Monday, 7 February 2011

A Historic Week?

No, I don't mean Egypt. Something else has just happened - in Britain: in the space of four days two different television channels have broadcast programmes about Palestine. On Thursday 3rd February on BBC2 Louis Theroux interviewed 'Ultra Zionists' on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and on Sunday 6th Channel Four started a four-part drama, 'The Promise'.

The 'Ultra Zionists' were almost all very mainstream settlers carrying out Israeli Government policy. Theroux cleverly got them to talk while subtly suggesting that their actions might be illegal and inhumane. Only one man lost his temper, when asked whether the olive trees some settlers had set fire to belonged to Palestinians.

'The Promise' is about the experience of a British student, Erin, visiting the family of her friend who has dual Anglo-Israeli nationality and who is starting her two years military service. The friend's family are very British, living in a lovely villa by the sea. The father is a retired general and a well known liberal - but not liberal enough for the friend's brother, who is a peace-activist. He takes Erin to the West Bank to meet some Palestinians and hear their grievances.

The story is given depth by the diary of Erin's grandfather, which she has brought with her to read. He was s sergeant, present at the liberation of Belsen in 1945, and he then served in Palestine in the last years of British rule. His squadren is at war with Zionist activists, and he is recruited to spy for them by the daughter of one of the leaders.

'The Promise' sets out to present a balanced picture, though so far we haven't met any present-day Zionists. Some of the detail struck me as inaccurate; the Israeli check-point was between Israel and the West Bank, so it did not give any idea of the horrors of the check-points inside the Occupied Territories. And there is a suicide bombing - something that is now extremely rare. Anyway, I shall follow the remaining three episodes with great interest.

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