Outsider on the Inside
Reflections on our society by an Israeli born filmmaker

Sep
11

Six Episodes of a Masterly series that will revolutionize our  vision of the economic world”

announces ARTE’s Press Kit

Capitalisme image 6Ep6 Press10

“Capitalism” the ground breaking series, on which  I have been working  for the past 3 years, begins its int’l launch on ARTE  on October 14.   You can read the Press kit above.  Next week there will be a press conference in Paris  with a screening  of two episodes) .  I will attend the conference   together with  ARTE  editorial team as well as the head of programming  and economist  Robert Boyer, one of the key participants in the series .  On October 13th  ARTE is organizing an Avant Premiere screening and  a party  (by invitation only).

From Paris the series will move to Montreal in November.  I will keep  you posted here future events and broadcasts

Stay Tuned!

Sep
11

Six Episodes of a Masterly series that will revolutionize our  vision of the economic world”

announces ARTE’s Press Kit

Capitalisme image 6Ep6 Press10

“Capitalism” the ground breaking series, on which  I have been working  for the past 3 years, begins its int’l launch on ARTE  on October 14.   You can read the Press kit above.  Next week there will be a press conference in Paris  with a screening  of two episodes) .  I will attend the conference   together with  ARTE  editorial team as well as the head of programming  and economist  Robert Boyer, one of the key participants in the series .  On October 13th  ARTE is organizing an Avant Premiere screening and  a party  (by invitation only).

From Paris the series will move to Montreal in November.  I will keep  you posted here future events and broadcasts

Stay Tuned!

Sep
11

Six Episodes of a Masterly series that will revolutionize our  vision of the economic world”

announces ARTE’s Press Kit

Capitalisme image 6Ep6 Press10

“Capitalism” the ground breaking series, on which  I have been working  for the past 3 years, begins int’l int’l launch on ARTE  on October 14.   You can read the Press kit above.  Next week there will be a press conference in Paris  with a screening  of two episodes) .  I will attend the conference   together with  ARTE  editorial team as well as the head of programming  and economist  Robert Boyer, one of the key participants in the series .  On October 13th  ARTE is organizing an Avant Premiere screening and  a party  (by invitation only).

From Paris the series will move to Montreal in November.  I will keep  you posted here future events and broadcasts

Stay Tuned!

Sep
11

“SIX  EPISODES  OF A MASTERLY  SERIES THAT WILL REVOLUTIONIZE OUR  VISION OF OUR ECONOMIC WORLD

Announces ARTE’s  Press Kit

Ep6 Press10Capitalisme image 6

CAPITALISM , the series on which I have worked for  the past 3 years is premiering on ARTE 14 . Each week 2  episodes will be broadcast ( see the schedule in the attached press kit)

The press Campaign begins next week  in a Press Conference    where two episodes  will be screened.  I will be there and so will be one of our interviewees: the great  economist Robert Boyer.

I will keep you posted   with press clippings and information as we built for the Avant Premiere screening  on October 13 where I will be too.

We will follow  up  with screenings  and  broadcast in Canada  as the series  begins its international tour.

Stay tuned!

May
02

Image

There  are some news  concerning the saga of Exile and the BBC  …and they  are positive for a change!

I had a conversation yesterday with  BBC 4 executives .  It was a good talk where we both agreed we would like to see the film broadcast in the UK.  We agreed to explore ( by examining  scripts and cuts )  the possibility  of showing a mutually  agreeable  60 min  version of the film followed by a discussion  program   where myself and others  will participate.

I will of course report here the outcome of this  process of exploration.

As I wrote  in my first  blog I am  determined to  show  the film in the UK  on TV, in  public screenings  or both.  I believe   the dialog  with the BBC  is a positive step  to achieve this goal.

Thanks to all the concerned  individuals who send me  emails,  and posted their comments.  I was touched and encouraged by your comments . They  only emphasized for me the importance of showing  Exile and generating a  discussion and debate on the many issues it raises.

I am travelling this weekend to China for filming for another project and  we agreed that we will pick up  the issue when I am back on  the  May 14th.

I of  course will   keep  updating you  in my blogs on what happens next.

Stay tuned!

Apr
27

Image

As some of you know, my film EXILE, A MYTH UNEARTHED, which examines the myth of the Jewish EXILE and its political impact on both Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the Middle East, was going to be shown on the BBC Thursday April 25th. It was pulled out of the schedule only a few days earlier.

