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Review of Peter Kosminsky’s “The Promise”


The following commentary on Peter Kosminsky’s documentary series, The Promise, was provided by the British-Israel Group, and is being posted in its entirety.  (Also, see CW open letter to Peter Kosminsky, here.)

Channel 4 TV in the UK is currently broadcasting a 4 part documentary series “The Promise”, a dramatisation of the founding of Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today, which is attracting 1.5 million viewers. The organization Beyond Images has issued a briefing to counter many of the statements and claims made in this inaccurate and misinformed documentary.

We, at BIG, feel that this information should be circulated as widely as possible.

Channel 4′s landmark TV series ‘The Promise’ is built on a serious historical falsehood about Israel

British TV channel Channel 4 has been broadcasting ‘The Promise’.  And it is a landmark piece of television. ‘The Promise’ is a four-part, six-hour dramatisation of the founding of Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today.

We have been watching it.  And it is gripping. We are not surprised that it has been receiving very good reviews, and is a likely candidate for future broadcasting awards.  Over 1.5 million viewers in the UK have been watching its two episodes to date, including – we assume – most people with an active interest in the conflict: politicians, academics, students, members of human rights groups, writers and intellectuals, diplomats and civil servants.

The production is superb.  The acting is excellent.  It is meticulously observed and staged..And it is also built on a major historical falsehood.  A falsehood so severe that it undermines the credibility of its messages.  Its director Peter Kosminsky claims that he “told both sides of the story”. But episode 1 reveals that he does not even know what the Israeli side of the story is……

‘The Promise’ describes the events of 1945-8 through the eyes of Len, a British sergeant who had witnessed the liberation of the Jews at Bergen-Belsen, and is later posted with British forces to Palestine.  At a crucial moment in that first episode Len, together with other British army officers, receives a briefing from their British army commander on the purpose of their mission in Palestine, and the history behind it.  This takes place shortly after the second world war.

The commander’s words are not intended as a partisan speech.  It is the moment at which the British soldiers (and by extension 1.5 million viewers) are provided with the background to the conflict, and indeed the subsequent episodes of ‘The Promise’.  Indeed it is the only piece of the script which endeavours to tell the story of how the Jews, the Arabs and the British found themselves in three-way conflict.

Here is what the British commanding officer in The Promise says:

“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…..”

There you have it.  The historical narrative of Israel.  And 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. Far from challenging this mindset, Kosminsky’s so-called ‘balanced’ narrative has reinforced it. Kosminsky makes no mention of the steady return to Palestine of Jews which had been carrying on since the 1880s. Kosminsky does not hint at the Balfour Declaration or other international commitments to support a Jewish national home.

Kosminsky does not recognise that Jewish national life had existed thousands of years ago in the land of Israel, and that the connection is a national connection.

Kosminsky does not pay any attention to the Jews’ state-building efforts in the period before the Second World War. And Kosminsky perpetuates a complete falsehood that the Jews and Arabs had been living in “relative harmony”.  Kosminsky reportedly researched The Promise for over a decade.  But has he heard of the Arab riots against the Jews of the Yishuv in the 1920s or 1930s?

Has he heard of the incessant violent assaults upon Jews building up Palestine? Has he heard of the Hebron massacre of 1929?

The idea that there was “relative harmony” in Palestine till World War Two is a fiction. It’s a fiction which Hamas and other rejectionists and ideologues readily embrace.

Meanwhile, the claim that the Arabs had been living there for a thousand years is also a massive over-simplification.  Even the most partisan historians have to admit that Palestine under the Ottomans and then the British was not exactly a hub of Arab nationalism, or a focal point of Arab pride and economic endeavour.

While ‘The Promise’ is brilliant drama – and we will be highlighting its strengths as well its weaknesses in the future – there are plenty of other major flaws in its so called ‘balanced’ narrative and in its framing of the conflict. In subsequent weeks we will be explaining them.  For now, here is a link to the programme website.  We have quoted just one short extract from episode one. See for yourself: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-promise/4od (Not available outside the UK)

136 replies »

  1. walt kovacs, I suspect the tarring and feathering is a borrowing from the IRA. I think they did that as well as knee-capping.

  2. I am pleased that people are so enraged by this production. It does in fact say a lot for the dramatic power of the piece.

    But apart from seeing Israel, which is great, it is disgustingly perverted and misses out the real history as people are saying very clearly above.

    I didn’t understand the hospital shooting scene at all and had no idea the condemned man was Dov Gruner.

    Is there any reality in the three sergeants in a hole in the ground with one released or is this an echo of crucifixion?

  3. Is the British Israel Group so stupid that they are unable to distinguish between a drama and a documentary?

  4. I thought in Part 3 the girl was made to look rather like Rachel Corrie. The ISM influence on the plyawright, perhaps.

  5. “Is the British Israel Group so stupid that they are unable to distinguish between a drama and a documentary?”

    No doubt you feel the same way about Veit Harlan’s Jew Süss and Kurtlar Vadisi: Filistin.

