‘The Promise’ Breaks Its Promise

Set between modern times and the British occupation, ‘The Promise’ does not provide a satisfactory portrayal of either. It plays to the assumptions and biases of Channel 4’s typical viewers

The Channel 4 series The Promise finished on Sunday. I did not get around to seeing the final episode until today, being ill this week, and going to see the much more fun True Grit instead. Some are up in arms over alleged anti-Israel bias, and having reserved judgement until seeing the final episode, I can say it is true to a sickening extent. However, as this comes from Channel 4, which let Mahmoud Ahmadenijad deliver a TV address at Christmas, was anyone really surprised?

What was the show like?

Bias is one thing, but as a drama The Promise fell flat and patronised the viewer from start to finish. And the premise made no sense: why would a British girl spend her gap year in Israel accompanying her best friend Eliza who is called up for military service? Eliza would be away all the time apart from weekends, leaving a teenage girl to hang out with a pair of middle aged professional parents.

The set up of the story is the lead female Erin discovering her grandfather Len’s diary, which is quite a cliché in the historical drama genre, a staple of numerous novels and most successfully used in Ken Loach’s TV series Land and Freedom. The diary is used as a treasure map, revealing tidbits allowing the narrative to develop slowly and drawing Erin into a mystery, though Grandpa Len is still alive and we are told is been making a good recovery in her absence. Why couldn’t she have just called him? Or skipped through the damn thing? The ultimate flaw is a problem seen in a lot of these historical dramas: Len is somehow constantly at the centre of major historic events, from the liberation of Bergen Belsen, to the King David Hotel bombing, the Sergeant’s Affair and Deir Yassin. This became tiresome and unrealistic by Episode Two.

The script was also a bit too cavalier with geography. In the final episode Len picks up the son of an Arab friend, who lives near Haifa, in a Jerusalem school, and for some reason they wander into the Deir Yassin incident, when they would have gone in a totally opposite direction. Erin is at one stage smuggled into Gaza through a tunnel from Israel, but those tunnels are between Egypt in Gaza and there is no way such a thing would be possible. It also appears that there are Israeli troops operating in and administering Gaza, even carrying out interrogations and house demolitions, but this is supposed to take place after the 2005 withdrawal. Historical inaccuracies are abundant, too much to list here in total but here are a number of them:

* The shorts are slightly too long for the period

* Why did a mere sergeant without officers have to attend the senior officers briefing in the KD in Jerusalem for the major operation that was the search of Tel Aviv? Historically this was done orally in the guise of a race meeting of officers at Lod, where the Palestine Police kept hounds so that all officials and units could hunt as convenient throughout the Mandate and would have made a very British scene

* There was a regular confusion of time and distance over the two [bus/train] legs of 80 miles between Haifa and Tel Aviv and Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, even if taken as a single lap

* There was serious breach of British Army procedure, in that there was a lot of extensive driving about without work-tickets. Each Army vehicle in pre-computer times had forms in a green cloth covered folder, that have to be shown at checkpoints at camp gates and such, which is the licence and permit to drive it with duty, destination and mileometer readings on display for authorization purposes. This was not so wide when folded as an A4 sheet, but certainly as long and would have been lying about the vehicle or on the dashboard and made an obvious background item to be seen occasionally.

* Two obvious security breaches were seen with Len Matthews, in driving solo extensively about a “disturbed” province/ colony.

* Also, the jeeps did not apparently have the standard fitting for an internal security situation: a metal picket post welded vertically to the front bumper with its top point bent and filed to catch and stop/snap wires stretched across the road to injure drivers of and passengers in open vehicles.

The Promise’s Agenda

On the matter of bias, there is a hell of a lot more to say.

The Promise’ introduces us to the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict in a talk given by a British military commander to the young anti-hero Len Matthews and his fellow troops:

“The Jews and Arabs have been living here in relative harmony for thousands of years.  But our victory over the Germans has turned the trickle of Jews coming to this land into a flood.  You must understand, the Jews see it as their holy land.  But the Arabs, who have been here for over a thousand years, see them as stealing their land.  Our job is to keep the two sides apart…..”

From the very beginning an underlying bias is clear. This reading of history is based on an increasingly popular myth of the Israel-bashers, who claim that before Zionism, Jews and Arabs lived in peace and co-operation as equals. It was the Jewish demand for statehood, pure and simple, that ruined everything. Anti-Zionists, in their usual sneaky manner, thus say that if Jews just give up the notion of political independence they will face no hostility from Middle Eastern Arabs or the world’s Muslims, who are after all paying for the crimes committed by other powers during the Shoah. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Jews and other minorities in Muslim lands historically had the status of dhimmis, essentially protected second-class citizens. This involved Jews paying a discriminatory poll tax, known as the jizya, in exchange for state protection and a level of religious freedom. This arrangement was often a peaceful one, and Muslim rulers let the Jews live uninterrupted as Jews (far rarer in Christian states) and even took steps to protect Jews from a hostile local Muslim population. It was never ‘equality’ as some of today’s apologists claim, but it would be foolish to expect it in societies untouched by the Enlightenment. However, very often within the dhimmi ‘contract’ there were absurdly detailed humiliating rules and regulations on the life of the dhimmi, and extensive arrangements to keep them separate from the Muslim population. Large scale anti-Jewish massacres were not unheard of, and of course many Islamic sacred writings contain explicitly anti-Jewish messages that are used today as they were then to justify atrocious behaviour.

