Sunday evening. It was cold outside and my wife and I decided to light the fire and settle down to watch a movie. We searched, as you do, through the plethora of channels on offer nowadays, until we saw a movie called ‘The Promise’ on Prime.
The very name evoked memories. Twelve years ago, in 2011, director Peter Kominsky made a 4-part TV series for Channel 4 in London called ‘The Promise’. In this instance the promise was one from a young British girl to her grandfather, who had been a soldier during the 1940s in Palestine. He left a diary for her so she could retrace his steps and find out what Britain in Palestine really meant. Her journey of discovery shocked her to the core. Not just for the past but for the present. The violence, the destruction, the horror hadn’t stopped with the creation of Israel, but continues up to today. We were invited to a private view of ‘The Promise’ and the director, who is Jewish, assured us that despite the fact that every word in the series was meticulously researched for truth and accuracy, he had to jump through hoops to get it on the air.
This new movie tells the story of a different kind of promise. A promise of love from a young Armenian medical student to a girl of his village, pledging that he would return from Constantinople, where he hoped to gain his medical degree, no matter what. As the story unfolds this dream of learning how to save lives turns into a tragedy of survival and genocide of 1.5 million Armenian citizens of the Ottoman Empire from 1914 – 1923.
The film had us mesmerised. It felt too close. ‘The Promise’, created and directed by that great Irish talent, Terry George, could so easily have been telling the on-going story of Palestinian genocide and the relentless determination by successive Israeli Governments to remove, by any and every means possible, any suggestion that a country called Palestine ever existed. There was one moment in the film when a group of orphans and villagers are seen hiding in a cave. That was me, 75 years ago, aged five, crouching in such a cave, hearing the mortar shells and the gun-fire outside and terrified to my very bones. Another boy, also called Jafar, sitting right beside me, was shot straight through his right eye as the bullet went through the back of his head. Miraculously he survived.
I recommend this latest film called ‘The Promise’. It is a heartbreaking, thought-provoking and epic, and for those who know nothing of this terrible true story of the Turkish treatment of the Armenians it is a real eye-opener. If only, I said to my wife, another director of talent and commitment, would do the same for Palestine.
But, who? To quote the words of Gideon Levy, Israeli journalist and columnist for Haaretz;
“ There aren’t many populations in the world as helpless as the Palestinians who live in their own country. No one protects their lives and property, let alone their dignity, and no one intends to do so. They are totally abandoned to their fates. Their houses and their cars can be torched, their fields set on fire. It’s all right to shoot them mercilessly, killing old people and babies, with no defence forces at their side. No police, no military: no one. If some such desperate defence force is organised it’s immediately criminalised by Israel. Its fighters are labeled ‘terrorists’, their actions ‘terror attacks’ and their fates sealed, with death or prison the only options.”
Coincidentally, I am now in the middle of reading a book that has just came out. It is called ‘The State Of Israel Versus The Jews’, by a Jewish French writer, Sylvain Cypel, and it chronicles in minute detail how Israel trains children to hate, discriminate against and kill Palestinians out of utter conviction that our lives are of a lesser value than theirs and therefore justifies everything that they do to us.
At this very moment Israel has been wreaking havoc all over the occupied West Bank, especially in my home town of Jenin.
Will we ever see another brave and principled film-maker who would have the moral courage to make a block buster movie about the tragedy of Palestine, and have it beamed around the world in cinemas and streamed through the internet for anyone and everyone to see? I live in hope.
Jafar M Ramini is a Palestinian writer and political analyst. He was born in Jenin in 1943 and was five years old when he and his family had to flee the terror of the Urgun and Stern gangs. Justice for the people of Palestine is a life-long commitment.