Marcus Dysch – The Jewish Chronicle March 31, 2011
Film-maker Peter Kosminsky has staunchly defended his drama series The Promise in his first public comments. Speaking at a Q&A session on Tuesday hosted by the TV station Al-Jazeera, Mr Kosminsky, 54, said that some reactions had been “hysterical”.
He said he had received hate mail from British Jews and that critics labelling The Promise as antisemitic were “dangerous, a bit like crying wolf”.
The Israeli Embassy in London and the Zionist Federation led complaints against the drama, set in British Mandate Palestine, present-day Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Mr Kosminsky said the series, shown on Channel 4 in February, was aimed primarily at making people aware of Britain’s role in Palestine in the 1940s
The director said: “I set out to try to be balanced. There will be individual moments that may not seem balanced. It’s not a documentary. We interviewed more than 80 survivors of the British deployment to Palestine in the 1940s. I wanted to remind British people that we have some culpability in one of the most tragic and intractable conflicts of our age.” The 30-strong audience included a small number of Israel supporters who questioned Mr Kosminsky’s “agenda”.
He replied that the themes in the series had been driven by interviews with British army veterans.
“Most of these guys arrived incredibly sympathetic to the Jewish plight, but at the end of three years of the kinds of incidents dramatised in The Promise, their attitudes had changed.
“This was so strong through the research that I either had to reflect it or abandon the project.
The moment you decide to dramatise that change, you have a story which starts with a guy who is pro-Jewish, and ends with a guy who is pro-Arab. I believe that is why some people feel the show is pro-Palestinian.
“I don’t think my own ethnicity had anything to do with how I approached this as a story-teller, but that might be a question for my shrink.”
He added: “If you seek to comment on the domestic or international policy of Israel, particularly if you are Jewish, you open yourself up to accusations of antisemitism. I get very nervous about the light use of the racism label.”
Courtesy Peter Myers