Australian broadcaster rejects ‘Promise’ complaints


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – An Australian TV broadcaster rejected complaints from Jewish groups that a controversial series "endorses and reinforces demeaning stereotypes about Jews."

Special Broadcasting Service ombudsman Sally Begbie this week dismissed a 31-page complaint by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry into “The Promise,” a four-part drama that screened in Australia late last year.

The ECAJ, an umbrella body for the country’s Jewish groups, argued in its submission that the series breached the broadcaster’s code because it portrays its Jewish characters as “variously cruel, violent, hateful, ruthless, unfeeling, amoral, treacherous, racist and/or hypocritical."

The series, first broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4, deals with the experiences of a British soldier during the Palestine mandate, and his granddaughter, who returns to the region after discovering his diary.

It drew criticism from British Jews for being reductive and absolving Britain of its responsibility for the evolution of the conflict in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as for depicting Palestinians as saintly and poor and Israelis as wealthy and callous.

Some reviewers repeated these critiques, although others said the series was balanced.

"The series shamelessly and persistently utilizes the anti-Semitic motif of the greedy Jew,” the ECAJ submission said. “It is a landmark in the creeping rehabilitation of anti-Semitism in Western culture."

In dismissing the complaint, the SBS Complaints Committee said in a seven-page rebuttal that the series did not violate the SBS Codes of Practice and that “the ordinary reasonable viewer fully appreciated that The Promise was a fictional drama and nothing more than that."

It also noted that “accuracy per se” was not a requirement in respect of a drama and said it was “an oversimplification to cast the drama as being bad Jews versus good Palestinians.”

ECAJ executive director Peter Wertheim described the SBS response as “disappointing and unsatisfactory.”

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