The Promise (2011 TV serial)
Serial DVD cover
|Written by||Peter Kosminsky|
|Directed by||Peter Kosminsky|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||4|
|Executive producer(s)||David Aukin|
|Running time||81, 87, 83 and 105 minutes|
|Original network||Channel 4|
|Picture format||HDTV 1080i|
|Original release||6 February –|
27 February 2011
The Promise is a British television serial in four episodes written and directed by Peter Kosminsky, with music by Debbie Wiseman. It tells the story of a young woman who goes to present-day Israel and Palestine determined to find out about her soldier grandfather's involvement in the final years of Palestine under the British mandate. It premiered on Channel 4 on 6 February 2011.
- 1 Cast
- 2 Subjects depicted in the serial
- 3 Plot
- 4 Production
- 5 Reception
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes and references
- 8 External links
- Claire Foy as Erin Matthews
- Christian Cooke as Sergeant Leonard Matthews
- Itay Tiran as Paul Meyer
- Katharina Schüttler as Clara Rosenbaum
- Yvonne Catterfeld as Ziphora
- Haaz Sleiman as Omar Habash
- Ali Suliman as Abu-Hassan Mohammed
- Perdita Weeks as Eliza Meyer
- Ben Miles as Max Meyer
- Smadar Wolfman as Leah Meyer
- Holly Aird as Chris Matthews
- Hiam Abbass as Old Jawda
- Lukas Gregorowicz as Captain Richard Rowntree
- Luke Allen-Gale as Corporal Jackie Clough
- Iain McKee as Sergeant Hugh Robbins
- Paul Anderson as Sergeant Frank Nash
- Max Deacon as Private Alec Hyman
- Pip Torrens as Major John Arbuthnot
Subjects depicted in the serial
- British liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp
- King David Hotel bombing
- Ein Hawd and Ein Hod villages
- The Sergeants affair – the abduction of two British soldiers as hostages, and their killings as reprisal for the executions of Jewish guerrillas in Palestine
- Israeli–Palestinian conflict in Hebron
- Deir Yassin massacre
- Battle of Haifa (1948)
- 1948 Palestinian exodus
- Gaza–Israel conflict
- House demolition in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict
This episode's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (November 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Erin Matthews is an eighteen-year-old British teenager about to start her gap year. She is reluctantly taken to see her grandfather Len, now in his eighties, who is in hospital paralysed by a major stroke. Erin hardly knows him, but whilst helping her mother to clear out his flat she finds a diary of his time as a sergeant in the 6th Airborne Division in British Mandate Palestine after the Second World War. Her mother wants her to throw it away, but she surreptitiously keeps it. She decides to take up her best friend Eliza's offer to spend time in Israel, while she undergoes basic training for her compulsory Israeli military service. As they fly out Erin starts to read the diary, and becomes fascinated; it opens with Len describing "the worst day of his life so far" – the horror of liberating Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Thereafter the series intercuts between the two stories as they develop, hers in 2005 and his in the 1940s.
Len's unit is posted to Stella Maris base near Haifa, as part of the British Mandate forces keeping the fragile peace between Arabs and the growing Jewish population. Their first job is to round up a group of Jewish refugees coming ashore from a ship, who are taken to a detention centre. The forced showers and captivity behind wire fences remind Len of what he has seen in Germany.
Returning to the beach Len finds a straggler, and is about to let her go when they are spotted by a passing patrol. Len is reprimanded; his commander emphasises the danger of Arab insurrection if Jewish immigration is not controlled. At the City Hospitality Club in Haifa, Len's corporal Jackie Clough introduces him to two Jewish girls: Ziphora and Clara. Clara explains that the club's purpose is to generate goodwill for the Jews, and that she is paid to be there. Meanwhile Len leads a search of the kibbutz at Qiryat Haiyim, but finds nothing. He is told that the entire secretariat at Stella Maris is Jewish and leaks are very common.
Clara invites him home for tea, where her father tries to get him to talk about Stella Maris. Len's superior Rowntree encourages Len to contact the Jewish underground, suggesting that a crowd at a rally would be a safer place to meet them than Clara's flat. However, when Len is approached, his contact is shot dead by the British forces policing the rally: Len has been set up. Out on armoured patrol a chamberpot is emptied over the soldiers. Then at the base several of Len's men are shot, some in the back while they are hosing down the vehicles, in a raid by Jewish militants. Len goes to see Clara, whose father apologises for what has happened to Len's men, but tells him he is no longer welcome there. Clara however follows Len down the stairs and embraces him.
Meanwhile, in 2005 Erin is staying with Eliza's well-to-do family, who drive Mercedes cars and live in Caesarea in a beach-front villa with a pool. Eliza takes Erin shopping and clubbing in Tel Aviv, cut short when Erin's epilepsy is triggered by flashing lights in the club. Erin also meets Eliza's brother Paul, described by Eliza as "crazy", who has come out of the army transformed into a peace activist. Paul and Eliza's father is a former general who criticised the occupation and is now a leading liberal. Nevertheless he and Paul clash over politics at the dinner table. According to Paul, his father's liberalism merely misleads people into thinking Israel is a normal country like their own; he says the truth is that it is dominated by the military and led by former military leaders. Erin asks Paul to take her to see the grave of one of Len's comrades, who in the diary has just been killed in the raid of the Jewish militants on the base. At the CWGC cemetery she finds the graves of two more names from the diary: Sergeants Robbins and Nash, who at that point in the diary are still alive.
Paul takes her through a checkpoint into the Occupied Territories. In Nablus Erin hears him addressing a meeting of Combatants for Peace together with Omar, a former member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. At the end of the meeting, the two shake hands, and Paul drives Omar back towards his home on the Israeli side of the line. They are waved through the checkpoint, but Omar goes back to remonstrate with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) border guards about a couple being split up, and is detained. Paul condemns the checkpoints as just a way to make Palestinian life difficult, and points to a stretch of the separation barrier where there is a Palestinian village on each side of the wall, arguing that a terrorist might live in either village. They go to a café, but when Paul goes back to retrieve his wallet, the building is blown apart by a suicide bomb.
Len disciplines soldiers who are abusing his company's Palestinian servant. Later at the club, Clough teases him that Clara is seeking a passport from marrying him. Len takes Clara home on the way to a meeting; there is no-one in, so she takes him to bed, asking him to stay longer, but he has to attend a meeting. The meeting, at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, is a briefing on 'Operation Bulldog', the upcoming cordon and search of Tel Aviv. There is an explosion outside. Some civilians in a neighbouring room come to the balcony, and Len goes to encourage them to move back from the window, but there is a second bigger explosion. When Len regains consciousness, he sees that an entire wing of the building has been destroyed.
In 2005 rescue teams arrive to help the wounded from the café explosion. At the hospital Erin walks through rooms of casualties before she finds Paul, just as his father arrives. Paul is alive, but his leg, arm and eye are bandaged.
Len digs a dead woman out of the rubble of the King David Hotel. That night, Len rounds on Clara for having known in advance and trying to protect him. Clara protests she was only trying to show that she loved him. At the base, the servant alerts Len that Alec Hyman, one of his men who is Jewish, is being given a "regimental bath" in retribution—he is being viciously scrubbed. Len breaks it up, and later thanks the servant, learning his name: Mohammed. Operation Bulldog gets underway. Len's platoon storms a house where one of the King David bombers had been hiding. But he has already been tipped off and gone. The owners protest that they had been forced to harbour "Irgun" members, but they are nevertheless taken away, and the British blow up their house. Mesheq Yagur kibbutz is searched, and Len discovers a substantial arms cache hidden in a room below a children's merry-go-round. Returning to base, the soldiers are serenaded by schoolchildren handing out flowers. Rowntree explains that they are anemones, or kalaniot in Hebrew: "red for the paratrooper's beret; black for his heart". Len gives the bunch to Mohammed, only to be told he has now put Mohammed under an obligation, and Mohammed will be duty-bound to offer him dinner. Subsequently he visits Mohammed and his extended family and has dinner. Afterwards they take a group photograph with Len outside Mohammed's house.
Paul's mother complains that the suicide bombers at the café are 'animals'. Paul replies that she should tell Erin about some of the 'animals' who blew up the King David Hotel, including her own father.