  6. Incidentally, please note the following about Jew Süss:

    “On September 30,1940 Reichsführer SS, Heinrich Himmler, ordered all SS and police members to see the film during the coming winter. It was shown to SS units, and Einsatzgruppen about to be sent east on their murderous assignment, and was also sent to non-Jewish populations of areas where Jews were about to be deported, by 1943 viewership of the film was reported as over 20.3 million people.”

    http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/judsuss.html

    Perhaps Hamas will take a leaf out of Himmler’s book and they will show Kosminsky’s film to all future suicide bombers.

  7. Ariadne

    tp me, there is no doubt that kominsky takes alot of dramatic license with the piece

    maybe somewhere in the archives there is evidence that the irgun held at least 3 brit officers in this fashion….i cant find it

    nor can i find evidence that the irgun regularly booby trapped bodies….that is something that the japanese did

    forget the dramatic license, almost everything in this play is historically inaccurate…right down to the reason that the brits finally left

    it wasnt the acts of the irgun….just as the non-violent tactics of gandi didnt drive them from india….it was economics

    occupations are expensive….and the new brit government wanted to start the massive nhs….

    as america is discovering….you cant have massive domestic programs when you are trying to continue foreign occupations…even somewhat benign ones

    but lets not let facts get in the way….that would make for boring tv

    much better to show the jew as the evil scourge of the world…incapable of thanking the brits for “fighting ww2 for them” (btw…another absolute joke and misstatement of historical fact)

  8. walt, I think your final point is the one Kosminsky would have been writing to. Sometimes it seems that all the Jew-haters here claim that their fathers or grandfathers fought to save the Jews.

    I respond to them with this.

  9. A true documentary that exposes the British performance in Palestine (and elsewhere) would likely embarrass the general British public.

    Who wants to watch a movie about your country raping, pillaging, and conspiring against Jews?

    Would Americans want to watch a film that shows their ancestors introducing diseases to the natives (deliberately) to reduce their population?

    No, of course not.

    Europe has an obsession with Israel and this film is designed to re-enforce that obsession as if it is somehow predicated on human rights.

    Plus the new government, Likud, are of course decedents of the Irgun/Etzel so the film is obviously an attempt to discredit Netanyahu’s government.

  10. Abban, I don’t know whether there might be some truthful footage lying about somewhere from an earlier time. I have a book by Harold Wilson, so far unread by me, which is very obviously pro-Israel.

    Daphne Anson would probably be a good person to ask about this.

  11. So where is the big letter writing campaign in the UK by the Jewish population, how about that Board of Rabbis, no protests in front of the BBC w/huge placards? if not, why not? Low key profile really serving them well, again.

  12. Abban Aziz

    there have been many docs and many dramatic portrayals of what the founders did to the native american tribes…as well as the shame of slavery, the insanity of the civil war, and the atrocities committed by americans in all wars we have fought in…this includes ww2, the last great war….where we do our best to rationalize things like the fire bombing of dresden and tokyo

    if kominsky had set out to do a docudrama where he rationalized the brutality of the brits against the jews in mandate palestine….i wouldnt have been happy….but it wouldve been understandable

    that is not what he did

    he shows the brit occupation as being benign

    except for some nasty slurs, all the brits are shown on their best behavior

    the arabs are presented in the same fashion

    but he goes out of his way to present jews as conniving, insane monsters….and from what i read, this was the mindset of brit officers who returned from palestine

    till their dying days, they never connected their inbred antisemitism and actions towards the jews, to what was done to them as a reaction

  13. Jane Schlitz

    its a channel 4 program

    commercially supported….therefore doesnt have to worry about showing bias

    wanna write to channel 4 and protest? all that will do is increase the ratings as people tune in to see what the fuss is all about

  14. walt kovacs: The actual event involved 2 British soldiers, here from the Irgun’s own official version:

    The two sergeants were held in a bunker which had been dug in a diamond factory on the outskirts of the town, with enough food and oxygen for a lengthy period.

    This version does not mention the booby trapping of the body, but I have read it elsewhere in an authoritative source. It may have been only this one time, but it is a horrible story with no redeeming features whatsoever.
    you say:
    everything in this play is historically inaccurate…right down to the reason that the brits finally left
    it wasnt the acts of the irgun….just as the non-violent tactics of gandi didnt drive them from india….it was economics

    I don’t know who is right- the Irgun and British think it was:

    “The hanging of the sergeants shocked the British government and people. The press denounced the act which, more than any other, caused the government to re-think its attitude towards the future of Palestine. Begin writes in his book “The Revolt” that the “cruel act” was one of the events which tipped the balance in the British withdrawal from Palestine. Colonel Archer Cassett,.one of the senior British Mandatory officials, said in a lecture in 1949 that “the hanging of the sergeants did more than anything else to get us out of Palestine”.”

