They bend their tongues, their 'bow' of falsehood, and hold sway in the land, but not for truth. For they go from evil to evil, and me they do not know," says Adonai. Jeremiah 9:3 (9:2)
Claire Foy as Erin Matthews in Channel 4's The Promise
A TV Drama series screened by Britain's Channel 4
Confession from wildolive
I did not watch this series, feeling certain that it would be yet more hatred and lies against Israel and the Jews. It appears that I was correct in my assumptions about the series; if not in my failure to watch and respond. But others have responded and I reproduce these responses here.
1) From: D M
Subject: Formal complaint to Channel 4 about The Promise
I want to complain vigorously about The Promise, through its 4 episodes. My complaints are not about the quality of its direction, its acting, its dramatic qualities, its high-budget concept or anything else related to its qualities as an example of television drama. I write this complaint as a novelist and a former academic in the field of Middle East Studies. Both capacities are relevant to my complaint, which is that the drama was thoroughly biased, deeply dishonest, historically and currently inaccurate, and that it had been crafted with some skill to present a malicious picture of its Jewish characters and a benign one of its Arabs/Palestinians.
All the Jewish characters express a stereotype: wealthy; conspiratorial (Clara and other Jewish terrorists), cold (Clara and others at Deir Yassin), hate-filled (the settlers at Hebron), hateful (all IDF soldiers, with the slight exception of Erin's friend). The Arabs are shown under attack, as refugees, being treated badly by Jews, or killed by Jews (the boy whom Len tries to save, the population of Deir Yassin, Arabs caught in Haifa).
This troubles me. During the 1940s, when Len would have been there, the Arabs had already been involved in serious attacks on Jews. Why isn't there a trace of this in the drama? The chief Arab leader, Haj Amin al-Husayni, who had spent the war with the Nazis in Berlin and been arrested as a war criminal, was now in Cairo making plans for a full-scale Arab attack on the proposed Jewish state. Why is that connection completely untouched? In your portrayal of the departure of Arabs from Haifa, you show Jews shooting at Arabs and forcing them to leave. But the mayor of Haifa and the Jewish armed forces had pleaded for some time with the Arabs to stay; most of them left on the orders of the Arab Higher Committee (chaired by al-Husayni). Why was this important context left out entirely?
How is it that Len, at one time stationed in Jerusalem, comes to wind up in more than one major incident: the bombing of the King David Hotel, Deir Yassin, and the Arab exodus from Haifa? Apart from being dramatically weak to place a character in significant events throughout, it is reprehensible insofar as it means we aren't shown. A few days after the Deir Yassin massacre, Arabs attacked a convoy of doctors and nurses travelling with supplies to Jerusalem's Haddasah Hospital, massacring over 70. Why didn't Len happen to pop up then?: after all, there were probably no British troops at Deir Yassin, but thirteen were involved in the Haddasah massacre. Wouldn't that have been more plasuible? But it would have meant showing Arabs massacring doctors and nurses, which would not have suited the clear agenda of the drama.
Something similar happens in the last episode, when Erin enters Gaza through a tunnel. There are no tunnels from Israel into Gaza: they are all from Egypt into Gaza. This is only one of several major inaccuracies that make a mockery of Mr Kosminsky's claim to have been researching the drama for ten years. Did he do any research at all?
I have no problem with the scenes showing settlers in Hebron throwing stones at schoolgirls: this is well documented. But it happens without a full context, part of which is Palestinian violence against Israelis, which is itself a provocation. I think the settlers are in the wrong, but most viewers will be in ignorance of the proper context, and I think Kosminsky, as with other scenes, has taken advantage of this fact.
This is well illustrated by the scenes in which we see the Wall separating Palestinians from Israelis, an ugly concrete barrier running into the distance. Why did Kosminsky choose to film this section of the long security barrier between the West Bank and Israel? It is only 3% (I repeat, 3%) of the barrier, and it has been built that way for genuine reasons. Why were we not told that, whatever the hardship caused by the barrier, it has reduced terrorist attacks by over 90%?