Since than I was flooded by dozens of emails of angry and concerned viewers asking what happened.   To be honest I debated whether to tell the story of what I think had happened. I have worked with the BBC in the past on some programs that were deemed controversial and I never had any political censorship. On the contrary I was impressed by the integrity and fairness of the people I dealt with.

So based on my past experience, I was going to wait patiently until the BBC programming executives would solve the internal drama that apparently has begun to brew inside the BBC.  “The film is gorgeous, courageous and fresh, “ I was told several times by the programming executives. I was promised that the cancellation was temporary: “Given the short timescale and your workload, we have decided to delay transmission until we’ve had the chance you’ve had the chance to go through it in detail”. 

I naively believed and decided to wait quietly. But things have their own momentum and as I learned more, I realized that the story of “EXILE” in the BBC is far more complex.

Among the dozens of emails I received one caught my attention. It included the official email response from the BBC to the inquiry/complaint sent to irate viewers who contacted the BBC asking why the program was pulled out of the schedule. This email contradicted a private email sent to me by the programming executives. I was intrigued.

I discovered after quick research that while I was contacted by the BBC barely a week before the broadcast asking for my comments about the cut, the BBC have had the film for almost 6 months. So why was this sudden rush which supposedly was the excuse given to me as to why the film was pulled out?  Why was I contacted so late in the game?  And why was there a discrepancy between what was told to me and the “official” version . I started to dig a bit deeper and to put my findings in a blog, rather than answer the dozens of people who wrote to me privately.

This is not a personal issue.  This is ultimately a sad saga of what I believe is a mixture of incompetence, political naiveté, conscious or subconscious political pressure and ultimately, I believe, a lack of courage of broadcasters when they are faced with the complexity of the Middle East issue and the intense emotions, fears and aggression it generates. Once you indeed depersonalize this incident, you gain a fascinating insight on how subtle and complex is the process by which our understanding of the  Israeli Palestinian conflict is being shaped and what happens when one dares to raise questions about issues deemed by some as taboos.  It is this insight that I think is worth sharing and detailing.

The story begins for me with the name. I discovered only 3 days before the broadcast that the BBC has been using a different name for the film: Jerusalem – An Archeological Mystery Story.   It struck me as an odd choice that seems to camouflage the film’s real subject and repackages it as a neutral archeological mystery of sort- like the hundreds of hours one can see on cable and Satellite channels throughout the world.

“ Exile” of course is not about a mystery, neither it is limited to archeology or to Jerusalem. The name and the illusion that one can pretend that this film is just about archeology and its mysteries are at the core I believe of Thursday’s fiasco.

Digging deeper I also learned that this title was established back in November 2012 in the agreement between the National Film Board of Canada (one of the  film’s co producers and its int’l distributor) and the BBC.  Unknown to me at the time it was also agreed that my name would be removed and the version would be listed as an adaptation.  I do remember being approached by the NFB (National Film Board of Canada ) asking me if I would allow the BBC to cut the film down. I asked, and was promised, that the BBC would consult with me on the cut down so the integrity of the longer version (104 min) would be preserved.  From my access to some internal documents, it is obvious now that the BBC was not genuinely interested in my getting involved.  As the documents suggest, they realized that they could always rely on the solution to have my name removed and list the version as an “adaption”.

So back in November 2012, everything seemed to be on track to produce a cut down of the film without having to deal with the director, broadcast the film under a neutral title and hopefully avoid any serious political debate. A perfect solution!  So what went wrong?

Fast forward to Saturday April 20th 2013 when I received an email from a friend in the UK who saw that “my” film Jerusalem; An Archeological Mystery Story was going to be broadcast on BBC 4. He even read a preview of it in the Guardian. The preview promised that the film “ will ruffle some feathers”.  Two days earlier I did receive from the editor who cut the film a copy of the cut for me to comment on, but there was no mention of an impeding broadcast date!

On Monday, 3 days before the broadcast, I fired an email to the BBC programming executives complaining that it is unfair to expect me to spend time reviewing the cut and coming up with suggestions of a re cut, when I was given only a few days before a broadcast date that no one bothered to inform me about. I pleaded for more time. It was only when one of the programming executives called me, I realized that there were much bigger issues for her than my complaint about being pushed into an impossible schedule.