As this post is about ‘The Promise’, I will only be focusing from here on events in the land of Israel prior to independence in 1948. I will most certainly write a separate piece on anti-Jewish thought and atrocities in Muslim lands in general at a later stage, in which the ins and outs of dhimmitude can be analysed in more detail.

To begin with, it is important to note that well before the mass organised immigration (or aliyah) of Jews to the corner of the Ottoman Empire often known as ‘Palestine’ (from the Roman name Syria-Palestina, given after 135 CE) there were religiously inspired pogroms and blatant discrimination towards a long-established Jewish community. Interestingly Karl Marx was one of the people who observed this, and after a visit to the Holy Land in 1852 he published an article in which claimed the following:

Firstly, the Jews were in a majority in the city of Jerusalem (this has been confirmed in all censuses and polls since the 1860s).

Secondly, Jews were the most oppressed even in areas where they were a majority.

Finally, the Jews were living in a situation of constant insult from the Muslim population, who were ethnically Arab and Turk amongst others. Contrary to modern claims that today’s Palestinians have been living in Israel and the Palestinian territories for thousands of years, the Muslim population of the area was disparate, with many arriving in the 19th Century from Egypt and the Ottoman Empire in general. There were settlements full of Armenians, Circassians, and many others. Certain sections of academia have gone to great pains to cover this up and ruin the careers of those who don’t follow the official line, but in Marx’s time it was not controversial in the least, as there was no conflict in which many people had a proverbial dog.

Oil painting by Gustav Bauernfeind (1848-1904) portraying Jews at the Western Wall in the 19th Century

There were during periods such as the Egyptian occupation of Palestine in the 1830s, when the native Jews were intensely persecuted for no other reason than Muslim zealotry. According to De Haas’s ‘History of Palestine’ in 1934, Jewish households systematically ‘were sacked and their women violated’ and later in the year the Jews of Hebron were victims of a large-scale massacre. The most interesting writing I have found comes from the British consul in Jerusalem in the early to mid 1800s, decades before Herzl organised a Zionist movement. His name was William Young and he sent fairly chilling report to the British Foreign Office in 1839 on the condition of Jews in the city of Jerusalem in at that time:

“I think it my duty to inform you that there has been a Proclamation issued this week by the Governor in the Jewish quarter — that no Jew is to be permitted to pray in his own house under pain of being severely punished — such as want to pray are to go into the Synagogue….

There has also been a punishment inflicted on a Jew and Jewess — most revolting to human nature which I think it my duty to relate. In the early part of this week, a House was entered in the Jewish Quarter, and a robbery was committed — the House was in quarantine — and the guardian was a Jew — he was taken before the Governor-he denied having any knowledge of the thief or the circumstances. In order to compel him to confess, he was laid down and beaten, and afterwards imprisoned. The following day he was again brought before the Governor, when he still declared his innocence. He was then burned with a hot iron over his face, and in various parts of the body — and beaten on the lower parts of his body to that extent that the flesh hung in pieces from him. The following day the poor creature died. He was a young Jew of Salonica about 28 years of age — who had been here but a very short time, he had only the week before been applying to enter my service.

A young man-a Jew — having a French passport — was also suspected — he fled — his character was known to be an indifferent one — his mother an aged woman was taken under the suspicion of concealing her son — She was tied up and beaten in the most brutal way…

I must say I am sorry and am surprised that the Governor could have acted so savage a part-for certainly what I have seen of him, I should have thought him superior to such wanton inhumanity — but it was a Jew — without friends or protection-it serves well to show, that it is not without reason that the poor Jew, even in the nineteenth century, lives from day to day in terror of his life.”

As a persecuted minority, Jews had no legal redress, as the report observed:

“Like the miserable dog without an owner he is kicked by one because he crosses his path, and cuffed by another because he cries out – to seek redress he is afraid, lest it bring worse upon him; he thinks it better to endure than to live in the expectation of his complaint being revenged upon him.

Scarcely a day passes that I do not hear of some act of Tyranny and oppression against a Jew — chiefly by the soldiers, who enter their Houses and borrow whatever they require without asking any permission-sometimes they return the article, but more frequently not. In two instances, I have succeeded in obtaining justice for Jews against Turks-But it is quite a new thing in the eyes of these people to claim justice for a Jew-and I have good reason to think that my endeavors to protect the Jews, have been — and may be for some little time to come, detrimental to influence with other classes — Christians as well as Turks….”

