lop-sided truth


Channel 4’s drama series, The Promise, proved to be a powerful expose of the human cost of the protracted conflict on Palestinian soil. I was glad of the insight into this tragic (and for me, little understood) history spanning the last hundred years. (How is it so easy to remain ignorant of such significant events?). The story is based on a diary written by Len and held by Erin, his grandaughter. Len is a former British soldier who served both at the liberation of Bergen-Belsen and in Palestine, in the tense months before Israel declared itself a state in 1948 when the occupying British army was subject to a sustained and bloody terrorist campaign by Zionist groups. Besides portraying the cruel hard-heartedness of Jewish people trying to make room for themselves and the violent disruption to the loves and homes of the Palestinian people, the series brilliantly portrayed the plight of the professional soldier and his role at the complicated heart of conflict.

The size of the problem! Photo by Jim Forrest

In my enthusiasm for The Promise, I searched for reviews in the blogosphere – just to validate my enthusiasm. I found a review in the New Statesman, complete with outrageous and outraged comments. Comments include “inaccurate”, “anti-semitic” and “one-sided”. It made me wonder how The Promise (or any account) can be other than one-sided. Anyone who builds a bloody great wall – designed to prevent their neighbour seeing over – is destined to be victim of one-sided accounts of history. In conflict there is no middle ground. There is one side, or the other. There is no dis-passionate observer sitting on the fence with a view of both sides. There can be no balance.

There can, however, be peace process. Prophet (and Jew) Amos, centuries ago (a farmer from Tekoa – another Jewish settlement south of Bethlehem), proposed the “swords into ploughshares” policy – an early disarmament programme. “Swords” represent all the paraphernalia of war – its weaponry, its defences and its propaganda – upsetting the balance of truth and jeopardising peace for generations to come. Conflict creates its own insecurity and reverses common sense  – requisitioning the economic tools for prosperity, to melt them down for the savagery of war. We can, even with our one-sided truth, work for this disarmament. Even me, writing this, has declared my one-sided hand in conflict against those who were outraged by the pro-Palestinian stance of The Promise. But I didn’t see the series as an incendiary device lobbed over a great wall of conflict – but as an exercise to expose what is happening. Truth and plight can only be exposed one-sidedly. It is up to us to make it “sword” or “ploughshare”.