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The Siege of Bethlehem
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join the discussion: Is there a way out of this tragic conflict?  Can the peace process be restarted?

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for this program. The thing that struck me the most was at the scene at the end, after the siege was over, watching Israeli soliders and Palestinians shake hands. Not only that but you could tell by the body language on both sides that there was a genuine comfort level between the two sides.

This is what gives me hope for peace, this is where it starts. It is also in stark contrast to the "peace activists" who maintained their strident pose, proving only that they are shrill and beside the point.

saint paul, minnesota

Dear FRONTLINE,

I find it interesting that so many people are outraged by the so-called bias of this program. Were the same people screaming about the injustice of media programs who cried "massacre in Jenin" and let the Palestinian propoganda machine spin out of control, even though it was proven in the end that there was no massacre?

I find it refreshing that for once someone showed that Israelis are humans, not just war machines. The media has constantly portrayed the Palestinians as poor, unfortunate souls who are just innocently struggling against the terrible Israelis. It's nice to see the other side for once.

The media portrayed the so-called siege in Bethlehem as a terrible act on the part of Israel. Thank you for rising above the media-hype who always loves to root for the underdog, no matter what the reality might be.

If for once, a show focuses on the Israeli point of view, everyone is outraged? Is it so hard to accept that Israelis aren't the war-mongerers the media loves to portray them as?

Y E
Washington, DC

Dear FRONTLINE,

Frontline! What happened? When I watched the program, I expected to be enlightened in the typical "Frontline" manner, but what I saw was a documentary made for Israeli television. What happened to the Palestinian voice, the voice of the International Peace Protesters, the voice of the monks and nuns who lived the entire time in the church? What about the killing of the Nativity Church bell-ringer? Wasn't that a controversial subject at the time? You didn't even identify the Peace Protesters as they were led out of the church at the end of the film.

All I can say is that you went out of your way to show only one side of the conflict. I expected an in-depth look from all sides. What about the Church's point of view? Wasn't there one? Unless your purpose was propaganda, you failed miserably to explain the complex picture of the siege of the Church of the Nativity.

Since you didn't show an "objective" depiction of the situation, the least you could do would be to produce another hour presenting those points of view you left out. Did you really think that such a slanted view of the situation would sit well with regular viewers of "Frontline"? You have unfortunately led us to expect more of the program. We should be given the facts so that we can come up with our own conclusions.

Spoonfeeding viewers is something done on commercial TV. With PBS and especially "Frontline" we have been led to believe that we can accomodate a wide range of views on a topic. "Frontline" normally provides that. Your program was a disservice to educating the public.

Shame on you!

Richard Morasci

Richard Morasci
San Francisco, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I do not agree with the Israeli actions in Palestine, but after watching your program IDF gained some respect from me.

artiom kalina
chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

One doesn't have to agree with the presentation of the program to believe that the content is significant and captivates its viewers. That is undoubtedly obvious from all the shared commentary.

What is really profound in the various parts of the program is the body language of the participants that suggest their position in the region and the idiocy of religious conflict that punctuates the end of the program. It doesn't take a genius to figure that both sides of this conflict have already lost their cause when negotiations are used as a last measure to resolve issues that date back many years. The many different people of this region cannot resolve these conflicts until their economic and social differences are integrated into their political discussions to create a better understanding of each participants point of view.

Rudy Pohlert
Los Angeles, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

'Siege of Bethlehem' was an excellent program. Thank you for producing and broadcasting it.

In 'Siege' you show Arabs and Jews negotiating and shaking hands. My hope and prayer is that men and women of good faith and courage - both there and here - can work to capture an agenda now controlled by extremists on both sides.

Shel Epstein
Wilmette, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Too often, the media in the United States gives us only a limited picture of the conflict that has engulfed this region for centuries. As a result, the political divisions and the points of view that have placed Americans in one camp or another, limit their own visions. It's hard to really see events unfolding on a human scale.

Thankfully, this didn't occur in "The Seige of Bethelem." It was one of the most illuminating reports I have seen on this terrible, historic struggle. If one approaches the story with an open mind they can see the ways both sides tried to end a difficult tense situation and to keep it from spinning horribly out of control.

The restraint and painstaking negotiations from both sides probably saved many lives.

Rick Lundstrom
Minneapolis, MN

Dear FRONTLINE,

A beautifully produced PBS Israeli coproduction. A stunning infomercial.

You gotta love that thoughtful commander. And love to hate the Palestinian father who celebrates the death of his son.

What great warriors. What primitive bad people.

I'd be the last to suggest that documentaries need to present balanced views. Much more interesting to present an argument, and a point of view.

But this show really succeeds in creating the impression voiced by that smooth god of narration Will Lyman, that we're seeing and hearing The Truth.

I watched every minute. But I didn't buy a second.

joe wiecha
norfolk, va

Dear FRONTLINE,

I enjoyed immensely the recently aired 'Siege of Bethlehem' documentary. I think that the producers were lucky to have

an interesting and affable person to focus on in Lior. It made the documentary more personal.

I disagree with many of the previous comments about the bias of the program. But I would be very interested in a similar documentary that focuses on a similarly engaging frontline personality on the other side of this conflict.

Thank you again for another good program.

Erik Swanson
SF Bay Area, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

What's to discuss? This was pure Israeli propaganda disguised as a documentary.