The program executive seemed genuinely shocked that a freelance employee hired by the BBC to take part in the re-versioning process called the film “propaganda”. When I asked if this unnamed person had specific examples to support such a sweeping charge, I was told  that she claimed that , “Everything was propaganda”.  And there was more.

An “unnamed” BBC insider who I was told “liked the film,” claimed that the film props up the myth of Exile “ which we all know did not happen, in order to support his political analysis”.  I learned that the cut I was given was now irrelevant, since some internal review deemed one scène with the Palestinians to be “too emotive” and they were asked to cut it down.  Realizing that a mini political storm was brewing around the film and attacks lodged against its integrity, I asked and was promised that I would be given at least a summary of the essential charges so I could answer them in length.  I am obviously very familiar with some of them and could easily and in detail refute them.  I told the programming executive that my reply would help them to defend the film in the Channel. After all, they professed to love the film and seemed genuinely interested to show it.  I told them it was very easy for me to prepare a detailed rebuttal with citation of sources for every word of the narration, the overall  analysis and for every scene. I told them that some of the academic participants in the program who  saw the cut and are reputable scholars in their field  did not find any factual errors or misrepresentations of facts or  of the historical narrative. In other words, I argued that such a detailed and substantial defense would convince any objective reader and observer of the editorial integrity of the film. I repeated the request several times yet I never got a reply. Instead, I received an email telling me that they decided to pull it out of the schedule, citing  the “ short  timetable and my work load “( !) A few days later I saw the “official” version that went to the public:

“We originally acquired ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’ to supplement BBC Four’s season exploring the history of archaeology. However, we have decided that it doesn’t fit editorially and are no longer planning to show it as part of the season.  Plans to broadcast  the program are currently under review”  So Exile, A myth unearthed  has begun its own exile within the BBC.

I do believe it is ultimately a sad saga. A saga of well meaning programming executives who acquired  the  “courageous “ film  they claim to love, believing that they can sneak it by with a “neutral title”. When they were “caught”, rather than face the criticism  and be helped by the mountains of documents and dates I was ready to send them,  they panicked like deer in the headlights not knowing what to do and eventually raised  their hands in resignation.

The truth of the matter is that the reaction outside and inside the BBC surprised me too. The film by now has been shown in a Jewish Festival in Toronto, playing in a screening room there for a week. It was shown on Canadian TV with a second broadcast  planned for June.  Another version of the film is scheduled to be shown in France and Switzerland ,with  hopefully screenings in the US later in the year.  The response in all the public screenings, some of which I attended, was overall extremely positive. Nowhere did the film generate such a reaction as  that of the few individuals inside and outside the BBC.

The temporary success to “exile” the film might prove I believe to be a pyrrhic victory.

EXILE does not deal with contemporary politics in the Middle East, rather, it proposes to examine their ideological and historical underpinnings.  EXILE has not contributed to the political stalemate in the region nor to the continued bloodshed, occupation and violence. It is a film born out of the continued violence. Rather than propose a simplistic solution or an aspirational political program , it tries to suggest a possible way out by re examining the historical narratives we all grew up on, suggesting that in this tormented land there are historical models of co existence and tolerance that could replace the dominant conventional nationalist ones. Silencing this film is silencing a possibility of discussion, debate and re examination not of the current political stalemate but of the intellectual stalemate that contributes to it.

I hope that somewhere in the BBC someone will rise above the hysteria and the attempts at self censorship to take a cooler look at the film and realize how it has been profoundly mis-characterized , -viewing it through partisan glasses instead of looking at it for what it is:  a film that can and has already in its  public screenings generated  dialogue and positive, thinking rather than perpetuating divisions  and polarization.

So for me this is not the end of EXILE in the UK but only the beginning.  I will show the film publically throughout the UK and will challenge the BBC to either broadcast the film or relinquish its rights. I have offered to buy these rights so I could place the film elsewhere in the UK.

The saga of EXILE will continue. Stay tuned!

