Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Many thanks to Beyond Images ( who have issued a briefing to counter many of the statements and claims made in this inaccurate and misinformed documentary.

British TV channel Channel 4 has been broadcasting 'The Promise'. And it is a landmark piece of television. 'The Promise' is a four-part, six-hour dramatisation of the founding of Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today.

We have been watching it. And it is gripping. We are not surprised that it has been receiving very good reviews, and is a likely candidate for future broadcasting awards. Over 1.5 million viewers in the UK have been watching its two episodes to date, including - we assume - most people with an active interest in the conflict: politicians, academics, students, members of human rights groups, writers and intellectuals, diplomats and civil servants.

The production is superb. The acting is excellent. It is meticulously observed and staged..And it is also built on a major historical falsehood. A falsehood so severe that it undermines the credibility of its messages. Its director Peter Kosminsky claims that he "told both sides of the story". But episode 1 reveals that he does not even know what the Israeli side of the story is......

'The Promise' describes the events of 1945-8 through the eyes of Len, a British sergeant who had witnessed the liberation of the Jews at Bergen-Belsen, and is later posted with British forces to Palestine. At a crucial moment in that first episode Len, together with other British army officers, receives a briefing from their British army commander on the purpose of their mission in Palestine, and the history behind it. This takes place shortly after the second world war.

The commander's words are not intended as a partisan speech. It is the moment at which the British soldiers (and by extension 1.5 million viewers) are provided with the background to the conflict, and indeed the subsequent episodes of 'The Promise'. Indeed it is the only piece of the script which endeavours to tell the story of how the Jews, the Arabs and the British found themselves in three-way conflict.

Here is what the British commanding officer in The Promise says:

"The Jews and Arabs have been living here in relative harmony for thousands of years. But our victory over the Germans has turned the trickle of Jews coming to this land into a flood. You must understand, the Jews see it as their holy land. But the Arabs, who have been here for over a thousand years, see them as stealing their land. Our job is to keep the two sides apart....."

There you have it. The historical narrative of Israel. And it is a narrative which does not operate to resolve the conflict, but to perpetuate it. Ever since World War Two, the Arabs have seen the Jewish national enterprise as the consequence of Nazism. Without indigenous roots. And without historical legitimacy.

They build their sense of victimhood on the argument that they are "paying the price" for European fascism. Far from challenging this mindset, Kosminsky's so-called 'balanced' narrative has reinforced it. Kosminsky makes no mention of the steady return to Palestine of Jews which had been carrying on since the 1880s. Kosminsky does not hint at the Balfour Declaration or other international commitments to support a Jewish national home.
Kosminsky does not recognise that Jewish national life had existed thousands of years ago in the land of Israel, and that the connection is a national connection.

Kosminsky does not pay any attention to the Jews' state-building efforts in the period before the Second World War. And Kosminsky perpetuates a complete falsehood that the Jews and Arabs had been living in "relative harmony". Kosminsky reportedly researched The Promise for over a decade. But has he heard of the Arab riots against the Jews of the Yishuv in the 1920s or 1930s?

Has he heard of the incessant violent assaults upon Jews building up Palestine? Has he heard of the Hebron massacre of 1929?

The idea that there was "relative harmony" in Palestine till World War Two is a fiction. It's a fiction which Hamas and other rejectionists and ideologues readily embrace.

Meanwhile, the claim that the Arabs had been living there for a thousand years is also a massive over-simplification. Even the most partisan historians have to admit that Palestine under the Ottomans and then the British was not exactly a hub of Arab nationalism, or a focal point of Arab pride and economic endeavour.

While 'The Promise' is brilliant drama - and we will be highlighting its strengths as well its weaknesses in the future - there are plenty of other major flaws in its so called 'balanced' narrative and in its framing of the conflict. In subsequent weeks we will be explaining them. For now, here is a link to the programme website. We have quoted just one short extract from episode one. See for yourself: (Not available outside the UK)

And by the way, here are two other examples of the damage which is caused when the narrative of Israel is artificially started at World War II:

Barack Obama made this error in his major speech to the Arab world in June 2009: click here:
'How President Obama got it wrong on Israel's history... and why it matters for future peace' (Beyond Images Briefing 242)

And The Economist made this error in an obituary of Yasser Arafat published in 2004: see
The Economist Magazine's obituaries: misleading accounts of Israel's history' (Beyond Images Briefing 124)

Key messages:

Delegitimisation of Israel is not just a matter of outrageous, flagrant denial of Jewish national rights.

It is happening in drip-drip style, as ideas which call the history of Israel into question are steadily absorbed into liberal discourse, into respectable mainstream thinking. Click here for The Beyond Images Report on Delegitimisation which provides many examples of this.

Elements of Channel 4's 'The Promise' are a classic instance of this phenomenon. The Promise is doubtless being viewed by almost everyone in the UK who passionately believes in the Palestinian cause.

In building its drama on the basis of an explicit historical fiction, it is not contributing to peace and understanding. It is fuelling the falsehoods on which the delegitimisation of Israel thrives. There are many many other falsehoods: we will be highlighting some in future emails.

No amount of great acting and brilliant direction can obscure that fact.

By the way, we have not seen a single syllable uttered about The Promise in public by any of the central Jewish organisations which claim to be fighting delegitimisation in the UK, in the two weeks since its broadcasts began..... Are we on Beyond Images missing something.... or - just possibly - are they?


