The following documentary about the British role in the establishment of Israel is a devious mix of truths, half truths and falsehoods. On the one hand are accounts of interesting, behind the scenes diplomacy by the British, in which they promised a Jewish state to the Jews. On the other hand are their simultaneous pledges to the Arabs of self rule in order to get a foothold in what was then Turkish Palestine during World War One. This aspect of the film reminds me of Mel Brook’s famous film The Producers, in which a con man sells 50% interest in a film that was designed to lose money to about a dozen gullible old ladies, with the hope of cheating them all.
The documentary is interesting when it talks about behind the scenes British diplomacy. It degenerates into tendentious propaganda when it cites dubious population statistics which make it appear as though Arabs had been In Israel from time immemorial, only to be displaced by mostly European Jews. In reality, the Turks had attempted to populate what used to be called Palestine with colonists from around the Ottoman Empire. Because of predatory rental practices, Arabs were uprooted periodically by fellow Muslims, and achieved a stable presence in Palestine only when Jews started building the land.
In reality, there are factors that make British claims about what used to be Palestine far from authoritative. First, the counting of Arabs living under the Palestine Mandate was far from precise. While control on illegal immigration by Jews was rigorous, illegal immigration by Arabs was ignored, as was violence against Jews by Arabs.
In addition to the ignored phenomenon of Mizrachi Jews developing a presence in Israel independent of secular Zionist efforts, there is the issue of the Arab world overwhelmingly expelling its Jewish population, stripping them of their property in the process.
Greece and Turkey had a population exchange in 1923, with Muslims going to Turkey and Christians to Greece. Only the Arab world has had the audacity to expel its Jews and to leave them no place in which to live. This problem is ignored in the documentary Promises & Betrayals (presented here), which sounds like a crook making a selective and deceitful confession of his misdeeds.
The British were part of an important chapter of life in the Holy Land. Although their recounting of that chapter in history lacks candour, it should nevertheless be heard.