Erin is on the point of going home, but reads the last page of Len's diary and finds with it, in an envelope, a key. Len writes that he is facing prison, and has let down everyone who ever trusted him, and wishes he could return the key to Mohammed. Haunted by this, and knowing her grandfather has been unhappy all his life, Erin decides to stay and find out more. Looking up Omar's telephone number in Paul's phone, she gets Omar to take her to Ein Hawd, which was the location of Mohammed's house in the diary. But she finds that that village is now Ein Hod, now a Jewish artistic centre. She is told that the Palestinians left in 1948, but some had returned to found a new Ein Hawd in what had been their orchards above the old village. An old man agrees to let them drive him through what was once his village, and eventually they identify what had been Mohammed's house. He thanks Erin for taking him back, even though it had been painful. He is able to give Omar a Hebron address for the family, although when Erin asks Omar to take her, he suggests that Paul might be a better guide, as it was where he had been stationed in the army.
Erin and Eliza visit Eliza's grandfather. He is unapologetic, and tells them that his father, mother, sister and brother had all died in German camps. He says that his generation had been determined that the Jewish people would never again capitulate in the face of genocide, and want to secure a land that could be safe for ever. He explains that the British stood in their way, so they wiped them out.
Len and Jackie and another soldier are off duty and driving through town in a jeep when they are ambushed. Len reaches for his revolver, but two men with handguns shoot all three soldiers. As Len and Jackie struggle for their lives, they are ignored by onlookers sitting in cafés.
While in hospital Len shows some compassion to Avram Klein (a Jewish militant who has been shot in the jaw having shot three British policemen), even after a violent attempt to free him. Rowntree asks Len to persuade Klein to appeal to the Privy Council to avoid his otherwise inevitable execution. Len finds Klein in a solitary confinement cell in Acre, but he is unwilling to appeal, saying that every movement needs its martyrs.
Meanwhile Len has started giving Mohammed's son Hassan tuition in mathematics. Clara is getting hostile glances from people who think she is fraternising with the enemy.
Erin is dropped by taxi at Abu Dis, where Omar lives, which is near the separation wall. He is playing cards on the roof, and non-plussed when Erin says he had agreed to give her a driving lesson. He also tells Erin that he is a Palestinian Christian. In the car Erin admits that she is forbidden to drive because of her epilepsy. Omar drives her back to Caesarea, where Erin tempts him into the house, and then into the pool. They are starting to kiss when Eliza's parents appear. Eliza's father is formally polite; his wife looks very unhappy, and a strained dinner follows. Paul, though warm to Omar, also seems not entirely happy. Eliza's parents start to have a serious talk with Erin, but she is struck by another epileptic fit. When she recovers, Paul comes to see her; she senses that he is upset with her, but he denies it.
Arriving at Clara's flat, Len is perturbed to find it open and apparently deserted. Clara is in the bath; much of her hair has been torn out, and she has been daubed with oil and feathers. Len comforts her and stays with her, but later needs to leave for an appointment, but will not be drawn as to what it is. Clara can't believe that he still does not trust her. Len relents and tells her everything, including the name of the spy that he, Robbins and Nash are going to meet.
At the meeting they are ambushed; their Jewish informant is led away, and Len and the two Intelligence Corps sergeants are abducted. A purported British Army major apologises to Len that it has been a ruse, to try to determine whether Robbins is a spy. But Len is unconvinced, and he is dragged off to join the others, being held in a hole under a heavy trapdoor, with just enough room for themselves and an oxygen cylinder. Days pass, and Len is again taken to the "major", who tells Len he was indeed a wartime officer, in the Palestine Jewish Brigade, and had then spirited Jews out of the camps onto boats. He asks Len to join him, but Len is not interested. Days later, Len is dragged out again. Unhooded, and out in the open, he expects to be shot, but finds he has been released. He takes Rowntree back to the factory, but Robbins and Nash are gone. Two miles away, Robbins and Nash are found, dead and hanging from trees. A message hung around Robbins's neck says he has been found guilty of 'murder' and executed in reprisal for the "illegal killing" of Avram Klein. Sappers declare the ground clear, but when a member of the Palestine Police starts to cut down the body, it explodes. Len returns to Clara's flat in fury, but she has gone. Clara's father apologies for his daughter's extreme views. Len confesses everything to Rowntree. Later, talking to Clough, he suffers an epileptic fit. Robbins and Nash are buried with military honours.
Erin is shocked to read Len's description of his fit. She shows Paul a press cutting about Robbins and Nash; he remembers it, and says it was what broke the British will to fight. Erin also mentions Len's fit, and says that Len doesn't seem to know what it is. Paul kisses her, and she wakes up the next morning in Paul's bed.
From a bus on the way to Hebron she rings Omar and asks if he could meet her there. At a military checkpoint a liberal Israeli guide is explaining to a group that part of the city has been closed off as a 'sterile zone'; he is being barracked by an orthodox settler with a megaphone. Erin slips past the group and into the zone. She meets a group of Palestinian schoolgirls walking home from school. The girls are verbally abused crossing a playground, then stoned by some young Jewish boys, while IDF soldiers stand by and watch. Erin improvises a bandage for a cut on one of the girls' heads. The group are able to point her to a house that matches her address. At the doorway she is met by a Jewish orthodox woman. Inside she is led to a room where orthodox men are eating. Erin starts to explain her quest, when two IDF soldiers arrive, brought by the daughter, to lead Erin away. Behind her the man furiously rebukes the woman. Outside, she is patted down and bundled into an IDF military vehicle. Erin secretly sends text from her phone while she is driven away.
Erin is about to be questioned at the IDF base when Paul appears, and greets some of his former soldier colleagues. He tells her the army is there to protect the settlers, not to keep the peace. Erin wakes in the night and is almost shot by a sniper bullet. Paul has his ex-comrades throw him a gun, and he shoots into the night, later justifying his actions as loyalty. The next morning, they find a woman who is the grand-daughter of Mohammed's cousin. Settlers drop broken glass onto her yard from what had been her grandfather's house. The orthodox woman from the previous day arrives to taunt her. Erin tries to intervene, but Paul leads her away, saying it would make things worse. Paul tells Erin that Mohammed's family is now in Gaza, which is an unreachable war-zone.
Back in 1947, a crowd is celebrating the U.N. partition resolution which will create a Jewish state. Searching for the source of the Kol Zion underground broadcasts, Len's men raid some flats; Clough's gun 'accidentally' misfires. Len stumbles, but Clough catches Ziphora, his girlfriend, but lets her go. Later, Len beats him, and he admits to having told her everything – just as he told Clara about Robbins and Nash. Len visits Mohammed and advises him to move somewhere safer, because the British will not protect him. But Mohammed will not be scared into leaving.
Erin feels out of place at a party with Eliza's friends. On a laptop, she watches news of another suicide bombing. She argues with Paul, who does not understand why this is all so important to her.
Len is driving Mohammed's son Hassan back from a maths exam. He turns off down a track to investigate a column of smoke from the village of Deir Yassin. Jewish fighters are going from house to house, throwing in grenades and shooting the occupants. Men are being forced into the village square and shot. One of the fighters is Clara. She asks him to join her, but Len turns and leaves. He later confronts Rowntree, but Rowntree is under a direct order that British lives are not to be risked protecting the Arabs.
Erin goes to see Omar, but he too initially refuses to help. She shows him the key, and he explains its importance to displaced Palestinian families, and then shows her the key to his own uncle's house in Jaffa. He agrees to take her to Gaza. While on the bus Erin dreams she is making love with Len.
Len's platoon is in Haifa, stationed between the Jewish and Arab-controlled areas, overlooked by armed Jewish irregulars. They are ordered to pull back, but Len orders them to hold the position to prevent Jewish mortar attack on souk. Len goes to find Rowntree, but he is gone and the last personnel is evacuating the base. The roads are clogged with Arab refugees. Mohammed insists that the Arab armies will protect them; but Len tells him that they will come too late: the Jews will arrive by nightfall. The family leaves home and Len drives them to the docks, where the Navy is taking people to Acre. Mohammed commands Hassan to keep the house key safe, because one day they will return. Hassan goes missing in the crowds, and Len promises to go back and find him, persuading Mohammed to get his wife and daughter to safety. Len returns to his men and fills a bag with grenades and ammunition, ordering Alec to take the men to the docks.
Erin and Omar are led through a tunnel into Gaza. A taxi takes them to a house of a cousin of Mohammed's, where relatives have gathered for the funeral for his daughter, who had been the suicide bomber of the previous night. Erin sits by herself on the roof, overlooked by a military watch-tower. A young girl Samira pulls her in, miming that it is not safe. In her room, the girl gets Erin to brush her hair. That night there is shooting; Erin comforts the girl, as the house comes under gunfire. Later, she is woken by arguing from downstairs. The son, who is with Hamas, is brandishing a gun and telling Omar, a Fatah member, to go. But the house is raided by Israeli soldiers. Omar and the son run off, while Erin and the family are confined in a bedroom. An IDF officer takes Erin's name and address, while the son is marched away. In the morning, the IDF are searching the house. Eliza appears to deal with Erin, called as a favour to her father.