    In this link, go to the chapter on the Gallows
    http://www.etzel.org.il/english/index.html

  15. @ walt kovacs

    Yes, but no documentaries or films that attack America’s very existence. I can go on and on about films that glamorize America…saving private ryan, black hawk down, even the latest hurt locker shows the “human” side of the US and brutality and inhumanity of terrorists.

    but with this film, it completely misrepresents the british attitude in palestine. most of the british soldiers in palestine came from the wars in russia, where they fought alongside the antisemitic white russians.

    the british imported european antisemitism into palestine and the middle east. this is why many of the historic european libels are showing up in palestinian media and culture.

    the british hunted jews and attacked them. banned them from building homes. barred them from entering palestine. prohibited jews from praying at the western wall. sat and watched arabs massacre jews and do nothing about it.

    the british were not passive victims, they were the occupying force and they were ruthless just like in kenya, south africa, and australia.

    but there is NOT ONE FILM in BRITAIN that shows this. No university talks about the terror of the british empire.

    sure we hear about the starvation and some acts of violence…but not in the same way israel is routinely attacked and assaulted by british media (analogies to nazi germany are quite popular).

    no doubt the zionist militant groups terrorized british and arabs, but the reasons were righteous and just. made sense in that time period.

    the british were just doin what they always do…exploitin, raping, stealing resources. muslim or jew, doesnt matter.

    this film is just another attempt to cash in on the imperialism. selling propaganda to the british people, assuring them of their superiority to the evil zionists.

  16. A relative of mine in the UK , who is religious and pretty right-wing, saw the program and claimed it “was brilliant” and “well-made”. I sent her this article and asked her if she didn’t notice the antisemitism in it, even if is insidious and implicit rather than overt. (I can’t see the program myself, being in Israel so I’m not sure my description is correct but it seems so from the article and comments here). She answered that “all historical programs have mistakes in them, but who cares because it’s really well-made and balanced”. I wanted to reach through the screen and wring her silly neck. Instead I sent her Christina Patterson’s disgusting piece to show her what effect these programs have.

    My worry is that if someone like my relative can think the program is good (even if she knows not to believe the anti-Israel tosh) what effect is it having on less knowledgeable people? That is the huge danger in it.

  17. amie,

    my apologies for not knowing all the facts regarding the kidnapping…booby trapping a body is a despicable act…no matter what the reasons

    however, dont really care how the brits and former irgun see the reason for the brits leaving….it was in fact based on economics

    fine, the cost of the occupation was rising as a result of the jews fighting back….but the brits left for the same reasons that the soviets pulled out of afghanistan….it was no longer economically feasible to continue it

    a simple hanging caused the horror of the british hierarchy and not the king david bombing? really???

    oh….it should be noted that in kominsky’s portrayal of the pit…we see neither food, nor water being left for the soldiers

  18. Not only did Britain utterly betray her mandate in Palestine, but also her conduct before and during the Holocaust was wicked in the extreme. She was at the time a virulently anti-Semitic nation that, at very best, did not lift a finger to help the Jews of Europe. Indeed, if Winston Churchill had been in the SS and Britain had been fighting under the Swastika instead of the Union Jack she could not have done less. I’ll let the following speak for themselves:

    1) ‘Memorandum of Conversation by Mr. Harry L. Hopkins, Special Assistant to President Roosevelt regarding a meeting with Anthony Eden March 27, 1943

    Four months after the State Department confirmed the dimensions of the Holocaust, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden met in Washington with President Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles. At this meeting, Eden expressed his fear that Hitler might actually accept an offer from the Allies to move Jews out of areas under German control. No one present objected to Eden’s statement.’

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/holocaust/filmmore/reference/primary/index.html

    2) SS Struma

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Struma

    3) ‘It so happens that the war has encouraged the growth of antisemitism and even, in the eyes of many ordinary people, given some justification for it.’ — George Orwell

    http://orwell.ru/library/articles/antisemitism/english/e_antib

    4) The Holocaust: why Auntie stayed mum

    ‘The Holocaust was the best-kept secret of the war. Then its horrors were revealed – apparently for the first time – by BBC war reporter Richard Dimbleby’s now famous broadcast of 19 April 1945. So shocked was the BBC newsroom that it refused to transmit the recording until, on threat of resignation, Dimbleby persuaded them it was one of the most important news stories of the century.’

    [Further extracts]

    i) ‘New material, from a five-page directive in the Public Record Office, reveals that by 1943 the BBC had evidence which conclusively proved Hitler’s plan for the “total extermination of European Jewry”. Entitled “Special annexe on Extermination of the Jews: Evidence of Nazi policy and practice”, it was compiled by the Political Warfare Executive (PWE), the government body that guided the BBC’s overseas broadcasting.

    Surprisingly, the document says nothing about making public its harrowing contents. Indeed, government policy was the reverse. “Jewish sources are always doubtful,” says one handwritten note in the margin of a Foreign Office memorandum on conditions in Poland. Another Foreign Office circular suggests: “The Jews tend to exaggerate German atrocities.”

    Other confidential internal memorandums show an unwillingness by the BBC to broadcast on behalf of the Jews. “Any direct action to counter anti-Semitism would do more harm than good,” wrote Sir Richard Maconachie, controller of the home service, on 15 April 1943. May E Jenkin, Children’s Hour assistant director, stated: “If you give Jewish broadcasters an inch, they come clamouring for a mile.” Despite the evidence from the PWE, the BBC foreign and home news boards concluded: “It seems desirable to soft- pedal the whole thing”.’

    ii) ‘Conclusive proof that the BBC avoided publicising the Holocaust until the war was virtually over comes from Paul Winterton, a wartime News Chronicle Moscow correspondent and BBC contributor. Eight months before Dimbleby walked into Belsen, he accompanied the Red Army into Majdanek, the first Nazi death camp to be liberated. His account survives in the BBC sound archive. Winterton speaks of “the most horrible story I will ever have to tell you” and describes in brutal detail this appalling extermination camp.

