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Jewish Telegraph | Jewish Telegraph | 5 June 2004
THE BBC is locked in a new row with the Israeli government after being accused of unacceptable conduct over this week's televised interview with Mordechai Vanunu.
The Beeb's Jerusalem bureau chief Andrew Steel has been hauled over the coals in a two-page letter from Foreign Ministry media and public affairs chief Gideon Meir.
In it, Meir charged that, following the detention of journalist Peter Hounan, Israel had learned the BBC was directly and knowingly involved in the interview - in potential violation of Israeli law.
He claimed the interview was planned and conducted in a clandestine manner with the express intention of bypassing both the law and restrictiuons imposed on nuclear whistleblower Vanunu.
And he accused the BBC of contracting others to conduct the interview on its behalf in ''a cynical and unethical attempt to bypass Israeli security restrictions.''
Meir added that, contrary to Steel's oral and written denials, the BBC had offered to rent and pay for an apartment in Jaffa for Vanunu to use following his release from prison.
That transaction, he said, was instrumental in paving the way for the interview. And he accused the BBC of providing logistical and technical support - as well as subsequently duplicating copies of the interview.
Meir also claimed the broadcasting company had refused to respond to Israel's legitimate enquiries about the matter.
And he suggested that this was the most recent example of a long list of incidents that underscored the BBC's ongoing biased and negative attitude towards Israel.
In response, a BBC spokesman said Meir's letter included serious factual inaccuracies. Vanunu had not been paid for the interview, he said, nor had the BBC offered to rent or pay for an apartment for Vanunu.
He added that the interview had been secured by an independent production company, Magnetic North, and conducted by an Israeli journalist and crew. Therefore, no restriction imposed on Vanunu had been broken.
The BBC's Jerusalem bureau was not involved involved in the organisation, conducting or editing of the interview - but merely fulfilling its duty to report world events fairly and impartially.