Len finds Hassan fighting with a small group of Arabs, under fire from a sniper. Len takes charge, only to find that the sniper is Jackie Clough, who has joined the Jewish militants. He confiscates his rifle and lets him go. He leads the group under fire through backstreets, until they can see the sea. Len agrees to stay and fight, if Hassan will go to the docks. But as Hassan sets out across open ground, he is hit by a bullet. Before he dies, he asks Len to promise to give the key back to his father. Back at the docks, Len tries to find Mohammed, but is caught and arrested by two military policemen, who had been tipped off by Alec to make sure Len gets home.
IDF soldiers take Samira for a human shield when they go to occupy the brother's house. As Samira becomes frantic, Erin suggests that they take her also. They walk to the house, and are confined in the room of a bedridden old woman, who tells Erin she learned English from the British. She shows Erin a photograph; it is the photograph of Len with Mohammed and his family. She is Mohammed's daughter Jawda, with fond memories of Len, but she says her father was angry with him for many years as he failed to bring Hassan back. Erin produces the key, and as soldiers come in she clutches it in her hand. The IDF lay explosives in the house. Erin finds a toolbox, and chains herself and Samira to a pillar. The IDF commander tells Eliza to get a cutter, and she is freed. Outside, Erin finds Jawda being loaded into an ambulance, as the houses are blown up and a bulldozer moves towards the rubble. In the debris Erin retrieves some trinkets in a box and the photograph album, and in the ambulance gives them to Jawda. However, an IDF soldier forcibly takes away the box. Erin starts to remonstrate, but is seized by another fit. Later, Erin is back in Caesarea, gathering her things. She thanks Eliza's parents for her stay, and Paul hopes she may come back one day.
As she flies home, Erin turns to the last page of Len's diary. He is leaving Palestine as prisoner on a Royal Navy ship. He writes that the Jewish state has been born in violence and cruelty, and worries that it will not thrive. For himself, he says all he has to look forward to is a long prison term and a dishonourable discharge. He wishes that one day he can return the key to Mohammed, though he is not sure he could face him.
At the airport, Erin surprises her mother with the intensity of her embrace. In the hospital, she holds her grandfather's hand, and tells him she has given Mohammed's daughter the key. A single tear runs down his face, and her own eyes also fill with tears.
The idea for The Promise arose from the 1999 drama Warriors, Kosminsky's sympathetic portrayal of British troops peacekeeping in central Bosnia in 1992–93, their hands tied by an impossible mandate. A former soldier wrote to its executive producer Jane Tranter at the BBC, suggesting she should do a film about the forgotten British soldiers who had been in Palestine.
Tranter passed the letter to Kosminsky, who initially put it to one side. However, after completing The Project in 2002, Kosminsky presented the subject as a possible theme for a future drama, and the BBC agreed to support research on it. The BBC's Sarah Barton, subsequently assisted by Sarah MacFarlane, began making contacts through regimental groups and the Palestine Veterans Association, ultimately conducting detailed interviews with 82 veterans, many of them speaking about things they had never told their wives and families. These oral accounts were compared with archive material in books and from the Red Cross, the National Archives and the Imperial War Museum, including the weekly military intelligence digests. Kosminsky was particularly struck by the house demolitions carried out by the British, and with what other parallels might exist with the present. The research team contacted newly emerging groups of critical IDF veterans, Breaking the Silence and Combatants for Peace. According to Kosminsky, it took him eleven months to read all the research, including over 40 books that researchers had prepared for him, while thinking how to distill it into a workable drama.
Characters and construction
Kosminsky says that his overriding aim was to present the experience of the 100,000 British soldiers who served in Palestine, "to remind us all of what happened". After leaving Palestine nobody had wanted to remember, the veterans had been "shunned"; they had "returned home to find the nation that wanted nothing to do with them", with no memorial, and were denied even "the right to march to the Cenotaph in formation". Most found it incredibly hard to talk about their experiences. "I was determined that their story be told." This was always his aim for the drama, to "honour the original letter sent to the BBC", so this was always going to be the path of Len's journey. Overwhelmingly, the veterans told a similar story: they had started out "incredibly pro-Jewish" but they had shifted their allegiance and by the end "were feeling a great deal of sympathy for the Arabs". "A big change came in the final months, as they saw what would happen to the Palestinians, and realised both sides were to be abandoned to a war." "It was always going to be necessary for us to faithfully reflect this in our drama," "I either had to reflect it or abandon the project." The series was led by what had come out of the interviews, what the soldiers had said and felt, and what they had actually experienced, rather than wider historical events with which rank-and-file soldiers had little contact. Of all the reactions to the series, Kosminsky said what meant the most to him was a letter from a veteran, now 85 years old: "You did what you said you would. Thank you so much."
The character of Erin was influenced by his two teenage daughters, one of whom has epilepsy. Kosminsky felt the trait wasn't often shown on screen unless it was a major plot point, so he liked the idea of showing "an eighteen-year-old girl who is trying to live a normal life, despite the fact she occasionally had epileptic fits; and how other people cope with that as well". For personal reasons, Kosminsky had long wanted to explore the idea of a young person gradually coming to appreciate "the young man inside the shell of an older, sick man", to the extent that he sees the drama as an unconventional love story, capped when Paul tells Erin that the young Len of the diary no longer exists. Erin's passionate response "He does to me, he does to me!" was for Kosminsky perhaps the most important line in the whole film. The casual relationship Erin has with Eliza, "the way they talk, the way they react, their limited attention span" was very much drawn from his experience of his daughters and their friends, and he felt that the combination of naivety and flinty assertiveness were not atypical of an "eighteen-year-old kid from London", particularly given an emotionally rather unsympathetic upbringing. It was also important to make the character contrast with the "endlessly heroic and gentlemanly" Len, so it was intentional that she should be harder to like. However, he hoped that the audience would be won over as they came to understand the character, and that having the audience make this journey would make more powerful what he saw as her later bravery and single-mindedness.
Erin's emotional journey intentionally parallels the 1940s arc, because at the heart of it is her increasing engagement with Len. "She becomes obsessed with him... she feels what he's feeling... so, by the time we get to Gaza, she patterns herself on what she thinks he would have done." Through the modern story, Kosminsky wanted to show how the past can have consequences for the present, and that having left "chaos, political confusion, bloodshed and war", Britain has a responsibility for what happens today. "It is our problem, at least in part, and we should take some responsibility for it". He also writes that what struck him most is a question: "How did we get from there to here?" In 1945 the Jewish plight had the sympathy of most of the world, but "just 60 years later, Israel is isolated, loathed and feared in equal measure by its neighbours, finding little sympathy outside America for its uncompromising view of how to defend its borders and secure its future. How did Israel squander the compassion of the world within a lifetime?" This is what The Promise sets out to explore. But "It does not help anyone by claiming that good and justice are on one side only. If it were that simple, we would have already found a solution. There are rights and truths on each side, that compete with each other. You can not have everything on one side or the other, everything is meshed together" ... "There are no good guys and bad guys in this sad situation and we have tried very hard to show pluses and minuses on both sides." "I would be very sad if someone were to consider the series as partisan." What he hoped to create was a kind of unstable equilibrium, so that audiences would find their sympathies shifting, repeatedly, from one side to the other.
Pre-production, further research, and finance
As of 2006 the project had the working title Palestine and was to be made for the BBC by Carnival Films, best known as makers of the Poirot series for ITV. However, Kosminsky had grown increasingly estranged from the BBC, later saying that film-makers no longer saw "that flash of mischief" when pitching ideas. "I don't think we can say the BBC bottled it... [However] it seems to have lost its nerve for making challenging drama... drama that gets it into political and legal hot water." The BBC agreed to sell its interest and let the project go into turnaround — for a generously low rate according to Kosminsky — and in 2007 he secured an exclusive deal with Daybreak Pictures, run by Channel 4's former head of film David Aukin, with whom he had previously made The Government Inspector (2005) and Britz (2007).
At this stage the treatment ran to 180 pages, with many scenes described in detail. Researchers continued to conduct interviews to enrich the story. Kosminsky flew to Israel with David Aukin, to visit places that would feature in the story, including the normally closed-off Deir Yassin, accompanied by modern Israeli historians organised by their pre-production partners, an Israeli documentary film company. Benny Morris let Kosminsky read a pre-publication proof copy of his book 1948; and from a recent PhD student of Motti Golani at Haifa University Kosminsky heard about the city hospitality clubs, still a stigmatised subject, which shaped the background for Clara in the story. Scripts followed quickly, and by mid-2008 Channel 4 announced its backing for the project.
