The historical vandalism of Peter Kosminsky

This review of Peter Kosminsky’s “The Promise” was written by CiF Watch reader, D. Gold

Channel 4’s The Promise, its dramatization of the events leading up to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, juxtaposed with a portrayal of the current situation, was captivating viewing. In terms of a gripping story, excellent acting and directing, as a production it had the full package. There was just one thing that let it down – the film’s brazen attempt to re-write history, in what could be characterized as a daring ideological raid against facts, context, and history.

Towards the end of episode three it descends into its most flagrant abuse of history, as it depicts Israeli children throwing stones at Palestinians. Of course there is some element of truth to accusations against Israel as well as against Palestinians, but the sheer audacity of the programme to imply that children throwing stones is an Israeli phenomenon would be amusing were it not so serious. Palestinians have been known for years not to just give their children stones to throw, but guns and detonation devices.

As the final episode begins, the civil war of 1947-1948 comes into focus, naturally without perspective or facts to accompany it. The historical record shows that when the Arabs rejected, and the Jews accepted, the two state solution proposed by the UN in 1947,  violent actions were launched by Israel’s enemies.  Among the first victims of this assault were Israeli passengers of a bus massacred by a group of Arabs from Jaffa.

Yet as Erin’s grandfather tries desperately to save a Palestinian family and a child in particular, we are reminded that the Arabs are nowhere near Israel and that the Israelis are trying to take strategic sites such as ports. As it is said during the episode, “if we don’t leave there will be nothing left to defend by the time the Arab armies get here.”

This was of course a strange portrayal of a conflict in which Israel was attacked first. Who does Kosminsky think attacked Israel – the invisible Arab army of Jaffa? Once again, the show finds itself fighting against history itself. Not a surprise though when you consider that the first episode recounted the history of Arabs and Jews living side by side in the area for a thousand years without mentioning that Jews were the indigenous population of the land which later became known as Palestine.

Incredulously, during one scene, the programme dramatizes an Israeli soldiers taking a girl from her home to be used as a human shield. The irony here is obvious but requires repetition. Hamas place missiles and rocket launchers near schools, hospitals, and other highly densely populated areas, in order to maximise the impact of Israeli self-defence against their rockets. Israel’s army, portrayed in this drama as unspeakably evil, are the only army in the world who have long practised warning civilians in advance of the areas and places that will be bombed. In fact, Israel goes to incredible lengths not to cause civilian casualties; such as sending in soldiers to fight hand to hand rather than launch air strikes against targets, as in Jenin in 2002. Yet there are scenes where Israeli soldiers fire into a home unannounced and without warning. To suggest that Israel uses Palestinians as human shields is the epitome of the programme’s inversion of reality.

Perhaps most chilling of all is the sight towards the end of an innocent Palestinian child being killed trying to escape the fighting – a sight that would shock anyone, but, due to the lack of context or any supporting historical context , seems to have been created in the imagination of Peter Kosminsky, and is, perhaps, the lowest point of the film, one which evokes the historical narrative of Jews who delight in killing innocent non-Jewish children.

Indeed, the cause of the historical falsehoods are enunciated by Kosminsky himself. In a long list of groups and people consulted, Kosminsky cites Palestinians and Israelis, but only Israelis from groups such as Breaking the Silence, who have a stated agenda to expose corruption in the Israeli army. By his own admission he has only sought the views of those who will be critical of Israel, and none who will defend it.

Ultimately my post is not a defence of Israel as such.  Rather, it is a defence of history, without which justice – a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – is unlikely to ever be realized.

Kosminsky’s “drama” is in conflict with history itself. We are all entitled to our views, regardless of how far-fetched or implausible, but no one is entitled to rewrite the historical record. The Promise is a well produced, superbly acted and elaborate work of historical vandalism.

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