    Winterton, now in his eighties, recalls the BBC’s reaction to his broadcast. “I was given a kind of reprimand. They told me they didn’t want this atrocity stuff. They seemed to think it was Russian propaganda.”

    Eventually, Winterton’s dispatch went out in August 1944, but it was heavily edited and broadcast only on the overseas service.’

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/the-holocaust-why-auntie-stayed-mum-1618801.html

    ———————-

    With regard to Britain and post-Palestine, it seem to have gone unmentioned that her conduct was excoriated by much of the world. She was seen, quite rightly, by many as acting in a manner that was deeply cruel and viciously anti-Semitic. With this in mind Abba Eban’s account of the Exodus incident is worth noting:

    ‘Historian Martin Gilbert includes Eban’s account of what happened there in Israel: A History (p. 145):

    “[In Haifa] the four members watched a ‘gruesome operation.’ The Jewish refugees had decided ‘not to accept banishment with docility. If anyone had wanted to know what Churchill meant by a “squalid war,” he would have found out by watching British soldier using rifle butts, hose pipes and tear gas against the survivors of the death camps. Men, women and children were forcibly taken off to prison ships, locked in cages below decks and set out of Palestine waters.’

    “When the four members of UNSCOP came back to Jerusalem, Eban recalled, ‘they were pale with shock. I could see that they were pre-occupied with one point alone: if this was the only way that the British Mandate could continue, it would be better not to continue it at all.” ‘

    http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/the_state_of_israel/

    That the Jewish passengers on the Exodus were then sent to camps in Germany shocked the world back then and is no less sickening today.

    Britain had fought a war against Nazi Germany, but that was in spite of the Jews and not because of them, and she did everythng in her power to make certain that as few Jews as possible were saved (yes, she had taken in a few Jews but that was in the teeth of enormous opposition both from the general public and politicians; Holland had taken in far more and that didn’t prevent her wholesale collaboration in the Holocaust). After the war, she exerted every effort to ensure that Israel didn’t come into existence.

    Britain received a bloody nose from the Jews in Palestine and that is exactly what she deserved and more. Three cheers say I for Irgun and Lehi. I see absolutely no difference between their actions and those of the Jewish partisans fighting against virtually impossible odds in occupied Europe. Yes, Britain was that evil.

  19. I should say in defence of the current British armed forces that those who have been exposed to Muslim murderousness do tend to sympathise with Israel.

  20. http://217.18.90.33/arts/arts-interviews/44621/interview-peter-kosminsky

    please read the above interview with kominsky…it is very illuminating

    the drama is based on interviews he did with former brit soldiers….their perceptions of how they behaved and felt….

    it is not based on hisorical fact…or how the brits actually behaved in madate palestine

    note he never says that he interviewed former members of the irgun

    and i will note again…his presentation of 2005 israel, is culled from youtube vids

    btw…what jew says that after spending a year in israel, he/she feels homesick?

    oh ya…aaron klein is supposed to be dov gruner

  21. Hoi Polloi

    #Three cheers say I for Irgun and Lehi. I see absolutely no difference between their actions and those of the Jewish partisans fighting against virtually impossible odds in occupied Europe. Yes, Britain was that evil.#

    Your attitude implies Britain should have negotiated a truce with Germany and left the Jews to their fate, an attitude that runs through most of the comments here. That same attitude will shortly guarantee that the world will ignore Israel when it faces the Arab fight for freedom that is sweeping the middle east.

  22. “Your attitude implies Britain should have negotiated a truce with Germany and left the Jews to their fate,…”

    I think maybe it’s more like Britain shouldn’t have closed to Jewish refugees the one land that actually belongs to them. States that closed their own countries to the Jews were being hard-hearted but, it can’t be denied, within their rights; Britain was the one state that had no right to do what it did. Millions of Jews denied their right to life because Britain wanted the Arabs to keep quiet.

    “That same attitude will shortly guarantee that the world will ignore Israel when it faces the Arab fight for freedom that is sweeping the middle east.”

    Please do. We’re tired of your intervention in Israel’s affairs, from where and how much she builds on her own land to how she fights the Arab enemy, which possesses so much yet still wants to take away from the Jews the little they have.

  23. Ariadne,

    “walt, I think your final point is the one Kosminsky would have been writing to. Sometimes it seems that all the Jew-haters here claim that their fathers or grandfathers fought to save the Jews.”

    I met this chap in 1998 after work while waiting for my colleague.
    When finding I was Israeli he simply said, “so my grand died for you?”

    My colleague apologised for inviting this chap later on, but asking a Jamaican to apologise for the behaviour of english idiots is like asking me to apologise for the Palestinian actions just because we are “cousins”…

  24. Abban Aziz:

    “but there is NOT ONE FILM in BRITAIN that shows this. No university talks about the terror of the british empire.”

