For Lena Dunham, Palestine is invisible

Israel/Palestine
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Lena Dunham, 26, the maker of the hit HBO show “Girls,” just sold a book proposal, which Gawker has posted, that includes a chapter in which she makes a “life-changing” visit to Israel.

The sad part of this chapter, pages 28-36, is that Palestine is invisible. Dunham is visiting Palestine but isn’t aware of it. She spends a lot of time in occupied territory (East Jerusalem, Mount of Olives) and gets a lesson about “marauding Bedouins” on her cab ride to the Dead Sea– surely an Israeli driver describing Palestinians as violent. Her friend flirts with a soldier with a semiautomatic weapon, she buys a Guns ‘n Moses T-shirt, and she notes that Israelis “are really moralistic and aggressive.” But she doesn’t put that together with the unending occupation. She has a driver she describes as an “Arab man.” Well, he was Palestinian.

There is far less awareness in this proposal of conflictual politics, let alone the occupation, than even a Birthright trip would provide. And Dunham says that she travels because she’s so curious about the world.

I find the degree of indifference to politics demoralizing– and more demoralizing when you consider how much such indifference is now an attribute of mass-cultural producers, many of them Jewish, like Dunham. Yesterday, for instance, Terry Gross interviewed Dunham’s mentor Judd Apatow, and he spoke of Dunham’s commitment to the truth:

They just want to expose the truth, which is what I always want. And being around them has made me want to do that more in my work. And I think working on “Girls” helped [my movie] “This is 40,” not just because Lena was reading the scripts and giving me notes – Jenni [Konner, Girls producer], as well – but just watching her balls. She’s just so courageous, that I thought, oh, I guess I have to go all the way, because look at what Lena’s doing.

I suppose what Apatow means by truth and courage is Dunham’s forthrightness, in her book proposal, about saying that the salt water of the Dead Sea burned her labia or her boyfriend left a condom on her father’s couch. That definition of truth just doesn’t seem to include considering how the Jewish state has worked out its relationship with an indigenous people. And yes I know Apatow makes funny movies, but dealing with the political truth of the conflict is a great cultural challenge, and I’m disappointed in my Jewish cohort.

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