In 1842, in a message to Viscount Palmerston, Mr. Young noted how defenceless the Jewish population was against such onslaughts, which had no cause other than ‘’the blind hatred and ignorant prejudice of a fanatic population’’. This was well before a Jewish state, before Herzl, before any occupation, before any Western power came into control of the area. Reports from other writers who visited the Holy Land, such as A.W. Kinglake, abound with similar stories – Kinglake, Winston Churchill’s favourite writer, witnessed and wrote about anti-Jewish riots and looting in Safed, though in holding anti-Semitic views he was not as sympathetic as men like William Young. So how did the myth swallowed by The Promise get started? My guess is that it originally came from Islamic apologetics, where Muslim writers contrasted their historic relations with the Jews with that of Christendom, which were historically worse. The radical left in the West seems to have adopted this defence of Islam and warped it for their own needs. The left-of-centre public broadcasters then use our tax money to give these opinions a platform. I can’t imagine The Promise being brave enough to declare that for centuries Jews lived in ‘mostly-peaceful subservience’ to their Muslim rulers, which would be more accurate.

‘We’ve Left the Arabs in the Shit’

So claims Len on leaving what was the British Mandate of Palestine for good. Several times in the last episode we hear remarks claiming, for instance, that the British army had left weapons for the Jews and none for the Arabs, and Len at one stage says the Arabs are defenceless against the Jewish Underground, even though he is later seen fighting with a well-armed group of Arabs near Haifa. In fact, immediately after the UN decided to create a Jewish and Arab state west of the Jordan River organised Arab attacks were directed against the Jewish population. In many cases the Arab fighters were armed and directly or indirectly assisted by the British. One of the first major incidents in Jerusalem of the Israeli War of Independence, around two mornings after the UN decision, was when Arab mobs burst into a shopping complex on Mamilla Road and set fire to over forty stores. They were assisted by armoured British police cars and troops, who blocked the Haganah (the main Jewish militia) from assisting Jews trapped inside. Sixteen Jewish defenders were arrested attempting to get in, and the Haganah’s arms were confiscated. This pattern repeated itself in the next few months: Arab attacks were watched by the British, who made a lacklustre attempt to keep the peace but always prevented Jewish forces from counter-attacking. The Jewish population grew angrier and angrier as the British allowed forces from the Arab Liberation Army (a force raised by the Arab League to assist local Arab militias before the Arab invasion in 1948) to infiltrate the country. It is estimated that up to 6,000 ALA fighters took part in the conflict. Many British policemen and members of the armed forces sympathised with the Arabs to the extent of desertion to their cause, while some acted on old anti-Jewish prejudices. One of the worst bomb attacks of the war was the February 22nd bombing of Ben Yehuda Street, the social hub of Jewish Jerusalem. An organisation known as the ‘British Fascist Army’ loaded three trucks with dynamite, the resulting explosion levelled six storey buildings and much of the busy centre, killing 52.

The Irgun were responsible for some of the most frightening and daring operations of the period. However, they should not be confused with the Haganah, especially as the Irgun were far more uncompromising and radical in their views, as well as a having a tendency to target civilians in many cases

The Promise shows us plenty of Jewish military attacks against the British and atrocities against the Arabs during the 1940s. No Arab or British attacks on the Jewish population were shown. It is unusual, as you would expect after focusing on the Sergeant’s Affair (the lynching of two British soldiers by the Irgun) The Promise could have shown the British reaction, when soldiers went on a rampage in Tel Aviv, beating civilians on the street and even shooting at buses, killing five. One of the most significant scenes portrays the Irgun and Lehi assault on Deir Yassin, where many unarmed Arabs were indeed slaughtered, and Len meets his former Jewish lover for the last time. The Irgun are a major focus of The Promise, though it never informs the viewer that the Irgun were a minority dissenting military force, consisting of 1500-2000 fighters. The Lehi, or Stern Gang, were an even smaller group of under 500 fighters (smaller than CIRA today), specialising in assassination and bomb attacks. They were both far smaller than the Haganah, under the command of Ben Gurion, which numbered over 25,000 and became the IDF. The former organisations were more hawkish and violent than the Haganah. Historically, it was Haganah policy during the Mandate era to refrain from attacking the Arabs during violent periods (a policy known as Havlagah), and focus on defending Jewish communities. The Irgun and Lehi rejected this. The Promise in many instances forces the viewer to compare the Irgun attacks with modern terrorism, and thus make us remember the ‘what is terrorism?’ question and expose Zionist hypocrisy on the matter. Of course, it does not tell us that the State of Israel did declare the Irgun as a terrorist organisation immediately after its establishment, and the Haganah and IDF disseminated posters and pamphlets denouncing them as such. Ben Gurion went so far as to shell a ship carrying arms to the Irgun, which was one of his first acts as Prime Minister. The Promise does not tell us that Ben Gurion also wrote a letter of apology and condolence to the King of Jordan on hearing of the killing of civilians at Deir Yassin. Even though the Irgun is the focus of The Promise during the 1940s scenes, and it is meant to show the dark side of Israel, it never shows how the Haganah co-operated with the British to suppress the organisation, as well as the Lehi. It portrays the Jewish paramilitaries in the worst, most uncompromising light.

