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Attempts at Censorship will Prove Counterproductive

January 17, 2012 – 7:58 pm78 Comments

The late Andrés Escobar, reacting after his sadly infamous own goal in 1994

By Anthony Frosh

In attempting to ban DVD sales of The Promise, a polemical mini-series recently screened on SBS, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) have done a proverbial Andrés Escobar.

Attempts, or even perceived attempts, at censorship only ever result in cultivating more interest in the object of the censorship. If you want to get your high school students to read their physics textbooks, you can’t do much better than banning them.

I only saw the first episode of the series. As a piece of drama, I found it too unsophisticated to keep my interest. One of the first things I noticed, besides the lame acting and dialogue, was that Israeli youths were driving far more expensive cars than those driven by even some of their most spoilt Toorak or Vaucluse contemporaries, a sure sign that the film makers had little interest in being true-to-life. Perhaps they were trying to perpetuate a stereotype (that has nothing to with Israel) about Jews that one might sometimes encounter in Western universities concerning Jewish kids being rich and spoilt.

The first episode, although lacking in accuracy and realism, seemed more balanced than I had expected. Later, I heard that the hostile portrayal of Jews, Zionism, and Israel, really takes off as the series progresses. When I heard this, I wondered whether this was an example of the hostile media phenomenon, whereby emotionally invested parties perceive relatively neutral or balanced media content as strongly hostile to their own side.

However, if this were merely a case of the hostile media phenomenon, then the scientific literature predicts that Palestinian advocates would have also had similar reactions; that is, they would have perceived the series as being highly hostile to their side. A little bit of research reveals this is not the case. Australians For Palestine (which would be more accurately named Australians against Israel) called for supportive submissions to SBS and the relevant politicians within the communications portfolio concerning the series. I also witnessed a number of anti-Semites on Facebook championing the series.

All this leads me to believe that ECAJ is accurate in its perception of the series as anti-Semitic. As for their comparisons to Nazi propaganda, well I have not seen the series other than the first episode, but I think everyone should be extra-cautious when it comes to Nazi comparisons, as these risk trivialising the horrors that Nazis represented.

None of this changes the fact that censorship is not only wrong in principle, but is highly counterproductive. ECAJ’s efforts will sadly see a lame piece of propaganda disguised as art get far more attention than it deserves. It will also result in the Australian Jewish community once again being labelled as advocates of censorship and media control.

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  • andrew wirth says:

    The other night our family watched “The Man with the Golden Gun”- mainly to check out the scenes of Islands in Thailand we’d just visited. Relevance? In addition to being a shocker of a movie, and not starring Sean Connery, the depiction of Asians (and women) consisted of a series of tacky and derogatory cliches and stereotypes that might have retro charm but was generally pretty toxic. That was 40 years ago- such ethnic stereotyping is now taboo except, it seems, in the case of Israeli Jews where it remains perfectly PC, but it is politically incorrect to object to stereotypes.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I haven’t seen that film since was a kid. By the way, Fleming’s original book is much better than the film (although even that I read as an adolescent) and not even set in Asia, but rather the Caribbean, if memory serves.

    I don’t have a problem with ECAJ or anyone else registering complaint about anti-Semitic stereotypes, so long as it does not take the form of (or the perception of) banning something, for reasons outlined in the article.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    An alternate view on all this is at http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3778466.html.

    But I have also posted another observation in another place, as an example of how the ECAJ is wielding a nasty club in its culture war, so I am coping and pasting and adding.

    Now, I have been going over the video. On a PC, it is a very different, quite intimate experience, though I find that theme music a bit turgid.

    In episode 4, as Erin leaves the rich Meyer household (and as Stewart Mills points out, he is a general, part of the establishment), there is this conversation, slowly acted out, with some pain at about 1hr 38mins:

    “Paul Myer: Will you be back

    Erin: Why? What’s the point

    Paul: Because there’s a lot to be done. It was a very brave thing, Erin, what you did.”

    Now, if we were reading a novel, and had time to think of all the subtleties, we would remember that this is referring to Erin chaining herself up in Gaza and then flick back 100 pages to get the detail. It doesn’t quite work like this in digital media. As I have been arguing, Paul, like his sister, is trapped–they cannot ‘revolt’, though Paul has tried in his own way and failed. Thus the silences and blank faces as so many Israelis go through their duty and we see this with people like Omar.

    Now, is this a depiction of Jews like Paul and is sister a cardboard cutout, anti-Semitic cutout? Now, combined with the filiming, it is subtle film-making, about the demoralization caused by permanent war clearly beyond the ken of the geniuses at the ECAJ. And in fact, I would argue that we have all meet hard, Israelis with little sympathy or interest in the past who very much are a nationalistic cutout. Anti-semitic?

    No, it is a political viewpoint.

    Now, the scene soon cuts back to 48. Len, ends up very clearly, thought broken and in tears, and in the brig, on the Palestinian side, writng in his diary, despite his recognition of what the Jews had been through. This is the director’s account of the experience of British soldiers, so it is not a cut out, it is a bit of well, drama about fact.

    The film is probably, I would say certainly, full of all sorts of scenes like the one with Paul and Erin above about their crisis and probably the suppressed one of many of Israelis.

    This is all very complex. Of course I suppose, the ECAJ, if they wanted, could hire a silk and take the script to court, and like one of the old porn trials on porn, have the scenes read out, and assessed by different academics of their choice. Hilarious: who would you cast in the movie? Definitely Charles Laughton as one of the QCs.

    But another point, what has probaby got up the “Lobby’s” collective nose is that this is clear post-Zionist or non-Zionist film, yet it is a film with intimate connections to the Israelis who took part in it in many ways. So true to form, taking inspiration from the various hasbarah manuals and techniques, it seeks to discredit everyone involved.

    I hope SBS has the intelligence to run a forum to get a good public discussion with representation from different elements in the non-homogenous Jewish community, as well as different elements in the Palestinian community. Or maybe get the director in Australia.

  • Grandma C says:

    I can see the validity of this argument. I think it does draw more attention to it. Apparently it suffered low ratings anyway.
    But my problem is that the reviewers (both in the Australian (Review) and The Sydney Morning Herald (the Guide) both lauded it the week it was due to screen, as “Pick of the Week” or Pick of the Day. At the end of their reviews they said that it gives a good historical portrayal of the period around the establishment of Israel. Prior to these comments, I had thought it sounded like an interesting show which I had planned to watch. Then my antenna started twitching – so I thumbed through the AJN to see if they had a positive or negative review of the show (they usually highlight any shows of the week which have Jewish content). What I read there was enough to turn me off watching it.
    But due to the ignorance (or just anti-Israel stance) of the reviewers, people who do not know history will think it is an accurate picture. How do you change that perception?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    It is not meant to be accurate history. The DVD cover saith ‘A political thriller’…drama serial…a heart-breaking journey.

    I didn’t see the local promos as I was o/s in Israel (!) but depite the ‘Lobby’s’ claim, surely it wasn’t promoted as factual.

    People see this recreations all the time and take them for what they are…the SBS audience for this kind of stuff is educated and effluent I suspect, as the saying goes.

  • Azrael says:

    Larry, I think you overestimate the intelligence of the historically-ignorant TV viewer. You need only go to SBS’s The Promise page (http://www.sbs.com.au/shop/product/category/DVDs/8351/-b-COMING-SOON-b-The-Promise-br-b-DVD-Pre-order-b ) to see that some viewers have thought this odious little drama an “educational” experience, one even being so bold as to state that “every western politician must see this film.” Another comment…

    “I have had my eyes opened to what exactly happened in Palestine all those years ago. I am disappointed that the Jews acted in such a deadly manner towards the Palestinians. My loyalty has been sorely tested and I cannot get the story out of my mind since viewing it. I can now understand the feelings the Palestians have towards the Jewish people.”

    So you see, even a fictional television series can cause people to have their “loyalties tested.”

  • Harry Johns says:

    Frosh, one can extend your reasoning to overturning racial vilification legislation. After all, banning it forces racists underground and gives them greater ammunition to attack those who would seek to silence them (ie Jews and other ethnics).

    Why not also grant a visa to the likes of David Irving? After all, his Holocaust denial views gain greater airing every time he is banned from travelling here, aren’t they?

    It’s a very, very dangerous line of reasoning that you are following Frosh. Everyone would agree that libel should be subject to legal recourse. Similarly, group libel should likewise be prevented when necessary.

  • frosh says:

    Grandma C,
    It’s not easy to combat this kind of thing. The best approach for Jewish organisations is probably to use their resources to promote equivalent media content that is more balanced and accurate, rather than using resources in a way that inadvertently draw a greater audience to such nefarious content.

    Racial vilification legislation, when used to censor media content, is largely counterproductive, even more so in the age of the internet.
    Giving a visa to David Irving is a different matter. There’s no need to make it easy for these disgusting types. For example, we wouldn’t publish such rubbish on Galus, but we also wouldn’t waste time actively campaigning to try to remove all trace of such content from the internet.

  • Rachsd says:

    Hi Larry,

    It’s ironic that you are calling The Promise a post-Zionist series when actually it’s based on the testimony of British colonisers.