    I believe you’d find the only ones are about Ireland or Scotland.

    And even some films criticising British in Ireland have been criticised in England as rubbish.
    They refuse to believe because they don’t want to see it.
    Similar elements are in many cultures and nations but it doesn’t make the things you wish to avoid disappear.

  25. “Your attitude implies Britain should have negotiated a truce with Germany and left the Jews to their fate, an attitude that runs through most of the comments here.”

    It implies nothing of the sort. Let me run through it again:

    1) Britain fought Nazi Germany in World War II. She did so for her reasons. Those reasons had less than nothing to do with saving Jews.

    2) At the same time she was fighting Nazi Germany, Britain was also effectively collaborating in the Holocaust. Thus, not only had she effectively cut off many of the escape routes for Jews attempting to flee genocide, she did her level best to make certain no other nation helped out either. In addition, she refused to lift one finger to actively assist Jews facing death. Let me repeat: at the time Britain was a virulently anti-Semitic nation that didn’t give two hoots about the Holocaust.

    Virtually all Jews were in fact left to their fate. The vast majority of Jews who could have been murdered were murdered by war’s end. In any event, if any kind of kudos, deserved or not, is going to be handed out here it should be to the Russians.

    3) In Palestine, Britain had betrayed her mandate, sided with the Arabs and turned against the Jews. During the war many Jews were murdered because Britain kept the gates of that nation firmly locked (see, for example, my Struma link in my previous post). After the war, she conducted herself in a manner that led much of the world to believe that Britain and Nazi Germany had much in common.

    “That same attitude will shortly guarantee that the world will ignore Israel when it faces the Arab fight for freedom that is sweeping the middle east.”

    1) That you would cheer on the destruction of Israel only goes to show that nothing much has changed in Britain since the Holocaust.

    2) I am not sure that Perfidious Albion can speak on behalf of anyone else any longer let alone the whole world. However, you are probably correct that the most people would rather rather enjoy the sight of Jews being murdered. That would happen whatever Israel does or doesn’t do, whatever Jews say or think. Thus, in 1973, when Israel stood on the verge of destruction, Britain refused to allow US planes that were rushing military aid to Israel to overfly the country. Ditto the rest of Europe. Again, during the last intifada, when Jews were blown up in their many hundreds by sucide bombers, the typical response from Brits ranged from complete indifference to real joy.

    3) I actually think that a bankrupt, demilitarised and morally confused Britain has far more to worry about than Israel. Not only does Britain still occupy much of Ireland and parts of Argentina and Spain (how much longer the IRA or its equivalent will remain quiescent I can’t really say, but that they will return to violence given Britain’s continued presence in their country is I am afraid inevitable), but also she is utterly unprepared and unwilling to face the foe within. Londonistan has lost the war before it has even really started.

  26. Hoi Polloi said:
    “if any kind of kudos, deserved or not, is going to be handed out here it should be to the Russians.”

    True, but the Soviet Union would have stayed out of WW2 as long as shitler did not renege on the shitler/stalin, ribbentrop/molotov non-aggression pact. Poland was divied up by the two parties.

    It took shitlers attack on the SU to get the Soviet Socialists to fight against the national Socialists.

  27. “It took shitlers attack on the SU to get the Soviet Socialists to fight against the national Socialists.”

    Exactly. That is why I added “deserved or not”. 🙂

  28. If it is on Channel 4 and it is by Peter Kosminsky then obviously it is not worth watching – I fail to understand why this post has attracted so many comments when the obvious solution is to ignore this shoddy series.

    Life is too short to waste discussing idiots such as Kosminsky!

  29. Derek

    over one million brits have been watching this trash and believe that it represents historical and current events

    that is why it is important to speak out against it.

    and im shocked that not one major jewish british group, has done so yet

  30. Walt Kovacs

    Almost all TV in the US is commercial. Letter campaigns to the executivies, sponsors, protests in front of network buildings go on…..the Christian Right in the US are notorious for this type of activity….it makes the papers, creates a nuisance, gets them on the news and sometimes even gets results. If over one million Brits are watching this program its kind of hard to ignore it, making noise could not be any worse than silence…”for the record” is not such a bad goal.

  31. When will people like Peter Kosminsky be tried for crimes like incitement of hatred in courts of law? This programme incites hatred against Israel and the Jews, is chock full of naive and unbalanced views. I’m not Jewish but i have been mad as hell while watching this one sidedness, islamic terror and neo nazism are the only benefactors of garbage like this and channel four ought to be challenged for this rubbish. I have continued to watch to see how long it takes Erin to be wearing a keffiyeh and becoming a raqchel corrie ‘martyr’. There hasn’t been any attention paid to the incessant rocket attacks from Gaza or southern Lebanon that have rained down in either location all throughout the entire decade of the noughties, Erin went to Israel with her friend in 2005. And we have seen no ‘palestinian’ hatred only Israeli ‘brutality’…. i hope this little misinformed or anti Semitic scumbag Kosminsky can sleep at night. I am so angry!

  32. Itsik, thank you. I’m sorry you had one of those idiots talking to you like that. When I met a couple of Israelis in a street market – they were en route to Goa – they gave me a beautiful pashmina just because.