Feb
12

ilans-portrait

During the 1996 Israeli election, I was in the Channel 4 Television studios in London. I still remember the surrealistic atmosphere sitting in the editing room, putting the final touches on a film that was supposed to be broadcast in an hour, while on a small TV, the Channel’s news was broadcasting images of the spontaneous celebrations in the Likud party’s headquarters. On stage was the beaming winner: Bibi Netanyahu. “Bibi, Bibi, King of Israel,” they sang. It was indeed a historic election, a metaphor for the near death status of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process. The process had been slowly killed by expanding Israeli settlements and Palestinian suicide bombers. After the murder of Yzhak Rabin by a right-wing assassin it was only a question of time, we felt, until the death of the peace process would be made official. For me, the election of Bibi Netanyahu in 1996 was that moment. Four years later the disillusionment of both societies  from any process of reconciliation  produced  the blood letting of the second “intifada”.

I suddenly remembered that episode yesterday as I was watching on the Internet, the live election coverage from Israel. Don’t believe the morning papers that report inconclusive results and don’t be distracted by the stories of the power struggle between the night’s two winners. Who the next Prime Minster will be and the precise list of parties, which will form the future coalition, is unimportant. The reality is that the right-wing block in Israeli politics received close to 65 members of Parliament out of a possible 120. As in 1996, the results are not surprising. In fact, they should have been predictable to anyone who has watched and lived the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But I do not want this blog to become an analysis of Israeli electoral politics or about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but about the lessons I learned in the Balkans while making the film that was going to be broadcast in the UK the night Bibi won. Throughout 1995, my colleagues and I worked with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Roy Gutman, on an investigation into the UN role in the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica—designated by the UN as a Safe Haven. It was my second film in Bosnia. The first one was an investigation into the beginning of the ethnic cleansing campaign as it unfolded in the Bosnian town of Zvornik. It was that film that brought me to Belgrade at the beginning of the war in Bosnia. At first the city was surprising. Belgrade, even during the war, had a liberal, sophisticated and strong intellectual elite. Sitting in sun-drenched cafes in Belgrade as Serb paramilitary units were decimating Bosnian towns only a few hundreds kilometers away was almost surreal. It was hard to reconcile the urbane atmosphere with the horrors of Bosnia. But, Serbia, as I soon learned, was gravely ill. Impressive as Serbian intellectuals were, the country was on a path of self-destruction; dark ghosts of nationalistic fantasies gripped its soul and were slowly eating its body politic. Serbia, by choosing an uncompromising, extremist nationalist position, pinned itself into a corner from which there was no exit. The massacre in Serbrenica was not the last stop in that journey of self-destruction but it was visibly the beginning of the end.

Israel is, of course, no Serbia and there are many differences between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Balkans. But as I watched the election results last night I could not escape the feeling that since 1996, Israel too has embarked on a similar journey of self-destruction. Of course Israel’s journey began long before Bibi Netanyahu was elected, and he is hardly the only one responsible for it. But the process of destruction has accelerated since the collapse of the Oslo Peace Process and Bibi’s election in 1996. Violence has been radicalizing both Israelis and Palestinians and has steadily eliminated the available political options. The ruins of Gaza are the most recent evidence of how destructive the last 13 years have been. But as I learned in the Balkans, they are only but a preview of the conflicts ahead.

There was something else last night that reminded me further of the dark days of the Balkan wars. It was the meteoric rise of Avigdor Liberman, the arch nationalist, whose party got more votes than the Labour party did, becoming the third largest party in the Israeli Parliament. I saw his ilk in Serbia too. It is a mistake to consider Avigdor Liberman as just one more voice in the nationalist chorus. He is far more ambitious and clever than that. Liberman carved his role in the Israeli right by stoking the fires of a much more dangerous aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—the future of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. “Without Loyalty—No Citizenship,” proclaims his party’s motto. It was splashed behind him on the stage. He wants to impose a loyalty oath on the Palestinians citizens of Israel. Their refusal will lead to loss of citizenship. It is only one part of an ambitious goal: to rid Israel of this “Fifth Column” which, according to Liberman,  is what the vast majority of the over one million Palestinian citizens have become. Liberman is, of course, not alone. His party could not  end up with 15 members of Parliament  unless it represented and attracted a far wider segment of the Israeli society. On the stage behind him last night were former Likud members of Parliament, generals, and even Israel ‘s former ambassador to the United States. All have recently joined his party.