  • Sam says:

    While reading te link provided by Azrael to the SBS site advertising the sale of the DVD there are quite a few comments from people who have viewed the series already. This one is fairly typical:

    “A brilliant film. I would like SBS to repeat this at a more popular time and promote it widely. It is important that more people will get to see the injustices being perpetrated by the Israeli’s against the Palestinians. Highly recommended viewing.”

    One gets the impression that many viewers saw this as a reasonably accurate dramatized documentary. I would guess there are many to whom the highly biased version of events (and stereotypes) of 1940’s as well as recent history, shown in “The Promise” concurs with their pre-existing mindset on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. For those, this was therefore a very satisfying movie experience.
    Attempting to enforce a ban on sales of “The Promise” DVD not only has no chance of getting up, but I do agree would be counter-productive.

  • It’s all very nice to say that kicking up a fuss about this biased TV program will only draw attention to it and not have the desired effect. However, it does indeed seem that many people have taken it as historically accurate (and I’m sure SBS would never show a fictional work that took a more Israel-biased view of things), and as a result have an incorrect perception of things.

    So, then what can we do about this sort of thing? Or should we do nothing?

  • letters in the age says:

    What is interesting was when The Believer starring Ryan Gosling was shown in the u.s and the American diaspora reacted in a more progressive manner and this film was very controversial for it’s time.

    It discredits the lobby group that uses such loaded language and is ridiculous and outdated p.r

    Nothing has changed again with the same old tactics being used, gen y need to take over in the foreseeable future .

  • frosh says:

    Hi David,

    There certainly isn’t an easy solution, as I said the Grandma C.
    I think that if ECAJ or any similar body are going to complain to SBS, then it should be in the framework of lobbying SBS to also broadcast more content about Israel with more positive messages, rather than trying to ban the dissemination of existing nefarious content.

    Then, if SBS didn’t play ball, it would be SBS who could be positioned (by ECAJ etc) as trying to censor content favourable to Israel.

  • Shirlee Finn says:

    Anthony Frosh has over-stated what the ECAJ has asked for. The ECAJ has not demanded that the sale of the DVD should be ‘banned’ regardless of the outcome of the ECAJ’s complaint. The ECAJ has merely asked that marketing and promotion of the DVD be halted until the complaint is decided. If the complaint is upheld, it would clearly be wrong for SBS to promote material that has been found to violate its own Codes of Practice.

    There are many other misconceptions abroad about the ECAJ’s complaint. The ECAJ’s complaint is not about bias. It is about racist stereotyping of Jews throughout the series. Numerous examples are listed in the Table provided by the ECAJ and in the text of the complaint itself.

    All of the principal characters who are Jewish are portrayed in a deeply negative way – betrayers (the Judas stereotype), murderers of innocents (blood libel), thieves (Fagin), ruthless and amoral (Shylock) and so on.

    If a series about the Israel-Palestinian conflict portrayed every Arab character as a murderous terrorist, betrayer or thief or a vocal supporter of these, would there be any controversy about its racist nature?

    The reference to the Nazi propaganda film is solely to illustrate that an award-winning, critically-acclaimed film can nevertheless be deeply tainted by racism. The ECAJ did not say that the two films are equivalent as to the nature and extent of their racist portrayal of Jews.

    The ECAJ does not contend that every criticism of Israel is antisemitic. It is equally false to suggest that no criticism of Israel is antisemitic. There is clearly some overlap. The test is whether the criticism makes use of anti-Jewish stereotypes. The Promise certainly did so.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Please read the ruling of the UK complaints authority about “The Promise” . The ECAJ had unwisely tried to dismiss it and then get stuck into SBS as well.

    See http://ajds.org.au/node/457

  • Shirlee Finn says:

    Please everybody, I urge you to read the ECAJ submission itself and NOT rely on what other people say about it.

    It can be read in full on the ECAJ website. The ECAJ very carefully examines the complaint to the UK authority (Ofcom) and explains how the relevant code of practice in the UK is different to the SBS code of practice.

    Many people in our community, including Holocaust survivors, have recognised the vile antisemitism in The Promise and objected to it. I don’t understand why people like Stillman are trying to bully our communal organisations into silence and prevent and censor us from expressing our opinions.

  • ariel says:

    I totally agree with Frosh on this.

    In France, the umbrella Jewish body le CRIF, managed to get CANAL+ (which co-produced the series with the BBC) to have an introductory frame on screen at the start of every episode stating that the program was fiction and was note necessarily based on historical reality.

    It seems the French Jewish community took the right approach and succeeded. ECAJ should have done the same and left it at that.

    Larry, most people wouldn’t have a clue about history, let alone any ability to interpret the symbolism of the show. I think that had ECAJ done what Le CRIF did, it would have mitigated the ignorant comments posted on the show’s website as pointed out by Sam and clarified it to the viewers.

    Furthermore, The Promise is based on testimony from British soldiers stationed in Mandate Palestine. Naturally, when their colleagues are being killed by the Jewish resistance, they are going to develop feelings of hate for Jews – it’s unfortunately a natural product of war.

    Coupled with the fact that these British veterans would have suffered PTSD and that they were interviewed 50 years after the events, one need not be surprised at the outcome.

    Nonetheless, the average viewer is completely ignorant of this background.

    What is necessary is for someone to produce a more historically accurate feature.

  • Grandma C says:

    Thank you Shirlee Finn for your clarification on ECAJ’s role. And Ariel also makes some good points. But while it would be nice if ECAJ had tried to get a disclaimer statement put up as an introductory frame,how successful do you think they would have been in this endeavour with SBS in Oz? By the same token, there probably are more historically accurate features which have been produced. Do you honestly think they would be shown on SBS? How many shows on SBS have portrayed Israel in a sympathetic light? I am willing to be enlightened/educated on this.

    As Frosh said in his article, the fact that Australians for Palestine are openly championing the series suggests its obvious bias. If shows are more geared to a middle ground, they usually get criticised from both sides. I can’t help but wonder if the country of birth of SBS TV’s current director has anything to do with the situation.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Some good points Ariel. I wasn’t aware of the Canal+ preface (wikipedia?).. sort of a strong advisory I suppose.

    But I think those who watch it will have a good idea. Some of the people who post on e.g. the Drum always seem to post on the Drum, so I ignore their stupidites.

    I will let people choose their views, therefore, what does this mean?

    “don’t understand why people like Stillman are trying to bully our communal organisations into silence and prevent and censor us from expressing our opinions.” Who am I censoring? or bullying into silence? What communal organisations? It seems to me that I and others are criticizing only one organisation that claims a voice for all Jews in Australia.

    The politics of bullying are very much the other way around, and indeed, comes back to the issue of who and what is a ‘communal representative’, the politics of power and money, and the issues on which it chooses to advocate about, something which Galus and others have been very concerned with for several years.

  • Shirlee Finn says:

    Please read the official ECAJ complaint, at http://www.ecaj.org.au/news_files/120105_the_promise.pdf It’s long, 31 pages, but covers many of the issues raised.

    In fact, some Jewish community leaders requested that SBS add a sign board at the beginning of each episode of the series, stating that it was a drama, fiction, and not a historic account or a documentary. SBS agreed to do this. However, a sign board was only added in episodes 2, 3 and 4, and was only on for 8 seconds, hardly enough time to read it, and easily enough to be missed altogether. Also the wording was confusing and self-contradictory.

    There have been subsequent public comments which refer to The Promise as a documentary, as a factual historic account, and indicating a belief that only Jews committed violence. This shows how ineffective the SBS sign-boards were.

  • Alex Fein says:

    Shirlee, you wrote:

    “Please everybody, I urge you to read the ECAJ submission itself and NOT rely on what other people say about it.”

    When any organisation calls for people to read its media releases to clarify misunderstanding, that is the surest sign of a public relations’ failure.

    ECAJ does not have an automatic right to have its words read carefully – not by Jews and not by the broader public. It is a particularly unreasonable request considering the length of the letter.

    If the message has failed to achieve its public relations goal, the messenger is solely responsible.

    This is not a spat between siblings, adjudicated by a mother concerned with fairness.

    That is simply not how politics and the media work. That ECAJ continually fails to realise this is astonishing.

    ECAJ has appointed itself the representative of Australian Jewry. It presents itself thus to the Australian media and wider public.

    The only message that has been heard in the broader community is that Jews are seeking censorship.

  • Shirlee Finn says:

    If and when the media are sloppy in reporting on a written text, such as the ECAJ’s letter and Table, the responsibility for readers’ misunderstanding lies not with the author/s of the original text, but with those cherry-picking what to report and how to interpret or which spin to put on it.

    If one requires or prefers an accurate understanding of an issue which has been reported on by the media, it’s a good idea to access the original document.

    By the way Alex, for your information. I am not part of the ECAJ

  • Larry Stillman says:

    The ECAJ it appears, is now claiming a media conspiracy. A/c Jwire, even though the ECAJ story appeared on col 1 p. 1 on a Monday morning in the Age, and SMH (a publicist’s dream), a/c Peter Wertheim, the Age’s subediting has biased the story. Usually, it is the SMH that is the anti-Semitic demon. Are they trying to play off Melbourne and Sydney?

    This is whining of the highest order. Who else in the non-gov. sector could get such coverage, in fact any coverage?

    see http://www.jwire.com.au/news/a-tale-of-two-papers/21868

    It’s hilarious. What do they want? Pravda?