  33. Lee

    kominsky placed it in 2005 for a reason

    he gets to skip the second intifada and all the suicide bombings, and posit that the wall was only built as a land grab and to humiliate the arabs.

    he also makes sure that his former al aqsa martyrs brigade terrorist is christian and young

    kominksy lied about spending time interviewing people on both sides…his view of modern day israel is culled from youtube vids…i can even post the exact vids where he grabbed scenes from.

    his presentation of early israel is very slanted…and he uses dramatic license to make jews out to be devils: irgun terrorist executed for killing brit soldiers….but the real guy was executed for attempting to steal weapons…he didnt injure a single brit…..and no mention that after the execution of the two brit soldiers, the brit army and police went nuts and murdered jewish civilians in tel aviv

    he makes the brit occupation to be one that is benign and only meant to keep the jews from killing the poor arabs, who see their land being stolen.

    never mind that until 1920, the arabs cared little for the area

    never says why there was only a “trickle” of jews before the war….because the brits kept strict quotas on jews….but not on arabs

    cant be arrested for lying on tv….but i will never pay to watch another of his movies

  34. Walt, kosminsky forgets that American colonialists killed british soldiers too, to achive freedom from the British Empire.

    And American colonialists and Israelis never killed Brits IN Britain
    – as george gallowsways pals did on 7/7/05
    – or outside the libyan embassy to policewoman Yvonne Fletcher
    – or spit on and curse British soldiers as islamofascists did in Luton
    – or as the plo supporting ira have

  35. walt, I still don’t know how people know it is 2005. But I have thought that the starting point of 1945 nicely cuts off Arab atrocities, Nazi and independent. In fact it reminds me of the cartographer Benny Morris wrote about who started his maps of “Palestine” in 1917.

    Convenient tops and tails for a propaganda effort.

    I don’t know any other Kosminsky effort. Does anyone familiar with his work find any ghastly symbols in it?

  36. The BIG piece is a measured criticism of the series. But it addresses the issue of The Promise’s lack of balance using historical generalities, ignoring the ferocity with which its message is delivered. The Beyond Images piece that the BIG article refers to is a detailed criticism of episode 1, and much of the comment here focuses on episode 3.

    Kosminsky’s intent in making The Promise and how he set about it worry me.

    He claims to have received many letters from those who served in the British Forces in Palestine and to have discovered that they experienced the high of the relief and celebration for Jews arriving to claim a homeland after the Holocaust. He neglects to mention whether he received any from the troops who manhandled survivors of the camps arriving from Europe onto transports carrying them back to some of those same camps. Or from those who rampaged through Tel Aviv, beating-up Jews and smashing shop windows.

    Many in the visual arts see themselves as having in them a drama of profound human emotions set against the broad sweep of history. On the Channel 4 page where he is interviewed, Kosminsky is quoted as saying: “This is first and foremost a drama. I wanted to take two characters on a journey – starting pro-Jewish but then becoming less certain…There are no caricatures”. Note the intention of shifting opinion away from “pro-Jewish”, not “pro-Israeli”.

    As for Channel 4, they – in the person of Lindsey Hilsum – appear to accept Kosminsky’s own restricted historical perspective as sufficient for a statement of the series’ “political history”, also his view that the struggle is one of “two peoples over a small piece of land”.

    Amid the praise accorded to The Promise’s dramatic qualities in posts appearing on Hilsum’s Channel 4 page and those which address The Promise’s bias and inaccuracies, there appear statements such as: “Peace is all we want…I hate Zionists they will burn in hell”, “I studied politics at university…it is very unbiased and has remained as accuarate (sic) as possible”, “a gripping story, well told…and Lindsey Hilsum is one of those rare reporters you feel you can actually trust”, “The storyline is factual…the Zionist lobby will disagree”, “I feel that the truth has been shown better than what I have seen before”. In other words, there are viewers who accept The Promise as a reliable guide to historical fact and, among them, those who regard people who disagree as “Zionists”. In other words, many see the Promise as utterly convincing. And its strength exacerbates its failings.

    Little seems to have been so far written that focuses on episode 2, so here is an attempt at filling that gap. But Walt Kovacs and Ariadne will recognize some familiar themes.

    Episode 2 distorts history, repeatedly.

    First, it interleaved the King David Hotel bombing with that of a present-day civilian café, drawing an implicit, false analogy. The hotel was the British Forces in Palestine HQ and, prior to the bombing, multiple warnings had been telephoned. The episode ignored that. The fictional café bombing, too, is shown as unannounced. The realistic lack of warning in the case of a fictional bombing cleverly makes the untrue representation of no warning being given in the case of the King David bombing appear more likely.