In 1995, the war in Bosnia came to an end, and Srebrenica was its last massacre. The searing imagery haunted the entire world and distracted us from another conflict that was brewing in the background.  The Albanian majority in Kosovo first demanded the return of the Province’s autonomous status, which it had enjoyed as part of the former Yugoslavia. When their struggle was met with Serbian repression, their demand was changed to full independence. Kosovo was where Slobodan Milosevic baptized his nationalist campaign and where it ultimately ended with disastrous consequences to Serbia. In 1996, with the images of Srebrenica still seared in my mind, it was difficult to see the looming time bomb, which was Kosovo. In the wake of the war in Gaza, it is hard to focus on the radical change that the election of Avigdor Liberman signifies. But I believe that last night Avigdor Liberman laid the foundations for what could become an “Israeli Kosovo.” He, like his counterparts in Serbia, is ensuring that the delicate, tense and complex relationship between Israel and its Palestinian minority will be further damaged, leading to the radicalization of both societies.

The film we were making in 1995-1996 was not just a chronicle of Serbian and Bosnian-Serb atrocities. Its main focus was the moral bankruptcy of the international community, which had promised the Bosnian citizens of Srebrenica protection, and then betrayed them. At the core of this failure was the international community’s inability to grasp the fact that the war in the Balkans was not going to end by itself or run out of steam. Western politicians failed to grasp that virulent nationalist and ethnic conflicts such as these are like fires that feed on themselves. Without outside intervention and help, Serbia could only but continue to advance deeper and deeper into that dead end corner. Its political system was not only held hostage by Slobodan Milosevic. Its soul was infected with xenophobic rhetoric, and its passions whipped to hysteria by nationalist politicians . No opposition could grow in that barren landscape. The Bosnian Muslims, on the other hand, were wounded and radicalized by the atrocities committed against them and could only produce a desire for revenge. Srebrenica was a reminder that without international intervention, the Balkans would not only burn themselves to death but ignite other parts of Europe and the Muslim world. By the time the West was propelled into action, over 200,000 Bosnians of all religious beliefs had lost their lives and over 1.5 millions refugees were expelled from their homes. In 1996, the night Bibi won, I did not understand the parallels with what I saw on  television  and my film, which was about to be broadcast. Last night I felt I was watching the future unfold… and it looked painfully familiar.

Israeli novelist, David Grossman, wrote in a recent article that Israelis and Palestinians are like the foxes in the biblical story of Samson. In the Bible, Samson, in his war against the Philistines in Gaza, tied two foxes by their tails and placed a burning torch in their midst. The terrified foxes, unable to untangle themselves, were unleashed on Gaza ‘s wheat fields, setting them on fire while the foxes themselves burned.

Yesterday, the Middle East made yet one more step toward that great fire that, at the end, could consume us all.

Jan
18

ilans-portrait

By Ilan Ziv and Daoud Kuttab

For over twenty years we have worked together documenting the struggle between our peoples with the goal of saving our humanity, with the belief in the sanctity of life and the power of the rule of law. If we have learned anything in our years of work on the ground in Palestine, Israel and around the world, it is that our two peoples are incapable of solving our conflict by ourselves. We have also come to the strong belief that the US, acting in a biased fashion, has failed to be the impartial and honest broker it has claimed it will be. Instead we truly believe that there is an international body, yet to be established, that can save Israel, the Palestinians and indeed the region from this process of self-destruction, which has been spiraling out of control.

In 2001, in the height of the second Intifida and in the midst of the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign, and Israeli incursions, we published a joint article calling for an international war tribunal ( http://www.daoudkuttab.com/?p=69 ). In this article we concluded that Israelis and Palestinians are locked in a deadly embrace from which neither side can extricate itself. Neither society, we argued, is capable of producing the forces of change that could alter this deadly course. Both societies, we wrote, are locked in their own concept of victimhood and self-justification, while extremists on both sides are feeding off each other. Each convulsion of violence narrows further the space for dialogue and compromise, marginalizing internal opposition.

This was not an academic observation. It grew out of our own experience. For years we collaborated on a Palestinian /Israeli self-documentation project where cameras were given to ordinary Palestinians and Israelis from all walks of life to record the impact of momentous political events on their lives. In Palestinian Diaries, cameras were given to young Palestinians to record their experience of the first Intifida. We expanded the project after the signing of the Oslo accords to include six Israelis as well. We called it at the time “Peace Diaries”. Yet while politicians spoke about peace, the material that came from villages, refugee camps and settlements showed the brewing of a new war.

