Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Well, Just Fancy That! SBS Internal Investigation Finds "The Promise" Not Antisemitic

As anyone who has ever made a formal complaint to the BBC knows, internal investigations into allegations of bias, if they proceed at all, tend to be dismissed and Al Beeb thus vindicates itself, amid its characteristic self-puffery.

Until there is a complaints procedure that is independent of the broadcaster itself, conducted by an external body which is genuinely free of Al Beeb's influence, this will always remain so.

Internal investigations tend, in all likelihood, to favour an organisation put on the defensive and eager to extricate itself from blame, especially when political bias is so ingrained in the culture of that organisation that it fails to recognise bias as such.

Since SBS has a long track record of bias against Israel, it doesn't really surprise me to learn via J-Wire that an internal investigation by the Australian multicultural channel SBS into a complaint made by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) regarding the four-part series The Promise, broadcast late last year, maintains that
“the series does not, demonise Jews either individually or as a collective, nor deny their individual and collective right to self determination and therefore does not vilify Jews or Israelis.”
The SBS.s decision has been described by ECAJ Executive Director Peter Wertheim as “disappointing and unsatisfactory”.

J-Wire continues:

'In dismissing the complaints, the SBS Complaints Committee found 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 is not a Code requirement in respect of a drama such as The Promise.”

In a 7-page response to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), which had submitted a 31-page complaint to the SBS Ombudsman, SBS described it as “an oversimplification to cast the drama as being bad Jews versus good Palestinians.”'

It quotes Peter Wertheim as follows:
“SBS has simply failed to address many of our principal contentions. They have failed to engage in detail with any of the 75 examples of negative stereotyping of Jews which we provided to them. I am also surprised that SBS has suggested that it is acceptable to portray entire nations in a negative light as a part of a dramatic work. One wonders which other nations will be next in line for vilification masked as drama. SBS is supposed to be committed to social inclusion.....
Five of the seven members of the SBS complaints committee were from senior management and were clearly not at arm’s length, even though their bona fides are not in question. Further, these managers lack the expertise and insight to deal adequately with complaints of racism.”
 He explains that the ECAJ complaint was not about the controversial history that forms the backdrop to the series:
“It is the use of discriminatory stereotypes to deal with that history that was our central objection. All of the principal Jewish characters are ultimately portrayed in a stereotypically negative way. If a series about the Israel-Palestinian conflict portrayed all of its Arab characters and their supporters as murderous terrorists, betrayers and thieves, perhaps the racism would have been more evident to SBS.”
Reports J-Wire:

'Wertheim also took issue with the Complaints Committee’s conclusion that the audience would have fully appreciated that The Promise was a fictional drama, and nothing more, pointing to the description of the series that had previously appeared on the SBS website, “The Promise: Political History’”, which was later removed, and adding, “I have a collection of media and online comments from viewers which signify that they were misled into believing that the series is a documentary, or else a factual and accurate account of historic and current events.”

Wertheim dismissed claims that the ECAJ’s complaint was intended to “censor” the series. “Our entire complaint was in the public domain as soon as we sent it and we welcome the debate about the series”, Wertheim said. “The more scrutiny it receives, the more apparent its flaws become”.

Wertheim said that the ECAJ had not demanded that the sale of the DVD of the series should be banned regardless of the outcome of its complaint. “We asked only that the marketing and promotion of the DVD be suspended until the complaint was decided. SBS itself did not suggest that this request was unreasonable. On the contrary, they assured us that our complaint would be assessed before sales of the DVD were due to commence. If the complaint had been upheld, SBS would not have been in a position to promote material that had been found to violate its own Codes of Practice.”

Describing as “completely false” claims that the ECAJ had threatened to refer the issue to a Senate Estimates Committee, Wertheim said “We made no threats. The Senate Estimates Committee reviews SBS and other government-funded bodies on a regular basis and will make its own decisions about what matters it wants to investigate”.

