From Belsen to Gaza: The Promise (2011), British and British-Jewish Identity

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This article discusses some of the issues raised by Peter Kosminsky’s miniseries The Promise (2011) and investigates the intense public responses it engendered in Britain. The first part of the article explores how the miniseries takes the lead from the paradigmatic British Holocaust memory of the liberation of Belsen to engage with issues of British national self-perception. Drawing on Paul Gilroy’s notion of ‘postimperial melancholia’, the article argues that The Promise explores important issues related to Britain’s past and present, in particular the lasting heritage of Empire. The second part of the article engages with the intense reception of the miniseries among opinion makers and the general public, with many critics seeing The Promise as aimed at delegitimising the State of Israel both historically and in relation to the present. In thus doing, the article will situate the debate within the broader context of discussions on the supposed relationship between anti-Zionism and the so-called “new anti-Semitism”, and more specifically discussion of the role of anti-Zionist Jews. The debate around The Promise is a valid case study for the exploration of two related controversies. The first one pertains to Jewish/non-Jewish relations, in particular regarding the international role of Israel in the twenty-first century. The second one is more specifically infra-Jewish and revolves around the issue of which subjects are legitimate to speak out as Jews and in the name of which values.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-55
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2018


  • The Promise
  • British identity
  • British-Jewish identity
  • television
  • End of Empire in British culture
  • British Empire
  • Peter Kosminsky

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