The ‘context’ of the Gaza slaughter is a, the bible, b, the Nakba

on 13 Comments

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.

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13 Responses

  1. mcohen
    September 26, 2012, 6:20 pm

    Norwegian context? ≡anti semitism

  2. wes
    September 26, 2012, 6:28 pm

    ” 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.”

    i know we all like to laugh at odds and ends but at the end of the day feinberg was there in person by himself
    which does mean he has the balls to stand up p-lip
    some people just do not tolerate norwegian anti-jew fundamentalists
    ask anders he knows

  3. Peter in SF
    September 26, 2012, 7:48 pm

    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.

    Although Benny Morris gets criticized on this blog, and rightfully so, he deserves credit for bringing up this context on at least one occasion, which also happens to be the only occasion I’ve seen him in person. Speaking in Berkeley at the end of January, 2009, where he was there to promote his new book 1948, he was asked what he thought about the recent unpleasantness in Gaza. The first thing he said in his reply was that when thinking about the Gaza Strip, it’s essential to remember that about 80% of the people now living there are refugees or descendants of refugees who used to live in what is now Israel but are not permitted to return to their homes there. A lot of audience members looked uncomfortable when he said this, but nobody challenged him on it (how could they, anyway?). I should add that he then shared his own solution to this problem, which is that these refugees should move (or be transferred?) to the underpopulated Sinai area of Egypt.

    • Blake
      September 26, 2012, 10:03 pm

      Thanks for that. If the Sinai is so under populated maybe that’s where the zionists should be moved to.

    • Philip Weiss
      September 27, 2012, 10:58 am

      thanks for that excellent report, Peter.

  4. Kathleen
    September 26, 2012, 8:46 pm

    “do you know what happened 2000 years ago” based on a bunch of Jewish guys interpretation of what went on and bound in a history (and we know how history books are) book called the Bible. No conflict of interest there

  5. pabelmont
    September 26, 2012, 9:45 pm

    Israel was created by secular Jews, mostly, who knew about the Torah and Talmud but did not direct their lives by them. Thus, they were unaware of the Talmudic view that the return of Jews to Zion was something for God, and not for men, to accomplish. As I’ve heard, the orthodox rabbinic view was (and Neturei Karta still holds with this) that the return to Zion was so very far not a matter for mankind to arrange that mankind should not even pray for it. So forget the 2000 years.

    These people wanted, needed, a homeland. Let’s agree that this was their desire. Let’s even agree that some of them had religious reasons (as opposed to safety reasons) for it. OK, we allow a desire, we allow a need. But it wasn’t their land.

    Where did the right to seize the land of Palestine, or any of it, come from? From the barrel of a gun. From the terrorism of the 1945-1948 period and the warfare from 1948 til today (replete with war-crimes from the non-readmittance of refugees of 1948 — including refugees living in Gaza — to the crimes in Sabra/Shatilla of 1982, and of Gaza and Lebanon of recent years. And the presently planned aggression against Iran.

    So they had the usual historical “right”. But German leaders were punished for making aggressive war in 1945. And the acquisition of territory by war was (at least in aspiration) forbidden by the UN Charter which preceded the creation of Israel.

    So, what’s the history of Gaza and of the Israeli crushing of Gaza? Complex, that’s what. If Goldstone Report said there were war-crimes per se, that should make a context-less showing good enough, perhaps with a mention of the report.

    Or else a story 5 times as long. Might be a good thing.

  6. Kathleen
    September 26, 2012, 10:41 pm

    Phil this is one you have to read. Over at Foreign Policy Aaron David Miller tries to do a bang up job sticking up for poor old Bibi. A must read

    Still have not read a recent Stephen Hadley piece about how( Mr. ignore counter terrorism expert Richard Clarke warnings about Al Queada and insert 16 false words about WMD in a Bush speech) the U.S. should deal with Iran. Why the f—k would
    anyone listen to what Stephen Hadley has to say. How bad do people like Hadley need to f–k up before people stop listening to these warmongers?

    • Philip Weiss
      September 26, 2012, 10:54 pm

      thanks kathleen, i’ve heard a bunch about this one. will get to it

    • American
      September 27, 2012, 12:54 am

      @ kathleen

      You will like this op-ed in the LA Times. What many of us have been saying about
      having to come down on Israel …cause 65 years of catering to it has made it worse and it will be a ‘long term threat” to the ME and world in the future if something isn’t done about them.
      Glad to this indisputable truth finally making it into print.,0,2052350.story

      Defusing Israel’s ‘detonator’ strategy

      By Patrick Tyler
      September 25, 2012


      ”Moshe Dayan, the one-eyed general who led Israel to military victories in the 1956 Suez war and the Six-Day War of 1967, believed in what he called a “detonator” strategy for the Jewish state.

      “When someone wishes to force on us things which are detrimental to our existence, there will be an explosion which will shake up wide areas, and realizing this, such elements in the international system will do their utmost to prevent damage to us.”
      Speaking to Israel’s military elite after the Suez campaign, Dayan acknowledged that his was not a “constructive thesis.”
      “It is a thesis advocating that we should be a kind of biting beast, capable of developing a crisis beyond our borders. If anyone tries to harm us, the explosion will do damage to others too.”

      Yet however the Iran crisis turns out this fall, it is not as important as the profound problem the West, and especially the U.S., faces in dealing with a potential “detonator” strategy emanating from Israel over the long term; a number of states in the region could soon be at the threshold of nuclear development.
      Over six decades and through as many wars, the U.S. has escalated its commitment to Israel’s security, but it has neglected a corresponding insistence that Israel develop the institutions of diplomacy, negotiation and compromise necessary to fully engage the Arabs during a crucial period of Arab awakening. Every president since Eisenhower has pressed Israel to make the kind of concessions that are necessary for peace.
      President Nixon said he would give Israel the “hardware” of weapons if Golda Meir would supply the “software” of diplomatic flexibility.
      “The philosophical underpinning of U.S. policy toward Israel,” President Ford said, “had been our conviction — and certainly my own — that if we gave Israel an ample supply of economic aid and weapons, she would feel strong and confident, more flexible and more willing to discuss a lasting peace.” But after serial wars and a strong aversion within the ruling elite to compromise, Ford lamented, “I began to question the rationale for our policy.”

      LOL, yea anyone would question the rationale of keeping a country around that says it’s gonna blow up everyone if it doesn’t get it’s way in everything.

      • Kathleen
        September 27, 2012, 3:30 pm


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