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‘Fresh Air’ turns a critique of the occupation into an Oedipal issue

Middle East
on 27 Comments

On Fresh Air yesterday Terry Gross interviewed Oren Moverman, the screenwriter of Love and Mercy, the new movie about Brian Wilson, the troubled and brilliant member of the Beach Boys. Moverman lives in New York, and he left Israel for political reasons. Gross didn’t really want to hear Moverman’s political thoughts, though.

GROSS: You grew up in Israel in…

MOVERMAN: Guilty.

GROSS: (Laughter) In a house of women – am I right about that?

MOVERMAN: Yeah. I mean, no, my father was around, but he was a very hard worker and wasn’t that much around.

GROSS: OK. So then you went into the military – drafted?

MOVERMAN: Yeah, like everybody else – in Israel.

GROSS: And you said that you weren’t used to the kind of macho culture of the military. How was the military a turning point for you in your life?

MOVERMAN: It’s a big turning point in my life because it made me realize that I didn’t want to live in Israel. I was part of the Israeli occupation of Lebanon and Israeli occupation of Palestine and spent a lot of time in these territories and just felt, at the end of it, that I was really done with my life in Israel and that I wanted to move to the States to, A, pursue a dream, which has sort of become a reality, and then also to make a life for myself in a different place.

GROSS: But it sounds like you went through personal things in the military beyond, you know, political and ethical issues.

MOVERMAN: Yeah. Well, I think…

GROSS: You know, just like being a man in the culture of the military.

MOVERMAN: Yeah. I mean, the culture of the military is really the culture of Israel because it’s a people’s army. Everybody serves, or most everyone serves. I struggled ultimately with the fact that for me, it was an act. I mean, I didn’t have a problem fitting in as a soldier and then being a good soldier. But I was ultimately looking at a population that we were occupying. I was looking at a – certain policies – this is the late ’80s into the first intifada when I was in Gaza – that just didn’t feel for me, selfishly, like something that I wanted to be a part of.

Gross is a very psychological interviewer, I get that, OK; but in this case she flicked off Moverman’s explicitly political statement to ask him about “being a man in the culture of the military.” She allowed a generic critique of the military to keep her audience from hearing about a political issue. Moverman wasn’t bridling at the “macho culture of the military” because he’d grown up in a family of women. He was bridling at the occupation of Arab lands, in Lebanon and Palestine.

Tell us about Palestine, Oren.  When you said “Guilty” at the start, Oren, it didn’t sound like a joke. Do you believe in a Jewish state? What does your life in the U.S. tell you about Israel? Nope, didn’t happen.

And yes there’s a political agenda here. Gross hosted Max Blumenthal to talk about his Republicans book, but not his Israel-slam. She gloried Ari Shavit’s reconstituted hard-core Zionism. She held up Alan Dershowitz as a model when attacking Jimmy Carter for saying that Israel practices apartheid.

There was more. When Moverman moved to the States to find his fortune, he had a card in his pocket from a guy he’d met in occupied Palestine. But let him tell the story.

MOVERMAN: I was very lucky to have met a guy when I was in the occupied territories as a soldier, a wonderful man by the name of Ron Yoshida, who was a sound man in New York. And when I met him, it was under a difficult circumstance. And I was telling him to stop shooting video in Hebron, and he got very upset. And we got into a conversation, and I told him that politically, I don’t agree with what I’m doing. So he calmed down, and we had a nice chat. He gave me his business card, and I held onto it for four years until I was done with my service. And then I decided to come to New York, go to school. I wrote to him, and I said, I’m coming. I don’t know if you remember me, but I’d love to meet. And so we did, and he helped me out. He got me some jobs as a production assistant, first for Albert Maysles’ company and then on a couple of features where I met other people. And from there on, it’s all, you know, the kindness of strangers.

GROSS: What kind of film – what kind of video was he shooting that you wanted him to stop?