The suicide bombing at the end of part one is yet another attempt to provide 'balance' without context. We are told nothing about who has carried it out, how Palestinians have reacted (usually with celebrations, handing out sweets), how it fits into a string of similar attacks since 1926. Without background, it is just another one-off incident.
The house demolition scenes in Part 4 were gratuitous. First of all, Israel abandoned the policy of demolishing the homes of suicide bombers several years ago. Secondly, Kosminsky knows perfectly well that there are no IDF troops in Gaza and that if any turned up to demolish a house it would start an all-out war.
How is it that Erin keeps popping up in significant moments: just outside a suicide bombing, in Gaza when an impossible raid takes place, and in the same house as the woman who is the daughter of Muhammad, whom she has been seeking all this time?
The whole thing builds into a non-stop anti-Israel and, yes, a blatant anti-Semitic narrative. We see only the bad side of Jews, but always the good side of Arabs. Everything that happens, however implausible, drives this narrative. The series is, quite simply, anti-Israel propaganda, on a par with the numerous 'Pallywood' productions of past years. It has no redeeming features, unless it be the skill with which it was made. I have to ask why anyone would make a drama like this in the first place. Claims to balance simply won't do: there is none. Few dramas are given the airtime or the budget that The Promise received. The only thing that would have justified that would have been a genuinely balanced production. Not abnormally balanced, but made with some thought for both sides. I am pro-Israeli, but I acknowledge that the Palestinians suffered and have a story, and that not all that happened on the Jewish side was positive. But this was unflaggingly one-sided, with not a single scene that portrayed the Jewish story with accuracy or sympathy. Even Clara, a sympathetic Jewish woman who falls in love with Len and for whom he falls, turns out to be a terrorist with Irgun or Lehi. I didn't see a single Arab terrorist at work, but grew tired of watching Jewish gunmen and bombers killing Arabs or British soldiers.
In one scene, Len remarks that the British have left their weapons to the Jews but are leaving the Arabs defenceless. Didn't Kosminsky know that, as one history puts it, 'The first large-scale assaults began on January 9, 1948, when approximately 1,000 Arabs attacked Jewish communities in northern Palestine. By February, the British said so many Arabs had infiltrated they lacked the forces to run them back. In fact, the British turned over bases and arms to Arab irregulars and the Arab Legion.'
And on it goes. The drama is a lie from beginning to end. As a novelist, I appreciate the dramatic qualities, as a historian I deplore the risible attempt to re-write events in line with a clear ideological motive.
The Promise should never have been screened. Written with greater respect for historical and contemporary fact, it could have been groundbreaking. Instead, it is a triumph for wilful distortion and one in the eye for anyone who believes in fair play. For over sixty years the Palestinians and other Arabs have resolutely refused to make peace with their Jewish neighbours. One of their greatest weapons has been Goebels-like propaganda. The Promise could have been written by them. I am sure Mr Kosminsky is proud of himself and I know reviewers have praised The Promise to the skies. In reality, it will eventually enter the long hall of shame reserved for propaganda that serves the cause of preventing peace and co-existence. I call on Channel 4 to provide some assurance that, in time, redress will be made for this travesty.
2) From A L
The Promise: “Feared, loathed, and isolated” - An open letter to Peter Kosminsky
My initial skepticism over the objectivity of your multi-part drama on British TV which, as you say, strives to “come to an understanding of the most dangerous and intractable war of our age...the conflict between Arab and Jew in the Middle East”, called The Promise, seems warranted now that I’ve read your introduction to the film printed inThe Guardian on January 28th.
You claim that, among the lessons you’ve learned from researching modern Israel, is that 60 years after the Holocaust: “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.”
You then ask: “How did Israel squander the compassion [derived from the horrors of the Holocaust] of the world within a lifetime?”
To this question, I’ll briefly ask an admittedly rhetorical one: How dare you?
“Isolated,” you say?
Actually far from being isolated, my country is actually more economically entwined with Europe than we’ve ever been - the story of a tiny nation with little in the way of natural resources outperforming not only its neighbors, but some larger European nations as well. That Arab countries on our borders don’t wish to share in our relative prosperity, that 62 years after our birth those same Arab states continue in their self-defeating (either de facto or de jure) economic boycott of our country is not a reflection of our values, but rather of theirs. In nearly every measurable social, educational, and economic category, my country often wildly exceeds the performance of our oil rich neighbors.That my Israeli passport makes me persona non-grata in most of the Arab world is an indictment of their intolerance, their intransigence, their bigotry, not mine.
