COMMUNAL leaders have expressed their “extreme concern” at the depiction of the situation in the Gaza Strip and the portrayal of Israel on Network Ten’s Todd Sampson’s Body Hack, which aired on Tuesday evening.
The series follows the television personality as he sets out to investigate people who are deemed to be living in the extreme, while using science as a guide to deconstruct and decode how people survive in such conditions.
“We’re not a political show. We’re not here to take sides,” Sampson declared at the episode’s outset as he walked among Palestinian demonstrators at the Israel-Gaza border.
Moments later, he said, “They’re [the IDF] f***ing firing on us, while we’re taking the patients away. It’s really hard not to take sides when one side is shooting at you.”
“The item that was aired was anything but balanced,” claimed the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA).
“Sampson attempted to portray a complex conflict by capturing only one perspective and in doing so produced a program that lacked intellectual honesty and basic journalistic standards,” charged ZFA president Jeremy Leibler.
“Viewers were left wondering, where are the Israelis in this picture? If Sampson was interested in balance, why didn’t he speak to Israelis on the other side of the border who have spent years in bunkers due to the indiscriminate rockets attacks emanating from Gaza?”
During the program, Sampson attended the funeral of a Palestinian “martyr” and met with his grieving mother. He also visited hospitals and showed leg reconstruction surgery and a leg amputation.
“Israeli military say lower limb shots are an act of restraint. Now, I’m not certain what reasonable response is for people throwing rocks at a border fence; but I’m fairly certain, it’s not this,” Sampson commented.
Co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry Peter Wertheim remarked that “contrary to Sampson’s assertions, the border protests are anything but peaceful”.
“Hamas has openly declared that its aim is to use these incidents to breach the border and send thousands of terrorists into towns and farms in Israel to ‘tear the hearts’ out of Israeli civilians. Any country faced with such a threat would respond at least as forcefully as Israel has.”
Sampson also spoke with a weapon-toting leader of Islamic Jihad (IJ), who he deemed “more extreme” than Hamas.
After listening to the IJ leader’s commitment to the annihilation of the Jewish state, Sampson opined, “That is an incredibly bleak and hopeless message, and while it doesn’t justify Israeli snipers shooting peaceful protesters, it does justify the real fear behind it.”
Colin Rubenstein, executive director of Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, said that Sampson “repeatedly failed to provide the audience with any reasonable context”.
“He glossed over the terror and violence perpetrated indiscriminately and repeatedly against Israelis by Hamas, using its own civilians as human shields, a double war crime; [and] ignored the reality that Hamas, and not just Palestinian Islamic Jihad, (which was mentioned) is still committed to Israel’s destruction, bitterly opposes a two-state outcome and will not negotiate.”
During the program, Sampson visited the neonatal intensive care unit at the Al-Shifar Hospital where he discussed the impact of electricity restrictions and the blockade on sick babies receiving treatment.
Later, he joined a protest against the marine blockade, calling the Gazan shoreline, “another wall in their open air prison”.
When the protest encroached the exclusion zone and the Israeli Navy opened fire, Sampson commented, “It’s starting to feel to me, like a sick form of target practice.”
Chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission Dvir Abramovich labelled the story “a hack job of sloppy, inaccurate reporting”.
“Shame on Channel Ten for providing a platform to such a sensational episode that showed little regard to context or the facts,” he added.
In response to the outcry from communal leaders, Sampson told The AJN, “The episode showed what we experienced and aimed to educate people on understanding the complexities of those living in Gaza.
“I am both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian. I’m also pro-human rights.”
A statement provided by Network Ten asserted that “Body Hack is about the human condition at the extremes” and contended, “the episode shines light on issues that both the Israeli and Palestinian community face”.
But, Leibler argued, “An honest and balanced view would have filmed both sides of the border and documented the lives of the Israeli civilians in towns and villages in Israel whose lives are bedevilled by rocket attacks, threats from terror tunnels and Palestinian eco-terrorists who set fire to their farms, nature reserves, animals and bird life.
“On all of this Hack was silent.”