    And Alex has a good point which anyone can mix. They have muddled up a range of concerns that come out as political censorship and attempts to gag a public broadcaster.

  • Sam says:

    Having now referred to the ECAJ submission in it’s entirety it’s length and detail of individual scenes and character analysis is astonishing. (That someone would go to that amount of effort). Without wishing to argue against any of the content of the 2 sections (the second part by a different author but essentially a repetition of the first part) I am stunned.
    I can’t help thinking that the complex analysis made here is more representative of a scientific journal than a film which is ultimately a work of fiction.
    And that being the case, the hypothesis presented by the ECAJ for almost every scene does not need to rigorously tested.
    My point being that after what must have been a very time consuming and probably costly submission, what chance was there that any benefit would ensue from it?
    Could they have used their considerable resources in a more advantageous manner?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Sam, so much of what they use is *interpretation* of a form of literature. It is not science. We are engaging in criticism of a (visual) form of literature.

    I, for example, looked at one scene closely using the subtitles on the dvd to help me understand the ‘meaning’ of the scene. I am copying here what I put on facebook.

    On a PC, it is a very different, quite intimate experience, though I find that theme music a bit turgid.

    In episode 4, as Erin leaves the rich Meyer household (and as Stewart Mills points out, he is a general, part of the establishment) [ to go back to the UK] there is this conversation, slowly acted out, with some pain at about 1hr 38mins

    Paul Myer: Will you be back

    Erin: Why? What’s the point

    Paul: Because there’s a lot to be done. It was a very brave thing, Erin, what you did.

    Now, if we were reading a novel, and had time to think of all the subtleties, we would immediately remember that this is referring to Erin chaining herself up in Gaza. As I have been arguing, Paul, like his sister, is trapped–they cannot ‘revolt’, though Paul has tried in his own way. Now, is this a depiction of a cardboard cutout, anti-Semitic cutout? Now, combined with the filiming, it is subtle film-making, clearly beyond the ken of the geniuses at the ECAJ.

    However, the scene soon cuts back to 48. Len, ends up very clearly, thought broken and in tears, and in the brig, on the Palestinian side, writng in his diary, despite his recognition of what the Jews had been through. This is the director’s account of the experience of British soldiers, so it is not a cut out, it is a bit of well, drama about fact.

    The film is probably, I would say certainly, full of all sorts of scenes like the one with Paul and Erin above–it is too subtle for boors.

    This is all very complex. Of course I suppose, the ECAJ, if they wanted, could hire a silk and take the script to court, and like one of the old porn trials , have the scenes read out, and assessed by different academics of their choice. Hilarious: who would you cast in the movie? Charles Laughton or Leo McKern vs Robert Richter? This is bloody literature!

  • frosh says:


    As Alex has already pointed out, the problem is a matter of perception and not detail.
    Clearly ECAJ is concerned about people’s perceptions, otherwise it wouldn’t be complaining about media content in the first place. People only complain about media content because they are concerned with how that content will influence other people’s perceptions.
    Almost no one is going to read to a 20 page submission.

    The primary message the average newspaper reader will take home from this controversy is “Jewish groups are trying censor and control the media.”

  • Larry Stillman says:

    “All of the principal characters who are Jewish are portrayed in a deeply negative way – betrayers (the Judas stereotype), murderers of innocents (blood libel), thieves (Fagin), ruthless and amoral (Shylock) and so on. ”

    Eh? It’s a fair leap of logic to reach this point…

  • Shirlee Finn says:

    Of course the ECAJ is “concerned about people’s perceptions”, especially the negative portrayal of Jewish people.

    As to the “20 page submission”, which I have not read in its entirety, obviously that was required to explain in detail to the SBS Ombudsman, the stereo typing of Jewish people, as portrayed in ‘The Promise’

    Is your answer to “Jewish groups are trying censor and control the media,” that we should be silent in the face of negative media portrayal?

    Prior to the ECAJ complaint, pro-Palestinian organisations and web sites, were encouraging their supporters to contact SBS in praise of the series for its truth and accuracy, as they perceived it. Furthermore they were to request for such truthful programmes to be screened in the future.

    The ECAJ is simply exercising its democratic right, by submitting a complaint to a major media outlet and are most certainly not “trying censor and control the media.”

  • gedalia says:

    I lodged a letter of complaint with SBS. In response I received a patronising letter which concluded “I am confident that SBS has been responsive to sentiments expressed by the Australian community in relation to our broadcast of The Promise”.

    The letter was signed by Jane McMillan, Manager Corporate Communications. No doubt it is the standard stock letter that all complainants received. It shows how out of touch the SBS are.

    Whilst I appreciate Frosh’s point, I think there is a time where a stand must be taken and where the community should not settle for a passive “don’t rock the boat” response. Those against us will use the complaint to allege “censorship of free speech”, but they will do that anyway. I am happy that the ECAJ had the conviction to stand up to this on behalf of the community, and think that they are well within their right to advocate to stop the spread of this blatent use of drama to promulgate anti-Semitism. That the SBS is a state owned and sanctioned entity makes their actions, and their unapologetic response to complaints, an outright abuse of their obligations to the public. There are seven billion other stories to choose from.

  • ariel says:

    The complaints submitted to SBS should have requested that SBS immediately broadcast a documentary/mini-series from the opposite point of view.

    I still think Larry is a bit naive in thinking the average viewer would understand the show is completely fictitious and comprehend the symbolism.

    For example, anyone who’s been to Israel will notice immediately that in the broad sense, Jews tend to live in small apartments and drive Japanese and simple European cars, whilst it is Palestinians who tend to live in multi-story houses and drive Mercedes and BMW’s. (Obviously there are exceptions).

    Therefore, on one hand, whilst Larry might see the symbolism behind portraying all Jews as wealthy, it is questionable that this was the writer’s intent. If it was, it was far too subtle and the result is that now 90% of viewers probably think all Jews (in Israel) are millionaires and all Arabs are paupers.

    Therefore, should SBS decide to rebroadcast the series, they should display the disclaimer on screen at the start of every episode and should also show a more accurate series. Otherwise, they truly are biased.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Come now Ariel, you really believe what you are saying? Would you say that to a parliamentary inquiry?

  • ariel says:

    Which bit?

  • Shirlee Finn says:

    Yes Ariel, Larry is a “bit naive in thinking the average viewer would understand the show is completely fictitious and comprehend the symbolism.”

    Larry, have a look at the comments and articles on pro-Palestinian websites, that will well and truly show you how the average viewer thinks. Readers are being asked to contact SBS in praise of their screening of what they see as ‘truth and accuracy’ and to request the screening of like programmes

    Here you go Larry


    We urgently need you to write in support of the SBS series “The Promise” “

  • Alex Fein says:


    You wrote:
    “Is your answer to “Jewish groups are trying censor and control the media,” that we should be silent in the face of negative media portrayal….The ECAJ is simply exercising its democratic right, by submitting a complaint to a major media outlet and are most certainly not “trying censor and control the media.””

    Shirlee, you are asking the wrong question.

    You – and ECAJ – are confusing, having the “right” to do something with acting in a manner that actually achieves a desired goal.

    Is ECAJ’s desired goal to assist in the positive portrayal of Jews?

    If so, it needs to abandon immediately the childish view that because it doesn’t like something, complaining is the best way to achieve its aim. It also demonstrates a gross inability to distinguish between long and short term outcomes.

    As Zionists, it may be galling in the short term that SBS is screening a documentary we believe inaccurately portrays Jewish Israelis. It may be tempting to go after the short term gratification of complaining. Indeed, in a liberal democracy, that is certainly our “right.”

    That immediate gratification, however, does absolutely nothing to burnish the community’s reputation in the long term.

    I’m astonished that a group of intelligent people can continue to behave in a way that yields susch consistently poor results. ECAJ’s tactics failed completely during the Ashrawi affair – among other comparable incidents – and they are failing now.

    Apart from exercising a “right,” what concrete positive outcome from ECAJ’s actions can you point to?

    You also wrote:
    “Larry, have a look at the comments and articles on pro-Palestinian websites, that will well and truly show you how the average viewer thinks.

    Shirlee, the “average viewer” is not writing on anti-Zionist/ultra-left websites. There is not a single person who is writing rabid anti-Zionist screeds who was impartial before the series. To think otherwise betrays a deeply worrying ignorance of non-Jewish Australia.

  • letters in the age says:

    That immediate gratification, however, does absolutely nothing to burnish the community’s reputation in the long term……

    Absolutely, never has in the past Alex and won’t in the future unless you have people on the board level/executive at s.b.s?

  • Alex Fein says:

    Letters in The Age,
    Absolutely. But even without board membership, there’s so much that can be done.

    Our organisations urgently need –

    1) competent, experienced media practitioners

    2) to dispense with – immediately – the adversarial, confrontational, and petulant manner that characterises their dealings with media and other institutions. Such behaviour reflects badly on all Jews and achieves nothing.

    3)to begin fostering long term, good relationships with all major – and some minor – media outlets.

    We’ll never get everything we want, but we’ll be doing far better than we are now.

