Channel 4’s four part drama “The Promise,” has caused a great deal of concern and prompted a number of complaints to HR UK. Many historical dramas and films have been produced over the years that have been loosely based on factual narratives, taking certain liberties in order to produce more entertaining material.
The events surrounding the modern-day recreation of the State of Israel in 1947-48, however, are still a source of contention that are used as a tool to delegitimize Israel’s very existence. After all, if Israel was “born in sin”, then it is far easier to argue that the Jewish State is illegitimate.
Unfortunately, the mindset of Channel 4 and those behind The Promise, is demonstrated by the Further Reading section of the programme’s website, which refers viewers interested in learning more about the history of the conflict to sources from The Guardian and BBC.
Richard Millett is a freelance journalist in London who specialises in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran and the Middle East in general. Here is his critique of The Promise as originally posted on his own blog:
Channel 4 is not ‘Promising’ for British Jews.
The character of Len in The Promise (Guardian.co.uk)
Many British Jews woke up this morning feeling a little less welcome living in the UK. The overall feeling of watching the four episodes of The Promise is one of inciting racial hatred.
And it says a lot about the current UK environment that anti-Jewish propaganda is now so freely available on British tv and not just British university campuses.
Peter Kosminsky spent seven years writing The Promise but consulted avowedly anti-Israel groups like Breaking the Silence, Combatants for Peace and ISM and also British soldiers who had come under fire from Jewish military groups.
His facile conclusion is:
“The most striking thing I’m left with is a question: how did we get from there to here? Like most British soldiers we interviewed, arriving in Palestine from the war in Europe, Len Matthews felt only sympathy for the Jewish plight. Having seen the ovens of Bergen-Belsen, his heart tells him that Jews deserve a place of safety, almost at any price. In 1945, that view was shared by most of the world. In the era inhabited by Erin, his granddaughter, just 60 years later, Israel is isolated, loathed and feared in equal measure by its neighbours, finding little sympathy outside America for its uncompromising view of how to defend its borders and secure its future. How did Israel squander the compassion of the world within a lifetime?” (See a response to this here).
There was no attempt at balance or context. Jews and Israelis were portrayed as evil and the Arabs were portrayed as the good guys.
And these are the words that Len, the main British Mandate character in The Promise, writes in his diary as he departs British Mandate Palestine:
“We’ve left the Arabs in the shit. But what about the Jews and their bloody state for which they fought so hard? Three years ago I would have said give them whatever they want, they deserve it after all they have been through. Now I’m not so sure. This precious state of theirs has been born in violence and in cruelty to its neighbours. I’m not sure how it can thrive.”
Channel Four also recently showed War Child, a documentary on the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead in which “the Jews” were portrayed as going on a killing spree against Palestinian children.
And a few years ago it allowed mass murderer of his own people and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to broadcast a Chistmas speech. Then there is the anti-Israel Jon Snow who seems to split his career between reading Channel 4?s nightly news and chairing anti-Israel events.
Last night we finally found out what “the promise” of the title was all about. In 1948 Len, the British soldier, had promised, but failed, to return the key of the house owned by an Arab family he had befriended and who he ordered to flee to avoid being massacred by the oncoming Jews. 62 years later this promise was fulfilled by his grand-daughter, Erin. When she told him in his hospital bed back in the UK that she had finally returned the key he just lightly squeezed her hand before passing away without speaking.
To arrive at that point we witnessed some six hours of unmitigated demonisation of Jews; both those in British Mandate Palestine and those living in Israel today.
We watched as Erin gradually turned into a hardcore anti-Semite due to her experiences in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. She was an epileptic who suffered three seizures during the series. But the only time she fitted was when she was with Jews, never with Arabs.
The first time was in an Israeli nightclub when she collapsed on to the floor shaking uncontrollably and instead of anyone coming to help the Israelis just laughed at her.
The second time was when she was being reprimanded by the wealthy Jewish family she was staying with in Israel for bringing an Arab back to the house.
