The serial indeed shapes a new era in British mainstream media and their coverage. To show such drama that stands by justice is a turning point in educating the British public about their history and the great mistake committed by their ancestors.
Without a doubt, Channel 4’s coverage on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been the best when compared with the biases of the BBC. Maybe this small space of freedom in Channel 4 allowed such event to be made. This reflects the lack of censorship unlike BBC, Sky and others. Yet we should not be 100 percent optimistic about this series given that many of the ideas justified the Jewish migration to Palestine.
The Telegraph published a preview on 4th of Feb 2011 by Michael Hogan. The subtitle mentioned the great historical mistake by stating, "Peter Kosminsky's new four-part drama about the British peacekeeping force in 1940s Palestine."
The Telegraph’s writer Michael Hogan seemed to have ignored many chapters in the history of Palestine and the newly established Israel. Michael Deacon from the Telegraph also references the British peacekeeping campaign.
Britain never came to Palestine as peacekeeping force; it did go, however, as a colonial power that helped in the establishment of Israel on the land of Palestine. By referencing the "British peacekeeping force," readers are given the impression that there was a civil war between Jews and Arabs in Palestine, where in Great Britain benevolently provided forces to end the conflict and maintain peace.
Indeed such a headline manipulates the readers’ minds. Britain was an occupier and its forces were for the maintenance of its occupation of the Middle East. Britain not only helped in the creation of Israel, but also aided in Jewish immigration from Europe and other places in the world to Israel and with the implementation of the unlawful Belfour declaration. If British forces played a peacekeeping role, then why were Jewish gangs permitted to be armed? Why were those gangs allowed to commit massacres against Palestinians? If it is peacekeeping, why were those forces pulled out of Palestine in the absence of peace? Why were Jews permitted to remain armed, while Palestinians are not?
The Jewish Chronicle Newspaper published an article on the 24th of Feb 2011 titled, " The Promise has an 'anti-Israel premise',” and included an interview with Amir Ofek, the press attaché at the Israeli embassy in London. Mr. Ofek considered The Promise series as "anti-Israel propaganda." He added that, "In my 15-year career, I have never seen anything like it in the western media. I'm aware of artistic freedom, but nevertheless I feel this is worse than anything I've seen."
It is worthwhile to stop on this comment and make some clarifications. It seems Mr. Ofek is very upset over the series, which is balanced in comparison to what has been previously done by mainstream media. Yet, as previously mentioned, the series could be construed as being biased toward Israel. This is very clear in the statement made by Channel 4, which was cited by the article. The article states:
A Channel 4 representative said the central characters "consistently and sympathetically present a contemporary Israeli perspective," and the Holocaust was "powerfully evoked" to explain the longing for a Jewish homeland. "To do justice to such a complex and sensitive subject, Mr. Kosminsky and his team spoke to hundreds of people from all sides in the conflict.
It is very upsetting to hear such statements by Mr. Ofek. People should be encouraged to learn and seek more information on what happened in Palestine and is currently happening now. People in Britain should learn that their government was the key reason for the plight of Palestinians prior to and after the Nakba (Catastrophe). Britons should know the daily practices of racism and apartheid committed by the Israeli army at the checkpoints and occupied Palestinian cities. The promise is indeed one-step in the direction toward the mainstream public become more informed and knowledgeable about facts that have for far too long been ignored in mainstream education and media. Mainstream education and media have for far too long perpetuated the dogma and narrative articulated by the Israeli government, ignoring the facts and historical accounts that were not in line with political agendas and interests.
The Promise brings to the attention historical facts that are true and still taking place in Palestine. Checkpoints in West Bank still hinder the life of Palestinians daily with great humiliation. The very solid aspect is the lack of fictional and imaginative scenes in the promise. All what we have seen are true things like the stoning of Palestinian school kids by the settlers in Hebron.
The same scene had been taken two years ago and is available on YouTube:
Terrorism was present in the series. It was brought in many times; yet this time Palestinians were not accused of doing it alone as always Media show them. Jewish gangs were shown exploding and carrying out various terrorist attacks against British army. It provided the image, which is correct, that the Israeli state itself is built based on terrorism.
Israeli state terrorism commenced in 1948 was factually portrayed in The Promise. It has shown how Palestinians were ethnically cleansed and massacred by Jewish gangs and, in many occasions, under the eyes of British soldiers. The complicity of the British army was clear in allowing Jewish gangs to be armed in face of the innocent and defenseless Palestinians. Such actions have been documented by new Israeli historians like Ilan Pappe and others. Through The Promise, Israeli terrorism stretches from 1948 to 2005 where Israeli soldiers stormed houses, arrested, killed people and used them as human shields.
Loyalty is also present in Peter Kosminsky's four-part drama serial. Jewish loyalty to the dogma of Israel is strongly defended through many characters like Eliza, Paul, Len's girl friend and some of his comrades in the British army, who appeared to work for the Jewish gangs at that time. Yet focus on loyalty should shift on Eliza's character, which represents a very factual/ contemporary and true issue of Britons serving in the Israeli army.
British Jews should specify their position in the Middle East conflict by abstaining at least from fighting in and with the Israeli army in occupied Palestine. They should determine whether they are Israelis or Britons; and, they should realize that participating in a war with other states against a country, which is at peace with Britain, is great crime of British civil laws.
All organizations and media outlets should strive to maintain independence from the political agenda of governments and the states the government officials represent. At a very minimal, especially for those outlets that do intend to represent a political perspective or narrative, biases ought to be presented so that opinions and interpretations can be understood as one of many that exist. While facts are unbiased and speak for themselves, it is the way they are selected, presented, and interpreted that lead to the perpetuation of biases. The Promise is one-step in the direction to overcoming the one-sided narrative that has been for far too long put forward as the only one that is accepted, legitimate and unquestionable. It is time for an end to the blind acceptance of the Israeli government’s narrative that omits the Palestinian facts and narrative.
By Sameh A. Habeeb
A Palestinian Journalist based in London