Daybreak had initially costed the drama at £8 million, which with some trimming they had been able to pare back to £7 million. Channel 4 committed £4 million, roughly in line with the channel's hourly rate for prestige drama. Other sources of funding were more difficult. In France, a deal giving Canal + first-run subscription broadcast rights, with free-to-air rights on ARTE a year later, was negotiated by Daybreak's long-standing production contact Georges Campana, bringing in a further £1 million. SBS (a frequent co-producer with ARTE) secured Australian rights, and some top-up funding was obtained from the E.U. media fund. However pre-sale negotiations for America and Germany ran into the sand. Eventually, having put back filming from an original autumn 2009 start, and with everything else ready to go, Kosminsky went back to Channel 4 and said that without another £1 million the series wasn't going to happen. Exceptionally, Channel 4 agreed the extra funding, and filming started in Israel in early 2010 under the revised title Homeland, beginning with the period scenes at Stella Maris. Channel 4 presented its support as part of a £20 million investment in drama, also including This is England '86 and Any Human Heart, made possible by cancellation of the £50 million per series it was previously spending on Big Brother.
Filming was entirely in Israel, with a predominantly local crew and through the Israeli production company Lama Films; something unusual for a UK television drama production. According to Kosminsky they also looked at Morocco, Cyprus, Southern Spain and Tunisia, and could have recreated the 1940s sequences there; but nowhere else would have replicated the "buildings, range of cultures or topography" of modern-day Israel. According to The Guardian:
Over the course of a long career Kosminsky has become adept at turning one country into another: "I used the Czech Republic for Bosnia, Kenya for Somalia, Ghana for Liberia, Morocco for Iraq, India for Pakistan and Leeds for Northern Ireland." This time, though, there was no faking it. "Israel looks like nowhere else: the Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv, the physiognomy of its people, who come from all over the world, and most of all the Wall. I knew I couldn't recreate those things. The trouble was, it is virtually unknown for a British TV crew to shoot in Israel. We were starting from zero."
The early scene of the flat in Leeds was created in an Israeli studio. Everything else was shot on location in and around Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Caesarea, Acre, Givat Brenner, Ein Hod, Peqi'in, Ramla and Beit Jimal in a 68-day schedule involving 180 different locations. Ben Gurion Airport stood in for Heathrow, and the bombed rubble of the King David Hotel was filmed against a blue screen in a car park in Petah Tikva. Part of the Old City in Jerusalem stood in for Nablus in the West Bank, the Hebron-set scenes were filmed in Acre, while Gaza was represented by the Israeli-Arab town of Jisr al-Zarqa. The paratroopers' base at Stella Maris had been a challenge to find, but eventually the monastery at Beit Jimal was used and proved very accommodating. Period military vehicles were also a challenge to source without shipping them in at prohibitive expense; the tracked armoured vehicle used in the series was an amalgam of parts from five different vehicles found in a junkyard, cobbled together into one that worked. A faux Israeli checkpoint was built entirely from scratch.
Filming used conventional Super 16mm film, which was then processed and edited in England. The cinematographer, David Higgs, had been keen to try the new Red One high resolution digital camera. However, the team were concerned by the potentially limited contrast ratio using digital – a serious consideration in strong Mediterranean light – and that its potential bulkiness might inhibit Kosminsky's trademark hand-held cameras following the action. It was also felt that relying on comparatively simple well-known technology would be sensible operating so far from home. Ironically, however, the reliance on film led to a number of scenes having to be re-mounted after fogging went undetected for a week when it was impossible to get daily film rushes back to London because of the air travel disruption caused by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. Extensive use was also made of CGI and digital post-production, including for the café explosion, the destruction at the King David Hotel, and the refugee ship of would-be immigrants. A particular challenge was how to realise the events at Bergen-Belsen. The film-makers considered and rejected a number of options, including live-action and CGI, before reluctantly deciding to fall back on black-and-white library footage from the Imperial War Museum in London, only to come to the view that the resulting sequence had more artistic and moral power than anything they might have been able to create.
Overnight ratings for The Promise were 1.8 million for the first episode, followed by 1.2 million, 1.3 million, and 1.2 million for the subsequent episodes. Consolidated ratings, which include time-shifted and online viewing, generally added about a further 0.5 million.
The first episode was reviewed widely and generally very positively, although Andrew Anthony in The Observer was more critical and A.A. Gill of The Sunday Times was unimpressed. The Daily Express called it "...a little burning bush of genius in the desert of well-intentioned TV dramas...", The Daily Telegraph said the programme would richly deserve any Baftas that came its way, and Caitlin Moran in The Times called it "almost certainly the best drama of the year". By the second episode Andrew Billen, writing in The Times, was concerned that both Len and Erin were meeting from the Arabs a "little too much kindness for the comfort of all of us hoping that Kosminsky will parcel out recriminations in exactly equal proportions"; but nonetheless applauded the "immersive and emotional" quality of the series.
The serial as a whole was praised by Christina Patterson in The Independent who said it was "...beautifully shot and extremely well written. It is also extremely balanced..."; and Rachel Cooke in the New Statesman and The Observer, where she said it was "...the best thing you are likely to see on TV this year, if not this decade."  There was also praise from Stephen Kelly in Tribune, Harriet Sherwood and Ian Black, Jerusalem correspondent and Middle East editor of The Guardian respectively, and David Chater, previewing the serial for The Times, who called it courageous and applauded its lack of didacticism.
London free newspaper Metro felt that the third episode dragged, having warmly received the first two parts; but then praised the series as a whole. Previewing the final episode, The Times said it was "ambitious" and "packs a considerable punch"; Time Out chose the programme as its pick of the day, and gave it a four-star recommendation, calling it "brave filmmaking and a brave, entirely successful commission". Andrew Anthony in The Observer acknowledged some flaws, but found it still "an exceptional drama".
A press attaché at the Israeli embassy in London, however, condemned the drama to The Jewish Chronicle as the worst example of anti-Israel propaganda he had seen on television, saying it "created a new category of hostility towards Israel". The Zionist Federation and the Board of Deputies of British Jews both also lodged letters of complaint. The Jewish Chronicle itself took the view that rather than "attempt to tell both sides of what is a complex and contentious story", the series had turned out to be "a depressing study in how to select historical facts to convey a politically loaded message". Writing in The Independent, novelist Howard Jacobson said that in The Promise, "Just about every Palestinian was sympathetic to look at, just about every Jew was not. While most Palestinians might fairly be depicted as living in poor circumstances, most Israeli Jews might not be fairly depicted as living in great wealth... Though I, too, have found Palestinians to be people of immense charm, I could only laugh in derision at The Promise every time another shot of soft-eyed Palestinians followed another shot of hard-faced Jews." In an interview with Jacobson during Jewish Book Week 2011, Jonathan Freedland, having seen the first episode of The Promise, said Kosminsky used antisemitic tropes, misrepresenting Israel and Zionism as being a consequence of the Holocaust, whose imagery he had abused. Historian, Professor David Cesarani, accused Kosminsky of "deceit...massive historical distortion": omitting the Balfour Declaration's promise of a Jewish national home; downplaying selfish British geo-strategy; and exculpating the British, "chief architects of the Palestine tragedy...making responsible...only the Jews"; turning a tricorn conflict of British, Arabs and Jews "into a one-sided rant." On the other hand, Liel Leibovitz, writing for American online Jewish magazine Tablet, took the view that, "contrary to these howls of discontent, the show is a rare and riveting example of telling Israel's story on screen with accuracy, sensitivity, and courage".
The broadcasting regulator Ofcom received 44 complaints about the series, but concluded in a ten page report that it did not breach its code of conduct. Viewers complained that the drama was antisemitic, used upsetting footage of concentration camps, incited racial hatred, was biased against Israel and presented historical inaccuracies. But, Ofcom said: "Just because some individual Jewish and Israeli characters were portrayed in a negative light does not mean the programme was, or was intended to be, antisemitic... Just as there were Jewish/Israeli characters that could be seen in a negative light, so there were British and Palestinian characters that could also be seen in a negative light." Delivering his first keynote speech to the Royal Television Society in London on 23 May 2011, David Abraham, the Chief Executive of Channel 4, said: "At a time when other broadcasters are perhaps more conservative, it's more important than ever for Channel 4 to challenge the status quo, stimulate debate, take risks and be brave... I can think of no better example of how we continue to do that than in Peter Kosminsky's recent examination of the Israel/Palestine question in The Promise."
