The Problem with the Israeli Pacifists

The phrase "I want peace" is uttered very often in Israel. Today, knowing what I know, it seems to me that it is usually uttered with no real commitment. No real willingness to do what it takes and make the necessary sacrifices, but most of all, no real knowledge of the situation.

The Problem with Waltz with Bashir

Gideon Levy wrote a politically-critical piece of the award-winning Waltz with Bashir, in Ha’aretz. With this one article he solved my ambiguity about the movie:

"… the truth is that it is propaganda. Stylish, sophisticated, gifted and tasteful – but propaganda…"

When I first came out of the movie theater, I thought "this isn’t a political movie, it’s a personal movie". And it is. Waltz with Bashir deals with memories, not facts. It deals with one man’s story of healing his damaged soul. Problem is, there are facts. And once you take your therapy public, there are political consequences. Absolving himself of guilt, the main character absolves all of Israel,as articulated by Levy:

"The waltz rests on two ideological foundations. One is the "we shot and we cried" syndrome: Oh, how we wept, yet our hands did not spill this blood. Add to this a pinch of Holocaust memories, without which there is no proper Israeli self-preoccupation. And a dash of victimization – another absolutely essential ingredient in public discourse here – and voila! You have the deceptive portrait of Israel 2008, in words and pictures."

Goodman- Not Good Enough
A couple days ago, Yoni Goodman, one of the Waltz with Bashir animators released this one and a half minute short, about the Gazan’s lack of freedom of movement:


Goodman, in his typically Israeli waning cry of non-committed, non-sacrificing "I want peace", fails miserably. Here’s a 250-word review for 95 seconds of self-service:

  1. Goodman wanted a "character that anyone can connect to" – I say make him distinctly Arab, distinctly Palestinian. Make sure that this boy isn’t taken out of context, and his specific grief not ignored (Again!). Ironically enough, this so-called "every-boy" looks specifically very much like an Ashkenazi Israeli Jew. Is this a self portrait?
  2. Goodman wanted to "cause the viewer to feel empathy" – What’s with the uber-cool music?! Is this the same music you would have used as background for a holocaust short? Didn’t think so.
  3. There is no identification of the hands. They are anonymous, but very human- photographic even! Unlike little, imaginary "every-boy", they are specific and identifiable as real and human. But not once are they identified as Israeli. Update: Watched again- the one time there’s a hint of Israel, there’s a very clear reference to Egypt.
  4. Goodman describes the Gazans as "a million and a half people who only want to live out their ambitions and dreams, something they cannot do because of their [in]ability to move freely." Two problems with this assessment:
    The first being; It’s not just the ability to move freely. Where’s the blood? Where are the dead? The Wounded? The orphaned? The displaced? The tortured? The beaten?
    The second being: These human beings have real dreams, not metaphorical bluebirds. Freedom is not their dream, it’s a metaphor for their dream. Where’s their passport? Their flag? Their schools and universities? Their jobs? Their homes? Their green back yards? Their children?

  Not good enough.

Behind the Israeli Pacifist Mind
For a second there, I thought Goodman was working out of unbiased humanitarian reasons:

"People talk about Hamas, but there are many civilians there who are not Hamas supporters but who are suffering from this blockade…"

Just before I could soak myself in that lovely feeling that there is hope yet, Goodman makes another statement in the Ha’aretz article (where the short and above quotes are taken from)

"I think many people see Israel as an aggressive country, but this is not my Israel, Goodman said. I want people in the West to see it, to see that there are people in Israel who are against war, who want peace."

Another Israeli pacifist who wants peace. I bring a final quote from a real Israeli pacifist, Gideon Levy: 

""You have been cast in the role of the Nazi against your will," a different therapist says reassuringly, as though evoking Golda Meir’s remark that we will never forgive the Arabs for making us what we are. What we are? The therapist says that we shone the lights, but "did not perpetrate the massacre." What a relief. Our clean hands are not part of the dirty work, no way."


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