The Zionist Federation has been contacted by many people – both Jewish and non-Jewish – who were upset and infuriated by “The Promise” on Channel 4. The ZF is horrified by this latest demonisation of Israel on the Channel, in the context of an increasingly hostile and ill-informed discourse about Israel in UK media, and asks OFCOM to bring to account the management of a TV Channel that in 2008 also thought it appropriate for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to give the Christmas message.
Jonathan Hoffman, co-Vice Chair of the ZF, said: “Channel 4’s “The Promise” gave a misleadingly partial and sometimes false impression of both the history of Israel and the country today. Its theme was that the Jews deserved their own State because of the Holocaust but that they then very quickly began to behave like their tormentors. Israeli Jews were depicted either as living in California-style houses with swimming-pools or as heartless soldiers who mistreat Arabs and protect the most extreme settlers. Even though this was a drama and not a documentary, many viewers would have taken it as historic fact – particularly in view of the lavish realism of the production – and Channel 4 therefore has an unquestionable obligation to at least attempt to be balanced and accurate.”
A number of demonising falsehoods were included, for example that all Arab refugees fled in 1948 because of fear of Jews (the truth is that the Mayor of Haifa begged them to stay and that many were told to flee by their leaders, in anticipation that the massing Arab armies would annihilate the Jews and that they could then swiftly return); that the IDF uses children as ‘human shields’; and that Israel was created purely because of Western guilt about the Holocaust.
The bias of the series is clear from Director Peter Kosminsky’s own article in the Guardian. The researchers interviewed members of the International Solidarity Movement - a group whose antithetical views about Israel are well known – as well as Combatants for Peace and Breaking the Silence, both organisations representing the small minority of dissident soldiers. There is no indication that less extreme organisations were consulted in the making of the series.
While Kosminsky insists that the series included certain events for ‘balance’ and that he based everything on actual incidents, the overall combination, selection and ordering of the events was deliberately anti-Israel and the series clearly set out to demonise Israel.
The ZF will be writing in the strongest possible terms to Channel 4 and OFCOM.