The Promise was nominated for both the British Academy Television Awards 2011 and the Royal Television Society Programme Awards 2011 in the category of best drama serial, but was beaten by two other productions broadcast on Channel 4, the TV adaptation of William Boyd's Any Human Heart and the drama serial Top Boy respectively. Interviewed in The Jewish Chronicle, Any Human Heart's director, Michael Samuels, said about The Promise, "I respect it for having a point of view. You have to have that, otherwise you are not writing".
The Promise also received a nomination, at the Banff World Television Festival, for Best Mini-Series of 2010/2011. On 10 May 2011, at the One World Media Awards in London, The Promise won Best Drama of 2010/11.
The subscription channel Canal+ aired the drama under the title The Promise: Le Serment over four weeks starting 21 March 2011, in a prime-time Monday evening slot that it tends to use for more serious or historical drama. Libération called it "admirable", praising the "excellent director" for telling a "tragedy in two voices", while "pointing the finger at neither one side nor the other". Les Echos called it "exceptional, stunningly intelligent" and said the considered dialogue and tense, serious acting fully measured up to the ambition of the film. TV magazine Télérama called it "remarkable", confronting its subject "head on". Le Figaro said it was "magnificently filmed and masterfully acted... perfectly balanced... great television", and gave it a maximum rating of four stars out of four. The Nouvel Obs and Le Journal du Dimanche both identified the series as reflecting the viewpoint of the "British pro-Palestinian left", but the latter praised it as "nevertheless a historical fiction useful for understanding an intractable conflict", while the former commended its "epic spirit, rare on television". Le Monde gave the series an enthusiastic preview in its TéléVisions supplement along with a lengthy interview with the director. Le Point predicted Kosminsky would receive a "shower of awards...[a]nd also gibes". However, La Croix's reviewer was more hostile, considering that although there was "no doubt that the film ought to be seen", it "cannot be mistaken for a history lesson but a great partisan fiction", marred by bias and an "embarrassing" representation of Jews. L'Express considered it beautiful but too long.
A letter of protest to the channel was written by the President of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), arguing that "the viewer sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however complex, only as a consequence of violence and cruelty of the Jews, who are represented as so extreme that if any empathy towards them is excluded." CRIF did not ask for the broadcast to be pulled, but rather to be balanced with a programme taking a different position, and for the fictional nature of the series to be made clear. The Jewish Chronicle (JC) reported that CRIF president Richard Prasquier had met the president of Canal+, Bertrand Meheut. Prasquier reportedly told him that such a series "could only fan the flames of antisemitic violence" and Meheut reportedly promised that viewers would be provided with balanced information about the issue; The JC reported that Canal+ had agreed to broadcast a caption reading "The Promise is fiction" before each episode. The Confederation of French Jews and Friends of Israel (CJFAI) issued a call (publicised by CRIF) for a demonstration against the programme, which it described as "a vitriolic saga of murderous disinformation". The demonstration in front of the Canal+ offices on the night of the first showing was reported to have attracted a few hundred people, with CRIF represented by its vice-president. The Israeli embassy in Paris made no comment.
Arte announced it would show the series over two Friday evenings, on 20 and 27 April 2012.
The serial was shown by SBS in a Sunday evening slot from 27 November to 18 December 2011. Critical reaction was positive, with The Australian selecting part one as its pick of the week, calling its character development and performances "compelling", and saying that the series "offers insight into the history of one of the world's most conflicted places". Press agency AAP wrote that "Foy shines amid a powerful storyline" and learns "a few harsh truths". The Sydney Morning Herald trailed the serial as "ambitious... both bracingly original and wonderfully gripping", offering a "profound veracity". The SMH's Doug Anderson called the serial "the best drama series on television at present... This is powerful stuff, distilling enormous difficulties to a deeply personal level", and the newspaper selected the series for its annual television review, writing that it was "gripping... it dazzled via a raw and complex portrait of conflict in the Middle East... Kosminsky's storytelling was mesmerising."
There was a campaign by Palestinian solidarity groups to encourage support for the series. The editor of the Australians for Palestine website wrote, "Although people had written to SBS commending it for showing "The Promise", [Managing Director] Mr Ebeid received only one supportive letter addressed to him personally...Many more are needed in defence of the series for the hearing."
The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and the Friends of Israel Western Australia urged viewers to complain, reiterating negative comments that had been made in the UK. Senator Glenn Sterle joined the criticism, calling the series "derogatory" and "anti-Semitic". In January 2012 the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) filed a 31-page complaint with the SBS claiming that the series "unrelentingly portrays the entire Jewish presence throughout the country, including modern-day Israel, 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", and compared it to the infamous Nazi film Jud Süss. The ECAJ rejected the relevance or validity of the British Ofcom inquiry, and called for a halt to DVD sales while the complaint is investigated. The Australian Jewish News headlined this complaint as "TV series The Promise akin to Nazi propaganda".
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society stated "We agree with the ECAJ that the Jewish characters portrayed are generally unsympathetic in comparison with the Arab characters. But we fundamentally disagree that this bias amounts to anti-Semitism... in our view The Promise is a worthwhile contribution to the debates about the intractable conflict". It also made available the full text of the OfCom decision as a contribution to open debate, prior to which only parts had been available because Ofcom had not published it.
The SBS Complaints Committee met on 17 January, and found no grounds that the programme had breached its code. In particular, it found "that the characterisations in The Promise did not cross the threshold into racism, and in particular that it did not promote, endorse, or reinforce inaccurate, demeaning or discriminatory stereotypes". Complainants were advised that they could take their concerns to the Australian Communications and Media Authority. In response, the ECAJ said that it stood by its position, but would not be appealing.
A further complaint was made to SBS on 1 February 2012 by Stepan Kerkyasharian, Chair of the New South Wales government's Community Relations Commission, noting "concern that the series negatively portrays the WHOLE of the Jewish People. Such a portrayal cannot be justified in ANY context." He urged SBS "to reconsider the representations from the Jewish Community with due regard to the potential destructive consequences of racial stereotyping". In contrast, Hal Wootten, Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales and former president of the Indigenous Law Centre, considered the ECAJ position to be misguided: "There is a striking irony in a Jewish organisation's striving to show that every Jewish character is a demon and every Arab character a saint. One by one, the ECAJ's submission proceeds to do a hatchet job on every Jewish character of any importance, rejecting the humanity with which Kosminsky endows each of them, and substituting an anti-Semitic stereotype of its own manufacture... The ECAJ reaches the opposite conclusion only by itself imputing unfavourable attributes to the Jewish characters, judging them by harsh and unrealistic standards, interpreting their conduct in the worst possible way, and making quite absurd comparisons."
Responding, ECAJ Executive Director Peter Wertheim said: "Professor Wootten denies that The Promise makes and invites judgements, but this contention is belied by the strident comments made by other defenders of the series in posted comments on the SBS and other websites, and is as low on the scale of credibility as the stream of non-sequiturs that have been put forward in its defence, including posts asserting that The Promise could not possibly be antisemitic because Kosminsky is Jewish, or because it was filmed in Israel and included Jewish actors, or because it was nominated for a BAFTA award." 
On 14 February 2012, Michael Ebeid appeared before an Estimates Committee of the Australian Senate and was questioned about the commercial arrangements and decision-making of the SBS. He accepted that the series conveyed a negative view of Israel and said he would not claim that it tried to be balanced. But he rejected claims of negative stereotyping. It had not been his decision to buy the series, but asked whether in hindsight he would have made the decision, he answered that he probably would. Senators Scott Ryan and Helen Kroger both later issued press releases critical of the series. Senator Kroger stated that "SBS appears to have put a business decision ahead of independent assessments which determined that it was offensive to the Jewish community." Kroger's comments were taken up by The Australian, along with an op-ed written by two members of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, and she expanded further in an online piece for News Ltd website The Punch. Senator Ryan rejected Mr Ebeid's claim that because The Promise was fiction, it was subject to different considerations: "Some of the biggest slanders in history have been works of fiction", he said. "Depictions...include Jewish children stoning Arab children, blood-thirsty soldiers, conniving double-agents and members of an extremely wealthy, cosmopolitan family. Like it or not, these three depictions are antisemitic stereotypes..." On the other hand, the committee's chair Senator Doug Cameron said he had "enjoyed" the programme, and quipped in closing that he hoped the session had helped The Promise's DVD sales.
As of January 2012 the serial has also been sold to SVT Sweden, YLE Finland, DR Denmark, RUV Iceland, RTV Slovenia, Globosat Brazil, and TVO Canada. DR Denmark broadcast the series in an early evening slot on the DR2 channel over the Easter weekend 2012, under the translated title Løftet som bandt ("The Promise that bound"). In Germany it was shown on ARTE Channel on 20 April (Part 1 and 2) and 27 April (Part 3 and 4). In Sweden it will be shown on channel SVT1 on Wednesday nights at 10pm from 2 May. In Canada, TV Ontario had scheduled the programme for Sunday evenings, from 15 April to 6 May; but the channel has since decided to present a geology series with Iain Stewart in this slot, with The Promise held over to a later date.