It is very interesting that while Len manages to drive into Deir Yassin just in time for the attack (and when it really made no sense for him to be there), the incident which did the most to inflame anti-British sentiment among the Jews, and led to major Haganah offences throughout the country, happened to take place less than 200 hundred yards from a British army installation – and was passed and seen by General MacMillan, the Supreme Commander of the British forces in Palestine. That was the massacre of the Hadassah medical convoy, when a group of doctors, nurses, academics and scientists on the way to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem were assaulted by Arab fighters, with 79 killed and the corpses and vehicles burned. Among them were Professor Chaim Yassky, director of the famous Hadassah Medical Organisation, two of the founders of the faculty of medicine at the University, a linguist, an expert in Jewish Law, a physicist, and the head of the Hebrew University psychology department. It was a great tragedy for the city and the Jewish population. The Arab Higher Committee, the political leadership of the local Arab population, unequivocally praised the attack, a great contrast to the attitude of Ben Gurion and the mainstream Jewish leadership to incidents like Deir Yassin. Yet it was the role of the British, whose HQ in Jerusalem informed the Haganah that they were in control of the situation, while forbidding the Haganah access and doing nothing themselves to stop the attack until it was almost over, that became the focus of Jewish scrutiny. Len would have had a much greater chance of being there than at Deir Yassin. Thus, we can see how an Israeli viewer might be downright angry at The Promise for suggesting the British supported the Jews, abandoned the Arabs and left the Arab population in a hopeless position (some historians estimate up to 12,000 Arabs were under arms before the invasion of the five Arab armies).

Palestinian fighters from the ‘Holy War Army’, 1948

Jews fleeing the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City in 1948. It would later be almost totally razed by the Jordanian Army. Jews would not live there again until 1967

My Conclusion

The Promise did focus much attention on the Holocaust, and the cruel treatment delivered on the survivors by the British, and how much it drove the desire for Jewish sovereignty in the historic land of Israel. However, the Holocaust was portrayed as the justification for Israel from Episode 1 to 4, and is the focus of Len’s original pro-Zionist sentiment. As one reviewer put it:

‘‘…it is a narrative which does not operate to resolve the conflict, but to perpetuate it. Ever since World War Two, the Arabs have seen the Jewish national enterprise as the consequence of Nazism. Without indigenous roots.  And without historical legitimacy…They build their sense of victimhood on the argument that they are “paying the price” for European fascism’’.

Two tragic mistakes were made in The Promise concerning the Holocaust. The first is that it does not mention that the Palestinian leadership, supported by most of the Arab population, actively supported the Nazis during the Second World War and even participated in the genocide of European (as well as Middle Eastern) Jews. The Grand Mufti Muhammad Amin Al-Husayni and his family dominated the Palestinian leadership during this period and after (Arafat was a descendant). Nowhere was it mentioned he was a fanatical supporter of Nazism, who helped form a Muslim division of the SS, and was in exile for his activities – though planning military activities against the Zionists from Egypt (having escaped Allied custody in Paris and punishment for war crimes). The moral and legal culpability of such people was not an issue in the series.

The second mistake was that The Promise makes no mention of the history and ideals of Zionism proper – it is almost purely seen as a reaction to the Holocaust. The steady return of Jews to the land of Israel after the 1880s is nowhere evident in this narrative. The Balfour Declaration of 1917, and the League of Nations mandate in 1922, which asked Britain to help Jews settle in the region and create a Jewish independent body politic, go unmentioned. With no reference to Jewish state-building efforts before the Holocaust, or the history of Zionism, or a discussion of the Jewish national connection to the land of Israel, The Promise ends up misplacing the role of both the Holocaust and Zionism. This is the ultimate disgrace.

By the last episode in particular, The Promise show descends into farce and agitprop, recycling every anti-Israel trope. It was painful to watch a program that not only sympathised with the Arab narrative, but eventually fully adopted its language and symbolism. This was particularly true in the ridiculous scene where Erin returns a key to an dying Arab woman from her former home within Israel. It shows a housing demolition, the likes of which are not practiced by Israel anymore, and suggests the IDF use Palestinian children systematically as human shields, and that the IDF occupy Gaza. This mini-series did not deserve the attention it received. There hasn’t been a truly epic original drama on British TV in a long time, and I’m desperately waiting for one. After watching this effectively anti-Israel manifesto, I whipped out my Sopranos box set and went through much of the first season all over again. It felt good.

About Cranky Notions
Pro-market, Pro-Israel and argumentative recent blogger. That fella from the Norris scandal.

17 Responses to ‘The Promise’ Breaks Its Promise

  1. Shanghai Mary says:

    This is the finest review of The Promise I have read. Your knowledge of Zionism is impressive, I only wish others could research Zionism and find out that it is not a religious or racist ideology as it is portrayed today.

