BBC promotes Gaza film company which uses antisemitic imagery

The Middle East page of the BBC News website featured a report on January 14th 2013 about an animated film made in Gaza.

Scarecrow film

The report – apparently shown on BBC television news – is entitled “Gaza firm produces first Palestinian 3D animated film“. 

3D film

The BBC report does not name the “firm” involved in making the film – presumably due to BBC restrictions on advertising – referring only to “this tiny office”. However, a short internet search shows that the company is named ‘Zaitoon Animation & Games’ and that it operates out of the University College of Applied Science in Gaza, which presumably comes under the auspices of the education department of the ruling Hamas regime. 

The Zaitoon Twitter account and the film’s Facebook wall promoted the BBC Arabic version of the same report.

twitter zaitoon


The narrator of the version of the report appearing on the BBC News website (Murad Shishani) tells viewers that the film – named ‘The Scarecrow’ – is about:

 “…an orphaned girl whose parents left her a scarecrow. However, in the story it was soon seized by the Israeli army who used it for military purposes.”

Already this BBC-promoted animation is looking less like a children’s film and more like political propaganda – despite the words of interviewee Nour ak Khaoudray who claims that the film-makers “aim to change the Palestinian economy formula” and show that “we’re people who love life”. 

A look at some of Zaitoon’s other work available on its Youtube channel supports that impression. 

Zaitoon 1

Zaitoon 2

Zaitoon 3

On Zaitoon’s own website, one of the films displayed – called “The Return”, which has also been featured in The Guardian – depicts an idyllic image of Palestinian life in 1948, ruined only by Israeli military operations and of course with absolutely no reference to the actions of Palestinians at the time, who are depicted as entirely passive; engaged solely drinking tea and planting olive trees. 

Zaitoon 4

Zaitoon 5

On the same website, in the section entitled “Drawing”, a picture supposedly portraying “The Siege of Gaza” uses an image of a crucified, bleeding ‘child Palestine’ and thus evokes two antisemitic tropes: that of Jews as Christ-killers and the blood-libel trope of Jews as murderers of children. 

Zaitoon 6

The “Games” section of Zaitoon’s website offers one video game which encourages children to use firearms to kill soldiers (presumably Israeli) and another named “Destination Jerusalem – the way to freedom”:

“Destination Jerusalem.. is a Palestinian game , which is the first game produced in the Gaza Strip. The scenes of the game are nine Palestinian cities where the player – which is a Palestinian child-take the journey from Gaza City to the final destination which is Jerusalem.”

According to Zaitoon’s website, its clients include UNICEF and the British Council, which is of course funded by the British Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office – which also funds the BBC World Service. 

It seems fairly self-evident that the BBC should not be promoting a company which uses antisemitic imagery, encourages violence and trades in blatant political propaganda which (to put it mildly) does nothing to contribute to preparing Palestinian children for peace with their neighbours. 

Either the BBC failed to carry out an adequate background check on Zaitoon – relying perhaps on the judgement of staff in its BBC Arabic bureau in Gaza – or it sees the promotion of Palestinian political propaganda as consistent with its role.

One suspects that many licence fee-payers (and hopefully, some of the BBC’s advertisers) would like to know which is the case. 


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