The Honourable Woman

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BBC2, Thursdays, from 3 July

This eight-part series is billed as a thriller set against the backdrop of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The honourable woman of the title is Nessa Stein. She is the current head of the Stein Group, an organisation built by her arms-dealing Zionist father (“the sword of Israel”).

A supporter of the Israeli state herself, Nessa has tried to steer the group towards a more acceptable public face. As we join the story, she is being elevated to the House of Lords in recognition of her philanthropic work in Palestine. Her current project is an attempt to provide high-speed internet to the West Bank.

Things soon begin to go wrong, however. The preferred candidate for the deal is Palestinian which causes ructions in the family. Worse still, he turns up dead, in a clearly faked suicide. This sets in train a series of murky events which seem to centre on Stein herself.

What emerges is a set of family secrets and deceptions that mirror the misinformation and betrayals of the conflict in which they are set. We are launched into the amoral world of the British, US and Israeli diplomatic and secret services where nobody says what they mean or means what they say.

Anyone who gets in the way is quickly dealt with. This environment is superbly brought to life in the character of Sir Hugh Hayden-Hoyle, a world-weary, Le Carré-style MI6 spook whose star is on the wane and who wants to go out while salvaging some integrity at least.

Readers of this magazine will be familiar with the media’s bias when dealing with the issue of Israel and Palestine. The BBC in particular has long operated a phony “impartiality” which in practice accepts the status quo of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. The Honourable Woman is not intended to be a documentary. Less than halfway in, however, the series seems to have avoided the usual pitfalls.

The characters are well drawn and acted; the story grips you from the start and develops well. Questions are posed about the history and politics of the region and the continuing struggles. It is well worth watching to see how these will be resolved.