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US Campaign Letter to Jason Isaacs

May 29th, 2014

Dear Mr. Jason Isaacs, 

As a national coalition of more than 400 groups in the United States that support freedom, justice, and equality for all, we are writing to urge you to pull out of USA Network's series DIG, which will be set and filmed in occupied East Jerusalem and will serve to whitewash  Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people.

East Jerusalem is not a museum, an archaeological site, or a movie set. It is an area illegally annexed by Israel. It is a Palestinian city under Israeli occupation. It is the site of illegal Israeli settlements and daily Israeli abuses against Palestinians.  

According to countless UN Security Council resolutions and the International Court of Justice in 2004, East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967. Its annexation by Israel is not recognized internationally, has been condemned, and denies the Palestinian people's right to self-determination. 

For the past 47 years, Israel has committed serious violations of international law and human rights in East Jerusalem. These violations have been documented by organizations such as Human Rights Watch and include policies of forced land acquisition and population transfer meant to change the composition of this Palestinian city and "Judaize" non-Jewish areas.   

More than 9,000 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem have been demolished  and around 15,000 Palestinians have had their residency revoked. While pushing Palestinians out of the city, Israel continues to expand Jewish-only settlements. Earlier this year, Israeli officials gave final approval for 558 new settlement apartments. There are now 200,000 settlers living in occupied East Jerusalem. All of these settlements are illegal under international law as Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention bars an occupying power from moving its citizens into the occupied region.  

In addition DIG is the first recipient of a newly created grant from the Israeli government and the Jerusalem municipality designed to lure big-budget projects to the city. According to media reports, the film project was initiated by the Israeli mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat to "help brand Jerusalem as an international tourism destination." More recently an Israeli official described the show as having a "special contribution to the image of Israel and the capital." Israeli officials clearly want to use this project in their "Brand Israel" campaign to normalize Israel's war crimes and legitimize Israel's illegal control and presence in East Jerusalem. 

This show comes at a time of growing public outcry against Israeli occupation and apartheid. Palestinians are struggling today for their rights just like those who struggled in the U.S. Civil Rights and South African anti-Apartheid Movements. They are asking people of conscience worldwide to stand with them.

More than 20 Palestinian civil society groups have called on NBC to terminate all involvement in the project: "We consider the NBC’s involvement in this project, which aims to captivate, thrill and influence the perceptions of millions of viewers around the world, to be deeply immoral, shameful and an act of complicity in the serious violations of international law, including war crimes and human rights abuses, committed by Israel against the Palestinian people."  PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi demanded NBC halt this production, which "will legitimize the annexation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the authenticity and character of the occupied city." The Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, a network of 25 Palestinian human rights, youth- and cultural centers, and community development organizations, is also appealing to NBC to “distinctly and explicitly” make clear that the series “will not be filmed in any place located in occupied East Jerusalem, and that NBC will not cooperate with any official Israeli entities in this project.” 

On May 5, Palestinian rights activists in the United States delivered a petition signed by more than 5,000 people urging NBC end its involvement in DIG.  As Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace said: “NBC seeks to entertain the public with a thriller filmed in Jerusalem, but the situation in Jerusalem is neither entertaining nor thrilling. Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem live under constant fear that their homes will be demolished and that they themselves will lose their right to reside in the city of their birth, while at the same time an estimated 200,000 Israeli Jews have settled in the area. It would be more fitting for NBC to do a documentary of dispossession and expropriation.”

In a 2009 interview, you reflected upon the "perils of not raising our voices when the Geneva Conventions are thrown aside."  You now have an opportunity to do just that: raise your voice against Israel's grave violations of international law by pulling out of this series that is meant to whitewash Israel's abuse of Palestinian human rights. We urge you to stand up for freedom, justice, and equality.  

PDF of Letter.