PLO Angered by Planned NBC Cable Series Set in Jerusalem

By Patrick Goodenough | December 12, 2013 | 4:36am EST

The city of Jerusalem, with the Dome of the Rock mosque in the foreground. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

( – The prospect of a new television action drama by the Israeli writer of the popular “Homeland” series being set in Jerusalem has raised the ire of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which wants the plan stopped and is already calling for a boycott of the production.

The PLO expends considerable energy challenging historical Jewish links to Israel’s capital and clearly views the proposed series, which will have a strong archeology theme, as a threat to that effort.

Entitled “DIG,” and scheduled to debut in the U.S. on NBC’s USA Network late next year, the six-episode series features “an FBI agent stationed in Jerusalem who, while investigating a murder of a woman archeologist, uncovers a conspiracy 2,000 years in the making that threatens to change the course of history,” Israel’s Keshet Media Group said when announcing the project last month.

It thanked the mayor of Jerusalem “for opening the gates of his city to us to set the scene for authenticity and a thrilling backdrop.”

The fact the producers said it would be filmed in cooperation with the city of Jerusalem and that the mayor had promised to ensure access to its historical sites, set off further alarm bells for the PLO.

“With the support of Israeli authorities and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, the first season will brand Jerusalem’s history and heritage as a Jewish city and the capital of Israel,” PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.

She complained that the production would “legitimize the annexation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the authenticity and character of the occupied city.”

Citing reports of location shooting in parts of eastern Jerusalem, Ashrawi said that filming “in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem is designed to endorse the occupation.”

“Any business or organization that deals with Israel in occupied Palestine is in flagrant breach of international law, conventions, and consensus, respectively,” Ashrawi continued. “It is evident that these efforts coincide with Israel’s intensive and accelerated efforts to annex and ethnically cleanse Jerusalem.”

A spokesman for the Keshet Media Group told the Times of Israel on Wednesday that shooting locations for the series had yet to be finalized, with scouting only due to begin in February.

The status of Jerusalem is arguably the most contentious issue in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, who want the city – or at least the eastern part which Israel captured from Jordanian control in 1967 – to be the capital of a future independent state.

Israel says its claim to Jerusalem, which it calls its “eternal, undivided” capital, goes back some 3,000 years to the reign of Israel’s King David from the city. It was the capital of David’s kingdom and the biblical Temple, Judaism’s most revered site, stood there for centuries until destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

After the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, mosques were built on the site of the Temple, including al-Aqsa, regarded as the third-holiest in Islam, and the iconic Dome of the Rock.

Palestinian and Islamic leaders have long publicly disputed Jewish historical and religious claims to the city, while accusing Israel of trying to “judaize” Jerusalem and of fabricating archeological evidence in doing so.

Winning admission to the U.N. culture agency UNESCO in 2011 was more than a symbolic coup for the PLO, which has found strong backing there for its claims to heritage sites in disputed territory that also have deep historical and religious significance for Jews.

Ashrawi is looking to UNESCO for support again now in connection with the DIG series, urging it to provide “assurances to not grant legitimacy to any illegal project or initiative in occupied Jerusalem and to condemn Israeli branding of historical places and areas that do not fall under its sovereignty.”

She said the PLO wants NBC Universal Cable Entertainment to scrap its support for a project which would amount to “endorsement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

“We also call on all members of the international community to boycott this production and to bring Israel to comply with international law and international humanitarian law.”

DIG is co-written and co-created by Gideon Raff (“Homeland”) and American screenwriter and director Tim Kring (“Heroes,” “Crossing Jordan”).

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