On Wednesday 2nd February, Tower Hamlets Council passed a motion, called “Bin Veolia”, which began the process of ending the Council’s business with Veolia and committing the council to “do everything in its power to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the pariah state of Israel”
• Veolia is a multinational company which provides infrastructure to local authorities including running transport services, water sanitation and energy.
• It is the leading recycling and waste management company in the UK.
• Veolia has a 5% stake in the building of the Jerusalem Light Railway.
• The tram will run through Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem as well as to Jewish neighbourhoods beyond the Green Line, such as Pisgat Zeev.
• There are having to be some demolitions in both East and West Jerusalem to build the line.
• In Oct 2010, Veolia agreed in principle to sell its 5% stake in the Consortium building the Jerusalem tramway to the Israeli company Egged Holdings.
• Additionally, Veolia provides other services in Israel, including waste management, which may include collecting rubbish from Israeli Settlements.
• Veolia is in the 6th year of an 11 year contract with Tower Hamlets Council.

Bin Veolia Campaign
• There is an international campaign to both boycott and divest from Veolia due to its investment in the Light Railway and its other work in Israel.
• The campaign has had successes in Sweden, Australia, France and Ireland
• The specific “Bin Veolia” branded campaign is run by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). It is relatively new; the anti-Veolia campaign had previously been pushed by Scottish PSC.
• PSC is currently promoting a ‘boycott Veolia campaign fortnight of actions in February’.

Veolia and UK councils
• Several UK councils, including Swansea City Council and Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, have passed resolutions calling for a boycott of Veolia.
• Scottish PSC recently circulated a lengthy briefing to several councils, arguing for Veolia to be boycotted.
• In general, owing to EU and UK law, councils cannot boycott a country. They also can’t exclude specific companies from tenders unless they’ve “committed an act of grave misconduct”.

Tower Hamlets
• This is not the first time a motion to boycott Israel has been presented to Tower Hamlets Council.
• In 2009 a motion regarding support for the Palestinians in Gaza was passed. This requested the Council have no links with the ‘rogue Israeli regime’.
• The Council has also previously investigated Veolia and decided to uphold the contract.

• Harun Miah and Fozol Miah are Respect councillors of small wards.
• They are the only Respect councillors in Tower Hamlets.
• It was understood that they brought this motion to the table in an attempt to:
o create a stir
o increase their personal political profiles
o support the new independent mayor Lutfur Rahman, who was backed by Respect and defeated the official Labour candidate in October’s election
• Harun Miah seconded the boycott motion in 2009.

The Motion
• The motion refers to Israel as a ‘pariah state’.
• It was amended by a Liberal Democrat councillor to ‘review’ rather than ‘terminate’ contracts with Veolia.
• It carried , amended, by 11 votes to 7 of the 51-member council with the amendment.
• The votes against were from the Conservative group.
• The votes in favour were from eight Independent Mayoral-supporting councillors, two Respect members and the Council’s one Liberal Democrat.
• Labour, the largest group on the council, abstained. This is likely to have been a compromise position due to splits inside the Labour Group, which is divided between opponents and supporters of the Mayor.
• Implementation of the motion is to be investigated by a council official - Tower Hamlet Council’s Corporate Director for Communities, Localities and Culture.

Next Steps
• There are also likely to be similar motions at other local councils in the next few weeks. If you become aware of these, please let us know.
• The internal politics of Tower Hamlets Council is extremely delicate. Fair Play is working with allies in the Council to consider future actions.
• If you live or work in Tower Hamlets, please write to your local councillors to express your feelings about the motion and let us know about any responses.

Appendix 1: Tower Hamlets Motion as passed
Councillor Huarn Miah moved, and Councillor Fozol Miah seconded, the motion as printed in the agenda.
Councillor Stephanie Eaton moved, and Councillor Ohid Ahmed seconded, an amendment which was accepted by Councillor Harun Miah.
This Council notes that:
1) This Council has long term contracts with the multinational company Veolia
2) Veolia is deeply involved in contract work for the Israeli government which assist their continued oppression of the Palestinian people
3) In particular, Veolia is directly implicated in maintaining illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory
4) Under the Public Contract Regulations (2006) a contracting local authority may exclude an economic contractor from bidding for a contract if the contractor has “committed an act of grave misconduct in the course of its business”

This Council believes that:
1) Veolia has clearly committed acts of grave misconduct in relation to the Palestinian people and the maintenance of illegal settlements and in other respects as well
2) There should be an urgent investigation by Council officers to confirm the charges of grave misconduct that have been levelled in the international campaign to “Bin Veolia”
3) The Council should do everything in its power to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the pariah state of Israel
4) Urgent steps should be taken to review all contracts with Veolia and not to place any further contracts with this company
5) The Mayor should write to Veolia as soon as possible to communicate to them the contents of this motion and the council’s determination to terminate any relationship to Veolia

By Fair Play Campaign Group: Bringing together those committed to opposing
anti-Zionist activity and boycotts that target the people and supporters of Israel.
The ZF is part of the executive of the FPCG.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Message from HE Ron Prosor, Ambassador of Israel to the Court of St James’s

I am delighted to send my warmest wishes on the occasion of the dedication of Reverend William Hechler’s gravestone.
Britain and Israel enjoyed a friendship long before the establishment of the State of Israel, as a result of the committed efforts of British Christian Zionists. Marking Reverend Hechler’s prominent place in the rich tradition of Christian Zionism in Britain, on the eightieth anniversary of his passing, is especially timely.
The support he gave to Theodor Herzl is symbolic of the understanding that is found today among our Christian friends, of the eternal connection that exists between the Jewish People and Eretz Yisrael.
The People of Israel deeply value your solidarity. You are friends who stand with us as we face the challenges of the future, who share with us a love of the Holy Land, and who lend your principled and unwavering support.
I commend the work of all of the organisations involved in this important act of remembrance.
Shalom Aleichem – may Reverend Hechler’s memory be blessed.