The Promise – the ECAJ voices concern about DVD launch

January 11, 2012 by Henry Benjamin
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The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has written a further letter to multicultural broadcaster SBS  expressing concern at the station’s marketing of the DVD of “The Promise”…a drama series based on the Israel-Palestine conflicts of both today and during the British mandate.

SBS has announced that the DVD will be available from February 8.

J-Wire has published in full a complaint about the 4-part series sent to the SBS ombudsman from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry

Sources within the ECAJ have confirmed that it has sent a follow-up letter to SBS calling for the proposed sale of the DVD and other forms of promotion of the series not to go ahead, at least until the SBS Ombudsman has made a decision about the ECAJ’s complaint.


15 Responses to “The Promise – the ECAJ voices concern about DVD launch”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    As Larry Stillman indulges in selective detailing, the reader cannot escape a regurgitation of habitual anti Zionist activism in his supposedly careful analyssis of a masterpiece of political propaganda in prostituted artistic form. The TV series is replete with political statements. All pro Plaestinian lines andimplicit anti Israeli-Jewish, are left with no replies by the expected “respondents”, Jewish, of course. The lithany of, indeed, Hamas inspired slogans declaimed with dramatic fervour by the actors, receive “retorts” of silence, shrugged shoulders, back-turns and abandonmnet of scene by the indicted etc. The so called aestetic assessment on artistic performance by Larry Stillman is as relevant as the strikingly evident FACT that the series serve as a badly produced propaganda feast for the very CURRENT palestinian PR onlslaught on everything Israeli and Jewish.
    It is lamentable to pretend that artistic licence should be allowed, that “history” cannot be comprehensively captured in such a complex situation. Everything Larry Stillman refers to, the security wall, cotidienne suferings of the palestinians at the hands of the IDF etc., are only incredibly pedestrian palestinian deflections of a reality of palestinian suffering created and perpetuated quite skilfully by the palestinian ledership. Thus the TV series has almost NOTHING to do with historical relevance, it is an incredibly unsuitable historic document ( as a historian I regard it beyond derision ) but it is, most obviously, a useful instrument of hollow and irrelevant effusiveness for the purveyors of ideological haloymes !!!
    ECAJ is right to ask that the series would be considered for further dissemination comercially. The entire production of The Promise is inflamatory, damaging to the wellbeing of a society already affected by an excessive palestinian political activism, itself based on bare hatred, social disturbance, violence, intellectual distortions of well known facts, just the kind Larry Stillman seems to be so dilusionally immersed in.

    • Thomas Emanuel Victor Jones says:

      Blah blah blah…. you act like Israel isn’t doing the very thing you’re bitching about a million times every day. But guess what…your use of ‘big words’ doesn’t make your cause a bit more legitimate.
      The fact that the real history of ‘Israel’ does not promote the Zionist agenda, doesn’t mean that this film should be ‘banned’. In my view, it’s one of the most important films of our time. It’s exceedingly difficult to get anything close to real truth when coming from a Zionist point of view.
      Nice try Otto. And before you start calling me an ‘anti-Semite’ you can save your breath. I have absolutely nothing against Judaism or Jews. It’s deceit and terror that both repulses me and compels me to seek an end to it.

  2. Robert Eichel says:

    Mr Larry Stillman
    With respect I did not say you were quoted by the Geen left I said the movie was.
    ” naive” left? When the only country in the world that does” not have a right to exist” is Israel, the Jewish state?

  3. ROBERT EICHEL says:

    Mr Larry Stillman
    With respect I did not say you were quoted by the Geen left I said the movie was.

  4. Larry Stillman says:

    Robert Eichel, I didn’t know that I was quoted by Green Left weekly if that is what you intend, and in any case, I am in dispute with their (and the sectarian-left’s) blanket and naive anti-Israelism and I have made that clear on many occasions. Trying to associate me with them is wrong and defamatory.

