A controversial UK drama series aired on SBS in November has triggered a wave of complaints to the SBS ombudsman.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has branded the four part Channel 4 drama The Promise as being “in direct violation” of SBS’s own codes on prejudice, racism and discrimination.
It claims the series is anti-Semitic and demeans Jews as a group.
“They are cast as variously cruel, violent, hateful, ruthless, unfeeling, amoral, treacherous, racist and/or hypocritical,” said ECAJ executive director Peter Wertheim.
The synopsis of the show is described as: a love story that spans the ages, this four-part drama intercuts between the experiences of Erin, an 18-year-old Londoner in present day Israel and Gaza, and those of her military grandfather, Len, who was part of the British peace-keeping force in Palestine at the end of World War II.
Wertheim continued, “The Promise unrelentingly portrays the entire Jewish presence throughout the country … 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.”
When it aired in the UK in February it triggered a similar backlash.
Writing in The Independent, novelist Howard Jacobson said that “Just about every Palestinian was sympathetic to look at, just about every Jew was not. While most Palestinians might fairly be depicted as living in poor circumstances, most Israeli Jews might not be fairly depicted as living in great wealth… Though I, too, have found Palestinians to be people of immense charm, I could only laugh in derision at The Promise every time another shot of soft-eyed Palestinians followed another shot of hard-faced Jews.”
UK media watchdog Ofcom responded to 44 complaints saying: “Just because some individual Jewish and Israeli characters were portrayed in a negative light does not mean the programme was, or was intended to be, antisemitic… Just as there were Jewish/Israeli characters that could be seen in a negative light, so there were British and Palestinian characters that could also be seen in a negative light.”
But the series was also nominated for the British Academy Television Awards 2011, the Banff World Television Festival, and won Best Drama at the One World Media Awards.
An SBS Spokesperson told TV Tonight, “Not unexpectedly there was a strong audience response to Peter Kosminsky’s drama series The Promise and SBS has received a number of letters and e-mails – both positive and negative – regarding the series.
“All feedback is being considered as part of our long established complaints handling process.”
Source: Jewish News