Asked about the ECAJ’s controversial reference to the Nazi propaganda film Jud Süss, Wertheim responded, “This was solely to illustrate that even a film that has been nominated for a prestigious award and has received acclaim can be racist to the core. We do not suggest that the nature and severity of the anti-Jewish stereotyping is the same in each film.”

“Not every criticism of Israel is antisemitic”, Wertheim continued. “It is equally false to suggest that no criticism of Israel is antisemitic. There is clearly some overlap. One test is whether the criticism makes use of anti-Jewish stereotypes. The Promise certainly does so.”

Under the SBS Codes of Practice, the ECAJ may appeal to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, but Wertheim ruled out an appeal.

“Complaints alleging a breach of SBS Code 1.3 should be able to be referred to a different body with specialist knowledge and experience in dealing with racism,” Wertheim said.

According to SBS, The Promise was produced in association with SBS TV “although SBS had no editorial control over the production”.

A spokesperson for SBS told J-Wire: “We can only confirm that all complaints about the program have been responded to. The sale of the DVD will go ahead as planned. In any event, it is available in many countries.”'

Here is an interview with the writer/director of The Promise, Peter Kosminsky (hat tip: J-Wire):


  1. Did we really expect anything else?

  2. Maybe it's a pity the ECAJ doesn't fight on!

  3. The SBS ombudsman gave a detailed reply to the complaint. The series was made by a British Jew and was acted by Israeli Jews. And they seem unaware of the bias. The basic facts have not been contested that Israel was created by violence and displacement of Palestinins and Israeli Jews enjoy social, political and economic privileges ove Palestinian Arabs. ECAJ should expose thes e iof it believes they are untrue.

  4. Ah, but I fear that having Jewish ancestry does not necessarily make a person either immune to the aggressive virus of anti-Israelism nor an expert on the history of the conflict.

    Here's another report from J-Wire:
    'Stepan Kerkyasharian, the chairperson of the Community Relations Commission of NSW has told SBS that “The Promise” caused distress to the Jewish community and asked the TV station to “desist from further publication or distribution of the program”.

    In a letter to SBS chairman Joseph Skrzynski, Kerkyasharian said the four part program, which flits between the contemporary position between Israel and Palestine and the 1940s when the British mandate was in place , represents “the portrayal of an entire nation in a negative light as part of a dramatic work is not acceptable”. He has quoted SBS Code 1.3 is saying that the “portrayal” as such is not acceptable.

    Referring to the Jewish people as a whole, the CRC chairman said there is “the concern that the series negatively portrays the WHOLE of the Jewish People”. He added that there is “the distinct separation between condemning an action by a government on the one hand and condemning the whole of the people of a nation collectively”.

    Kerkasharian has asked the broadcaster to reconsider the “representations from the Jewish community with due regard to the potential destructive consequences of racial stereotyping” and comply with the request not to rebroadcast the series or distribute the program.

    Stepan Kerkyasharian was formerly head of SBS Radio and part of the team which established SBS-TV. He spent ten years as a member of the independent complaints review panel at ABC and has spen the last eight years as president of the Anti-Discrimantion Board and has chaired the CRC for 22 years. He said that the program had particularly distressed “survivors of the Holocaust”.

    The Community Relations Commission is the legislated body responsible for promoting community harmony.'

  5. Yes a registered boy. Is the story truthful and rely on historical facts or is it false and unfair ? Only those with an interest in concealing the truth come out with extraneous excuses. If the story is a falsification of history, sue the producers and SBS for libel. All other attempts are only trying to conceal inconvenient truths.

  6. So the truth about Palestine should be kept under wraps to avoid distressing survivors of the holocaust! They can choose not to watch the series if it distresses them, but cannot try to censor historical facts. Never mind the fact that holocaust survivors are among opponents of Israel's colonisation of Palestine. By the same toke the Satanaic verses should be banned because it distresses Islamic fundamentalists.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.