    So I don’t go for the all peace and harmony line before the Zionists came along line being well aware of the situation in Hebron in the 20s and elsewhere, but that does not excuse, in my opinion, and that of many Israelis, the state of siege imposed there today. Furthermore, the film is about in part 1948, there is no reason to mention the Mufti of Jerusalem, as it is clear that there is a civil war between the Yishuv and Palestinians. And remember that the main Palestinian character in the contemporary part was a terrorist who served time. So he is not an ‘innocent’.

    (What you also add about the Mongol Hordes is a bit beyond the series I think as is reference to 9/11)

    The series has been through the complaints roundabout in the UK and complaints dismissed by the UK Complaints authority (Ofcom). If you think that Ofcom is weak kneed and pro-Arab, it has upheld complaints against Islamic broadcasters.

  5. ROBERT EICHEL says:

    Mr Stillman,
    A brief reply to your defence of this pseudo documentary if I may, as it is quoted in the Green left weekly, as well as having a strongly negative influence on the audience who wrote in to the SBS after the showing.
    In the ” historical movie” is the outright lie inserted that everything was just fine ” till the Jews came”.Firstly the Jews did not just blow in, they were the continuously long before the Arabs and the Arabs were murdering unarmed defenceless often anti Zionist Jews for centuries The Arab violence was ongoing and openly racist not just nationalistic. Shooting Jews at the Kotel because Jews praying there was an ” insult to Islam” is just one example. Islamist motives do not get a mention any more than the Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem or his Moslem SS divisions.
    Secondly there was the specious claim that Arab terror was born out of desperation, the historical facts in Palestine clearly do not bear that out, let alone the 9/11 bombers who were mostly privileged and indulged Saudis.They were anything but desperate.
    In the movie the Jews are duplicitous, inhuman and have no respect for life. While the Arabs are straight forward, honorable,upright,honest,very warm and humane.
    Finally what ” history” would omit the invading Arab armies with their openly stated aim of genocide”,comparable to the ” Mongol hordes”, the Arab rejection of peace and borders or the fact the Arabs got the vast majority of the mandate even before partition?
    Not quite the innocent peace lovers portrayed in a movie, made by an anti Israel activist, The movie was clearly made with the intention of presenting the Jews there in a bad light, solely responsible for the turmoil. In that it has succeeded .

    • Thomas Emanuel Victor Jones says:

      You cannot deny that the Palestinians have been in that land for untold hundreds of years. Also, after doing a little research into this time and place, the film does indeed seem to depict a fairly accurate account of what actually happened.
      Although I will admit, that since the film was following a ‘Palestinian friendly’ British soldier, it thereby avoided depicting the actions of the British forces in their no-so-innocent role.
      But rather than ranting about the inaccuracies of this film, I would only suggest that you go and make your own version of how you believe it all went down. And I’ll be sure not to watch it.

  6. Will says:

    Following Larry Stillman’s advice I read Channel 4’s defence of the series to the British Board of Deputies. And I am now convinced that the ECAJ’s complaint to SBS is entirely justified. The letter from Channel 4 provides only a superficial and self-serving analysis of the principal Jewish characters in the series whereas the ECAJ’s analysis is detailed and thoroughly convincing. I urge everyone to read the entire ECAJ complaint including the attachment, accessible at

    It is interesting that Channel 4 characterises the series as “a fictional story, set within a historical context”. Yet much of the promotion of the series by SBS, and many of the responses from viewers posted on the SBS website, stress that the series portrayed “history” and was in some sense true and accurate. This is just downright dishonest. I hope Senate Estimates gets well and truly stuck into SBS about its use of tax-payers money to promote Jew-hatred. I am sick of it, and sick of SBS doing it.

  7. Larry Stillman says:

    It would probably take me we weeks to conduct a full rebuttal. Instead, I suggest critics of the series read the interview with the director @, or as well, watch in an interview session with him where is receives some tough questions.

    A few points here and I know they are random, but I don’t have much spare time.

    I agree, it would have been good to have an allusion to what happened in the 20s and 30s, but Kosminsky’s argument is that he was developing a story based on what British soliders experienced in the 40s (including the use of disturbing’honey traps’ such as Clara, but Haganah spies were everywhere. We all know that).

