Monday, January 24, 2011

Humiliation of Whom?

We learn about Peter Kosminsky in this piece: Britain's humiliation in Palestine

Peter Kosminsky is

one of Britain's most acclaimed directors of hard-hitting television drama. His latest project – 11 years in the making – tells the story of postwar Palestine and Israeli independence through the eyes of a British soldier serving in the territory. It promises to be an event

And it is explained

Between 1945 and 1948, some 100,000 soldiers served in the British-controlled Mandate of Palestine. Kosminsky's team spoke to around 80; he found the men's stories to be both gripping and moving, so he carried on, wading next through letters, diaries, memoirs and history books...

...Kosminsky's first idea was to make a drama about a British soldier...pulling out of Palestine was a terrible humiliation, a total defeat. Second, we were the colonial power in Palestine and, as in so many other examples of our retreat from Empire, we left it totally fucked up. Chaos. We washed our hands of it. I wanted to say: if you think the Israeli-Palestinian situation is not our problem, think again. We were there, we left, and 60 years later, it is still a problem."

...the Irgun, as ruthless as any 21st-century terrorist organisation. When the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which served as the British Mandatory authorities' headquarters, was bombed in July 1946, 91 people died, many of them civilians. "They were extremely effective. You only have to compare the attack on the King David to something like the Brighton Bomb [in which the IRA killed five people] to see that...

So, what does Kosminsky decide after all this?

Somewhere along the line, Kosminsky decided that his film would need to tell two stories: one set in the Mandate of Palestine, the other in Israel, 2011.

Revelatory is an overused word, but The Promise is exactly that: the power of its storytelling will open eyes more effectively than any leaked document, any piece of rhetoric, any news bulletin.

The series begins in Britain, where a student, Erin (Claire Foy), is helping to clear out her elderly grandfather's house. On a dusty shelf, she finds his diary, an account of his experiences as a sergeant, first at Bergen-Belsen and then in Palestine. Erin has a friend, Eliza, who has an Israeli passport, and who must shortly fly out to Tel Aviv to do her military service. Erin, wilful and increasingly intrigued by her grandfather's spidery handwriting, decides to take up a nervous Eliza's invitation to stay with her well-to-do Israeli family while her friend embarks on her military training.

Thereafter, Kosminsky tells us two stories: there is Len (Christian Cooke), Erin's grandfather, who will find himself and his men constantly under attack by the Irgun, but who will also have life-changing relationships with both a young Jewish woman, Clara, and a Palestinian man, Hassan, who works as a tea-wallah in his barracks; and there is Erin, whose stay in Israel turns into something rather more than a gap-year adventure, thanks to Paul, Eliza's peace activist brother, and to the diary, whose central secret will lead her to embark on an extraordinary quest. It is Erin who will honour, on behalf of her dying grandfather, the promise of the series' title.

..."There's a scene in which an Israeli soldier uses a Palestinian girl as a human shield. We had documentary examples of this and, in the week we were shooting, an Israeli soldier was found guilty in court of doing precisely that. Nobody could deny it occurred, but the actor I cast to play my commander pulled out during rehearsals. I don't think he had realised that the woman opposite him from whom he had to take the child would be Palestinian. 'I know these things happen,' he said. 'But that doesn't necessarily mean I want to portray it.'"

How much of the Mandate-era story could be said to be true? "The vast majority of it," says Kosminsky. Were two British intelligence officers kidnapped, tortured and lynched by the Irgun? Yes. In 1947, Sergeant Clifford Martin and Sergeant Mervyn Paice, both British military policemen, were kept in an airless hole in the ground for 18 days, and then hanged. Were young Jewish women paid as hostesses in city hospitality clubs for the purposes of propagandising about Israel to British officers? Yes. And for these women, old ladies now, the stigma still remains; somewhat ironically, Zionists accused them of fraternising with the enemy. Did British soldiers go AWOL, joining both Arab and Israeli fighters in the months leading up to Israel's declaration of independence? Yes. At one point, the only two tanks in the possession of the fledgling Israeli army were courtesy of defectors (the incentive was not always ideological; Haganah, another Jewish paramilitary group, offered huge sums of cash to defectors who brought military hardware with them). For the sake of drama, there are elisions. But critics will struggle if they accuse Kosminsky of exaggeration.

Although he grew up in an atheist household in Stanmore, north London, Kosminsky is, as he puts it "racially Jewish"...

I don't think Britain is that huniliated as the Jews from this atheist and communist-raised British Jews.


1 comment:

Juniper in the Desert said...

This is my rant on the subject:

I am glad you mentioned it. He cannot even bring himself to call himself a Jew, just about manages "a refugee"!! How dare he write about Israel without declaring what interest he has in the subject! Kapo!!