If I did not know better, I would think that the IDF is a humanitarian organization, that the aspirations of the Palestinian people are just a difference of opinion and that the misery and oppression of the Palestinians is of their own making!

Elizabeth Othman
ann arbor, michigan

Dear FRONTLINE,

The documentary" on the Israeli siege of Bethlehem was very one-sided in favor of putting the best light on the Israeli military. Now, the PBS website is accepting selected comments from viewers. The comments you have received and selected to publish reveal something interesting. People who favor continued military domination of the Palestinians raved about how the program was "unbiased" and "courageous." People who favor unconditional peace thought the program was extremely unprofessional and contrived to favor the military.

What was also extraordinary was the fact that the program did not provide a lot of the details about how brutal the siege really was. Not a single international peace activist, nor Palestinian, was interviewed. The Israeli military also had complete control over logistics for the filming and the selection of film clips. One would think after watching this program that it could have been produced by children with no substantive knowledge of the true events that took place, only a infantile perspective of good guys and "bad guys" as the program depicted the Palestinians who were later to be permanent exiled to other countries without hearings or trials. The program also failed to mention that many of the international peace activists were jailed without timely due process and abused in Israel, where torture "forcible measures" is legal.

PBS used to be a voice of peace and justice. My G-D, were is our country headed when the so-called alternative is just as bad as the mainstream media; favoring domination and brutality over peace and love. Programs like these do more harm to the future of Israel than they help -- don't kid yourselves, and please stop kidding a poorly informed public as it is.

niege vidal
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was shocked at your misrepresentation of what actually occurred in Bethlehem, by what I used to believe is a journalism icon, namely Frontline.

If Israel's PR machine had tried to spin the Church of Nativity's siege, they could not have done as good of a job as your "journalism piece" did.

You portrayed the Israelis as rational, peace loving members of an Army that has the "innocent people's" best interest in mind. No Palestinian was interviewed, the tapes were censored by the IDF, and you did not even have the decency to translate the arabic uttered by Palestinians on the footage, unless served the goal of demonizing them and relinquishing the Israeli's of their responsibility and aggression.

Let's not forget that the Israelis were invading Bethlehem, that their snipers were killing the same "innocent people" they claim to have tried to free, and that they arrested and held all the Peace activists who tried to deliver food to those under siege the majority of which were American.

I am very disappointed and ashamed with Frontline's decision to air such a propaganda piece. It seems that Frontline in no longer interested in Journalism as a profession and its mandated integrity, that is a SHAME !

Emad H.
Livermore , CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I must commend you for reaching a new low in the quest for objective coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It appears to me that the goal of your documentary The Siege of Bethlehem was to polish the image of the Israeli army by attempting to humanize it. This same army which is accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes in Jenin a few weeks ago and is responsible for the continuation of the 35 year old occupation.

Im disturbed by the absolute one sided presentation. We hear nothing about the views of the priests nor the Palestinians inside or outside the Church of The Nativity. You merely show them singing some songs or chanting during funerals. You fail to criticize the illegal tactics of collective punishment ployed by the Israeli army such as starving the people inside the church. You fail to refute the Israeli armys claims of only targeting armed gunmen in the church compound when the churchs bell boy was murdered by Israeli troops as he headed for the bells, so were others who were trying to pluck out some plants in the churchs garden. You fail to mention that an Israeli soldier was the one who started the fire in the church as was uncovered a few days after the end of siege in an interview in Newsweek magazine with the soldier.

You indicate that in the end twenty some bad guys were deported to Europe. However, you fail to indicate that the Europeans do not view them in such manner. In fact, they are viewed as freedom fighters everywhere except in Israel and its major arms supplier, the U.S.

Rani Tomaira
San Jose, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

This was honest,this was without bias, this was an accurate depiction of what was occurring without the spin of the powers that be and the politicians. The negotiators, guided masterfully by Sgt. Lior, did a fabulous job, yet it appeared that to a degree they were undermined somehow by the upper echelons of their own command.

I am saddened that some of the other parties that responded previously felt otherwise about this broadcast, I was impressed and mesmerized. Thank you!!!

San Diego, Ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

For those who level criticism at Israel concerning this "siege", I ask you to turn the situation around and have the Palestinians surrounding Jews in a religious structure. History shows there would be a different outcome remember how they burned Rachel's tomb, or how they throw rocks on from the Temple Mount on Jews praying at the Western Wall. As far as the "peace activists" are concerned, I'll try to understand them when I see them show up at a home of one of the innocent Israeli victims of suicide murderers.

Kudos to PBS for having the courage to show this film.

Saul Eisenstat
Los Altos, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you FRONTLINE for a thoughtful piece on the siege of Bethlehem. It is amazing to me how many people don't understand the complexities of Israeli history and society and do their very best to find a 'conspiracy' or to find the worst in the people of Israel. Did this program not show how challenging a situation the IDF is faced with constantly? I ask the viewers to consider what THEY would do in a situation in which their family was targeted by a suicide bomber and the terrorists were known to be inside a nearby building....would they even show an ounce of as much restraint?

As a non Jew who has lived in Israel, I can attest to the fact that Israelis treat everybody who obeys the law with respect and dignity. Unfortunately, there are people within this tiny country who seek its destruction.

Let's not forget that Israel is the only country in the region in which an Arab woman can vote. There are many freedoms here that people overlook.

Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith
San Francisco, CA

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