The series was screened in April 2012 by the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and the Jerusalem Cinematheque in Israel, and in May 2012 by the Haifa Cinematheque, with five showings in the month for each episode in Tel Aviv, two in Jerusalem, and one in Haifa. In Tel Aviv the first screening of Part One was on 9 April, culminating with a final screening of all four parts on 26 April. In Jerusalem the series was scheduled with the four parts shown over two days, on 14/15 and 29/30 April. In Haifa the episodes were screened on successive Thursdays, from 10 May to 21 May.
In the United States a screening of the series was presented at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, New York in November and December 2011, with the first part shown as part of the "Other Israel" film festival, and the remainder of the series shown in weekly episodes over the following three weeks.
Notes and references
- "Operation Bulldog" as depicted in the series is a composite of two real-life operations: Operation Agatha, a number of targeted actions undertaken just before the King David bombing; and Operation Shark, the cordoning-and-search of Tel Aviv undertaken immediately after the bombing.
- According to Kosminsky, the sequence at the end of episode 2 was inspired by a December 1947 of an incident when three soldiers were shot.
- Klein is based in part on Dov Gruner . Gruner was executed on charges of "firing on policemen, and setting explosive charges with the intent of killing personnel on His Majesty's service". He had not himself actually shot anybody, although others who died at about the same time had. Gruner was hanged three months before the events of the Sergeants Affair; for this purpose in the character of Avram Klein the series has composited Gruner with the perpetrators of the Acre Prison Break.
- The conditions of the imprisonment of Robbins and Nash, and the display and booby-trapping of their bodies, closely correspond to the fate of Sergeant Clifford Martin and Sergeant Mervyn Paice in what became known as The Sergeants Affair (although the actual communiqué attempted to claim that the killings were not a reprisal for the British hangings that day). The dates of death on the gravestones in Episode 1 are those of the real sergeants.
- According to Kosminsky, the sequence of the girls being stoned was a "direct reconstruction" from documentary video footage (e.g. perhaps this video ). Channel 4's lawyers demanded such evidence at script stage before they would allow the scene. (Kosminsky interview for Front Row, BBC Radio 4, 4 February 2011; at 10:40)
- Compare this video / wider context of similar taunting, from Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem
- cf Robert Fisk, The Keys of Palestine, from Pity the Nation: the Abduction of Lebanon (1st ed, 1990; chapter based on articles published in The Times, December 1980)
- The chain incident was based on the experience of an ISM activist 
- DVD Commentary (Peter Kosminsky and Hal Vogel), at 20:10
- Rachel Cooke, Peter Kosminsky: Britain's humiliation in Palestine, The Observer, 23 January 2011
- Sophie Bourdais, Peter Kosminsky: "Britain has a responsibility in the current Palestinian conflict" (in French), Télérama, 22 March 2011
- Production Focus: The Promise, Royal Television Society event, 16 March 2011
- Miri Weingarten, The Promise: Interview with Peter Kosminsky, JNews, 24 March 2011
- Peter Kosminsky: Episode 1 Q&A, Channel 4 website, 6 February 2011
- Marianne Behar, Interview with Peter Kosminsky, director of the Promise (in French), L'Humanité, 22 March 2011
- Peter Kosminsky on The Promise, his drama about Palestine, The Daily Telegraph, 4 February 2011
- Macha Séry, Israel-Palestine: to the origins of the conflict (in French), TéléVisions supplement pp.6–7, Le Monde, 20–21 March 2011. (text)
- Peter Kosminsky: Episode 4 Q&A, Channel 4 website, 27 February 2011
- Marcus Dysch, Peter Kosminsky says he kept Promise, The Jewish Chronicle, 31 March 2011
- Camilla Campbell (C4 head of drama), The Promise: Response to the Board of Deputies, dated 18 March 2011
- DVD Commentary, at 18:10
- Interview: Peter Kosminsky, The Jewish Chronicle, 3 February 2011
- Peter Kosminsky video interview, Canal+ website, at 00:30
- DVD Commentary, at 53:55
- Peter Kosminsky, A film-maker's eye on the Middle East, The Guardian, 28 January 2011
- Ben Dowell, Kosminsky to film Palestinian drama, The Guardian, 12 January 2006
- Rachel Cooke, Britain's humiliation in Palestine, The Observer, 23 January 2011
Ian Burrell, Peter Kosminsky: Making mischief? It's an essential part of the job, The Independent, 16 June 2008
Robin Parker, Kosminsky: Where is the BBC's mischief?, Broadcast, 12 March 2009
- Stuart McGurk, Whipping up a desert storm, GQ Magazine, February 2011
- Leigh Holmwood, Kosminsky signs with indie Daybreak, The Guardian, 1 November 2007
- DVD commentary, at 32:40
- Matthew Hemley, Channel 4 drama to be Morton’s directorial debut, The Stage, 25 July 2008
- Leigh Holmwood, Channel 4's extra £20m for drama to fund Shane Meadows' TV debut, The Guardian, 26 August 2009
- Peter Kosminsky and Hal Vogel, Behind the Scenes: The Promise, Broadcast, 3 February 2011
- DVD commentary, at 04:10
- Series on-screen credits
- DVD featurette: Behind the Scenes – Filming in Israel for 2005, at 00:20
- DVD commentary, at 1:06:15
- DVD commentary, at 41:00
- DVD commentary, at 36:00
- DVD commentary, at 55:00
- DVD commentary, at 1:04:40
- The Blu-ray release includes a 5-minute featurette presented by Paddy Eason of digital effects house Nvizible
- DVD commentary, at 14:40.
- TV ratings roundups: 6 February 2010, 14 February 2010, 20 February 2010, 27 February 2010, Digital Spy
Tom Sutcliffe, The Weekend's TV, The Independent, 7 February 2011
John Crace, TV review, The Guardian, 7 February 2011. "It's that rarest of TV beasts: a show that doesn't patronise its audience, (mostly) steers clear of cliches and trusts the characters to tell the story in their own time."
Andrew Billen, Weekend TV: The Promise, The Times, 7 February 2011. "formidable". (paywalled).
James Walton, Review, The Daily Telegraph, 7 February 2011. "will richly deserve any gongs that come its way".
Matt Baylis, "Burning Bush of Genius", Daily Express, 7 February 2011, Page 39; also quoted by Broadcast, 7 February 2011. "This four-parter is a little burning bush of genius in the desert of well-intentioned TV dramas."
Caitlin Moran, TV column, The Times, 12 February 2010. "almost certainly the best drama of the year". (paywalled).
James Delingpole, Grandfather's footsteps Archived 21 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine, The Spectator, 12 February 2011
Hugh Montogomery, The Promise, Independent on Sunday, 13 February 2011. "[In the 1940s sequences,] Kosminsky balanced the demands of big-picture history and intimate human drama with a quite remarkable assurance. Contrastingly, the modern-day storyline was hobbled by an inertia that seemed at odds with its tumultuous subject matter."
- Andrew Anthony, Rewind TV: The Promise, The Observer, 13 February 2011. Anthony felt it considerably better than Kosminsky's previous dramas and that it "seldom relaxed its grip..a serious, powerful and nuanced drama" but said: "At first there was a stockpile of emotional capital awarded to the Jewish side of the equation, with horrifying footage from Nazi concentration camps setting up the audience's sympathy for the existence of Israel. But a closer look revealed that the scales had been subtly loaded... the problem with the difference in treatment of the two sides is not, as some may claim, that it favours the Arab cause but that it does a disservice to Arabs themselves. We glimpse the psychological complexities of the English observers and their Jewish Israeli hosts, but the Palestinian Arabs are largely ciphers on whom western guilt can be readily projected. They remain, in other words, what critics of orientalism like to call "other". We're not privy to the doubts and conflicts of their beliefs, and consequently as characters they're not quite as worthy of our belief."
- A.A. Gill, It’s not believable – and that’s a huge barrier, The Sunday Times, 13 February 2011. "predictably scant and underwritten"; "performances... occasionally rose to be adequate"; "faint and shrill". (paywalled).
- Andrew Billen, Weekend TV, The Times, 14 February 2011. (paywalled).
- Christina Patterson, Israel needs its friends more than ever, The Independent, 23 February 2011. "It's finely crafted, beautifully shot and extremely well written. It's also extremely balanced."
