I wonder if SBS is aware that instead of promoting cohesion and education, they promote divisiveness and bigotry in our multicultural society through their timing and choice of programming?
It's the 64th anniversary of the UN partition plan of 29 November 1947 and as usual, the battle over history and over narratives moves into high gear at this time of the year. The showing of ‘The Promise’ series on SBS at this time was inevitable,- as is ‘The Bible’ series as we approach Christmas.
Thanks go to The AJN for reprinting the excellent review of The Promis by Howard Jacobson, the British author. So far, after 3 episodes I can see why British Jewry would find this dramatised and fictionalised version of the events of 1948 in particular, more problematic than we non-British Jews,- but not more so than the British of Indian and Pakistani descent would feel when films about their 1948 Independence struggles are shown. Not to mention all the other films of independence wars wherever the British Empire reigned in the past,- continuing to this day together with all our soldiers from the West whether in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or even Vietnam before that. A lot of films still to come from those theatres of war, to the discomfort of many future viewers!
As for the portrayal of modern-day Israel and the Palestinians through the eyes of an ignorant, naïve and romantic young English girl who gets very sensitised to dilemmas that Israelis have to face every day,- young and old,- that too is boringly predictable. I am personally glad to see that they show a nice middle-class Western life-style for a change,- instead of the usual festival films we get here which portray only the dark, sordid side of Israeli life. Does that mean that all Israelis are so rich and live such a lifestyle? Of course not,- but some do and why not?
In trying to show also the Palestinian Arab narrative from their perspective,-a narrative which without wars they could have had like Israel’s from 1948,- I find it less problematic than the way they portray it in the other SBS series,- “The Bible”. The former is too contrived while in the latter it is realistic. Each Sunday just before “The Promise” we see a different personality looking at the biblical narratives,- including Howard Jacobson in the first episode on ‘Genesis’ and Gerry Adam, the ex- IRA leader in the latest one I saw.That program’s subtle inclusion of today’s Arab Palestinians’ problems I find far more insidious as propaganda than in The Promise.
For us Jews, it has always been Christmas time which was the worst for pogroms in Christian countries when we would get blamed for the death of Jesus. Now, instead, each episode of The Bible has the presenter travelling through Israel and the biblical landscape in search of clues about the historical truth of “the most widely read book in the world”,- the Old and New Testaments.
You can trust Gerry Adams if no one else, to condone ‘the armed struggle’,- noting that one man’s terrorist, even biblical, is another’s freedom fighter! So why choose someone like him to feature here?
However, we must realize that we as a community do not have a monopoly on deciding what is to be shown and viewed on our screens,- no more than we can do much about what is written in The Age or SMH.
There are always some confronting and uncomfortable truths with which we have to live. As long as the context in which these are shown or written is not always only one sided, then we must accept and argue our case when or if inaccurate information is communicated. In The Promise, all the single terrorist incidents of the Irgun are shown, but not shown against the innumerable ones perpetrated against the Jews and without differentiating the differences between the Hagana & the Irgun.
We can all see the negatives portrayed in The Promise which was written and produced by a Jew,- but how can we call it "antisemitic"? Who at SBS would be convinced of that?
We can look too much into this series!