    One other reviewer on the blogospere crudely put it that the Arabs were portrayed as “Englishmen in nighties”! My former partner was a Berber from Setif in Kabyle, and I can tell you the Arabs are far from benevolent when dealing with non-Arabs, or dissent from Arab-Muslim control.

    This is a brilliant, but very sad, blog detailing the lives, trials and tribulations of the Mizrah Jews http://jewishrefugees.blogspot.com/ .

    From a long-time reader

    • Thank you for your kind compliments, Mary. Those are the kind of words that make me want to plow on with this little project of mine.

      You make an excellent point about Arab treatment of minorities. One thing I really hate is when people refer to the landmass stretching from Morocco to Oman as ‘the Arab World’. The Arabs came from the Gulf of Arabia, and spread all over today’s Western Asia, creating one of the world’s largest and long-lasting Empires. They killed, displaced and forcibly converted many Berbers, Jews and other native peoples, and their settler descendants have made life hell for the Kurds and others who wish to defy Arab supremacism and live as free people. Yet somehow the Arabs have fooled many Westerners into believing they have always been noble victims of Imperialism, including at the hands of the Israelis. Its the Jews who have bravely carved out a free country from territory held by various Muslim Empires, its the Arabs (with noble exceptions) who are the Imperialists and who tend to see all others as sub-human. They don’t want to live alongside other peoples in peace, they want to rule over other them.

      One of the aims of this blog will certainly be to incessantly spread this truth.

  2. Shanghai Mary says:

    Many of the minorities are voicing their resistance but the threat of Arab/Islamic violence will always win out. It’s not just minorities in the Islamic world, just look at the West’s response to the Mohammed cartoons.

    The Kurds in northern Iraq are now starting to reject the Arabic language, and even want the Islamic prayers in Kurdish http://www.krg.org/articles/detail.asp?smap=02010200&lngnr=12&asnr=&anr=3316&rnr=73 “Others, even more radical, dare to say that Arabs sent their language to us on the humps of camels, and we must return it to them in a Mercedes.”, “We were in conflict with the Arabs for 1,400 years. Their language was the language of torture,” said Ali Mahmoud Jukil, a senior faculty member in languages at Salaheddin University. These are signs of a hopeful beginning.

    Also, some Berbers are bravely embracing atheism and Christianity, and some even are favourable to Israel i.e. they don’t consider it the abode of the devil http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYRi-iRNLNU It’s very true that the Arab must retains its power by subjugating the non-Arab, both physically and culturally. Berber names are hard to register on Moroccan birth certificates, and it has be known for Berber road signs to be painted over, http://www.nancy.cc/2010/09/06/morocco-bans-berber-amazigh-baby-names/

    The minority voices are wanting to be heard, but Western ‘intellectual’ elites are so blinkered in the hatred of Uncle Sam and the big bad Yahoodi, that they ignore these worthy plights. Also, they subscribe to foolish and redundant theories like Orientalism. A theory that has almost excused Arab imperialism and racism. We live in topsy-turvy times!

    From a long time reader

    • Thanks for the links – the Berber/Arab debate was very interesting. I have heard that Bedouin have been accused in the Arab media of being disloyal as many are sympathetic to Israel also. I must find some links, I believe I saw it on MEMRI.

      Your feelings on ‘Orientalism’ are exactly the same as mine. Edward Said and others have spread a poison in the West that has caused many people, particularly leftists, to effectively embrace imperialism and racism, under the guise of human rights and anti-imperialism. Please spread the word! Its very hard to get this through the heads of people in Ireland and the UK. Looking at the likes of Channel 4, its clear why.

  3. Michael says:

    Sorry you couldn’t enjoy The Promise for what it was and instead allowed your (I presume) Jewishness to get in the way of the fact that it was actually sympathetic to the Irgun. How, you say? Well, the old militant (Eliza’s grandfather) is given a speech, as is one of the kidnappers who explained how he was in the Jewish Legion during the war. Kominsky said in an interview that he spoke to the “proud Irgun fighters who fought the British Army to a standstill.” Hardly the choice of words you would expect in an anti-Israel programme – which it wasn’t.

    Eliza and her parents came also over well as did her brother. Plus, the person at Acre Prison based on Dov Gruner is also given a meaningful speech. If anything it seemed like Kominsky, a Jew, was lightly laying the blame at the door of the British…with some justification.

    As for your (nitpicking) points

    – The shorts look about right. From January 1947 onwards soldiers shouldn’t be wearing ranks on their uniform as this was banned (it marked them out as which one potential kidnappers should take). You didn’t mention this, I presume, because you did not know it. But there you go.