    Second, the kibbutz arms cache raid was represented as a reaction to the King David bombing. But the King David bombing was retribution for the operation in which the raid was carried out. The raid is identifiable since the British soldiers’ “gas chamber” taunts directed at the kibbutz inhabitants are a matter of record. Similar taunts are these days directed at Jews by Hamas supporters.
    Third, the context that the episode provides for the discovery of the arms cache at the kibbutz is that of British / Jewish conflict. In fact the arms were necessary to defend against increasing Arab attacks. The soldiers were robbing the inhabitants of their means of self-defence.
    Fourth, the words put into the mouth of the Israeli grandfather are a historical fiction commonly used in present-day anti-Israel propaganda, namely that the Jewish attachment to the land of Israel is solely a reflection of the Holocaust.
    Fifth, there is that appalling scene at the end where Jewish bystanders are shown as not helping the soldiers who have been shot before their eyes. Had I wanted to bat that one right back, I could leave that accusation unanswered and refer to the British forces’ delayed response to the Arab attack on the doctors and nurses convoy, which resulted in the deaths of 78, but the soldiers / bystanders scenario is not one with which I was familiar, so I tried to find out more – and failed. The closest that I found was the dumping of three officers, chloroformed, on a Tel Aviv street corner, where bystanders did not come to their aid – not a lethal event.
    Kosminsky claims on the Channel 4 website “It would do an immense disservice to a complex situation to attempt to over-simplify it. I’m not attempting to be definitive. It’s not a comment piece. It would short-change the viewer to tell them what to think in a simplistic way.”
    So Kosminsky doesn’t think that, for instance, omitting the Arab dimension from the kibbutz scene has the effect of over-simplifying the situation. And, not being a historian, perhaps he is incapable of realizing that its omission actually does change its significance, downplaying the longstanding conflict between Arab and Jew in favour of amplifying the conflict between the British and the Jews.
    A little adjustment of the facts also helps concoct a situation of Jew on Arab aggression, helping to build up Kosminsky’s premise of the “fight over land”. The episode gives the impression that it was Jews who expelled the Arab inhabitants of Ein Hod. But the village was already abandoned at the time of the Battle of Ein Hod in May 1948 (fought to suppress sniper fire). Leading up to then, the Arab High Command and its allies had been encouraging Arabs to leave their homes so as not to impede the expected progress of their victorious armies in a proclaimed war of extermination against the Jews.
    As regards the struggle being over land, it appears immaterial to The Promise that the Arab religious-political leadership has never wanted to have Jews living there at all, witness repeated massacres, including that of the age-old community of Hebron in 1929, the Grand Mufti’s Holocaust participation, the Arab leadership’s repeated calls for wars of extermination from 1947 to 1967 and Hamas’ Charter.
    “A simplistic way” may be Kosminsky’s way of telling the viewer what to think, or it may not be. But he certainly doesn’t mind telling the viewer what to think, as such. He makes the daughter, driven by a sense of duty to do her national service, say that she is being criticised by her fellow soldiers as a “pinko” for voicing views claimed to be “normal” in London. In other words, viewers are told that Israeli soldiers’ views and those of London society don’t match. It’s not an improbable situation, but it certainly isn’t the whole picture. Kosminsky chooses to ignore the well-known but inconvenient fact that Israeli society as a whole is extraordinarily self-critical.
    Hilsum terms her piece “political history”, and her chosen timescale is the same as Kosminsky’s. If she believes what she writes then she, like those who regard The Promise as informative, are being taken in by two tricks.
    The first of these is the deceptively complete frame of reference. The first everyman character, the sergeant, arrives, does his job, evaluates information. But none from well before his arrival. Events are designed to create tension between his initial friendship with the Jews and his loyalty to colleagues. By contrast, the Arabs are shown as put-upon and non-violent. The choice is made easy for the sergeant – and for the audience. The second everyman has her grandfather’s routemap, so the transition away from being pro-Jewish isn’t going to be desperately hard for her, either – and, indeed, there wasn’t much sign of mental turmoil. The granddaughter doesn’t get to read about the pervasive Arab violence of her grandfather’s time and before, so present-day Arab violence appears to her, and to the audience, as a reaction, not as a continuation. A little research on the part of this “well-researched” series, as it was referred to in The Telegraph’s TV listings, would have shown that the Jews under the Palestine Mandate and in Israel have not sought conflict but have had it repeatedly forced on them by their Arab neighbours.
    The second propaganda trick is to show the nature of Jews as dishonourable.
    For instance, Kosminsky associates their strength with demonstrations of callousness – again in the grandfather’s words and through that appalling and dubious cliffhanger scene at the very end, the imagery of which is supposed to motivate viewers to come back for more, i.e. episode 3.
    He also associates Jews’ human relations with the suspicion of duplicity in connection with the attempt to keep the sergeant away from the King David.
    And he links their demonstration of humanity with a weakening of their support for Israel. The central Jewish family is shown as uncomprehending and divided in its response to the situation – political and human. By contrast, the only Arab family shown is represented as warm and united.
    Is episode 2 of The Promise, whether avoiding over-simplification or not, honest?
    As regards history, Kosminsky has woven a narrative covering both the end of the Mandate and the present-day from which there is one inescapable conclusion to be drawn – that Jews are in endemic conflict with whoever they come into contact with. The Promise also sets up a “my enemy’s enemy” expectation on the basis of dramatised Jew against Brit and Jew against Arab conflict and interferes with the audience’s ability to understand the historical perspective. Its message is that the Arabs and the British are “in this” together since the Jews are the enemies of both. The plentiful evidence to the contrary appears to be ignored. That’s over-simplification – and dishonest.
    The characterization of Jews and its contrast with the way in which Arabs are depicted dehumanizes Jews. The Nazi propaganda film Der ewige Jude uses similar themes of rootlessness, callousness and grasping nature, contrasting them with a native population’s supposed honest virtues. The Islamic scriptures’ similar characterization of Jews has found its way into Qaradawi’s rants, the Hamas Charter, Saudi government and Palestinian Authority approved school textbooks and Arab street discourse, as we are seeing in the course of the current revolutions. Research on anti-semitic websites would show similar views.
    But let’s assume that Kosminsky is ignorant of his distortion of history. Let’s assume it doesn’t matter. Let us take his declaration that The Promise is fiction at face value. After all, he doesn’t claim to be a historian.
    He is, though, a dramatist. As such, can he be ignorant of the potential that the combination of the “historical” narrative in his fiction, whether true or not, and its characterization of Jews vis a vis the British and the Arabs has for fomenting hatred between the British public and the Jewish community within the British public? As a dramatist, can he reasonably expect the shift in opinions of his audience to diverge significantly from that of his central everyman characters?
    As he writes, he has taken his characters on one specific journey – from pro-Jewish to “less certain”. That’s deliberate – he has not left it to his audience to make up its mind. And that, in turn, begs the question as to whether he has calibrated his journey in such a way that “less certain” falls short of outright anti-semitism.
    Kosminsky may not be a historian, but the errors in his “well researched” historical background all happen to fall on one side. In other words, the bias in his use of history, consciously or unconsciously, is anti-semitic. As for characterization, there’s nothing unconscious about it – it’s a key tool in a dramatist’s armoury.
    I’ve written this about episode 2, and one should always ask oneself whether one’s comments about one episode risk being understood as comments about the content of all episodes. And, perhaps, Kosminsky tried to re-balance perceptions in those that followed. I don’t know. I was so sickened by Kosminsky’s message in episode 2 that I didn’t watch the remaining ones. In other situations the likelihood of his re-balancing perceptions might be a speculation with merit to it. For instance, where one episode deals with a storyline from one character’s viewpoint and the next deals with it from another’s. But Kosminsky makes that step unnecessary. He admits to aiming to change perspectives, taking the characters on a journey that is away from being pro-Jewish. His methods cross red lines. I know the direction he is headed in and I know its consequences. I don’t care how far he, personally, is prepared to travel that route. As someone younger might put it, “End of!”
    Those who change perspectives require a sense of responsibility. And, the stronger the tool used to achieve it, the greater is that need for a sense of responsibility. The Promise has been praised as powerful drama. Goebbels succinctly expressed his view as to how propaganda is best deployed: “The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it.” Agonising over oversimplification wasn’t for him. Neither was agonising over the truth.
    Free speech is good, but abuse of free speech diminishes the values that allow it to flourish.