  • letters in the age says:

    Alex, some of your lobby groups need major “tweeking” others are of the highest calibre and are great and very professional to deal with in my experience.

    inject some gen x/y blood in there for the foreseeable future and you guys will shine

    The Danby generation with all due respect have done immense work for a certain era but there needs to be a major overhaul for you guys to evolve and appeal to subsequent generations.

    It can and it will be done, i’m sure with peeps like you!

  • ariel says:


    I agree with most of your last couple of posts.

    However, you wrote that “As Zionists, it may be galling in the short term that SBS is screening a documentary we believe inaccurately portrays Jewish Israelis”.

    Have you possibly just proved the point mdae by Shirlee and others that many haven’t realised The Promise is a fictional mini-series and not a documentary?

    SBS has every right to show this program, but they must emphasise that it is purely fictional and is meant for entertainment and to move the audience…like Romeo and Juliet, which also has no basis in reality, but which is set in a real part of history, in a real location.

  • Alex Fein says:

    Ariel, quite right: it’s a fictional account, not a documentary.

    I did know that it was historical fiction, and it was a slip of the keyboard on my part.

    I’d contend, though, that my error can actually be seen as confirmation of my argument.

    ECAJ’s complaint hinges on the drama’s historical inaccuracy.

    The discourse in general has been framed by both Zionist and Anti-Zionist organisations as a history war: it is being argued about *as though* it were indeed a documentary.

    ECAJ’s lengthy letter and intemperate media comments do nothing to militate against this perception – indeed they confirm it.

  • letters in the age says:

    .”…..ECAJ’s lengthy letter and intemperate media comments do nothing to militate against this perception – indeed they confirm it….”

    well said, it’s the perception of the client here, namely the public/polity.( in a political context)


  • Larry Stillman says:

    Ariel, I missed this comment of yours as well “For example, anyone who’s been to Israel will notice immediately that in the broad sense, Jews tend to live in small apartments and drive Japanese and simple European cars, whilst it is Palestinians who tend to live in multi-story houses and drive Mercedes and BMW’s. (Obviously there are exceptions).”

    Are you for real again, Ariel?? Or perhaps you were setting up a straw person with respect to the fictional setting of the mail Jewish characters in The Promise, a privileged family.

    Or are all the stats and research studies about Israeli Palestinian poverty and that in the territories just lies?

  • frosh says:


    The first episode certainly did not explain the cause of the Israeli family’s extremely enormous wealth, as illustrated by their very luxurious house and cars etc. It only mentions that the father was a general. Perhaps it wanted to convey the inaccurate message that Israeli generals, as happens in many third world despotic countries, are rewarded with a life of material abundance. Either the writer w anted to convey that that, or just that every Israeli family lives likes this.

    Either way, it is could only be the result of deliberately dishonest (or would you argue absurdly ignorant?) film making.

  • ariel says:


    There is poverty across Israel in all sectors, Jewish and Arab.
    (I am not including the West Bank and Gaza, although the proportion of Mercs and BMWs in those areas is far higher per capita than within pre-1967 Israel).

    Of all the middle class Israeli Jews I know (and I know many), not one of them lives in more than a 2-2.5 bedroom unit and if they own a car, it’s usually a small Peugot, FIAT etc. I don’t know anyone who owns a Merc, BMW or other expensive car.

    Usually when you drive to an Arab village, the middle class tends to drive Mercs, BMW, etc. As is Arab tradition, they build muliti-story houses to house the entire family. I never said they were mansions…

    Whilst my comment was partially facecious, it reflects more of a reality than the image of Jews living in mansions and driving expensive cars vs Arabs living in slums and riding rickshaws.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    From what I have been able to locate this afternoon, in line with the low social economic status of Israeli Palestinians, it needs to be observed that multi-level dwellings in many villages or small towns are not simply because of family affiliation or a desire to live close by, but are a direct outcome of discrimination.

    In many places, people are unable to get building permits to go out of prescribed zones, as it has been for many years. There is institutionalized housing discrimination against Israeli Palestinians, and this was a major cause of riots in the 70s ( the destruction of buildings without permits, something that rarely happens to Jews). This has been a major source of grievance. This report is well over a year old, but summarizes the situation. http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/israeli-arabs-have-no-choice-but-to-build-illegally-1.304777.

    The housing issue has, of course, been a major issue with the destruction of Beduin homes in the Beersheva region for Jewish purposes and JNF projects.

    This of course contrasts with the subsidized housing in the Occupied Territories and the virtually free land for Israelis in places such as the Golan heights.

    For details of the institutionalised exclusion of Israeli Palestinians from land ownership, see http://www.eco-logica.co.uk/pdf/wtpp05.4.pdf, p 28 ff. ” Today Palestinian citizens of Israel are, in practice, blocked from purchasing or leasing land on around 80% of the land in Israel on the basis of their national belonging.

    As a result, the vast majority of state land consists of segregated, Jewish-only areas. Two of the main mechanisms used to exclude Palestinian citizens from ownership and use of the land are “admissions committees” and the discriminatory policies pursued by the JNF and state authorities.”

    If you believe that this is not true, please demonstrate why it is not true. If you believe in institutionalized discrimination of this sort, I ask you, would you support this in Australia and still claim to be a democracy?

    The only report I could lay my hands on about car ownership is about 11 years old and reports that Palestinian Israeli car ownership is or was at about 70% of Jewish Israeli rates. Probably only wealthier people have cars which perhaps explains your perception, but also the dependency on shared Mercedes taxis. [http://www.eco-logica.co.uk/pdf/wtpp05.4.pdf]. I think your remark about now knowing anyone with an expensive car in Israel has cannot be extrapolated to have any real meaning, since there are Mercedes showrooms (http://www.mercedes-benz.co.il/) and they can’t just be selling to, as you imply Arabs.

    But I point to the land issue specifically as an indicator of the crisis in which Israeli finds itself–the old question of, is it a Jewish state–and what does that mean? or is it and State for all its peoples, based on equality and equal access?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Frosh, in response to your query, Kosminsky has said– ]and the whole interview is very interesting, http://www.jnews.org.uk/commentary/the-promise-interview-with-peter-kosminsky

    “MW: Your depiction of Paul and Eliza’s family also rings very true, and is made up of types recognizable to Israelis. Is it based on personal acquaintance? How do you explain the evolution of this family, from members of a terrorist organization in the first generation, to rich, privileged liberals who see themselves as ‘leftists’ but are disturbed by the physical presence of Arabs in the second – to the agonized young generation that beats against the cage of military service and indoctrination, but ultimately ends up ‘loyal’ to the state?

    PK: No, the Meyers are not based upon personal acquaintance. Very early on in the development of The Promise, I happened to be having lunch with an actress friend of mine who had gone to school in London. She described how two of her classmates, who had joint British-Israeli nationality, had been required to return to Israel to do their army service while she and all her friends were embarking on their gap year travel. One had been reluctant, the other less so. She described both as being very pro-IDF after their two years’ service.

    I wouldn’t attempt to explain the evolution of the family. There’s no over-arching political statement I am trying to make with their depiction. I tried to create a family from individuals I had met or interviewed, (or our researchers had interviewed), and which would be interesting dramatically. I met a man very like Immanuel Katz and drew the scene with Eliza’s grandfather from that conversation. We interviewed men very like Paul. His evolution from pro-Army to anti-Zionist, (apparently in part to annoy his father), came straight from the research. Max as a co-signatory to a military letter criticising the occupation is also from the research but I was interested in how a liberal man like Max might react to having a son who becomes far more extreme than he is, (so their debate is not between left and right but between shades of liberalism). Leah’s character also flows from individuals I met or read about – but is also created dramatically as a response to the idea of being the child of a strong, celebrated but also traumatised father such as Katz. She is not as politically liberal as her husband. Earlier in their relationship, when they met in London and first moved to Israel, this difference between them wasn’t so important. But, with the writing of Max’s letter and with his constant clashes with Paul over politics, Leah is moving closer to her political roots – which are right wing.

    MW: The Caesarea family represents an elite minority, which indeed wields influence in Israel, but they are definitely not representative of the Israeli majority. Why did you decide to show them, rather than ‘ordinary’, run-of-the mill Israelis, who live in apartments in big towns, listen to Mizrachi (Arab) music and voice unashamedly nationalist or right-wing positions?

    PK: Because I wasn’t trying to conduct a survey or make a documentary. The programme is soundly based upon extensive research but is very firmly a fictional drama. I didn’t sit down and think – how can I create a family that perfectly represents the average Israeli family, with two and a half children and living at the exact geographical centre of Israel. I read the research and then set about creating a human drama that interested me emotionally. The story is told from Erin’s point of view. Erin is quite a poor kid who, because her mum teaches in a London public school, meets and is friends with a lot of kids much wealthier than herself. She is drawn to that world, perhaps even covets it. Eliza is the most popular girl in the school. She’s clever and sporty, popular with boys. She is also known to be very rich. Erin is hugely flattered that Eliza wants to be friends with her, (the reasons are complex). When she asks Erin if she’d like to fly First Class to Israel and chill out by the pool in the sun for a few weeks, Erin leaps at the chance.”

  • Larry Stillman says:

    And on the subject of Jews in filum, this book is just out, but I don’t know if it covers this TV series, but given the controversy what the book looks at is probably relevant to the culture wars going on about The Promise. –I’m not a film studies person, but think of movies with identifiably Jewish criminals, were they anti-Semitic as well? I suppose it depends on when they were made and it is worth looking at that (I am not speaking of Nazi stuff, but the gangster movies with Jewish characters and plots…is this extrapolated to all Jews??)


