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The Forsaken Promise cover photo

The Forsaken Promise 2006

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Alden Films, Box 449, Clarksburg, NJ 08510; 732.462.3522
Produced by Hugh Kitson, Hatikvah Film Trust
Directed by Hugh Kitson
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - General Adult
Judaism, Israel, History

Date Entered: 02/26/2014

Reviewed by Sheila Intner, Professor Emerita, Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Simmons College GSLIS at Mt. Holyoke, South Hadley, MA

Based on three books—The Forsaken Promise, by Eric and Isobel Bellward; Palestine, by Meir Abelson; and Whose Promised Land? by Murray Dixon—this splendid documentary demonstrates how original sources such as interviews of eyewitnesses, archival film clips, and photographs can be integrated with current live action talking heads into a powerful and moving exhibit of historical fact. As visually interesting, well-paced, and smoothly edited as an award winning Hollywood entertainment film, The Forsaken Promise is, nonetheless, a compilation of historically accurate materials that commands viewers’ attention and understanding.

Starting with a careful explanation of the origins and development of England’s Balfour Declaration of 1917, the video establishes and documents subsequent actions taken by British leaders that countered its stated goal, which was the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people. Eventually, in the 1940s, when millions of Europe’s Jews were threatened with extermination at the hands of the Nazis, they broke Balfour’s promise and permitted Arab sympathies to dictate closing the doors of Jewish immigration to Israel (then called Palestine). Again and again, the British leadership paid lip service to Jewish interests, but agreed to whatever the Arabs demanded. Many times, through the years, the British expected their actions to defeat the Jews, but the Jews hung on. In 1948, the British were surprised again when the Jews won the battle for the State of Israel after the U.N. voted to partition Palestine.

Much evidence is offered showing that British opinion was divided. It wavered between strong support for Zionism among evangelical Christians and some factions in the government who wanted to establish the Jewish homeland and fulfill policies such as the Balfour Declaration, and even stronger support against them on the part of the military and other political factions who believed that British national interests depended both on avoiding Islamic anger and maintaining the flow of Arab oil. The promise of aiding a Jewish return to Israel was forsaken.

A few technical complaints must be noted, despite the well-deserved compliments about the visuals, above. Most important is the varying quality of the audio. In some parts, speakers sound muffled to the point that one cannot make out their words. This is particularly annoying when a key word is missed by poor audio capture (or, sometimes, the speaker swallowing the last, critical, word). Closed captioning is provided for some English speakers as well as those speaking other languages, but not all who might have benefited from it. The choice of who is and is not captioned seems random. Another annoyance is that the names of some speakers are given multiple times when they are shown onscreen, but the names of others are given only the first time they appear, or not at all. There seems to be no pattern to this, either. These are small technical details, but they detract from an otherwise outstanding resource.