With the drama “The Promise” director Kominsky produced an unbelievable compact, differentiated and brave movie. Obviously, Kominsky puts the spectator in the role of a self reflective attitude towards the decribed events, which excluds an one-sided perspective onto the action and the characters by putting the audience in the place and the constraints of the protagonists, trying to make them understand why people act the way they do. Naturally, you can interpret the plot one-sided if you want to. By that, however, you depriviate yourself of the possibility to change perspectives, yet to learn from history why violence causes violence and produces and endless vicious circle that can only be cut off by a “self-reflective” person in the actual sense of Mead’s theory.
I abstain from summarizing the quadripartite film here. Others already did that at length. This is all about retracing the madness of the microcosm “Near East” that happened and still happens and that the relevant people seem to be prisoners of their own history without any hope of escape.
In one way or another everybody was encountered with the Mideast conflict. Most of us probably only in the news on TV or in the newspapers. Others maybe very close by visiting the country. To capture the conflict in all its facets seems to be an almost impossible undertaking because it simply does not exist: neither the clear role of victim or actor nor the simple solution of the highly complex situation.
What I mean? Let us take a look at the initial sequence of the film. The protagonist “Len”, a British soldier, who firstly literally “cleans up” a concentration camp in Germany with his comrades at the end of World War II is faced with the unimaginable. Piles of dead bodies are being pushed together with the help of bulldozer. I wondered what is the most horrible thing to me in this scene. The trigger, that makes me feel ashamed of belonging to the nation that did that to the jews in millionfold is the fact that these “skeletons with skin” are no usual skeletons as we might know them from biology class. No, these skeletons still have eyes, transfixing the audience. The same feeling might have creeped over Len and abide to him when he reached Palestine after 1945. At that time Palestine still were under British rule. Because also here, he finds out, Jews are nothing but wanted. Imagine how such a reaction must feel after a very long period of unthinkable cruelty, owing nothing but the bare life. And that is because there are too many of them! Indeed the British had promised egually to the Arabs and the Jews a “homestead” , but were quickly surpassed by reality. Apparently, as naive as this may sound, nobody anticipated that the Jews would accept the invitation so numerously.
The overstrained occupying power captures the fleed jews right at the shores and puts the already traumatized people again into camps. Most likely even with the greatest effort it seems almost impossible to me to suspect what kind of feelings and anxiety states this action must have released at these people who longed for nothing else than a homeland and peace.
In fact the promised home is not uninhabited. Besides the occupying power there are also the actual residents of Palestine: the Palestinians. For these people the events must be absolutely incomprehensible. They have neither anything to do with WW II nor did they have a saying in the promise of the British to let the Jews settle down in Palestine. In other words: nobody gave a thought to how the living together of the Arabs and the Jews should pass off, after scores of refugees reached Palestine with not enough space to accomodate them.
Without evaluating it it should be traceable that the jewish refugees had only one wish: to find a place of their own, no matter what and never to be carried to the shambles again like sheeps how it happened in Nazi-Germany (and beyond Germany) at that time. What violence looks like and how to commit acts of terror they knew too well from what they had suffered – with no chance to handle the trauma. Untreated trauma however – and this is when the tragedy starts – can only be passed on and repeated.
Consequently, the Jews do not seem to have acquitted themselves from the fear to loose all again, being homeless again and helplessly faced with a dubious fate. No other explanaton seems to be plausible for the irrational conduct of the Jewish state towards Palestinians. The Jewish state is a prisoner of its fear. No matter, how upgraded and well-trained the state and its soldiers are, fear will not loose its hold on them. And this fear and the violence deriving from it is passed on from one generation to another.
And then there is the Arab natives of the country, who – in my point of view – were innocently implicated into the Jewish trauma and have been traumatized in the meantime themselves bearing the consquences mentioned above. This finding brings us back to the start of this artice, the vicious circle that given renewed sustenance again and again, i.e. through terroristic attacks and provoks new perfidy reactions, such as the construction of the Israeli wall through Palestinian territory. Not only the population of that region but also the rest of the world seems to helpless and perplexed in the face of this vicious circle. Instead of treating the roots of all evil (the traumata) economic and political self-interests are negotiated by groups from both sides and are being put in the unsurmountable focus – at the expense of the powerless part of the population on both sides. In Paul Hardcastles words “they are still fighting”.