Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Promise: Demonising Jews And Israel Since The 1940s

Most people reading this will be aware of Channel 4’s 4-part drama The Promise, of which two episodes have been aired so far. The programme is set in two eras: it follows a British teen who spends the summer in Israel in 2005, whilst reading her grandfather’s diary who was a soldier in the Palestinian Mandate in the 1940s.

As a drama, it’s effective, yet it will be hard for some people to remember that although it is based on true events, it’s actually fiction – and of course, biased against Israel and full of distortions and omissions.

And I’m not going to not say that just because there’s a risk I might be told I’m imagining it, there is no anti-Israel bias, Israel really is all-evil.

Which seems to be the view of the New Statesman’s Laurie Penny, who mocks Julie Burchill’s criticism of The Promise as “bonkers”, exaggerating and at the same time condensing her concerns as accusing the programme of “foaming anti-Semitism, borne out of Gentile resentment that Jewish people are good at science”.

There is no known reason for antisemitism but now that Burchill mentions it, it’s hardly implausible that antisemites would feel resentment that the Jews as “such a small, persecuted tribe can keep surviving, thriving and achieving”.

Penny throws in an “as a Jew I’m offended” remark, calls the programme “a reflective and excruciatingly well-researched series”, and then gives her laughable defence of why this is the case and it can’t possibly be biased: because it “opens with five gruelling minutes set in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, cutting in segments of real footage from the mass graves”.

Done with the Jews-as-victims part, Penny finally reveals her true agenda as she turns to the Palestinians and describes the IDF “penning your family behind gun-bristling checkpoints, cramming your friends and neighbors behind apartheid walls, bombing your home, machine-gunning your grandchildren.

Because Israel does that all the time of course, and all just for fun with no reason. Because even though the Jews were victims in the Holocaust, now they’re not allowed to defend themselves.

And that pretty much sums up the message of The Promise. Jews are no longer victims, in fact Jews are the oppressors, and any time you might think a Jew is a victim, it’s their own fault.

For example, at the end of Part 1, Lefty-Israeli-Brother tells impressionable British girl Erin that the fence is not to prevent terrorism; it’s just to humiliate the Palestinians. Two minutes later there is a suicide bombing, the implication being that the brother is right. But there is no counter-argument that suicide bombings decreased by over 90% after the fence was built.

In Part 2 the brother (who was injured in the bombing) discovers that Erin’s grandfather was in the 1946 bombing of the King David hotel by the Irgun. He states that the two cases are “exactly the same; people blowing up buildings because they can’t make their point any other way”. It’s amazing that he can call it exactly the same, yet on the one hand the programme seems to defend suicide bombings and blame them on Israel; and at the same time leave out all the context of the King David hotel bombing – such as that the Irgun gave three warnings for the hotel to be evacuated, which were ignored, and that Jewish groups condemned the Irgun, Ben Gurion calling them “the enemy of the Jewish people”. Suicide bombers, on the other hand, don’t give warnings because their aim is to cause maximum civilian casualties, and in the Arab world, rather than condemnation, people who kill Israeli civilians are usually considered heroes.

It is made clear in The Promise by the exaggerations and lack of context of the Irgun that it is not just what they did but also why they did it that is the director’s problem. As the Israeli grandfather explained, after the horrors of the Holocaust in which his whole family had been killed, the Irgun aimed to ensure nothing like that would ever happen again by securing Israel as the Jewish homeland. The means were wrong, but that does not take away the right of Jews and Israel to self-defence.


  1. you are telling me the brother didnt die????

    that was the best part of the entire hour long bs fest

    i cant watch anymore of that talking the actor, not the role he plays

  2. After watching The Promise, currently at episode 3, I felt bewildered that the British would lock up and beat the people who they had just helped to bring home. Then I was bewildered that the British were being murdered. Then I felt bewildered that no one could get on with each other in a country that can clearly take care of all it's inhabitants. Then I felt relieved that it wasn't all fact because someone said it wasn't........ My point is we all hear stories, have stories. My roots are Irish I am British,I was brought up on tales of how bad we made it for the Irish. But I saw how many lives were lost in bomb attacks by the IRA. Truth be said, we are all brought up on stories of who's at fault, of how bad it was, is and could be. Im not saying let's forget about how terrible it has been,im not saying that at all but, please, lets now tell stories of how good it can be. Lets not bring religion into it nor background nor nationality. After you spoke about 'the impressionable girl' I realised that you are either impressionable or part of the problem you can only be a story teller or part of the story either way I get the impression that you will only look at it from the way you know it to be. I on the other hand can only see it from the way that you have told me it is. I must insist that I will never let my children forget about concentration camps or rebellions, killing fields or greedy war generals, but it will be as a lesson of how we should not be, that is unless there is another war in which we all perish..... no I think that I would rather look forward to what might be without that black cloud in my heart and after experiencing an insermountable number of deaths in my 50 years I am qualified to say this.
    Zion is a place which is absent of evil that includes evil thoughts. Don't worry about how evil others are they will be judged you just concentrate on leading a good life.

  3. Nice article, thanks for the information.

  4. How can you tell when a Zionist is telling the truth? When hes being sarcastic!

  5. Deborah I appreciate your comment. You're right that I'm impressionable and I was also confused by some things in The Promise because I will happily admit that there's a lot I don't know about the history of Israel and about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and I'm learning every day.
    But contrary to what you might think about me, I was not raised a Zionist, even though I'm Jewish. My interest in Zionism only began in recent years - precisely because of the media's take on Israel. My strength is that I don't take things at face value. So it's thanks to The Promise that I've done a lot more research on things I should have known about!
    Thanks for sharing your advice and experience but I can't bury my head in the sand, my love of Israel combined with my interest in media makes that impossible! Also I might seem cynical but I'm really an optimist at heart.

  6. There is a simple truth about the Palestinian / Israeli conflict. If you steal land and property from someone else they are likely to hate you for it. If Zionist do this in the name of their God. Then don,t be surprised if someone attacks you in the name of theirs. just because you are a Jew should not make you Israeli, are all Catholics Italian?

  7. "There is a simple truth about the Palestinian / Israeli conflict. If you steal land and property from someone else they are likely to hate you for it. If Zionist do this in the name of their God."

    A) No property was stolen, however the British did confiscate large areas of land in Australia, South Africa, and Kenya - followed by decimating the natives, but who cares about history right?

    B) Early Zionists were marxists. The Irgun and Etzel and Lehi were all atheists. Google "Steams of Zionism."

    C) The Zionists won the war fair and square.

    D) Under your logic I guess Jews have a right to murder British people for stealing their land 10 centuries ago? Right?

    E) This war has nothingt o do with land.

    F) Israel is a Jewish state. To deny Jewish rights makes you antisemitic. And to deny the Jews a state while saying the Arabs/Muslims deserve a state is simply hypocrisy.

    G) If you're European, please die. Your whole continent is based on land theft. Kill yourself now.

  8. There was a sovereign Jewish state - the legitimacy of which, no one doubted - until it was invaded and destroyed by the Romans. The Jews, having had their land stolen (and it was stolen again following the Moslem invasion of the seventh century)clearly have a right of return. They have the right to return to the land that was stolen from them. As far as I'm concerned, God doesn't come into it, although religious Jews have prayed for their return for two thousand years.