Israel’s U.S. ambassador Michael Oren, said the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Gatekeepers” complicates his mission.
The movie compiles interviews with six former leaders of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, and records their perceptions of how successive Israeli governments missed opportunities for peace.
“This is a good movie that presents a narrative of 45 years of occupation but is completely devoid of information on Israel’s peace plan offers — (Ehud) Barak’s Camp David attempts, then [Ehud] Olmert, from the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the rocket fire on us,” Oren told Yediot Acharonot’s website in a story posted Sunday. “Whoever views the movie without knowing the background can leave feeling that Israel is to blame and didn’t do a thing.”
Oren said he hesitated to criticize the movie for fear of being attacked as limiting speech freedoms, but added that he felt that Israel was “on the defensive” in its effort to explain its right to exist.
The nominations for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards best movies of 2012 were announced yesterday, January 10, and two Israeli films are among those nominated.
Of course, both movies portray Israel in a negative light, so calm down before kvelling.
The movies, “5 Broken Cameras,” and “The Gatekeepers,” were both nominated in the category of Best Documentary film. Both films portray Israelis as primarily violent thugs who are intent on oppressing the Arab Palestinians.
“5 Broken Cameras” is produced and directed by an Arab Palestinian, Emad Burnat, and an Israeli Jew, Guy Davidi. It won the World Cinema Directing Award at the 2012 Sundance Festival.
Emad Burnat, the storyteller in “5 Broken Cameras,” is from the village of Bil’in, which is the site of a weekly protest by the villagers and numerous activists hungry for fights with Israelis. The protests are ostensibly about the creation of Israel’s security fence – which opponents often refer to as an “Apartheid wall,” and the film documents these protests. The 5 broken cameras in the movie’s title refer, according to Burnat, to five different cameras of his which have been broken by the Israelis in “brutal” attempts to squash the Arabs’ “non-violent” protests.
No doubt the true story behind the death of Jawaher abu Rahma, on December 31, 2010, was not included in the movie. But the story behind her death might do a better job of educating the world about the conflict than a movie like “5 Broken Cameras,” which simply promotes the standard, one-sided, often false, understanding of the conflict.
Abu Rahma’s death made headlines because it was claimed that the 36 year old woman was killed by tear gas thrown by Israelis who were trying to control one of the “non-violent” demonstrations at Bil’in. As was eventually revealed only through the piecing together of information that few wanted to see the light of day, it turns out that abu Rahma was not even at the Bil’in demonstration on the day she was allegedly killed by the Israeli tear gas. Instead, it appears that she died as the result of medical malpractice at a Ramallah hospital, where she was taken for an unrelated medical issue.
It is hard to believe that “5 Broken Cameras” would have been considered for Academy Award status were it not in lock-step with the glitterati world view of the Arab-Israel conflict: Arab good and non-violent, Israeli oppressive, brutal occupiers.
The film has been used by its creators to “expose” Israel as a brutal force, and Davidi in particular seems determined to ensure as many young Israelis as possible see the film so that they, like he did, will refuse to serve in the IDF. As the radical-left +972 site reported:
Guy Davidi has decided to take this film and use it as an educational tool to try and raise awareness among Israelis, most of whom either haven’t heard of Bil’in or don’t really know (or believe) exactly what has gone on there. The Education Ministry’s “culture basket,” which determines which films and other media and programming are introduced in Israeli schools, doesn’t take politically charged films – certainly not one like this, which exposes the darkest sides of the IDF’s violent, illegal and unethical conduct – and which shouldn’t be surprising considering that Education Minister Gidon Sa’ar is behind instituting Israeli school trips to occupied Hebron, and the effort to open a university in the settlement of Ariel.
Davidi is therefore launching a campaign to try and bring the movie to Israeli schools, to teenagers who are gearing up for their army service. If he cannot do it through Israel’s formal educational institutions, then he is doing it informally, through independent initiatives.
No doubt the Oscar nomination will make Davidi’s goals even easier to achieve, with star-struck Israelis and American Jews preening over an Israeli film making it to “the big time.”
The second movie selected for the Best Documentary category, “The Gatekeepers,” also presents Israel in the caricatured fashion the world has come to expect, as peopled by brutal thugs whose goal in life is to do nothing more than make the lives of the poor, non-violent Arabs as difficult as possible. This film, directed by Dror Moreh, takes interviews with all six surviving directors of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, and intersperses the interviews with newsreels and bomb sites. “The Gatekeepers” was named the best nonfiction film of 2012 by the National Society of Film Critics in the United States.
The movie site, Slant, provides a fairly good example of how many people who are even slightly inclined towards seeing Israel in the worst possible light, will understand “The Gatekeepers”:
Moreh’s not so lucky. As skilled an interviewer and documentarian as he may be, he’s squaring off against intelligence officers who didn’t just execute systematic torture, abuse, and other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but devised them. And even when the so-called Gatekeepers offer up damning testimony against their organization, there’s no real threat that they’ll ever be held accountable for it. Rather, their willful participation in this documentary seems to function as a form of tacit forgiveness, rendering all the un-redacted revelations contained within doubly disquieting.
What a shame that a truly lovely film by Rana Burshtein, “Fill the Void,” about the charedi world in Tel Aviv, did not make the cut in the Academy Award’s foreign language category.