LOS ANGELES -- Top Israeli officials, angered by a documentary that contained a segment showing Israeli troops beating Arabs, have refused to grant interviews with NBC News reporters, network officials said.
NBC News President Lawrence Grossman, speaking Sunday to more than 100 television critics in Los Angeles to preview fall programming, said the Israeli government's 'unprecedented actions and threats against NBC News' were delivered last Wednesday to NBC Tel Aviv bureau chief Larry Weidman.
In a letter to Asher Naim, minister for information at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Grossman said he hoped Israel would reconsider its decision to 'punish NBC News' by prohibiting government officials from giving interviews to the network.
'The notion of bringing Israeli censorship to the U.S. is an appalling one,' Grossman told the critics gathered at the Century Plaza Hotel.
Avi Pazner, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, acknowledged that Shamir, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin have refused to be interviewed by NBC because of their objections to the documentary.
But Pazner denied the Israeli government had forbidden officials from talking with NBC. He said Shamir, Peres and Rabin had decided individually to shun the network.
The documentary, called 'Six Days Plus 20 Years: A Dream Is Dying,' showed Israeli troops beating Arabs in the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River and generally cast the Israelis in an unfavorable light.
No government officials were quoted or interviewed for the documentary, which was aired July 1.
Israeli officials called the documentary 'violently anti-Israeli,' saying the program expressed only extremist views and failed to show any moderate government statements.
The NBC News president called the program a 'tough, hard-hitting documentary,' and in the letter to the Israeli information minister he quoted favorable reviews of the program by the nation's newspaper critics.
While defending the documentary as accurate, Grossman wrote, 'Perhaps the hour could have contained more such context and background.'
Grossman said he met with leaders of the major American Jewish organizations, who he said expressed concern over the Israeli's action against the network.
In Israel, NBC's bureau chief for Israel said Sunday the network's vice president for Europe and the Middle East, Ed Planer, would travel from New York to Israel on Wednesday to meet with officials about resolving the dispute.