Although our ways parted for some time, we have both been involved in focusing on issues of war crimes and the use of international instruments to hold people and governments accountable. Ilan has documented war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Daoud contributed to and produced two editions of the Arabic version of the multi-language book “Crimes of War—What the Public Should Know.” Our work convinced us that only the creation of a special tribunal, like those, which were established during the war in the former Yugoslavia and after the massacre in Rwanda, would create an international body with a moral authority to hold a mirror in front of both societies. Only such a tribunal could sift through partisan rhetoric and claims of victimhood. The importance of such a court will be far more than enforcing international law. As in the Balkans, we believe, it will help to contain the conflict and force political changes.

In 2001, we never imagined the war in Gaza eight years later with its frightening human toll of hundreds of children and women dead or wounded. Hamas is accused of firing rockets into Israeli civilian locations but who could have imagined the response:  as many as 150,000 internal refugees (estimated by Human rights groups,) the massive destruction of infrastructure and homes, the disproportional use of force and the attacks on UN facilities (even while the Secretary General was meeting with Israeli officials.)

This time there is a growing chorus calling for an international investigation into whether both sides committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Though we whole-heartedly support those calls, we know that the impact of such investigations in the past has been limited. Israel is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court in the Hague (neither is Hamas,) therefore any attempt to bring the case to the Hague is bound to fail. The only choice, we believe, is the establishment of a special tribunal based on the legal precedents created in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. There are many obstacles to the establishment of such a court by the Security Council. However, according to Prof. Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, the court can be established by the General Assembly, as well.

We believe that the cause of such a tribunal should be adopted by the hundreds of non-governmental organizations, recognized by the United Nations. They could put pressure on the member states to adopt such a resolution. At stake are not only the crimes committed yesterday, but also the future disasters that will be born out of the ruins of Gaza. As we peer into the abyss, we believe that the establishment of a War Crime Tribunal needs to be supported both by Israel’s friends as well as by supporters of Palestine. It is the only international mechanism that can save Israel from itself and save the Palestinians and the region from a looming catastrophe.

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist who lives in Jerusalem and Amman. Ilan Ziv is an Israeli documentary filmmaker living in New York City and director of Tamouz Media.

Jan
11

ilans-portrait

HATE TALK

Periodically, my blogs gets comments. I always have published them (I have the option to publish or delete comments sent to my blog.) From the start, I vowed to myself to publish any comments irrespective of their content. Yet last week I broke that vow and did not authorize the following comment to be published:

Why don’t you make a film about today’s even-worse torture and genocide of Palestinian Muslims by the current crop of Zionist war criminals headed by the vicious war dog thug Olmert?
We know why – you have no fundamental morals beyond your next pay check from the Zionist-controlled western MSM media.”

Pathetic pseud

It was written in response to my July 28th blog, Karadzic and Us, in which I wrote about how I feel we all abandoned Bosnia, including people like me, who were involved in covering the war and producing films, investigating war crimes. The blog ended with a link to an excellent article by Ed Vulliamy, a British TV journalist, who revealed the existence of the Bosnian concentration camps. In this moving article, Vulliamy describes his recent visit to Fikret Alic, whose emaciated image behind the barbed wire fence of a concentration camp in northern Bosnia shocked the world.

I kept visiting this comment trying to understand why I was so quick to reject it. It could not be just its tone. After all comments like blogs are an exercise in free speech and I cannot approve only comments that are nice and kind to me. We cannot publish every crackpot comment on our site I said to myself.  Here is a guy who has no idea who am I or about my work. (For the past 25 years, I have done many films with Palestinians and Arabs that have been very critical of Israel, some even getting  me into trouble with Jewish and Israeli organizations.)  Even worse, he has no idea who the Maryknoll Media Productions  is ;  a progressive Catholic organization that has never done work on the Palestinian Israeli conflict, calling them  “Zionist controlled Western MSM Media.”  take  guilt by association to a new height.  No, at the end I decided that I was so quick to reject the comment because it was hateful. Based solely on my name, the writer went to attack me as some abstract representative of the “Zionist War Criminals” who is “working” for the “Zionist-controlled Western Media.” This, I decided, was not a critique but hate talk.  When I first discussed with Mark his blog from Death Row, he asked me if he was going to be censored. No, I responded, we will publish everything short of “hate talk.”