- Rachel Cooke, The Promise, New Statesman, 17 February 2011. "Ambitious, well-written, superbly acted and expertly made, it is also provocative and challenging".
- Stephen Kelly, Compelling drama is outside comfort zone, Tribune, 25 February 2011. "as good as anything currently showing on British television... beautifully filmed and superbly acted... a multi-layered drama that is both thought-provoking and compelling".
Harriet Sherwood, The Promise: powerful TV drama at its best, The Guardian website, 7 February 2011. "Vivid, harrowing and utterly compelling... This is a magnificent and powerful piece of drama, television at its best. Watch it if you can; I can't recommend it enough."
Ian Black, The Promise delivers but still divides, The Guardian website, 14 February 2011. "It's a real achievement that this four-parter is so well-grounded in the history of the world's most intractable conflict."
- David Chater, The Promise: sure to cause controversy, The Times, 5 February 2011. "an ambitious drama on a subject of paramount importance... immensely watchable"
Rachel Tarley, The Promise was the thinking person's take on the Middle East, Metro, 6 February 2011. "a carefully and beautifully executed film... an incredibly accomplished drama"
Rachel Tarley, The Promise is not without its flaws but was powerful once again, Metro, 13 February 2011. "Despite these character flaws, this drama is a careful and thorough examination of a patch of British history many viewers will have known very little about".
Rachel Tarley, The Promise is not being fulfilled, Metro, 21 February 2011. "The excellent pace and tension that this drama boasted in the first few episodes has given way to a lethargic script and almost sloppy plots."
Keith Watson, The Promise: An epic journey that delivered an uplifting message, Metro, 25 February 2011. "if you stuck to your guns, this intelligent and emotional exploration of the Arab-Israeli conflict in Palestine, a landmine that could blow up at any moment, richly repaid that commitment."
- Sunday’s TV: The Promise, The Times, 27 February 2011. "It is refreshing to see an ambitious drama tackling a subject of such importance." (paywalled).
- Phil Harrison, Pick of the day: The Promise, Time Out (London), 24 February – 2 March 2011, page 127. "... a genuine attempt to demystify, understand and humanise this apparently intractable conflict. Brave filmmaking and a brave, entirely successful commission too."
- Andrew Anthony, Rewind TV, The Observer, 6 March 2011. "The story was stretched still further by strained geographical leaps from Jerusalem to Haifa to Hebron and Gaza, whose only rationale appeared to be to maximise the depiction of Israeli wrongdoing....Nor was it feasible that, having been shot and then held captive in a hole in the ground for weeks, that Erin's grandfather, Sergeant Matthews would still be almost single-handedly carrying out the British army's duties in Palestine. Any more than it was likely that he and a young Arab boy would have walked around the unfolding massacre at Deir Yassin, where 107 Arabs were slaughtered by the Irgun on the eve of Israel's creation, like a pair of sightseers visiting Pompeii. But for all these faults, and the lopsided storytelling, this was still an exceptional drama."
- Marcus Dysch, The Promise has an 'anti-Israel premise', The Jewish Chronicle, 24 February 2011
- Marcus Dysch, Experts: The Promise deliberately demonises Israel, The Jewish Chronicle, 3 March 2011
'The Promise' – Letter to Channel 4 Archived 1 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Board of Deputies of British Jews, 3 March 2011
ZF response to The Promise, Zionist Federation, 4 March 2011
David Abraham; Camilla Campbell, Channel 4 response to the Board of Deputies Archived 29 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine, dated 17 & 18 March; made available 1 April 2011
Marcus Dysch, Promise critics: Stop moaning, you have Friday Night Dinner, The Jewish Chronicle, 7 April 2011
Balihar Khalsa, C4 bosses defend Kosminsky drama, Broadcast, 8 April 2011
Robyn Rosen, Broadcast regulator rejects every complaint on Promise, The Jewish Chronicle, 21 April 2011
- Simon Round, Fatah could have written The Promise, The Jewish Chronicle, 3 March 2011. "Fatah could have written The Promise"; that the ignorant "would infer from [it] that Israelis are impossibly wealthy (portrayed as living in large houses with swimming pools)... Israeli soldiers in the Territories are universally unfeeling and brutal"; only Jews throw stones; pre-state Jewish militias are characterised as "cynical, manipulative and murderous, while the Arabs of the time are portrayed as defenceless and fearful"; in the Mandate period, only Jewish atrocities are depicted "in graphic detail", while contemporary Arab actions and atrocities are largely omitted, the threatened pan-Arab invasion being "dismissed as almost an irrelevance". The Deputy Editor, Jenni Frazer, criticised it in her blog published by the paper, for "the suggestion that all Israeli Jews live in palatial surroundings with swimming pools and four-star views, the generally hateful depiction of anyone on the Israeli or Jewish side compared with the near-angelic rendering of anyone on the Arab or Palestinian side".http://www.thejc.com/blogs/jenni-frazer/under-duvet
- Howard Jacobson, Ludicrous, brainwashed prejudice, The Independent, 23 April 2011
- Howard Jacobson and Jonathan Freedland, Last Words: Howard Jacobson in conversation with Jonathan Freedland Archived 11 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Jewish Book Week, 6 March 2011
- David Cesarani, The Promise: an exercise in British self-exculpation, The Guardian Comment is Free website, 4 March 2011
- Liel Leibovitz, War and Remembrance, Tablet Magazine, 16 March 2011 "The show's writer and director, Peter Kosminsky, walks this tightrope of evenhandedness remarkably well... To Kosminsky's credit, nothing and no one in the series is simple, and even the most zealous characters are allowed moments of humanity, a few good arguments in support of their cause, and a few moments of grace."
- Ofcom adjudication Archived 17 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Ofcom, April 2011 (made accessible January 2012)
- Robyn Rosen, "Broadcast regulator rejects every complaint on Promise", The Jewish Chronicle, 21 April 2011
- David Abraham's Royal Television Society speech: full text, The Guardian, 24 May 2011
- Bafta TV awards 2011: nominations in full, The Guardian, 26 April 2011
- RTS announces shortlist for the Programme Awards 2011 Archived 4 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Royal Television Society, 28 February 2012
- Bafta TV awards 2011: the winners, BBC News, 22 May 2011
- John Plunkett, RTS programme awards: 'extraordinary' night for Channel 4, The Guardian, 21 March 2012
- The director who beat The Promise to a Bafta, Ann Joseph,The Jewish Chronicle, 26 May 2011
- Rockies miniseries noms gather titles from across the globe, Variety, 18 April 2011
The Fiction Rockies 2011, Banff World Media Festival. Accessed 27 May 2011
- Winners 2011, One World Media. Accessed 27 May 2011. "The jury acknowledges the laudable ambition of taking on this complex, ever-evolving and much debated subject and the difficulty of exploring it in a way which is immediate, undogmatic and surprising, and which explores a multi-generational story through compelling characters. It also bridges two periods in a way which smartly sheds new light on both."
- Isabel Hanne, Double-voiced diary of a Promise kept (in French), Libération, 21 March 2011. "Admirable"... "the art of The Promise is in its ambiguity, its double-valuedness, its lack of Manicheanism"... "The excellent director... points a finger neither at one camp nor the other, but tells a story of two paths, a tragedy in two voices"
- Thierry Gandillot, The Promise keeps its promises (in French), Les Echos, 21 March 2011. "Exceptional, stunningly intelligent"... the serious acting and considered dialogue "measure up to the ambition of this film, which does not bring unanimity but makes a proof of sincerity."
- Sophie Bourdais, From one occupation to another (in French), Télérama, 22 March 2011. "Confronts the subject head-on, a remarkable mini-series in four episodes"... "unless you are already bristling with certainty, you come out of The Promise with far more questions than answers".
- Muriel Frat, Sense and Sensibility in Palestine (in French), Le Figaro, 21 March 2011; p. 50 "magnificently filmed and masterfully acted... treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is perfectly balanced, by no means the least quality in this novel-like fiction. Great television." (Rating: four stars out of four – excellent).
- Éric Mandel, To the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (in French), Le Journal du Dimanche, 19 March 2011. Mandel describes Kosminsky's body of work as combining "epic spirit with historical and journalistic rigour to deal with the conflicts of our time". On this series, he writes: "Historians will point out some simplifications... Others may complain of political bias towards the view of the English pro-Palestinian left. Nevertheless Kominsky [sic] delivers a historical fiction useful for understanding an intractable conflict".
- Cécile Deffontaines, The Promise : le serment (in French), Le Nouvel Observateur. "The point of view is that of someone from the British pro-Palestinian left, and should be seen as such", but it looks beautiful [est une très belle fresque], and "has an epic spirit rare on television".
