LOUIS THEROUX – ULTRA ZIONISTS: Thursday 3rd February, BBC2, 9pm ALERT ME
If ever there was a troubled subject that could be opened up by Louis Theroux’s brilliant brand of Gonzo journalism, then it is the acrimonious dispute between Jewish settlers and the Palestinian people of the West Bank. Obviously ‘acrimonious’ doesn’t quite cover it, but there’s enough web space devoted to that subject to stop a squadron of Israeli tanks. Louis’ disarming style of reporting might be cleverly confrontational, but as always his goal is to get to the real stories behind all the religious fanaticism – and he’s good at it.
Anyone who has any interest in the incendiary subject matter will be prepared for the spoutings of the Ultra-Zionists mentioned in the title. Some of them are rather sombre, but you can tell that even the most reasonable among them (or those conscious enough to understand the power of a television camera) are quietly steeled by a cold and unshakable determination that God has chosen their people. Of course others work themselves into a frenzy as they talk to Theroux and they seem all the more crazier standing next to Louis as he works his trademark affability to great effect. As questioning methods go, it’s pretty impressive. Not quite as impressive as the arm on some of the Palestinian kids though, one lad picks out Israeli soldiers with ease from at least 50 metres…
As the programme progresses, there are a couple of themes that keep coming up. First of all, there are a staggering amount of American accents to be heard amongst the Zionists that Louis encounters, from both the residents and tourists alike. The intertwining of Jewish and American culture is famous (just ask Mel Gibson’s local bartender) but we see groups of American tourists arriving in trouble hotspots by the bus-load. The pilgrims claim their presence is ideological and not political. They are of course, mistaken..
Another point of interest is the way Louis’s chief Israeli guide refuses to discuss any of the finances involved in bringing the Jewish settlers into the area. He won’t say what they pay in rent, how much he claims the nation of Israel paid the Arab inhabitants for the land (payment which is denied by every Palestinian the camera crew meet) or how much money is spent on security forces. “These people are here for ideological purposes alone..” he claims, but the bloke he is speaking for doesn’t look too happy about the attacks his family are forced to endure. “We are here today, this is the Jewish homeland and there’s never been a Palestinian people..” says Daniel Luria who encourages rich Jewish donors to buy up parts of the West Bank for settlers. “Do you think there’s a chance you might be a religious extremist?” asks Louis. “No!” says an affronted Luria.