“Loathed,” you say?
If by “loathed”, perhaps you’re referring to the fact that 90% of the Arab world have an unfavorable opinion toward Jews? That is, empirical evidence demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of Arabs are openly not just anti-Israel, but wildly anti-Semitic polling data which is thoroughly consistent with the evidence of state sanctioned Jew-hatred documented continually, yet frequently ignored by those who see such facts as inconsistent with their predetermined conclusions. While the overlap between anti-Israel sentiment and outright anti-Semitism in the rest of the world is a bit more complicated, in our region the data proves that the two are quite simply one and the same. That copies of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ sell briskly on the Arab street, that conspiracy theories about Jews being responsible for 9/11 are popular, and that state-owned newspapers in Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia continue to publish cartoons portraying Jews as hideous, treacherous, bloodthirsty villains is not a reflection on me. It is an indictment against them, their culture, and their values.
“Feared,” you say?
The notion that my democratic Jewish state is feared would almost be comical if it wasn’t so dangerous. Tell me, Mr. Kosminsky, were we feared when six Arab armies sought our destruction on the day of our birth in 1948? Were we feared in the weeks prior to June 1967 when Arab leaders were telling roaring crowds in Cairo, Damascus, and Tripoli that the the annihilation of the Jewish state was near, or when those same leaders conspired with the Soviet Union to launch a surprise attack on us six years later on the holiest day of the year? Have all the civilian casualties and human carnage we’ve suffered as the result of suicide bombings and rocket fire in the years since those full-scale attacks indicated to you that we are feared? What you characterize as fear may simply be something more akin to a grudging acceptance by our enemies regarding our resolve, our steadfastness, and our will to survive despite their enmity - not a commentary on our villainy.
That Jews- who have but one state to call their own, and who represent two tenths of one percent of the world’s population - inspire fear in others is again not proof of our sins, our phobias, our behavior: but is a window into the soul of those who allow themselves to believe the most ludicrous, and historically lethal, Judeophobic calumnies.
As a citizen of the country for which you now claim expertise, I can assure you that I don’t seek the compassion you audaciously claim we squandered. I have no need for your sympathy, and I don’t require your affirmation. Our national right to exist, my rights as a citizen in the national homeland of the Jewish people, is not suspended in mid-air awaiting your approval. I refuse to give you that power.
To the degree to which my stubborn refusal to allow you, and others, the right to pass judgment on my merit may inspire fear, loathing, and isolation, I’m okay with that.
I’d rather be alive and hated than posthumously loved.
3) From: M S
Re: The Promise (Channel 4)
I don't know if you watched the TV Programme "The Promise". I did not. Because I knew what to expect.
But I thought you might be interested to know (if you have not seen it already !) just how The TIMES describes it in their Saturday Weekly TV and Radio programme guide.
In the Guide itself (page 33) "Len tries to get Mohammed and his family out of Palestine following the British Army's decision to withdraw from the territory...only to find the news has caused chaos at the docks in Haifa."
This is a complete distortion of reality. Any Arab "and his family" could leave Palestine in May, 1948 without the slightest difficulty! Thousands of them DID! (at the bidding of the Arab High Command). To claim that there was "chaos at the docks in Haifa" is more than a travesty of the truth. It is an utter LIE! The "news" (that the British Amy was scuttling out of Palestine) was not NEW. It had been announced months before by Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin and had given the British Army plenty of time to confiscate arms and weapons from Jews all over Palestine, especially from the kibbutzim, and give the armaments to the Arabs. Thus their scuttle was not "news". Not only was there no "chaos", it was very orderly at the dock (singular) in Haifa, supervised by the British Army and Navy, as thousands of Arabs boarded the Royal Navy warships that took them to Beirut, to Alexandria and Port Said. I was an eye witness to this exodus, watching from a position on Mount Carmel overlooking Haifa Harbour on 15/16th May, '48.