    The New Jew in Film

    By Nathan Abrams
    I. B. Tauris, £14.99

    Nathan Abrams must have got through an awful lot of popcorn.

    In his study of “Jewish stereotypes and self-images in contemporary cinema” since 1990, he draws on an intimate knowledge of more than 300 movies — from comedies like American Pie and Knocked Up, to British indie flicks such as The Infidel; from Schindler’s List to virtually the entire output of the Coen brothers.

    So, how have things changed in the past 20 years? Abrams, who is senior lecturer in film studies at Bangor University, concludes, broadly speaking, that Jews on film have been “normalised”. American Jews, in particular, feel more secure and integrated into their society than at any time in their history.

    Dr Abrams says that a new breed of film-makers has brought about a “shift towards more subtle, nuanced, playful and even outrageous representations” that “signal the Jews feel more comfortable… that they have arrived.” Jewishness is accepted as normal.

    At the same time, the more Jews are accepted, the more they assert their difference, adopting loud and proud positions. In Knocked Up, when Ben (Seth Rogen) is asked what product makes his hair so curly, he replies: “I use Jew”.

    Abrams says the word “Jew” is uttered far more in post-1990 films than it was before, and now mostly “without any sense of negativity or insult”.

    Abrams’s examples of the way this works are fascinating. He cites how Jews have traditionally been portrayed as not manly – “queer”. This stereotype is played with in Roland Emmerich’s 1996 blockbuster, Independence Day, in which geek scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) exemplifies “queer” qualities, but ends up saving the world from aliens alongside the supremely goyish Will Smith. Barbra Streisand in this film also stands for a new type of Jewish mother, no longer overbearing and anxious, but sexy and relaxed.

    Jewish women are no longer confined by the Yiddishe mama or Rose-of-the-Ghetto self-image. When Angelina Jolie, a shiksah goddess if ever there was, admits in Mr and Mrs Smith that her spy/assassin character is Jewish, it is clear how far we have come.

    Such is the confidence to recast traditional Jewish concerns that, says Abrams, “no subject is beyond mockery or critique”, sometimes to shocking effect. In Woody Allen’s 1997 film, Deconstructing Harry, when Harry is asked if he cares about the Holocaust, he replies: “Not only do I know that we lost six million, but the scary thing is that records are made to be broken”.

    The New Jew in Film is basically an academic study but that should not deter readers. Abrams divides his chapters into easily digestible sections with amusing, expressive titles – Jewish Jane and James Bonds, the Jew and the Loo etc — and provides insights that will only enhance enjoyment and appreciation of these movies. All 300 of them.

  • frosh says:

    Larry, that’s a pathetic excuse for an answer from the Kosminsky

    He didn’t have to have a representative family, but then he at least ought to have provided a context or explanation for their wealth.

    He’s what I’d guess is the real truth. He wanted to draw a parallel with Apartheid South Africa, where white South Africans in many cases did live in such material luxury. However, there is very little in common between Israel and South Africa, and this is no exception. So, the author just created a fiction to suit his fabricated agenda.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Frosh–where, what? what has SA got to do with it?

  • frosh says:

    Exactly, it has absolutely nothing to do with it – yet those that hate Israel use such lazy, dishonest, and outright absurd rhetoric as to call Israel an Apartheid state.

    I just checked on the internet this second, and surprise surprise, Kosminsky has resorted to such slander previously, e.g. http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/48831/promise-director-kosminsky-and-israel-apartheid

    Talk about predictable!

  • Sydney Daniel says:

    I want to go back to the original point of the article for a moment.

    Firstly – The ECAJ has lodged a complaint and asked the ombudsman to see if The Promise broke SBS’s codes of conduct. I struggle to see how anyone could question that.

    Secondly – IF the program broke SBS’s codes of conduct then the program will obviously not appear on SBS again. That isn’t censorship… that is why there is a code of conduct.

    The ECAJ may have brought the program to the attention of the ombudsman, but an independent person/board will decide if it is appropriate to appear on SBS.
    The question may be asked if it was right for the ECAJ to publicise their letter of complaint through the media, which seems to be purely a PR question, but I don’t think you can question the complaint itself.

  • Grandma C says:

    If I could click a “Like” button right now it would be for the last comment from Sydney Daniel. And if the article and the subsequent 51 comments are not enough for you, there are even more in the Australian Jewish News today. :D

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Frosh, as you know, a number of internal Israeli critics have resorted to what you call slander, and current Supreme Court decisions, among other things, are reminiscent of the doctrine of legality of ‘separate and unequal’, as justied in the famous Plessey v Ferguson case in the US Supreme Court in 1896.

  • frosh says:

    Larry, “but other people do it” has never been a strong argument.

    I’m sure there are some “internal Israeli critics” who also advocate deport Arabs to the other side of the Jordan, but I don’t see you advocating that.

    No amount of people telling a lie can make it the truth.

  • Alex Fein says:

    Sydney Daniel,

    You’ve posited the same argument that others have.

    Your wrote: “….If the program broke SBS’s codes of conduct then the program will obviously not appear on SBS again. That isn’t censorship… that is why there is a code of conduct…The question may be asked if it was right for the ECAJ to publicise their letter of complaint through the media, which seems to be purely a PR question, but I don’t think you can question the complaint itself.”

    This is simply a more sophisticated version of the “we have a right in a liberal democracy…” argument.

    It is problematic on a number of levels:

    . As has been demonstrated in numerous other comments, the likelihood that SBS will be found to have violated these codes is near nil.
    . In the extremely unlikely event that SBS is found to have been in breach, the series will not be repeated. And what then?
    . ECAJ fails – and it’s a serious failure – to anticipate outcomes beyond the short term gratification of winning a single battle.

    . No one – other than a handful of Jews – cares for the technicalities here.
    . The single breakthrough message – that Jews seek censorship – will last far longer and have far greater public ramifications than the series itself.

    . The average Australian has not been watching the series.
    . The average Australian is far more likely to hear the story of censorship than to have heard of the programme itself.

    . The cure is therefore worse than the illness for this reason alone; however –
    . No single complaint – even if successfully upheld – will change the culture of SBS and any anti-Zionist tendencies it may have.
    . Such a successful complaint will only make it more difficult for good relations that lead to good outcomes for our community in the future.
    . SBS is not quarantined from other Australian media. A negative experience with SBS can lead to broader consequences for Jews in the wider media.

    . In expending so many resources and so much time fighting a battle that can only harm us, we fail to sink resources into building positive relationships which give us a chance at seeing positive outcomes for our community.

    . Seeing policy and PR as separate is a dangerous error and points to a lack of experienced media professionals in an organisation.
    . If an organisation acts in a way that – should it be publicised – will be highly damaging, that action must be re-evaluated.
    . All actions must be assessed on the basis that they will eventually come to light.
    . This issue in particular has all the ingredients of a “hot” story and was always going to become public.
    . ECAJ indulged in shocking media mismanagement, but that took place after an even more serious initial miscalculation.

    I repeat: it doesn’t matter who is “right.” This is not a sibling spat and there is no mother that can adjudicate and make things right on the basis of fairness.

    There is only intelligent and productive behaviour, which has been entirely absent in ECAJ’s approach to this issue.

    I’ve reiterated this same essential message over a number of comments, and so I’ll leave this as my final comment on the matter.

    Shabbat Shalom to everyone.

  • Sam says:

    The AJN has made the ECAJ complaint to SBS one of the biggest stories in recent months. They must be struggling with a dearth of newsworthy items, and/or they misjudge the good that will (not) come out of this.
    It is not such a big deal except that it will probably become a PR nightmare for ECAJ before the dust finally settles. The Perth local paper “The Maccabean” similarly has front paged it with bold headlines.
    Do the Editors actually think that showing off the ECAJ dis-satisfaction to the wider community with this complaint is going to win friends and influence people? Some people in media should not be in the positions of power that they are priviliged to hold.

  • Grandma C says:

    I guess the lesson ECAJ should take from this is that the mainstream media such as SMH and others trawl the minority papers (which are in English) such as the AJN for any whiff or hint of a controversial story. In which case, maybe the ECAJ should act quietly on cases such as this, not going to the Jewish press when they do lodge a protest about something. Then we could all live in blissful ignorance. But then we would have letters to the AJN,and maybe an article in Galus, complaining that the ECAJ is doing nothing….

  • ariel says:

    I agree with Frosh on Kosminsky’s ridiculous answer.

    “The programme is soundly based upon extensive research but is very firmly a fictional drama. I didn’t sit down and think – how can I create a family that perfectly represents the average Israeli family, with two and a half children and living at the exact geographical centre of Israel. I read the research and then set about creating a human drama that interested me emotionally.”

    So basically, the research only interviewed wealthy Israelis in Caesaria who were also liberals and Kosminsky used it to make his fiction to suit his own agenda, as frosh says.

    I suppose by not researching everyday Israelis he is able to employ plausible deniability and say “well the Israelis in The Promise were just like the ones in The Promise”.

