Sigal Samuel, a new reporter at Open Zion, has a piece up about a screening of “Tears of Gaza,” a movie about the 08-09 massacre that “spits on context,” in the words of NYT critic Jeannette Catsoulis, a view Samuel shares. The filmmakers think it is enough to show the horrific events of Cast Lead and leave it at that, let the viewer judge. You don’t need any explanation for why this is happening; it’s just wrong.
Samuel thinks we need context. And she has some good reporting that she thinks supports her side:
Then something funny happened: Martin Feinberg, president of Winner Media, entered the theater and took a seat. He’d actually come to see a different movie altogether but, since he was early for it, thought he might as well catch the tail-end of this one. He listened for a moment before asking, apparently out of sheer curiosity, “Did your film show Israel’s justification for doing all this?” Then all hell broke loose.
The audience, to put it simply, pounced. “You are wasting everybody’s time here,” one woman said. “It’s amazing that you even have the balls to ask that!” another woman added…
I was standing in a circle with [director Vibeke] Lokkeberg and her fans when [producer Terje] Kristiansen emerged from the theatre, bearing the wide grin of a storyteller who’s got an especially good yarn up his sleeve. He explained that Feinberg had buttonholed him inside, intent on reiterating the importance of context. According to Kristiansen, Feinberg asked him, “Do you know what happened 2,000 years ago?” Kristiansen’s reply: “No! I don’t want to know!” At this, the circle of moviegoers broke into laughter. Lokkeberg and Kristiansen laughed as well. “That’s all that interests him!” Lokkeberg mocked. “His Torah, his Bible!” And everyone laughed again.
I don’t find this very persuasive. The reason people laugh at Feinberg is the same reason that secular New Yorkers laugh when Christian fundamentalists bring out the bible in abortion conversations. They don’t want a religious framework for that conversation; they are moderns. Samuel is implying that the group is anti-Semitic, I think; but in fact it is staggering that a cultural producer who would surely never tolerate a biblical reading of gay rights or stem cell research is laying down the bible to justify the Jewish claim to a national homeland in Israel and Palestine, and a reporter is passing this along as the historic “context” of the Gaza slaughter.
Second, if you want context, Ms Samuel, if you want to state that Israel is attacking Gaza because of rocket attacks, fine. So why not give us all the context? Most Gazans are refugees. They were expelled from their homes, often in nearby villages in Israel, during weeks of ethnic cleansing in 1948 and have never been allowed to return to their homes and lands, or had the expulsion acknowledged, or been compensated. They’re angry about this. I would be too. Glenn Loury has described this context eloquently in the New York Times. Confined to a strip of land 5-by-25 miles, unable to travel, Gazans now live under blockade, 1.5 million people condemned to Warsaw Ghetto-like conditions– I know, I’ve been there — in what the U.N. has described as a crime against humanity, collective punishment… That’s actually the context for the filmmakers, and for much of world opinion.