Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), a private, non-profit broadcasting station in the U.S., postponed the March 29 airing of ‘Til Kingdom Come, an Israeli-made documentary, due to accusations by a pro-Israel watchdog group which stated that two separate parts of a quote by former U.S. President Donald Trump were spliced together, resulting in a false statement.
The film, directed by Russian-Israeli filmmaker Maya Zinshtein, already premiered on Israel’s Kan 11 news channel in October and was received with mixed reviews as it portrayed the relationship between American Evangelical Christians and Israel in a negative light.
The documentary did not air on PBS as scheduled on Sunday due to accusations by a pro-Israel watchdog group that a quote attributed to Trump was spliced together. The original speech was given by Trump during his January 2020 appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following the release of the Middle East peace plan.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) released a report detailing the fake-quote allegation, which caused the PBS series “Independent Lens” to tweet an announcement that the film premiere was delayed pending an “independent editorial review.”
According to CAMERA, the fake quote depicted Trump stating “the United States will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territory that my vision provides to be part of the State of Israel, including the West Bank described so vividly in the Bible.”
The original statement by Trump was: “The United States will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territory that my vision provides to be part of the State of Israel…” The second half – “the West Bank described so vividly in the Bible” – appeared in a different part of the speech. Furthermore, the word “including” was not used by Trump in either of those original phrases (CAMERA says the word was added from yet another section of the press conference).
“Deceptive filmmaking techniques to lend an air of credibility to a fake quote, Zinshtein’s film has taken an expression of hope for Christians, Jews, and Muslims to be able to visit their holy sites in peace and turned it into fodder for a narrative that portrays American Christians supporting a unilateral, non-negotiated land grab in the West Bank," CAMERA said in a statement condemning the film. "This is an egregious distortion of the historical record.”
PBS responded to the accusations and announced it would postpone the broadcast.
“PBS takes the issue of editorial integrity very seriously,” a PBS representative told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “After consulting with our producing partners at Independent Lens, we have decided to postpone PBS’ broadcast of ‘Til Kingdom Come while an independent review of the film is conducted.”
They did not indicate how long the review would take.
CAMERA has since said it commends "PBS for taking seriously concerns about the film’s editorial integrity” and that “PBS has stated the fabricated quote has been corrected in the documentary.”
The reason for the fake quote may be best understood after reading this comment during an interview with the filmmaker Zinshtein, when she explains the reason behind the film.
“What struck me was their [Evangelicals] involvement on the political level. I was shocked an external power has such a huge influence on our politics and with the fact that nobody here [in Israel] actually talks about it,” she said. “When I first came across the story, it was July 2017, before Trump started to do anything in the region. But it was very clear there was a president in the United States who had got his power from the Evangelicals and he had promises that he gave them.”
The documentary was not without controversy and debate when it first appeared on Kan 11 TV on Oct. 28. Zinshtein said that the film is intended to appeal to a wide audience to show the power of religion and faith as a political tool.
However, the footage itself portrays pro-Israel Christians as out-of-touch, dogmatic right-wingers, obsessed with Israel and preoccupied with end-times prophecy.
One Orthodox Jew who works with Christians told ALL ISRAEL NEWS the portrayal of Christians in this documentary – both American and Palestinian – is far from his own experience.
“The Christians I know are pro-Israel, not like the Palestinian Christian in Bethlehem, and are less flamboyant in church, unlike the pastor from Kentucky,” said Gidon Ariel, co-founder of Root Source, an organization dedicated to promoting respectful relationships between Orthodox Jews and Christians through teaching.
Prior to its release on Israeli TV, ‘Til Kingdom Come premiered at Tel Aviv’s DocAviv Festival and was screened at a number of film festivals as well as online at the Chicago International Film Festival and at DOC NYC. As of late February, it was available in the U.S. as a rental for in-home viewing.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.