There was no chaos as the Arabs fully expected to return within a few weeks after the Jews had been massacred by the invading Arab armies. They were not fleeing, they were leaving joyfully and, as they believed, only temporarily, to be able to loot all the Jewish property when they returned shortly.
So much for Ernest Bevin's (and the Labour Government's) boastful statement : "I will stake my political reputation on finding a solution to the Palestine problem !" this coming from a man whose first utterance as Foreign Secretary at a time when the news of the Holocaust was in everyone's mind was : "The Jews must not try to push to the head of the queue."
The "Viewing Guide" by David Chater (page 32) describes it thus: "The final episode of Peter Kosminsky's ambitious series packs a considerable punch. The naive English girl...continues to find out what became of her grandfather in the closing months of the Mandate... Just as her grandfather witnessed the massacre of Palestinians and watched helplessly while the British abandoned the Arabs to their fate, so she sees how the modern state of Israel defends its borders against the very people whose land they had taken. Her grandfather's diary reflects his disillusion. "This precious state of theirs," he wrote, "has been born in violence and in cruelty to its neighbours. I'm not sure how it can hope to thrive." It is refreshing to see an ambitious drama tackling a subject of such importance."
It is interesting to see how a journalist can completely distort the truth, by substituting victim for aggressor. Not only has there NEVER been any massacre of "Palestinians" by Israel, but it was Arabs who, with the complete connivance of the British Army, broke the agreement to allow an unarmed convoy to take urgently required medical supplies to the besieged Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. The British Army stood by and watched gleefully as the Arabs attacked this convoy, killing all 96 doctors and nurses, and looting all the food, medicines, and medical equipment and supplies.
The British did not "abandon the Arabs to their fate". It was "the bloody Jews" who were abandoned, and who amazed the world!
And finally, a piece from a senior member of the leadership of the Zionist Feberation here in the UK:
4) From: ZF Website
ZF RESPONSE TO THE PROMISE
The Zionist Federation has been contacted by many people – both Jewish and non-Jewish – who were upset and infuriated by “The Promise” on Channel 4. The ZF is horrified by this latest demonisation of Israel on the Channel, in the context of an increasingly hostile and ill-informed discourse about Israel in UK media, and asks OFCOM to bring to account the management of a TV Channel that in 2008 also thought it appropriate for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to give the Christmas message.
Jonathan Hoffman, co-Vice Chair of the ZF, said: “Channel 4’s “The Promise” gave a misleadingly partial and sometimes false impression of both the history of Israel and the country today. Its theme was that the Jews deserved their own State because of the Holocaust but that they then very quickly began to behave like their tormentors. Israeli Jews were depicted either as living in California-style houses with swimming-pools or as heartless soldiers who mistreat Arabs and protect the most extreme settlers. Even though this was a drama and not a documentary, many viewers would have taken it as historic fact – particularly in view of the lavish realism of the production – and Channel 4 therefore has an unquestionable obligation to at least attempt to be balanced and accurate.”
A number of demonising falsehoods were included, for example that all Arab refugees fled in 1948 because of fear of Jews (the truth is that the Mayor of Haifa begged them to stay and that many were told to flee by their leaders, in anticipation that the massing Arab armies would annihilate the Jews and that they could then swiftly return); that the IDF uses children as ‘human shields’; and that Israel was created purely because of Western guilt about the Holocaust.
The bias of the series is clear from Director Peter Kosminsky’s own article in the Guardian. The researchers interviewed members of the International Solidarity Movement - a group whose antithetical views about Israel are well known – as well as Combatants for Peace and Breaking the Silence, both organisations representing the small minority of dissident soldiers. There is no indication that less extreme organisations were consulted in the making of the series.
While Kosminsky insists that the series included certain events for ‘balance’ and that he based everything on actual incidents, the overall combination, selection and ordering of the events was deliberately anti-Israel and the series clearly set out to demonise Israel.
The ZF will be writing in the strongest possible terms to Channel 4 and OFCOM, and it is CFI's understanding that the Board of Deputies of British Jews has complained to OFCOM, asking them to open an investigation into the programme and its totally biased content.
This is how Channel 4 talk up the series - channel4.com/programmes/the-promise