The third time was when she was confronted by three aggressive Israeli soldiers while she was trying to comfort a sick Palestinian woman who had been removed from her house just before it was about to be blown up because her family helped to shield a suicide bomber.
Meanwhile, Jews during the British Mandate Palestine era were all portrayed as brutal cold-blooded murderers with Kosminsky concentrating solely on the Irgun.
British soldiers and Arabs were constantly seen being shot by Jews, while we only see one Jew killed. Len shot a Jew dead while defending his beloved adopted Arab family.
No one would be able to comprehend from this series that almost 6,000 Jews died fighting the Arabs between 1947 and 1949, equivalent to 1% of the Jewish population of British Mandate Palestine at the time.
Nor was there any context to the Irgun’s actions. British government policy had become so anti-Jewish that the Jews were fighting for their lives.
In 1939 the British had reversed their own 1917 promise to the Jews to create a Jewish homeland. Instead only 75,000 Jews were now to be allowed to immigrate in to British Mandate Palestine over the next five years, after which the immigration numbers would be up to the Arab majority to decide. By 1949 British Mandate Palestine would effectively become another Arab state.
The Irgun put off any fighting until this five year period had expired. When there was no change in this British policy they starting fighting, which consisted of attacking buildings, not people (It was the Stern Gang, a small group of extremist Jews, who had no compunction about attacking civilians, soldiers and diplomatic figures).
The Irgun attacked the King David Hotel, as shown in The Promise, but not before, according to Menachem Begin, phoning through ignored warnings to evacuate.
In The Promise we were also shown Jews massacring unarmed Arabs in the village of Deir Yassin.
Begin claims that a warning was given to the inhabitants of Deir Yassin, so throwing away the element of surprise. He claims heavy fighting ensued and the Irgun suffered casualties of four dead and forty wounded, not as portrayed in The Promise.
Benny Morris claims that Arab radio broadcasts inflated what took place at Deir Yassin, and it was this that helped instigate the flight of the Arabs from all around the country.
But in The Promise the Arabs flee as a direct response to this “massacre” and fear of what the Jews might do to them. Again, there is no mention that up to 400,000 Palestinians did not flee.
The Promise also failed to mention La Saison when the Haganah (the main Jewish military force in British Mandate Palestine) caught members of the Irgun and handed them over to the British.
Instead, we were treated to one scene where British soldiers were shot through their heads as they sat in a military jeep outside a restaurant while rich Jewish diners just carried on eating, drinking and laughing.
Of course Kosminsky tried to promote what he thought was the Jewish/Israeli narrative.
The Promise occasionally flashed back to real scenes from The Holocaust, but there was no explanation of the Jews’ historic connection to Israel. The implication was that the Jews had stolen a country belonging to another people.
Second, Kosminsky showed two suicide bombings. The first one was just after an Israeli left-wing character had explained how the Security Wall has Arabs on both sides of it; some inside Israel proper and some inside the West Bank. The implication of the suicide bomb taking place straight after this was that the Security Wall was ineffective to stop suicide bombings and was merely a political tool used to grab more Palestinian land.
And after the second suicide bombing Erin, quite incredibly, befriends the family of the suicide bomber and even tried to stop their home being blown up by the IDF. This despite Erin not knowing the extent of the knowledge that the Palestinian family had about the intentions of their terrorist daughter.
Kosminsky also had Jewish children in the West Bank attacking Arab families with rocks while the IDF looked on and the IDF using a child as a human shield. We also saw a bulldozer almost run down Erin, recalling the death of Rachel Corrie in the same way. This is all straight out of an ISM handbook.
The Promise had everything for the Jew hater and Israel hater, but what you won’t see is a series about the Arab uprising in British Mandate Palestine between 1936-1939, which was brutally put down by the British and in which some 5,000 Arabs, 300 Jews and 260 Britons were killed and during which the Peel Commission offered the Arabs 80% of British Mandate Palestine, which the greedy Arab leadership duly rejected.
It was this that sowed the seeds for what followed and for the Arab defeat in 1948, but, as ever, why let facts get in the way of demonising Jews and Israel.