    See, if you actually do wide research, you have no excuse to bias one piece of datum over the overwhelming majority. But if you only sample a fraction of data from a particular sub-data group, you can claim “well I was researching bacteria so I looked at 100 ecoli bacteria samples under a microscope and they were all the same. Ergo 100% of all bacteria are ecoli”.

  • ariel says:

    whoops, that should read:
    “well the Israelis in The Promise were just like the ones we interviewed”.

  • Sydney Daniel says:

    The basis of a lot of the comments are on the assumption that the ombudsman does not find that it breached the code of conduct.

    Let it runs its course before you way the pros/cons because we could end up with SBS being told not to re-run it and not to sell it.

  • Shirlee Finn says:

    Alex, you speak from ignorance by saying that the ECAJ and its constituent and affiliate organisations, do nothing proactively to build good relations with the wider community.

    Our Communal organisations do endless work in building relations with politicians, the media, other ethnic communities, including regular interfaith dialogues with other religions, also in outreach to community organisations, schools etc.

    Those who can, do. Those who can’t, preach.

    The largest parliamentary friends’ group by far, is the Federal Parliamentary Friends of Israel. A NSW Parliamentary Friends group will shortly be launched, with elected members of all parties. Greens MP, Jeremy Buckingham, is a member of the Executive Committee . Two years ago, Greens MPs and officials didn’t bother answering invitations by Jewish community organisations. Now they turn up to Jewish community functions in large numbers.

    We have friends in the media, even in the Fairfax group. As far as support from far left academics and journalists is concerned, that’ll probably never happen, even though proactive outreach is ongoing. The Drum and ABC Online will always tend to be against our views, but they are not the sum total of informed Australian public opinion. Far from it.

    Last year the ECAJ, with its NSW and Victorian constituents, successfully led the effort to overturn Marrickville Council’s ‘boycott Israel’ resolution and the NSW Greens equally outrageous resolution. The BDS campaign (Max Brenner etc) was stopped dead in its tracks.

    I know I did a great deal . What did you do to assist these achievements?

    You say all actions will eventually come to light. The ECAJ hasn’t sought to hide anything. It put its complaint in the public domain from the beginning. If they had not done so, you and others would undoubtedly have accused them of acting conspiratorially. Thanks to the ECAJ, there is now a comprehensive deconstruction of ‘The Promise’ freely available online. Despite all the shrill nonsense about “censorship”, no-one has put a dent into the ECAJ’s analysis. The SBS submission is an excellent document. Hours of research obviously went into it. The assertion that it must have cost a great deal of money to produce does not ring true. The Executive Director is already in the employ of the ECAJ.

    As to “censorship”, complaints are made daily about material seen on TV and read in the print media. It’s complete and utter rubbish to characterise the making of a complaint as “censorship”. Taking away people’s right to complain, would be censorship

    I’ve checked Larry Stillman’s claim that the ECAJ has threatened to refer the matter to Senate Estimates. I can’t find any evidence whatsoever of the ECAJ making any threats, or even raising the subject of Senate Estimates. Stillman’s claim is just wrong. But it has clearly misled many people who have accepted it uncritically.

    SBS, like any other government body, appears before Senate Estimate Committees on a regular basis to justify its budget. I hope that they are asked some tough questions about their commercial interest in this series. How dishonest, though, for anyone to suggest that this year’s appearance by SBS before a Senate Estimate Committee, has anything to do with ‘The Promise’. How dishonest also to suggest, without a skerrick of evidence, that the ECAJ has made threats.

    However, it’s your final comment that really disgusts me – your assertion that it doesn’t matter who is “right”. For you it’s all about how we look to the wider community. Well truth and accuracy may count for nothing with you but it still matters to me and others too, I am sure.

    You haven’t actually said it but you imply that the ECAJ and the Community should have said and done nothing on this issue. Your position comes across as “Don’t say anything non-Jews might find unpalatable, no matter how true it is! Sha shtil!”

    Had the Jewish people followed your advice and kept their unpopular opinions to themselves, they would never have rejected the predominant pagan religions in antiquity. Einstein and Freud would never have dared challenge the orthodoxies of their day. There would never have been a Jewish dissident voice heard against the ascendant Fascist ideologies of the 1930’s, or against racism generally. Our faith and our national identity would have died out eons ago.

    There is something else too. Our dignity.

    If you watched the series, you might recall a scene from the 1940’s, where Len discovers that he has been betrayed by Clara. He comes back to her home looking for revenge. She’s not there but he encounters her father, who’s an elderly Holocaust survivor. Len brings his face right up to the father’s face and yells “I don’t know what’s happened to you people”.

    Get it? “You people”.

    Not: “I don’t know what’s happened to Clara”.

    “You people”. Meaning “You Jews”. As in “You people killed Jesus” or “You people are oppressing the Palestinians”. Collective guilt. I am aware that many people complained about this scene.

    Are you saying we should remain silent about such a disgraceful and OBVIOUSLY RACIST scene?

    Shame on you.

    For me, this was the point in your post when the mask of the “sensible Jew” was lifted to reveal the “cringing Jew”.

    Have you no dignity?

  • Alex Fein says:

    If my previous comment upset you, I apologise. That was not my intention.

    We clearly want the same thing: for Israel and the Jewish people to be represented fairly in Australian public life. We’d both agree that this does not always happen. SBS’s The Promise was a particularly egregious case of misrepresentation.

    Where we disagree, is on management. After much back and forth, it seems we will have to agree to disagree in this case.

    For what it’s worth, I am a proud and public Zionist and have copped my share of flack for this. Accusations that I advocate that Jews cower and be quiet are not reflected in my writing history.

    I would also like to congratulate you on standing up to the BDS bullies in Randwick. There are definitely times when there is no place for niceties and the undoubtedly anti-Semitic BDS campaign in the Sydney councils was a good example. Your handling of Greens Mayor, Murray Matson was admirable.

    My argument is simply that there is not a one size fits all approach to managing perceptions of Jews and Israel in the Australian public consciousness. We cannot wish away academia and its tendencies, nor can we separate the often inextricable links between academia, media, and government.

    We want the same thing: we just need to find the best way of achieving it.

    Wishing you a shavua tov.

  • letters in the age says:

    “…….there is not a one size fits all approach to managing perceptions of Jews and Israel in the Australian public consciousness….”

    Observing the gay lobby this year, there is a lot to be learnt from other groups in the community with media management.


  • Shirlee Finn says:

    No Alex an apology is not necessary. Thank you for your kind words.

    You say “We want the same thing: we just need to find the best way of achieving it.”

    OK, then get on with doing it, the way I have done. If you want to achieve anything and you want to change things, then you have to be proactive. There is no point in shouting from the sidelines, like a spectator. That achieves nothing.

    For years I was like you and criticised our Community groups and leaders. Not loudly as you do. I just withdrew from the Community and worked elsewhere.

    Last year when the Marrickville issue reared its ugly head, I couldn’t contain myself and got stuck into trying to do something about it.

    I still wasn’t happy the way the ‘official’ Community was handling things. I took issue with a number of people big time, and, on reflection, made a complete idiot of myself. Then it dawned on me after working with those people, that they weren’t so bad after all and were open to suggestion

    Try thinking and acting in the positive and not the negative, you may be pleasantly surprised.

  • Alex Fein says:


    One’s constructive advocacy is another’s shouting from the sidelines.

    The distinction’s usually dependent on whether one agrees or disagrees with the advocacy/shouting :)

    Wishing you well.

  • Reality Check says:

    Quite right Larry Stillman, The Promise is not meant to be an accurate account of history, it is meant, as did anti-Semitic literature of the past 2000 years, to portray Jews as undisirable, murderous, thieving bastards who should be exterminated, so what’s the harm in that!

  • Reality Check says:

    Furthermore, The Promise may be claimed today to be fiction, but the way history works, it could very well be considered as fact in the future.

  • Letters in the age says:

    I wonder how the episode of the good wife recently (channel ten) would have been viewed pertaining to an interfaith demonstration and death between Jewish and Palestinian students.

  • Ben says:

    The ombudsman reply is here. What exactly is the ECAJ complaining about ? About the content of the series ? If so can it come out with a factual expose of any lies in it ? Victorian Zonists tried to close down radio 3CR on similar grounds and when 3 CR supporters came out with carton loads of evidence in support of their claim of collaboration between Zionists an Nazis, the Victorian Zionists quietly withdrew from the inquiry. The report of the defence team has been published and the Zionists are still keeping a deafening silence over it. This may be the second such case.

  • Vilmos says:

    Ben, if you bother to read the ECAJ complaint you will find out what it’s about:

    “ The complaint is that in direct violation of SBS Code 1.3, the series promotes, endorses and reinforces demeaning stereotypes about Jews as a group. All of the principal Jewish characters (and thus by implication Jews generally) are portrayed negatively and, ultimately, without any redeeming virtues. They are cast as variously cruel, violent, hateful, ruthless, unfeeling, amoral, treacherous, racist and/or hypocritical. The ancient libel that holds all Jews throughout history to be collectively guilty of killing Jesus has been segued into the equally ludicrous proposition that all Jews are collectively guilty of the wanton shedding of innocent blood, a staple of contemporary Palestinian propaganda. The series also panders to stereotypes about Jews being immoderately wealthy and having acquired their wealth unfairly. The cumulative effect of these consistently negative portrayals of all of the principal Jewish characters and of the series’ numerous misrepresentations of the relevant historical background in a way that consistently casts Jews in a negative light is to demean Jews as a group.