As you can see, this week I decided to quote his comment and give it a space, though without  mentioning  the identity of the author. I did it after reading the articles and watching the videos  (see the front page of the site) on the rise of hate crime in Russia. I found myself glued to the chilling interviews with Russian skinheads. They are “crackpots” too but see how dangerous they are and how much damage and suffering they inflict.

So I decided that it important to expose the comment because of the state of mind it reveals. There is nothing wrong with protesting Israel’s invasion of Gaza or Israel’s role in its conflict with the Palestinians. But it is wrong to develop conspiracy theories about Zionist war criminals and lump Ehud Olmert and me together just because we are both Israelis.

Mark Stroman told me many times how wrong it was for him to do what he did. He told me how he knows he was living in an environment of hate and how wrong it was to lump everyone together as “Arabs,” including poor Pakistani and Indian immigrants as well as  an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh.

The distance between hate talk and hate crime is indeed short. Dealing with people as racial or political abstractions and not as individuals always have led to the worst atrocities in history.

It is this state of mind we have to fight.

Dec
30

ilans-portrait

It is a weird time I must admit. Around me are the trappings of the holiday season all talk about the season of “peace” and the wishes for a “happy new year,”  while we are publishing Mark’s latest blog from “hell hole.” Mark ‘s blog, as usual, is dark and bleak, telling the story of a guard who could not take the pressure and “ate a bullet” (i.e. taking his own life,) as Mark calls it, in the prison’s parking lot.

A new war is brewing in the Middle East with Israel violently retaliating for Hamas ‘ rocket launch into Israel. Over 300 Palestinians have been killed already—many are civilians. Hamas vowed to retaliate using suicide bombings… and so it goes on. Despite all the nationalist rhetoric and the demonstrations of protest, only few brave observers dare to admit that both sides are locked in a violent bargaining for a new ceasefire. Hundreds undoubtedly will be killed before a new “deal” is brokered. It too will be broken in few months or years,  in this never-ending cycle of violence. Israel admits it can not or does not want to topple Hamas (since it does not want to occupy the Gaza strip.) Hamas is too weak to destroy Israel. So the result is periodic bloodletting, which of course can lead nowhere. The Israeli campaign is called “Cast Lead (Oferet Yezuka) a name taken from a kids ‘s Hanuka song about the “cast lead dreidel.” Hanuka is celebrated as a Jewish holiday of freedom.”

So what is the connection between all these manifestations of violence in the period of peace?
For me it reaffirms one more time that violence only breeds more and worst violence in a slowly escalating process. “What prompts a man to eat a bullet?” asks Mark in his blog. “This man is working on the row—men are being executed in an alarming rate… dying to live… living to die. And he, who has his freedom takes his own life right before the Christmas Holidays.”

I  don’t know the reasons were that pushed officer “Wood” to end his own life. However I am willing to bet that working so many years in an environment of sheer violence and in such proximity to death made his radical choice easier. Where violence and death are the norm not the exception, I am sure that reaching for one’s gun is just a bit easier psychologically.

For generations Israel’s violence only helped to radicalize Palestinians making their violence more indiscriminate, Israeli violence helped to usher suicide bombing which in turn helped to usher more Israeli violence. The result of this process of mutual radicalization we can see today.

All three monotheistic religions believe in the concept of the end times and time of blissful peace. History is linear and the faithful will undoubtedly end one day in heaven on earth. But it was the pagan Greek who understood that history does not move in such a linear way. In Greek mythology the most gruesome torture is to be condemned for an eternal brutal present. So Prometheus is tied to a rock, doomed to have his liver eaten by eagles. But rather than a one-time event leading to his death, the liver will rejuvenate, inviting for ever the eagles to perform their gruesome task. Sisyphus was a king punished in Tartarus by being cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll down again, and to repeat this throughout eternity.

So in this violent season of peace I remember not necessarily the Jewish “freedom fighters” that liberated the Jewish Temple, or the birth of Jesus Christ, but the profound warning of the Greek myths.  Those who do not heed it are condemned to play a role in our never-ending violent present without the “relief” of either heaven or hell.

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