    Of course, however, there will be some factual errors and collapse in the story, as in any tele-story. But there some pretty amazing attempts to provide accuracy as well. For example, I noticed that during the 57th minute of the second episode, painted on a staircase, when the solidiers are in hot pursuit, we see the Ivrit slogan “Down With British Imperialism”. Now you can’t tell me that sort of attention to detail comes out of anti-semitic or anti-Israel intentions from an Israeli crew who would have been responsible for such matters. If you can listen to the voice over to the first episode (a pity it isn’t available for all of them), you can see the concern that the director had to develop a confronting story based on a reasonable version of what we know happened during the last years of the Mandate.

    Another example of reasonable attention to detail is the raid on Kibbutz Mesheq Yagur where arms were secreted. The Army intelligence records are in fact online and appear to have been used to inform how this episode was done (though there is no record of kids sitting on the cache entrances). It is also very clear that there is a civil war between the Yishuv and Palestinians.

    Thus, there is no place, as claimed in the ECAJ submission for an exaggerated comment such as ” The Jewish narrative is either denied a hearing or presented only in caricature. Instead of confronting history honestly, The Promise unrelentingly portrays the entire Jewish presence throughout the country, including modern-day Israel, as an act of usurpation by Jews who, without exception, are aliens, predators and thieves and who enforce their usurpation by brutal, racist policies akin to those inflicted by the Nazis upon the Jewish people.” Nor is it right, as the ECAJ claims, to label the series as having a “psychopathological” view about Jews.

    Yet much of the first episode is about the Shoah and immigration to Palestine in the fact of the holocaust. The lead character Len, is clearly close to tears at times and gets confined to barracks for letting a person get into Palestine. Len’s becomes political.

    As for the accusation that the film lets Palestinians off scott free, the film has a confronting scence with two of the main characters attending a meeting of former Palestinian and Israeli combatants, struggling for reconciliation and Omar is very reluctant to help her until struck by seeing the family key. If that isn’t a strong opinion coming from some Palestinians– and it was filmed, in Arabic, with local Palestinians– in East Jerusalem– reflecting the activity of a real organisation ( then I don’t know what is. The same issue of struggle when Erin ends up in a house that is to be demolished because it was the house of a suicide bomber: should the innocent child suffer for the sins of the older sister, but as well, should the grandmother who knew Erin’s grandfather suffer again by losing her home?

    I agree, however, that character development for the main Palestinians is weak. In particular, I find it impossible to believe that a chai wallah in the 40s would 1) speak English so well 2) have an apparently very nice house. To this the director responded he was dealing with urban Palestinians in his story and this was his choice. I still find this weak.

    As for the main Christian Palestinian character, in 2005, Omar he remains somewhat mysterious and conflicted (as he was a terrorist), but then, he goes through humiliation at a checkpoint. And this is a fact of life in Israel/Palestine. To go through checkpoints is a pretty grim and insulting experience (I have done it and felt like a criminal). He lives in Abu Dis, right next to the wall that cuts the village in half (I have been there) In the case of Abu Dis, this is about economic sanctions against Paletinians, nothing to do with preventing terrorism. This case is well made by the Israeli NGO Ir Amim.

    Thus the film is taking a political stance: Israel is born in out of violence and caught up in violence and division to protect itself. All its characters are metaphors for different aspects of the conflict. Privilege over poverty and entrapment, the ability to live one’s live as one wants as distinct from having to pass through checkpoints are used to promote discomfort and questioning. None of this is made up or akin to a anti-Semitic stereotyping. The film is not meant to be about the ethnic diversity of Israel, it is about the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, and it uses what happens on a day to day basis: suicide bombings, checkpoints, insults from women and stone throwing in Hebron by kids (well attested) and so on. If the film had perhaps taken up the views in contemporary Israel, it would have in fact got something similar (or worse) than this a-typical family: haredim living off donations, messianists, secular lefties, leftish religious, modern nationalist orthodox right-wing Mizarahim and so on–conflicted views and attitudes about Palestinians and their narrative. It would have been impossible to write this into the script well, so it has been collapsed into Eliza’s family.