    – Wrong again. It kind of shifts timelines and calls Operation Shark, which came after the King David bombing, Operation Bulldog (which never happened) but then the discovery of an arms cache under a seesaw (and under a nursery and hospital, didn’t show those two though, did it?) was actually in Operation Agatha, which was at the end of the June so before the King David bombing. It also shows X’s being marked on the detainees heads but it was actually a dye according to the reports and it shows a house destruction which never happened. (Only once was home demolition used against the Jews in comparison to over 1,000 against the Arabs. The veterans told Kominsky they used to blow up IZL and LHI houses but evidence suggests they didn’t, they’ve just being cheated by their memory into thinking they did.)

    – Because it would be really interesting to watch a long car journey…

    – There goes that autism/nitpicking again…

    – Given. It was meant to be parties of less than six, or four maybe, it changed from time to time. But yeah, certainly not on his own or just with one other person.

    – Not every jeep had that fitting. The majority didn’t.

    As for the rest, only one point to make: Maybe Israel did declare the IZL terrorists afterwards, but then it went and built the IZL a museum? Kind of negated it, no?

    • Claiming the program was ‘pro-Irgun’ is nonsense. The fact that the director talked about their military effectiveness certainly doesn’t mean so. The Irgun, though quite small, did drive the British to their wits end, and one doesn’t have to be pro-Israel or pro-anything to recognize that.

      Building a museum to educate Israelis on the Irgun and commemorate those who died in the Jaffa campaign (the 41 the museum is dedicated to) doesn’t ‘negate’ their legal classification as terrorists. They were forcibly disarmed, and defunct as a movement by that stage. Negating their terrorist classification would entail allowing them to continue as an active paramilitary group or even helping them do so.

      Thank you for pointing out the rank insignia error. It was mentioned to me before by a friend, though after this had been posted and I never bothered to edit the thing. Granted, I overlooked it.

      I don’t think the Israeli characters were portrayed well at all. The host family were very wealthy professionals, with a nice pool and spacious villa. This as well as the suave catered parties would be far from the lifestyle of the average Israeli. It was clearly meant to contrast with the poor, humble Arabs. Israelis were portrayed as cold and devious, even in the nightclub scene when Erin gets a fit they gather around and laugh and do nothing to help. I’ve found Israelis to be welcoming to and interested in foreign visitors – certainly when I was hurt over there I never received such treatment. The Arab characters were all friendly, hospitable and downtrodden.

  4. Michael says:

    Obviously we’re having this discussion on Amazon as well (albeit on my girlfriend’s account) but I’m talking about the IZL museum in Tel Aviv, run by the Israeli MoD. I see nothing wrong with the Gidi Museum in Jaffa, but I’m talking about the one in Tel Aviv with models of the blown up King David, replica milk churn bombs etc. Maybe you have been there, maybe you haven’t. Actually, regardless of politics, it is worth a visit if you haven’t. Here’s its website:

    http://www.mod.gov.il/pages/heritage/haetzel-ta.asp

    As for the night club scene, I don’t think that was the intention. Firstly its in Tel Aviv which, as you know, is a big nightlife city, so I don’t think its a given that every person in the nightclub is Israelis. I think they are laughing because they are just drunk teens and young adults and they think she’s had to too much to drink. I remember Kominsky said that he felt very alienated from Tel Aviv because of how young and carefree the people were, and I think that’s what he was trying to capture.

    The rank insignia is only a slight error. Kominsky might even have been aware of it and disregarded it so people could see the ranks of the characters, plus there are photos of British soldiers in 1948 with rank on, I guess because the army felt the kidnap risk wasn’t there anymore.

    • I haven’t been there, but it doesn’t bother me that there is a museum educating people on the Irgun. It doesn’t ‘negate’ the fact that the organisation was banned, disarmed and dissolved soon after Israeli independence. There are plenty of Confederacy Museums and memorials in the United States (whom I regard as the good guys in that war, but others see very differently).

  5. cbfrmTH says:

    Claiming that the British “assisted” Arab attacks on the Jewish civilian populatiom, when, in your description, all they did was prevent the Jewish militia joining the fight, seems like a gross slander.
    The sort of distortion that makes me doubt all else you say.
    Additionally, having looked up these events long ago on Wikipedia, I think you seem to grossly under-empthasise both the vicousness of the Irgun and Stern Gang, their celebration afterwards as Israeli heroes, and the cooperation of the Irgun with the main Jewish militia. They were only condemned after the King David Hotel bombing because so many Jews were killed in that attack. Previously they’d thrown grenades into marketplaces filled with Arabs. Had Ben-Gurion condemned them then?
    As with all terrorist movements, the sympathy and identification of the moderate Jews with the extremists, protected the latter from the government and drove the moderates steadily into the hard-line camp.

    As to the program, it would be no surprise to me if it both favourded the Arabs, demonised Israeli’s AND, somehow, sympathised with the Irgun. After all, trendy channel 4 viewers will tend to support anyone who uses terrorist methods against British soldiers. In fact, if Israel would only do so today, it would probably have left wing supporters.
    Anyway, rant over.