  37. Max

    you make great points.

    please note that i have posted the post epi 4 chat with kominsky in the the post regarding cohen’s cif article

    the chat and his answers is very illuminating

    i have not watched epi 4 yet, but if it is anything like 1,2 and 3, then i am sure that historical facts are again mangled, and the view of modern day israel, is given from the perspective of the israel and jew hater (who seemingly are the only people peter spoke with while doing his research)

    kominsky is a fraud

    time like these i wish i had some power in hollywood….i would make sure that this pariah never work again

  38. Thanks Walt, and for posting that interview. In dealing with the question on accusations of anti-semitism, Kosminsky externalises the issue while referring to the aims for his programme as being “considered and realistic”. He is a professional user of words, and it is realistic that one should consider, too, what he declares as his objective elsewhere, his self-imposed context for The Promise, its way with history and characterisation.

  39. Max, they are great points. Thank you.

    I found Part 3 the most difficult to watch. I suspect that too much distortion was built in. I don’t think melodrama has been in fashion since the late nineteenth century but Kosminsky’s effort certainly courts the over-simplification and stereotypical characterisation of that genre. Not so much in the main characters as in the themes. But to over-simplify and misrepresent while claiming to have researched massively and while ignoring the dreadful effects of demonising Israel and Jews is wholly reprehensible. There is no “willing suspension of disbelief” from this drama. Thank God there was no Jerusalem in the plot.

    What is the point of choosing not to use sub-titles when Hebrew or Arabic was spoken though what is being said is not always clear? The whole drama obscures a lot of truth. Is the viewer meant to add another level to that?

    I was quite amused to find a site with anti-The Promise comments. It had two tweets, both complaining that the Arabs weren’t characterised at all. They do tend to be tendentious sketches but that seems to fit latter-day melodrama. Arabs were also herded around a lot. Maybe Kosminsky doesn’t like them as much as one might think from the instant sympathy their “plight” is meant to evoke.

    As far as I remember melodrama was a genre meant to amuse and entertain by its ridiculous over-doneness. But there is nothing of laughter in The Promise. Its over-doneness consisted of the omissions and distortions of truth from some strands of history woven into too small a pattern – 1945-1948. Sex began in 1963 and Jews began in 1945.

    walt, I will now read what you have kindly posted.