    We assume SBS would never contemplate screening a series in which all the principal characters who are identifiably Muslim are either ruthless, murderous terrorists or morally coarse people who condone terrorism or sympathise or co-operate with terrorists. Yet this is precisely the way all of the principal characters who are identifiably Jewish are portrayed in The Promise.”

    The complaint is replete with a factual expose of the lies, distortions and omissions in The Promise. Even SBS has said that “The Promise was a fictional drama and nothing more than that”. I repeat, “fictional”. And many of the people on this blog who criticised the ECAJ for having the temerity to make a complaint have conceded that the version of “history” suggested by The Promise is flawed to say the least.

    I wouldn’t be too loud about your “carton loads of evidence in support of the claim of collaboration between Zionists and Nazis”. This is as nothing when compared to the truck loads of evidence of an ALLIANCE (not merely collaboration) between Hitler and the Palestinian leadership under Haj Amin al Husseini, who spent most of the years of WWII as Hitler’s personal guest in Jerusalem and set up Muslim SS Divisions for Nazi Germany. Even decades later when he lived in Beirut, Haj Amin’s home featured photos of him shaking hands with Hitler, Himmler and other high Nazi officials, inspecting his SS troops and giving the Nazi salute.
    Husseini intervened on 13 May 1943, with the German Foreign Office to block possible transfers of Jews from Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, after reports reached him that 4,000 Jewish children accompanied by 500 adults had managed to reach Palestine. He asked the Foreign Minister “to do his utmost” to block all such proposals and this request was complied with. A year later, on 25 July 1944, he wrote to the Hungarian foreign minister to register his objection to the release of certificates for 900 Jewish children and 100 adults for transfer from Hungary, fearing they might end up in Palestine. He suggested that if such transfers of population were deemed necessary, then:

    “it would be indispensable and infinitely preferable to send them to other countries where they would find themselves under active control, as for example Poland, thus avoiding danger and preventing damage.”

    In September 1943, intense negotiations to rescue 500 Jewish children from the town of Arbe in Croatia (negotiations which you, Ben, shamefully characterise as “collaboration”) collapsed due to the objection of al-Husseini who blocked the children’s departure to Turkey because they would end up in Palestine.

    See Browning, Christopher R. (2007). The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-803-25979-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=d9Wg4gjtP3cC&pg=PA406.

  • Ben says:

    The program was about Hebron and the hatred and violence of settlers against local Palestinians. They have even welded Palestinian shops shut and written “death to Arabs” and “Arabs to gas chambers” on the shops. If this is untrue or any way exxagerated ECAJ should expose it. The rest is weasel words about “bias” and “stereotyping”. Is the series factually tue and fair in its reporting ?

  • Ben says:

    NO ones denies the relationship between the Nazis and Amini. The denial is about Nazi zionist collaboration. AGain facts face them or expose them.

  • Larry Stillman says:


    Take a deep breath please. Such projects about such a program are rubbish. Interpreting what is going on through a conflation of history and possibilities goes nowhere.

    Look at what SBS actually screens–for example, another film has been screened, now available on playback. I strongly urge you watch it. It reflects all sorts of stereotypes. Made by Israelis.


    We’ve all had experiences like this in Israel (or maybe you have not). Is it actually, factually true? No. Is it reflecting an interpretation of reality? Yes. Is this film anti-semitic? No.

    On the Nazi-Hajji Hussein alliance, disgusting as it is, we forget that for reasons of nationalist anti-imperialism, there were other examples in WW2 — amongst Indians, Koreans, and in Indonesia and plenty of innocents died because of this (I suspect Australians included). This of course does not justify the Nazi treatment of Jews in any way, but don’t forget, there were people out there in colonial environments looking to better their own ambitions and Husseini was a pretty evil character.

    As for the accusations of Nazi-Zionist collaboration, I think Ben is wrong to raise them, because the truth it appears can never really be known because what is on paper only tells a bit of the story. So much of what goes on is post-facto speculation and interpretation and Leni Brenner’s work in this area is regarded as simplistic by reputable specialists. In my opinion, attempts at ‘working with Nazis’ relected absolute desperation and naivite on the part of Jewish participant, particularly those on the Jewish right (and in the 30s, it was hard to know what would ultimately happen). These ultimately failed attempts should not be used to make general judgements about Zionism in general, though it often turns up another rhetorical tool in the Israel-Palestine conflict. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Kastner, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Brand)

  • Ben says:

    Hello Larry
    The entire truth may not be known. The evidence is not just bits of paper but eople who lived through it and acted it out as well. Uri Aveneir who lived through the Anglo Palestine bank’s breaing of the Nazi boycott is alive and his articles mention the fact. The trial of Kastner and the historical records of Fieval Poklkes and Eichmann’s visit to Jerusalem as a guest of the Zionists are there. The entire story may not be known but the baisic facts are clearly evident.

  • Vilmos says:

    Larry, I have no idea which “projects” you are talking about. I said nothing about any “projects”. Or is this word a typo in your post? If so, it’s far from your most egregious mistake.

    Your comments comparing the alliance between the Palestinian leadership and Hitler with Indians, Koreans, Indonesians and others in nationalist anti-imperialist movements collaborating, say, with the Japanese, are moral equivalence at its worst. The latter may at times have been involved in war crimes but were not complicit in genocide. Haj Amin and the rest of the al-Husseini clique were up to their eyeballs in it. It was a core reason for their alliance with the Nazis. Had the Nazis won in North Africa the Jews in the Yishuv would have suffered the same fate as the Jews in Europe. Even today, more Palestinians than you would care to admit wish that this had been the outcome, and even hope that the extermination/expulsion of most of the Jewish population from what is now Israel may be achieved some time in the future. Aided and abetted by wilfully blind people like yourself. Human beings are seldom more dangerous than when they are sentimentally overcome by the goodness of their own intentions, Larry Stillman.

    Yes, The Promise is antisemtic.

    · Jewish characters, and only Jewish characters and a British deserter to the Jewish side are involved in acts of betrayal.

    · Jewish characters and only Jewish characters are portrayed as hypocrites.

    · All the atrocities that are portrayed, with one exception (suicide bombing), are committed by Jewish characters.

    · The atrocities committed by Jewish characters are portrayed in graphic detail and the culpability of the perpetrators is accentuated with a great sense of moral outrage.

    · With the one atrocity that is shown to be committed by a Palestinian (suicide bombing), the perpetrator is on the screen for only a few seconds. She says nothing and we know nothing of her character. She is almost anonymous, making the event seem like a horrible crime devoid of an identifiable perpetrator or perpetrators.

    · None of the atrocities committed by the Arab side in the 1940’s is portrayed or even mentioned eg the Hadassah medical convoy massacre in which Palestinian terrorists burnt alive 50 Jewish doctors and nurses http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadassah_medical_convoy_massacre

    or the Kfar Etzion massacre in which 129 Jews were murdered by Palestinian terrorists and the Arab Legion, more than the number killed at Deir Yassin (which is portrayed in The Promise in graphic detail): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kfar_Etzion_massacre

    · All of the Arab characters are portrayed in the series as saintly characters (as I said, the suicide bomber is not portrayed at all, and appears only for about 3 seconds).

    And there is also the infamous “you people” comment in Episode 3 and again in Episode 4.

    Larry, you’re in denial. If the series had portrayed Arabs and Muslims the way Jews are portrayed, SBS would never have screened it. (And if by some oversight SBS had screened it, the cries of ‘racism’ from many of those who now support the series would still be ringing in our ears). Even the Chair of the NSW Community Relations Commission last week wrote to the SBS Board to deplore the dismissal of the complaints and SBS’s failure to face up to the racism of the series. Wherever else in the world this putrid piece of racist propaganda is to be shown, it will be dogged by exposure and criticism. And deservedly so.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I can only quote from John Foster below who unfortunately died some years ago. He taught at the Univ of Melbourne.He was a reputable historian .

    He gave evidence in the 3CR radio inquiry in 1978 or so where allegations such as yours were made by a program called ‘Palestine Speaks’, which relied upon an extreme view of Zionist behaviour during WW2. While we can have a separate argument about the Zionism/racism argument or his other views abotu Israel (that I have not quoted here), the focus should be upon Foster’s account of the behaviour of certain Zionist interests during WW2 and the extension of the interpretation of those events as to be a priori associated with ALL Zionists. As Foster said, “Jews were hostages and then victims – they were never free agents”

    I doubt Uri Avineri (I think that is who you are referring to ) would take a position such as yours. As you can also see, the Kaster case did not turn out as you wish.

    Eichmann as you know, was in a position to manipulate whatever contacts he made–the contacts in Palestine were of no avail. Pollkes’ role is also exaggerated (see http://arvsaz.blogspot.com.au/2008/10/greenstein-and-feivel-polkes-more-lies.html) and Joel Brand’s attempts to broker a deal were a failure.

    Raul Hilberg who wrote the classic work on the machinery of the Nazi extermination doesn’t seem to have regarded these as major players, but futile attempts to halt the Nazi machine.

