UK Lawyers for Israel has called for supporters to complain to the BBC after accusing it of “gratuitous slurs” against an Israeli character in this week’s first screening of mini-series McMafia.
UKLFI took issue with the Beeb’s portrayal of shady Israeli businessman and politician Semiyon Kleiman, played by actor David Strathairn, who is pushing ahead with plans for a multi-million floating casino off the coast of Eilat.
On Facebook on Tuesday, a day after the first of eight episodes aired, the lawyers’ group said McMafia “uses gratuitous slurs against Israeli businessmen and makes references to Israel which aren’t mentioned in the original book by Mischa Glenny”.
UKLFI further said the programme makers “distort” the motto of Israel’s external intelligence agency Mossad, translated as “by deception (sic) we will do war”.
Mossad’s actual motto comes from Proverbs, 24.6, the lawyers say. “It says ‘for by wise guidance you can wage your war.’ The use of the word ‘deception’ in substitute for the words ‘wise guidance’ attacks the integrity of Mossad and insinuates that Israel officially sanctions deception in its intelligence activities.”
The eight-part programme is the creation of award-winning scriptwriters James Watkins and Hossein Amini and is co-produced by the BBC, AMC and Cuba Pictures, in association with Twickenham Studios.
It delves deep into the world of organised crime and follows the story of Alex Goodman, played by actor James Norton, the English-raised son of Russian exiles with a mafia history.
Filming took place partly in the beaches and nightclubs of Tel Aviv, following Strathairn’s portrayal of Kleiman, who the BBC describes as “a well-connected Israeli businessman with a twinkle in his eye that betrays deeper secrets”.
Kleiman is a Member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and has recently been given the go-ahead by the Israeli Court of Arbitration for his floating casino, after a panel unanimously and surprisingly overturns two previous decisions banning it.
Norton’s character decides to ask Kleiman for investment in his failing fund, and is introduced in a basement, but Kleiman’s depiction has angered UKLFI, with lines such as: “Don’t worry about the bombs, my friends at the IDF warned me.”