Leesha McKenny – The Age January 17, 2012
A LEADING Jewish body is seeking to halt promotion and DVD sales of SBS series The Promise, a drama set in Israel and the occupied territories that it likened to Nazi propaganda.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry said the British-made drama, inspired by accounts of British soldiers who served in Palestine during the 1940s, was anti-Semitic and in direct violation of the SBS code covering prejudice, racism and discrimination.
The four-part series, which screened late last year, depicts a young British woman retracing the footsteps of her grandfather, a soldier in the final years of the British Mandate in Palestine.
In its 31-page complaint to the SBS ombudsman, the council said historical inaccuracies and ”consistently negative portrayals” of the central Jewish characters made the series comparable to the 1940 Nazi film Jud Suss.
It contended that identifiably Muslim characters would not be similarly portrayed by SBS.
In a letter to the broadcaster, the council’s executive director, Peter Wertheim, said the complaint also related to any marketing or sale of the DVD, which would be ”inappropriate” while the determination was pending.
The TV drama prompted a similar reaction following its screening in Britain last year. The UK’s Office of Communications received 44 complaints about the series, none of which were upheld.
In an online question-and-answer session after the final episode aired in Britain, its Jewish writer-director, Peter Kosminsky, said 80 British veterans had been interviewed during research for The Promise.
”If criticism of Israel becomes entirely synonymous with anti-Semitism, it becomes almost impossible to attempt any kind of reasoned analysis of what is clearly one of the saddest and most intractable conflicts facing the human race today,” he said.
The General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, which represents the Palestinian Authority, said the council’s complaint was ”an attempt to silence legitimate historical investigation, recollection and representation”.
An SBS spokeswoman said the broadcaster had received a high level of positive and negative viewer feedback on the series. She said that as the complaint was expected to be resolved before the February 8 DVD release, ”it is unnecessary to provide any undertaking regarding the DVD release”. ”SBS will assess its position in relation to the sale of DVDs once the complaint has been resolved,” she said.
Courtesy Peter Myers