“The Honorable Woman” an eight hour English made mini-series premiered first on the BBC and then on the Sundance Channel in July of 2014. Currently, as of January 2015 it can be seen in its entirety on Netflix. It stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and was written, directed and produced by Hugo Blick.

I braced myself for this teleplay, because of the bad experience I had in 2012 when I watched a previous English production of a Jewish/Israel/European topic. The absolute deconstruction of the history of the Israeli Palestinian dispute as seen through Peter Kosminsky’s eyes in “The Promise” from 2011, left me untrustworthy of English filmmakers to treat these subjects with reverence. There is a difference between taking some creative license and totally distorting history for a particular political agenda.  So, I was expecting the worst.

To see the review of “The Promise” click here http://amzn.to/1zwO3F2

Maybe because my standards were set so low, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I found myself intrigued with the smart story line,  plot twists, and the building to the conclusion which was a little disappointing but nevertheless held my attention, and gave me some entertainment for a couple of nights.

The play is about Nessa Stein,(Gyllenhaal) a liberal, naïve, idealistic woman whose principles manage to promote the

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peace between Jews and Arabs, she so desperately drives her corporation to support, farther away rather than closer to reality.

In the end, all the audience can conclude from Nessa Stein’s efforts, is that hatred in the Middle East will continue no matter how much western goodwill is poured into the Palestinian world. In other words, the fight isn’t over financial equality, or equal political terms, or even about land. It is about one side totally dominating the other until it is exterminated. That is what we have been living with since 1948 and a million Nessa Steins will never change that.

Because of my previous disappointments in British television about  the Middle East, I was concerned that director Blick’s political leanings might strike a moral equivalency between the two sides.

It does, but I don’t fault Blick for creating his story. As far as the made up history, like all other fiction about highly volatile international problems one has to accept the creative license given in telling the tale. And, he does that with a certain amount of expertise. The problem lies in the gullibility of the audience. People not familiar with how things really are in the Middle East tend to see digitized drama on those subjects as truth rather than just a story.

I submit, Oliver Stone’s 1992, “JFK.” There are people still walking around thinking that Lyndon Johnson was implicated in Kennedy’s assassination. A scandalous rumor, completely unfounded, but the director Stone’s creativity allowed for Johnson to be involved. Johnson’s participation since the release of the movie has spawned a cottage industry naming him as a conspirator which distorts the factual history of the crime. I should add that Stone was entirely irresponsible for not ever setting the record straight and that has contributed to the rumor.

Hopefully, Blick realizes more of the power of the medium in which he works and takes the proper steps to let his audience know the reality of Palestinian actions and Israel’s retaliation for those actions in the actual world we live in.

Blick shows Palestinian terrorists to be thoughtful, soft spoken, courageous if at the same time a little scary, but always gives them a way out to point to the justification of their acts, no matter how heinous. The Israelis on the other hand, are all loud mouth, fat, sneaky , and shiftless, unless they are politically of the left wing and unrepentant with bias against their own country. I wanted to turn down the set every time the actor playing the Israeli ambassador to England was in the scene.  It is an unfair description of the conflict, but, without the fantasy of balancing the moral scales Blick would have been unable to drive his plot.

Palestinian terror is tinged with justification while Israeli actions are seen with contempt and dubious claim.

The brutal, bloody, simply horrifying killing of the patriarch Stein in front of his two small children in the opening scene of the play, we later learn was because Stein industries made its fortune in building armaments for Israel, marking it as the culprit behind Palestinian misery over its defeats to Israel. The audience has an “oh well” moment when they find that out. You can just hear the audience thinking, ….No one deserves to die like that but I can certainly understand now why they killed him…  

On the other hand, The Samarian Defense League, an Israeli terrorist organization with the moral equivalency of the Islamic Jihad/ Hamas group in Blick’s imaginary world, is a totally fictional creation.  This creates for Blick the right kind of push pull tension that a spy thriller like this needs to succeed but  is also an overt description Palestinians have been accusing Israel of since the end of the Six Day War in 1967. Even the murder of Jews is not beyond them, something not even Blick’s apparent model for the group,  the Stern Gang of the 1940s has been accused of.

The Samarian Defense League is Blick’s  Oliver Stone’s LBJ assertion in “JFK.” He has a responsibility to make clear that this is a fictional account and bears no similarity to any reality in the Middle East today.

Another scene at a function where CEO Nessa Stein is to sponsor an evening with Palestinian musicians trained with Stein group money, a loud angry protest is apparent as Nessa walks into the building.  Palestinian supporters on one side and Israel supporters on the other yelling at each other separated by only caution tape, would never happen in our real world. In 2015 England is far too dangerous for Jews to protest against any Muslim assertion, least wise, support for the Jewish State.

Still even for someone like myself who knows this history intimately and have naturally raised those issues here, I found the play intelligent, intriguing and very interesting.  I understand the story could not have unfolded the way it did without inventing a world that didn’t exist. Unlike “the Promise” mentioned at the beginning of this review, “The Honorable Woman” is clearly a figment of a writer’s mind.

“The Honorable woman,” is a good spy story. Just remember that it is fiction and bears no similarity to what is happening in our world other than Mr. Blick got the names right, Israel and Palestine.

photo at the top courtesy of 5pillarsuk.com

Come to my website for more interesting essays, reports and stories at www.hartnation.com

Jewish community examiner

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