    Am I wrong about the Irgun and Stern gang?
    Am I wrong about the British not massacring Jews? It seems an awfully unlikely thing for my countrymen to do.
    And what is this about a “British Fascist Army”? I find it hard to believe that after the Second World War a group of British troops would call themselves this: Is it a description by their victoms? Did they even exist?

    It may be objected that I’m a British apologist, which is true. But I’ve asked some serious questions and would like serious answers.

    • I am sorry you found my post to be too anti-British. I assure you, I do not have any agenda against Britain or its armed forces. Unlike many in the British media, from Channel 4 and the BBC to the major newspapers.

      ‘The Promise’ was an unusual drama. It appears that the only time Channel 4 will portray British troops of the past in a good light (outside of a WWII setting) is when Israeli Jews are fighting them! It seems the British left do regard some people as sub-humans, after all.

      I would be the first to gladly acknowledge British people who played a role in bringing about Israeli independence – brave, dedicated men like Orde Wingate, for example. Yet its true some went the opposite way, and there were those within the forces that sympathised with the Arabs, much like those notorious Arabists in the Foreign Office. Some British troops did funnel weapons to the Arabs, and were involved in the Ben Yehuda Street Bombing (according to the autobiographical novel of Amos Oz, ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’, a group calling themselves the British Fascist Army were responsible, but to be fair I will mention these men had actually deserted from the army). Lets not forget the vile John Baggot Glubb, whose troops were involved in the massacre at Kfar Etzion (which, depending on who believe on the Deir Yassin incident, was probably the worst single massacre of the conflict). Glubb Pasha denied for the rest of his life any massacre had occurred at all, and wasn’t he granted honours in his home country afterward? It would seem hypocritical to complain then of the Irgun being let off easy after the war.

      However, I agree that those forces engaged in reprehensible actions. Yet Israel’s government was hardly going to hound them even more after the war and the Altalena shelling. What would have been the point, when they posed no military threat to the state, and such actions would have no doubt created needless animosity and division in a country that could little afford it?

  6. cbfrmTH says:

    Thankyou for having the respect to answer, and taking the time to do so properly. I’ll look it all up myself, and, if I have any more to say, get back to you.

  7. Mark says:

    Sir – Although I appreciate your well written blog, I think you have some blinders on regarding this show. Although I am not going to pick your blog apart piece by piece, I am going to comment on a few glaring errors. This was a very well produced, very well thought out show. Amazing, given its budget. Jewish settlers WERE at war with the British authorities during the time period this show depicts. In fact, over 700 British soldiers lost their lives to the Irgun (Jewish soldiers/terrorists) during this 3 year period.

    Operation ‘Bulldog’ never happened. You are correct. BUT Operation ‘Shark’ did. (And as depicted in the show, Shark was a direct retaliation for the bombing of the King David Hotel). To pick upon the name as an example of the show’s inaccuracies is probably not the best way to point out that the show is poorly researched. (Not sure why they changed the name. My only guess is there was a legal reason and I just don’t know it.)

    It is OK to have an opinion on this extremely divisive issue. But to put on blinders and think every show, just because it is not 100% pro-Israeli, is anti-Semitic; well, that is just silly.

    This was a phenomenally well done show that paints both sides well. The problems in Israel right now – especially in the occupied territories – are extremely complex. Your blog is obviously very pro Israeli (or Zionist). Expressing that viewpoint is your right. However, you also seem to be a very intelligent person. I would suggest you need to read a little more history and learn the other side of the picture (because there IS another side) before bashing a very well done program like this.

    Programs like this may, over time, help both sides of this complex problem see the world as it is – rather than how they want it to be. And, it will only be after enough people on each side understand the problem; that we will start to approach a solution.

    (By the way, I am not an Arab or a Jew. I am a soldier that spent time on your side of the world trying to stop the two of you from killing each other.)

    • Mark,

      Thank you for your comment, it is much appreciated.

      One thing I want to be absolutely clear about: I have not accused Peter Kosminsky or the series of being anti-Semitic. Kominsky is just a bog-standard left-wing filmmaker, the kind that comes two-a-penny everywhere. The program was riddled with the biases and assumptions of this kind of demographic.

      I am also not saying the Zionists weren’t fighting against the British. To the contrary, the fighting was intense. I often tell anti-Israel Irish Republicans that the Jewish militias killed more British troops in four years than the Irish did in the 1916 Rising, War of Independence, and the entire Troubles combined. This is all the more remarkable when you see that the campaign was largely directed by the Irgun, which only had 1500-200 fighters at its height.

      One example of this bias is the fact that no Arab attacks against Jews were shown during the scenes from 1948. No mention was made of the infiltration of the country by the ALA (something the British had a duty to stop) or the impending Arab invasions. It was portrayed as a kind of greedy ethnic cleansing campaign against Arabs by Jews. It made no sense for the protagonist to be at Deir Yassin. I point to examples of atrocities such a serviceman may very well have witnessed at the time, such as the burning of doctors, nurses, and lecturers by Arabs in the Hadassah medical convoy. It was all very selective, and thus, misleading.