    If any of this stuff had real traction, it would have become part of mainstream historical discourse rather than of Trot conspiracy theories hijacked by others. It hasn’t. It is contumely.

    I will support critique of Zionism and the criminality of the Occupation and the failure of Israel to be a state of all its peoples, but I won’t go for the Zionist-Nazi game as a priori ‘evidence’.

    There were of course Jewish fascists in the 30s and 40s (photos of black shirt blood and fire rallies exist ), and Yitzhak Shamir was one of them, but they weren’t Nazis.

    Enough said. The issue has been done to death.

    If you were serious about this argument, you would also name yourself.

    Nazi-Zionist Collaboration: Appendix A Proof of evidence from John Harvey Foster

    1. I am a lecturer in German History at the University of Melbourne. I hold the degree of Master of Arts in German from the University of Melbourne and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Wales. I have also studied in the University of Tubingen and the Free University of Berlin. I teach the history of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust at the University of Melbourne in courses for second and fourth year students and I supervise post-graduate and doctoral research in modern Jewish history and the history of the Holocaust. I am engaged in research in the history of German Jewish communities, and have worked in this connection at the archives of the Holocaust Memorial (Yad Vashem) in Jerusalem, the Central Archives of the Jewish people at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, the Wiener Library in London, and at the institute for Contemporary history at Munich.

    2. I have read transcripts of material broadcast on 3CR concerning pre-war Germany, the Holocaust and allegations of a Nazi-Zionist collaboration, I consider much of the material to be a gross distortion of the historical facts in a way which is calculated to be deliberately misleading.

    3. The attempt to equate Zionism with racism thoroughly misrepresents the intentions and aims of the Zionist movement. Zionism should he understood as a classical nationalist movement in the same sense as other nineteenth century movements, such as those to establish nation states in Italy, Czechoslovakia or Poland. Zionist claims to nationality-rose from consciousness amount some Jews of being an identifiable historical community, with a clear continuity of existence, an affection for the Biblical land and a common cultural inheritance. These are typical of characteristics by which nineteenth century nationalistic movements are usually defined. Racism, on the other hand, is a distinctly different kind of doctrine, which has nothing to do with Zionism. In particular Nazi racism was conceived in terms of a permanent struggle between races so that by definition a claim to racist superiority would be demonstrated by the subjugation, persecution or even physical elimination of other races considered to be inferior. Zionism has never made similar claims. The claim that ‘racism and Zionism are like Hitler’s Germany (27th August 1977) defies not only the rules grammar, but also the facts. In Israel many different ethnic, religious and political groups live side by side in a way which would be intolerable to a racist state.

    4. ‘Palestine Speaks’ makes frequent reference to alleged collaboration between Nazis and Zionists. In particular, it has claimed on 8th October 1978, ‘that the collaboration between the Zionist and the Nazi fascists was neither accidental or expedient. It flowed logically from shared aims. They were not strange bed-fellows but common bedfellows.’ Such statements are extremely misleading; in the first place the German Zionist organization – together with the other German Jews – strenuously opposed the Nazi Party during its rise to power, both through public statements and through substantial financial contributions to the political fighting funds of the democratic parties. This would be well known by anybody who took the trouble to read the German Zionist press of those years. In the second place from the moment the Nazis seized power, Jewish communities – first in Germany and then throughout Europe increasingly lost their freedom of action, and were forced more and more to operate within the constraints of the different stages of the Nazi persecution. Consequently any rational or unprejudiced account of Jewish political activities in the following twelve years has to be understood within the context of oppression and mass extermination. Jews were hostages and then victims – they were never free agents: This makes nonsense of any claims that Zionists – or Jews of any persuasion – collaborated voluntarily with ‘the fascist repression apparatus’ (Palestine Speaks, 8th October 1978) .

    5. It has been argued elsewhere that even those Jews who walked unresistingly into the gas chambers assisted the Nazis in the execution of their extermination policy. Whatever one thinks about the political morality of this argument, it makes abundantly clear the absurdity of attempting to derive conclusions about a person’s political ideology from particular actions in such an extreme situation.

    6. Three examples will make clear how maliciously the broadcasts distort the facts:-

    (a) The Haavara Transfer Agreement of 1933 (Palestine Speaks 5th June 1977, 16th October 1977). This agreement was concluded between Zionist authorities in Palestine and the Nazi regime, as a means for transferring the capital of German Jews emigrating to Palestine. The broadcasts refer to the agreement as an example of Nazi-Zionist collaboration. What they fail to mention is that, according to German exchequer figures, a Jew who transferred his capital under the terms of the agreement had to surrender between two-thirds and three-quarters of the total to the German Government in the form of special taxes and administrative expenses.

    The agreement was, clearly no normal business arrangement. The desire to emigrate, the need to transfer capital and to accent such enormous losses were solely dictated by the Nazi persecution. This was no piece of Nazi-Zionist ‘collaboration’; it was an attempt to salvage some Jewish property, the rest of which was expropriated by the Nazis in 1938-39.

    The broadcast of 5th June 1977 concludes that ‘the moral effort by anti-racist Jews to boycott Nazi products was undermined by the Haavara agreement and the refusal of the Eighth Zionist Congress to even participate in the boycott’. This statement is intended to create the impression that, unlike other Jews, the Zionists collaborated with Nazi racism. However, it suppresses the fact that the official representation of German Jewry overwhelmingly anti-Zionist in their convictions at that time – had themselves protested against the boycott. They did this because, as patriotic Germans, they had no wish to see the German economy harmed and because, as Jews, they feared that the boycott would provoke increasingly severe anti-Jewish measures in Germany.

    Far from betraying their fellow-Jews, the Zionist Congress was attempting to act in solidarity with the persecuted German Jews. In retrospect one may question the political wisdom of their actions: but one cannot doubt their intentions. They were the very opposite of what the broadcast misleadingly implies.
    (b) The Kastner Case:

    In attempting to bolster up this charge of Nazi-Zionist Collaboration, the broadcasts make much use of the Kastner Case (l6th October 1977; 7th and 8th October 1978). Here again, the broadcasts reveal their prejudice by the use of the term ‘collaboration’. It is true that there were negotiations between Kastner, the Zionist Relief and Rescue Committee and the Nazis concerning the purchase of Jewish lives for money and military equipment. These took place in the context of the almost completed destruction of European Jewry. The Hungarians were the last on the list; and the sole purpose of the negotiations was to preserve some Jews from their otherwise inevitable fate at Auschwitz. In these circumstances, to talk of collaboration is malicious and absurd.

    The broadcast of 16th October 1977 again deliberately suppresses information to create its effect. It is true as the broadcast states, that there was a trial involving Kastner’s activities, in which the Jerusalem District Court found against him. But the broadcasts omit to mention that when the case was appealed before the Israeli Supreme Court, the verdict of the lower Court was overturned, and Kastner, though now dead, was fully rehabilitated.

    Finally, the claim that without Kastner’s collaboration the Nazis would not have been able to exterminate the Hungarian Jews is simply untrue. It flies in the face of all that we know about the machinery of the Nazi destruction process.

    (C) The third example concerns a sin of omission.

    In presenting the Zionists as Nazi collaborators, the broadcasts entirely omit to mention two basic facts:-

    (1) Most European Zionists, along with their fellow Jews, were exterminated. An odd way to deal with ‘collaborators';

    (2) Zionists were at least as prominent as others in all phases of the Jewish resistance. The most striking example of this is the well documented Zionist participation in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, but there were countless other cases as well;

    Both of these facts are willfully ignored by the broadcasts. They cannot be unknown to anyone who has concerned himself with the details of the Holocaust.

    7. With their deliberate distortion of some fact and their willful omission of others, I can only conclude that the broadcasts intend to falsify history for propaganda purposes. There is nothing new in the attempt to tar the Zionists with the Nazi brush: It was one of the chief propaganda weapons of the Soviet Press during the anti-Zionist trials of 1971. Nothing could have been more calculated to ferment anti-Semitism in the U.S.S.R. than lurid comparisons between Nazism and Zionism; and I believe the same to be true in this country.

  • Ben says:

    Hello Larry

    You have to only look up Uri Avenety’s articles. The fact of the Anglo Palestine bank breaking the boycott is well known and is easly verifiable by an one serious about finding the truth and not seeking to deny it as “bits of paper”.
    The defence proceedings of the 3 CR inquiry are available in print and it is an established fact that the Zionists quietly withdrew from the enquiry when confronted with the evidence – not just “pieces of paper” but ministerial notes, minutes of meetings, government files, microfilm and reports. And you don’t just have Eichmann’s words for his visit to Jerusalem, the British expelled him from Palestine.
    The Kastner case was just one in point, he was murdered any way.
    One can choose to look at the reality beyond the “pieces of paer” or choose to ignore it.

  • There has been considerable anti-Semitic trolling activity under both of the articles concerning the screening of The Promise on SBS.

    Galus Australis is not a forum for Holocaust revisionism or attempted delegitimisation of the Jewish people. Trolls are not welcome. Those writing under the names “Ben” and “Murray”, this means you.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I agree with Galus in this case. If people won’t identify themselves on such hot topics, or base their arguments on peer-reviewed academic research, then their incredibly simplistic analysis then it is not worth discussing, particularly since it has little directly to do with the original posting.

    It is dishonest to stir the pot like this.

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