“INSIDIOUS”, “racist” and “a landmark in the creeping rehabilitation of anti-Semitism in Western culture”.
These are just some of the terms used to describe The Promise in a 20-page letter of complaint submitted this week to the SBS ombudsman by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).
Amid fears the broadcaster may re-screen the controversial TV series this year, and with the broadcaster now offering the DVD of the drama for sale, ECAJ claims the four-part serial is “in direct violation” of SBS’s own codes on prejudice, racism and discrimination and, further, is a manifestation of anti-Semitism as defined by the international community.
According to the letter, the series (which screened late last year) “consistently casts Jews in a negative light” so as “to demean Jews as a group”.
“They are cast as variously cruel, violent, hateful, ruthless, unfeeling, amoral, treacherous, racist and/or hypocritical,” said ECAJ executive director Peter Wertheim.
Meanwhile, he adds, its distorted and unbalanced presentation of the establishment of the State of Israel falls within the internationally accepted working definition of anti-Semitism, “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour” and “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”.
“The Promise unrelentingly portrays the entire Jewish presence throughout the country … as an act of usurpation by Jews who, without exception, are aliens, predators and thieves and who enforce their usurpation by brutal, racist policies akin to those inflicted by the Nazis upon the Jewish people,” Wertheim wrote.
Alongside the letter, Wertheim submitted an 11-page breakdown of the series, highlighting specific scenes or comments that show Jewish characters to be violent, racist oppressors and that reinforce age-old stereotypes, such as Jews being wealthy. The breakdown contrasts the portrayal with Arab characters, who are all shown as peaceful victims. Arab attacks, incitement and terrorism against Jews from the 1880s to the present day are either minimised or ignored, while actions of Jewish underground groups in the 1940s and of the IDF today are, by comparison, shown in graphic detail and not placed in any context.
Comparing The Promise to infamous Nazi propaganda film Jud Suss, Wertheim wrote that both interpreted historical events not only as a tragedy, but as a tale of “Jewish wrongdoing”, and that both “made liberal use of anti-Jewish stereotypes”.
“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 cooperate with terrorists. Yet this is precisely the way all of the principal character who are identifiably Jewish are portrayed,” he wrote.
The DVD of The Promise is set to go on sale next month, although SBS is already inviting people to pre-order it on their website. An SBS spokesperson told The AJN the drama hasn’t been scheduled for rebroadcast “at this stage”, however a posting on another website said it would be shown again in the middle of this year.
Expressing his concern, Wertheim said, “In terms of SBS, we simply want a determination that the content of the series breached the SBS codes and that they shouldn’t have screened it.
“If that is the case and they make a finding that it breached SBS’s code then it is my understanding they will have to stop selling it out of their store as well.”
ECAJ executive director Peter Wertheim