      No British attacks on Jewish civilians were shown either, the only possible exception being the beating and round-ups of Holocaust survivors illegally entering Israel. Holocaust survivors, of course, have the sympathies of the far-left, even if they are Israelis. However, I acknowledge that the British faced excesses from the Jews at the time, and by and large behaved well in the face them. But once again we see a problem of selectivity. All the Jews of the time are portrayed as duplicitous and fanatical. The Irgun is the only Zionist militia actually mentioned, who were certainly responsible for atrocities, but there is no mention of the Haganah who assisted the British during the Hunting Season, or the Jewish leaders who did condemn the actions of the likes of the Irgun and Stern Gang.

      Even in the scenes set in the modern-day, Israelis were portrayed awfully. See, for instance, those who jeered at the girl getting a fit at the nightclub. The female protagonist’s host family lived in a villa with a pool and catered parties. Hardly a typical Israeli lifestyle!

      Meanwhile, the Arabs were portrayed, both in the 1940’s and today, as poor but honest, oppressed but decent and polite. Essentially, they were the portrayed as angelic brown people, with their lives being wrecked by greedy Jews.

      • Mark says:

        Thanks for your well thought out reply.

        I am only on the second episode. The series has been so thought provoking (for me) that it prompted me to do a lot of Internet searches (one of which brought my attention to your blog).

        However, I think it has been a while since you have seen the show. For example, your comment: “No British attacks on Jewish civilians were shown either,…”

        One of the scenes that ‘grabbed’ me and kept me interested in this show was when the British assassinated an Israeli dissident using the unwitting help of the British sergeant protagonist. This prompted the Irgun’s reprisal against his fellow soldiers while he was on the beach.

        I agree with you. I think the writer is trying to show this history from a Palestinian viewpoint. However, I don’t agree that the show is, up through the second episode, a bastardization of the truth. I think it is simply a way of looking at the situation that is tough for some Israelis to see. I don’t know where the show is going, but I do know the historical reality of what happened after ’48 (and even more so after ’67).

        There were many Palestinians displaced from their homes and ‘shoved’ into a refugee status that they did not have before the Israeli independence war(s). That is a plain and simple truth. Even after spending 3 years in that region, I have no clue how to solve the problem; but I do know ignoring it is not even close to being a potential solution.

        I think well written shows like this may help everyone understand that there are two sides to this issue and both need to be examined in order to determine a way out.

        BTW – just so you know, I also posted on a blog/website created by a somewhat fanatical Palestinian who felt there were no Jews in this part of the world before 1880. (I tried to politely ask him where he thought the Bible (which is referenced in the Koran), Jesus, Moses etc…. all came from.)

        Mark

        PS – I also got a bit snarky with him at the end of my post and asked him where he thought the name for the city jerusalem came from. (My guess is I will not hear back from him, but that is OK) Although I disagree with some of your opinions posted, at least you are not an idiot!

  8. Mark says:

    There is a scene at the end of Episode 2 that you might want to rewatch.

    The great-uncle of the British girl’s friend who tells her, [paraphase] “After the camps, we would no longer back down from anyone who would deny us a home. We needed a place to be safe. And we would do anything to have it.” … (he goes on to say, even though the British ‘helped’ us during the war, we would wipe them out if we had to in order to have our safe place)

    I don’t know about you, but that almost sounds like a speech from David Ben-Gurion.

    • You are right that I have not seen the series in a while, but I do remember it gets more openly pro-Palestinian as it goes along.

      However, as I said in the post, I do not like the Holocaust being portrayed as the sole justification for a Jewish state. I think that narrative fuels a lot of anti-Israel sentiment.

      • Mark says:

        kk – no worries.

        I, for one, think the Holocaust is a great justification for the Jewish state. Anyone who thinks different is a blithering idiot. (Not saying you are.) You seem to have your own reasons. But, let’s face it. If the Holocaust had not happened, Israel would probably not exist right now.

        However, that being said, the Jews emigrated to one of the most under-developed, God-forsaken places in the world AND they built something out of it.

        I neither deny their reason nor their right. I simply recognize that there were people there before them.

        The United States, for example, was built upon land that was ‘owned’ by ‘Native Americans’ (what Yank’s call Indians). They trampled all over them and nearly wiped them off the face of the planet while building the country. What they did was wrong, but it did result in one of the most powerful countries in this world. However, their ‘winning’ does not mean they do not owe something to the people they trampled on. They try to do it with legal casinos (providing money to the survivors).

        Although this doesn’t make up for the basic problem, it absolves the 4th generations guilt. And, truth be told, they don’t have to do anything because they so totally decimated the opposition, most countries don’t even know who the opposition was or what their argument is.

        Israel’s problem is not so easily solved. It is much more recent and much larger. Wiping all the Palestinians of the face of the globe (like the Yanks did to the Indians) is not feasible even if it were palatable to the public.

        If you don’t think shows like the Promise help with the discussion; God bless.

        But…. it got you and I talking. ;-).

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