israel be given some areas within the West Bank in exchange for land within Israel.
However, the maps were erroneous - the first claimed that all of what is currently Israel, Gaza and the West Bank was formerly "Palestine," even though no such territory has ever existed. The last showed the map as it currently stands, but with about a third of the West Bank within Israel's purview, with no mention of the reciprocity contained within of the plan.
Garthwaite was approached by the JC and asked why she chose to share the maps on her page. A BBC spokesman replied on her behalf: “Rosie has actually un-retweeted that map you refer to, she realized it was inaccurate.”
Yet there are other examples of what appears to be anti-Israel bias on Garthwaite's timeline. In November 2017, on the day of the 100 anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Garthwaite re-tweeted a tweet reading "Happy one hundred years of British duplicity in the Middle East, folks."
And in March 2019 Garthwaite herself wrote: "#Gaza is 1.85 million people living in a space the same size as the small Caribbean island of Grenada. It is the third most densely populated area in the world. You have the sea on one side and 1 exit through an Israeli-controlled border - one golf buggy of people at a time."
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Gaza's density is about 13,700 people per square mile (ppsm), roughly in line with Tel Aviv. If it were a country it would be the fifth most populated, behind Monaco, which has a population density of 68,200 ppsm, and Macao at 56,250 ppsm. The population within the strip is not uniformly spread, there is farmland and open space within the region. Gaza City has a population density of 42,600 ppsm, making it the 40th most populated area in the world.
Gaza also does not have one border but two - one with Israel and one with Egypt. According to the IDF, around 700 trucks of supplies enter Gaza daily through the Kerem Shalom crossing. In 2016, around 1.3 million tons of goods including food and medication, and 3.5 million tonnes of building materials crossed from Israel into Gaza at the crossing.
The posts raise questions of impartiality over Garthwaite's latest project, a documentary for BBC Arabia on east Jerusalem.
As part of the program, Doron Spelman, Vice President of the City of David Foundation was approached for an interview and agreed after being assured that it was to be a "fair and balanced documentary."
The City of David Foundation, also known as Elad, runs a number of activities dedicated to preserving the historical Jewish links with Jerusalem. According to their website they do this in four ways: "archaeological excavation, tourism development, educational programming and residential revitalization." Their activities are focussed at three main sites: the City of David National Park, Armon Hanatziv, and the Mount of Olives, all three of which are located in east Jerusalem.
But after answering the questions put to him about the activities of the organization he was dismayed and surprised to receive a list of follow-up questions. Spelman has since written to BBC chairman Sir David Clementi, BBC Director General Tim Davie, and Garthwaite herself, alleging that Garthwaite “has repeatedly presented us with one-sided and inaccurate statements” and that the program “intends to vilify Israel, Jewish history and Jewish charities and present a number of false and misleading claims.”
Garthwaite replied to Spelman in correspondence seen by the JC, writing: "Elad actively builds Israeli settlements and carries out archaeological digs in occupied territory in East Jerusalem; both of these activities are considered illegal under international law."
She added that the program will investigate the "settling of Jewish people in occupied land," and took issue with a claim by Spelman that Elad was “David to the opposition’s Goliath in terms of funding,” writing, "Elad is supported by Israel's richest citizen, as well as by the Israeli government."
In a follow-up letter, Spelman replied: “You state that Elad participates in illegally settling 'Jewish people'. There are no international legal issues which apply to the 'Jewish People' which is an ethno-religious group.
“If objections are made, they are regarding 'Israelis', which is based on citizenship, not based on ethnicity or religion.
“Your claims involving the "Jewish people" are careless at best and antisemitic at worst. I would ask that you explain your intentions here."
He also accused BBC journalists of approaching "summer interns" who had worked at the City of David some years ago, and of “chasing them and asking leading questions” on matters they had no knowledge of.
Spelman told the JC he did not dispute that the BBC has the right to “fully investigate the story.” However, he added “what is unacceptable is that in this case and in many others involving the BBC their investigation seemed to be biased from the outset.”
In response to a request for comment from the JC to Garthwaite and the BBC, a spokesperson said: "We do not comment on investigations.” They added that one letter written as right of reply does not reflect a detailed investigation.