- Emmanuel Berretta, Canal+: Israel, the painful saga (in French), Le Point, 17 March 2011. "Kosminsky is adamant that he is refusing to judge the situation, but what he shows of the blood-soaked birth of Israel and the treatment of the Palestinians today is, for Israel, overwhelming. One is left by The Promise profoundly affected by the journey, the ambiguities of the characters, often torn between two loyalties. A shower of awards is to be expected for Kosminsky. And also gibes."
- Laurent Larcher, Le serment: an ambiguous work (in French), La Croix, 18 March 2011
- Sandra Benedetti, The Promise (in French), L'Express, 21 March 2011
- CRIF denounces an anti-Israeli production broadcast by Canal+ (in French), Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France, 21 March 2011
- Michel Zlotowski, "Police called to Paris The Promise riot", The Jewish Chronicle, 31 March 2011
Kosminsky has questioned certain details of the JC report, including the implication that any special disclaimer was broadcast.
CRIF, Meeting with the president of Canal Plus (in French), 28 March 2011
- "saga au vitriol pour une désinformation assassine!": Shocked and Outraged! Europe-Israel and CJFAI call to demonstrate on 21 March at Canal Plus (in French), CRIF, 18 March 2011
- The Promise series: demonstration outside the headquarters of Canal+ (in French), Agence France-Presse via La Croix, 21 March 2011
Videos: Demonstration in front of Canal+, the various speeches (in French), Europe-Israel website, 24 March 2011
Jewish organisations call for the withdrawal of The Promise, a Canal+ series (in French), Le Post, 22 March 2011, reporting "a few hundred" (quelques centaines) people attending
Michel Zlotowski, "Police called to Paris The Promise riot", The Jewish Chronicle, 31 March 2011, reporting 500 people attending
CRIF and Le Post reported the following speakers, representing a number of major Jewish communal organisations in France: Richard Abitbol, president of the Confederation of Jewish Friends of Israel and France; parliamentarian Claude Goasguen, president of the France-Israel friendship group of the National Assembly of France, who described the series as "a shameful caricature" (une série caricaturale, honteuse); Joel Mergui, president of the Central Consistory; Sammy Ghozlan, president of the Bureau National de Vigilance Contre l'Antisémitsme (BNVCA); Claude Barouch, president of Union des patrons et des professionnels juifs de France (UPJF); and Gil Taieb, vice president of the Fonds social juif unifié
- Jewish organisations call for the withdrawal of The Promise, a Canal+ series (in French), Le Post, 22 March 2011
- Iain Cuthbertson, The best weekend viewing, The Australian, 26 November 2011
- TV Highlights for Sun 27 November, Australian Associated Press, 26 November 2011
- Sacha Molitorisz, The Promise, Sunday, 27 November, Sydney Morning Herald, 27 November 2011. Also carried by The Age .
Cf also: Louise Schwartzkoff, The Promise, Sunday, 4 December, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 December 2011. "As you would expect of a drama that explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, The Promise is relentless and full of examples of odious human behaviour. Nevertheless, it is gripping and never underestimates the complexity of its subject. Parallel narratives often result in uneven storytelling but in this case Erin's experiences and her grandfather's are equally compelling."
- Doug Anderson, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 December 2011. Quoted (and critiqued) in blog. .
- The Couch Potato Awards, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 December 2011.
- AFP letter in support of The Promise, Australians for Palestine, 14 December 2012
- Tzvi Fleischer, "The Promise", Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, November 2011
Steve Lieblich, SBS is screening a fictional anti-Israel drama called "The Promise", Friends of Israel Western Australia, December 2012
Mandate drama isn't very promising, Australian Jewish News, 25 November 2011. Quoted in blog .
- Senator slams The Promise, Australian Jewish News, 19 December 2011.
Glenn Sterle letter of complaint Archived 12 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine, via Friends of Israel Western Australia
- Complaint to the SBS Ombudsman Archived 31 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Executive Council of Australian Jewry, 5 January 2012
- The Promise – the ECAJ voices concern about DVD launch, Jwire, 16 January 2012
- TV series The Promise akin to Nazi propaganda, Australian Jewish News, 13 January 2012
- Jewish outcry on SBS series, The Age, 17 January 2012. Earlier version SBS fields complaints over series set in Israel. SMH .
- Letters in the Melbourne Age concerning the attack on "The Promise" and the SBS network, Australian Jewish Democratic Society website, 18 January 2012
- What the ECAJ tried to outsmart: the ruling from the UK complaints authority about "The Promise", Australian Jewish Democratic Society website, 18 January 2012
- SBS Ombudsman Response to Complaints about The Promise, via Galus Australis, 23 January 2012
SBS rules that "The Promise" does not vilify Jews or Israelis, JWire, 1 February 2012
- Media release: ‘The Promise’ is racist: ECAJ stands firm, rejects SBS response to complaints, Executive Council of Australian Jewry, 1 February 2012
SBS rules that "The Promise" does not vilify Jews or Israelis, JWire, 1 February 2012
SBS rejects "The Promise" complaint, Australian Jewish News, 2 February 2012
- Letter concerning The Promise Archived 21 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, New South Wales Community Relations Commission, 1 February 2012. via ECAJ website
Community Relations Commission Challenges "The Promise", JWire, 3 February 2012
- Hal Wootten, Much too promised land, Inside Story, Swinburne University of Technology, 13 February 2012
- Peter Wertheim, Racism Woven into Shifting Sympathies, comment at Inside Story, Swinburne University of Technology, 15 March 2012, with link to detailed response at http://www.ecaj.org.au/news_files/120312_wootten.pdf
- Transcript, Environment and Communications Legislation Committee, Australian Senate, 14 February 2012
- Scott Ryan, Senators question SBS Programming, Press release, 14 February 2012
Helen Kroger, SBS knew the promise was offensive to the Jewish community, Press release, 14 February 2012
- Christian Kerr, SBS knew Israel drama would offend Jews, Lib senators insist, The Australian, 16 February 2012; Copy via Australians for Palestine
- Jamie Hyams and Tzvi Fletcher, Angelic Arabs and murderous Jews add up to televisual propaganda, The Australian, 16 February 2012; Copy via AIJAC
- Senator Helen Kroger, SBS shouldn’t be allowed to re-write history, The Punch, 17 February 2012
- DR2 Denmark schedule: Part 1, Thursday 5 April, 5pm; part 2, Saturday 7 April, 5pm; part 3, Sunday 8 April, 4:40pm; part 4, Monday 9 April, 5pm (in Danish)
- SVT1 Sweden schedule: Part 1, Wednesday 2 May, 10pm; part 2, Wednesday 9 May, 10pm (in Swedish)
- TVO scheduling change; TVO response to a query about the scheduling change, 4 April 2012
- THE PROMISE Part 1, Tel Aviv Cinematheque, schedule for 9 April 2012. (in Hebrew)
- The Promise, Jerusalem Cinematheque schedule. Accessed 2012-04-12. Copy of full schedule also at Scribd.
- May 2012 Program, Haifa Cinematheque via www.haifacity.com
- Nora Lee Mandel, The Other Israel Festival 2011, Film Forward, 21 November 2011
Carly Silver, Moving pictures of the 'Other Israel', New Voices, 21 November 2011
Marissa Gaines, The Promise, at the Other Israel Film Fest, Asks: How Did We Get Here?, L Magazine, 15 November 2011
Chisda Magid, The Promise: Considering Israel and Its Myth of Origins, Tikkun Daily, 21 November 2011
- Kristin Brzoznowski, eOne's The Yard & Mentorn's The Promise Land on Hulu Slate, TV USA.ws, worldscreen.com
- The Promise on IMDb
- Official website
- Canal+ website (in French), including some video-interviews in English
- The Fabulous Picture Show – The Promise – Q & A with film's director hosted by Amanda Palmer on Al Jazeera English (video, 15:19 min (9:25–25:06)). Al Jazeera article accompanying video.
- Peter Kosminsky: A film-maker's eye on the Middle East. Article in The Guardian, 28 January 2011
- Peter Kosminsky: Britain's humiliation in Palestine. Feature in The Observer, 23 January 2011
- Palestine, ParaData website, Trustees of the Airborne Forces Museum, Duxford. Documents from the 6th Airborne Division's real-life stationing in Palestine.
- Yoav Etiel, Jisr al-Zarqa on the way to Hollywood (in Hebrew), Magazin no. 209, 30 April 2010. Article on The Promise and A Bottle in the Gaza Sea both filming in Jisr al-Zarqa for Gaza. Behind the scenes photos: page 1, page 2, page 3