BBC Trust raps History of Syria doc over Six-Day War

Dan Snow in Damascus A History of Syria was broadcast over the spring on BBC Two

The BBC Trust has found that A History of Syria with Dan Snow implied that Israel started the Six-Day War in 1967.

The complaint about the one-hour BBC Two documentary centred on a line that stated: 'In 1967, Assad was Minister of Defence when Israel launched a series of strikes against Egypt, Jordan and Syria...'

According to an Editorial Standards Committee bulletin, the complainant believed 'it was unsurprising that Israel was vilified when a BBC presenter could imply that the Jewish state started the 1967 war'.

He said the wording could have been changed to better reflect the situation at the time and the various events leading up to the outbreak of war.

In reaching its decision, the committee 'took into account the context as well as the subject and nature of the content', judging that the section about Israel and the Six-Day War was short.

The executive producer also added: 'The focus was Syria (and in particular Assad himself) and to have spent more time on the background/context from an Israeli perspective would I think have been distracting or, worse still, confusing.'

But the trust committee also examined outside sources, including an account by Jeremy Bowen in his book about the 1967 conflict, and concluded that the events of the Six-Day War were incredibly 'important' in the history and politics of the Middle East and remain so today.

The finding added that 'despite the brevity of the reference, more context was required and the need to use clear and precise language was particularly acute in relation to content dealing with conflict in the Middle East'.

The trust concluded that the documentary breached editorial guidelines on accuracy.

Among other partly upheld complaints, a sitcom on Radio 4 called Party was also found to have breached the editorial guidelines for a joke about Gypsies during the Holocaust, which the trust judged 'trivialised the experience of a minority group'.

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