    Now, you may not agree with this my political interpretation of the film (such as whether or not the occupation is justified, and to what degree Palestinians are collectively to be held at arms length from Israelis) but I hope you can see that a strong case can be made that the film is not based on any stereotyping.

    Indeed the call to pull the DVD from public circulation would be a political disaster for the ECAJ and the wider Jewish community as it would (again) be seen as an attempt to muzzle different opinions being broadcast, distributed and discussed in this country. Of course, such a move would only make downloading of the series, off the internet, if it isn’t happening already, rife.

    It is worth remembering that similar complaints were made in the UK to the UK Broadcasting Ombudsman (Ofcom) and they were not upheld. Ofcom deals with many complaints about programming in the UK, includin those from various Muslim channels. I think they know what anti-Semitism and nutty anti-Israelism is.

  8. Robert Eichel says:

    Mr Larry Stillman,
    Care to rebut the factual of analysis by Peter Wertheim?Other than sweeping statements,the C4 response certainly does nothing of the kind ,not unlike”over the top” and leaving it at that.
    Thank you.

  9. Larry Stillman says:

    The ECAJ has gone completely over the top in its characterization of the program and its allegedly anti-Semitic implications.

    After all, this is a fictionalized account of two difficult periods in Israel and Palestine’s history based on an interplay with the memories of British soldiers, an experience which led to considerable antipathy by many British people to Israel. In the same way, the experience of the girl Erin is that of a rather naive and confused young person caught up in politics beyond her understanding. Such a program is not propaganda, but asks the viewer to investigate the problems that the episodes pose in the attitudes taken by Israelis and Palestinians to each other. This is the intention of the program, not the implication as made on p. 5 of the ECAJ submission, that the audience is asked to ‘swallow ‘ the Palestinian narrative without question.

    The ECAJ submission continues with other exaggerations, such as that the program puts forward the ‘patently false suggestion’ that the Israel exists merely because of the holocaust’, and that there was no historical presence or other connection before then. Maybe I was not watching the same program.

    I do agree, however, that at times the acting is wooden and plot and location jumps contrived, but that I suppose is from an insider perspective, and TV shows always go after ‘location’ shots.

    The intelligent response of Channel 4 in the UK to complaints in that country is well worth reading and can be found on the British Board of Deputies website @

    • Anna Berger says:

      Larry Stillman, for your information, SBS received numerous complaints that the series is antisemitic, including one from the Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, of which I am President. The series presented an undeniably biased version of events, both past and present. You write that the production “asks the viewer to investigate the problems … in the attitudes taken by Israelis and Palestinians to each other.” Except that the attitude of the Arabs to the Jews was not shown, not from then nor from now. No mention of the massacres by Arabs of unarmed Yeshiva (seminary) students in Hebron in 1929 nor of the ongoing threat “to drive the Jews into the sea” and all the violence between. So I ask you, Larry Stillman, how do viewers assess the attitudes of Palestinians to Israelis in this series? Clairvoyancy?
      We totally endorse Peter Wertheim’s careful and painstaking analysis. It is well worth reading in and shows up UK Channel 4’s attempt to whitewash the series as complete humbug. It isn’t ECAJ that’s over the top.

  10. Liat Nagar says:

    Excellent work ECAJ – to be so alert and quick off the mark with this secondary but important issue.

  11. Barry Smorgon says:

    Well done Peter.
    An outstanding analysis of the issue.

  12. Rachel Merhav says:

    SBS behavior is disgusting and very concerning. This is outrageous, SBS not only propagates anti Jewish propaganda film but unashamedly going all out to make big bucks out of it by selling its DVD. One wonders what will be next – the Protocol of Zion?

    It seems to me SBS has declared war on Israel and the Jewish people, and they are doing so in the knowledge that Jews will not issue a fatwa against them or burn their studios

    Shame on you SBS.

    Very concerning development in Australia

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