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Israel’s TV writers are fighting back against disinformation with comedy.
Earlier this week satirical show “Eretz Nehederet,” the Israeli version of “Saturday Night Live,” broadcast a special featuring a sketch about the BBC’s reporting of a rocket attack on a Gaza hospital.
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It follows a number of controversies surrounding the BBC’s reporting on the Israel-Hamas war, which include refusing to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization and admission that their reporting on the Gaza hospital attack wrongly blamed Israel when the culprit was likely a Hamas rocket mis-firing. It also later emerged that as the rocket had landed in the hospital carpark the number of casualities was far lower than originally reported.
In the “Eretz Nehederet” sketch, which has gone viral since the broadcast on Israeli network Keshet 12 on Wednesday evening, Israeli actor Liat Harlev plays a BBC anchor arbitrarily inventing the number of fatalities from the attack. “More, more” she urges as the figure on the chyron jumps from 500 to 750. She then links to Middle East correspondent Harry Whiteguilt (played by comedian Yuval Semo) who, clad in a press flak jacket, says he’s reporting from the “illegal colony” of Tel Aviv and goes on to describe Hamas as “the most credible not terrorist organization in the world.” Beneath him on the screen a chyron flashes up saying “We love Hamas.”
Whiteguilt informs Harlev’s anchor in the studio that Hamas terrorists have admitted they bombed the hospital themselves and plays her a recording, to which Harlev responds “Well, I guess we’ll never know what happened.” Whiteguilt adds: “But it’s still Israel’s fault.”
“Eretz Nehederet” showrunner Muli Segev spoke to Variety about the skit and what it’s like to produce a comedy sketch show in the middle of a war.
Who came up with the idea for the BBC sketch?
Writers Itay Reicher and Dor Muskal.
Why did you decide to run it?
Like most Israelis, we’re very disappointed with the one-sided way this war is covered by the international media, and the BBC have always been the most extreme case of that attitude. So when we decided to go on the air with a special show about this current situation it was clear that we should deal with that, and the hospital bombing incident was good example of the way even established media groups like the NYT or BBC rush to conclusions when Israel is on the line.
What has the response to the sketch been like?
The show that aired on Wednesday was the first non news broadcast on TV since October 7th. The ratings were the highest we had in years: 28.6% of the nation’s households [watched the show].
What is it like working on a comedy show while the country is not only preparing for war but still reeling from the terrorist attacks that killed 2,000 people and saw more than 200 taken hostage?
During our 20 years running we were on the air during traumatic events, even during the COVID pandemic. We never missed a show because we truly believe that humor is the best cure for fear and anxiety. It’s the old Jewish secret: laughing in the face of death. But I admit this time it’s harder than ever. Everyone is still in mourning, each and every one of us has lost someone, or knows someone who has. it has been the most horrific event in this nation’s history and we have been through a lot along the years as you know. But still, people need some kind of relief.
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