MOVERMAN: He was shooting just the place, sort of documentary footage that he was just shooting for himself. And we were on patrol in Hebron. And my sergeant told me, you know, you speak English. Go over there, tell that guy to stop. So I went over, and I said, you have to stop shooting. And he got very upset and said, I don’t understand. I was shooting everywhere else. And I started laughing and I said, I totally agree with you, but that idiot sergeant of mine told me to tell you to stop. But I would gladly help you shoot this stuff. It’s just that I can’t. And so he, you know, relaxed, and we had a really interesting conversation about the Middle East. But he was really sent to me (laughter) you know, as my – the only person I knew in New York and the only person I knew connected to the film business.

Moverman was describing two of the central experiences of activists in the occupied territories: 1, they go to Hebron first, as I did on my first trip in 2006, to see apartheid before their eyes, streets that Palestinians live on that they are not allowed to walk on because of the Jewish settlers who have taken over their city; 2, the activists are often stopped by soldiers who tell them that they are in a Closed Military Zone.

These conditions are why Moverman fled the country, why the former chancellor of Brown University said he had witnessed “apartheid on steroids,” why an Israeli writer says that the Palestinians’ lot amounts to slavery, why I wrote that Gaza reminded me of the pictures my mother had given me of the Warsaw Ghetto. We have to hope that Terry Gross, my father’s favorite journalist, expresses greater curiosity about these monstrous conditions in days to come.

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About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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27 Responses

  1. ckg
    ckg
    June 19, 2015, 11:06 am

    Excellent post, Phil. I think you probably mean Ron Yoshida, who is listed in IMDB as a film sound editor who has worked with Moverman. Moverman gave an interview in 2008 in which he refers to the individual by that name.

    • ckg
      ckg
      June 19, 2015, 11:34 am

      “I got accepted to Brooklyn [College]and left Israel with no idea how I would be able to afford it. No job. No skills, if you discount jumping out of airplanes, shooting semi-automatic rifles and humiliating an oppressed people. “

    • philweiss
      philweiss
      June 19, 2015, 12:30 pm

      Thank you ckg. Will fix.

  2. Mooser
    Mooser
    June 19, 2015, 11:17 am

    Poor Oedipus, he was subjected to a “first-class tragic trauma”.

  3. amigo
    amigo
    June 19, 2015, 11:45 am

    I think NPR should change the program name to “Stale Air”.

    Fresh thinking or ideas are hardly part of NPR,s mantra when dealing with the subject of I/P.

    Thanks for the report Phil.It is good to see the vents at NPR being slightly opened and it may be a small start to getting that stuffy place aired out properly.

  4. Ellen
    Ellen
    June 19, 2015, 2:07 pm

    Terry Gross is no journalist. And I do not know what it means that she is psychological. She does have a tendency to try a draw out some sappy story from her guests. (Something many find annoying.)

    I heard that interview and she had a fascinating guest, but succeeded in keeping the interview as light, mundane and meaningless as possible. And cut him off a various points.

    She likes to invite Israelis, but succeeds in making all her guests and trivial as her show.

  5. echinococcus
    echinococcus
    June 19, 2015, 2:10 pm

    Mr Weiss’ optimism about inveterate Zionists sure beats Pollyanna’s.

    We have to hope that Terry Gross, my father’s favorite journalist, expresses greater curiosity about these monstrous conditions in days to come.

    That will get me censored again, I suppose.

  6. catalan
    catalan
    June 19, 2015, 2:14 pm

    Well since some people are selling Catepillar stock (the “d” in BDS) these “monstrous” conditions should improve soon. That’s one crappy stock by the way.

    • talknic
      talknic
      June 19, 2015, 9:41 pm

      @ catalan

      “That’s one crappy stock by the way”

      There might be a reason

      “Well since some people are selling Catepillar stock (the “d” in BDS) … “

      You’re so clever

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        June 20, 2015, 1:53 am

        @talknic
        “You’re so clever”

        No he’s brilliant. There’s no reason not to accept his self assesment other than the things he continually says.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        July 5, 2015, 3:08 pm

        “There’s no reason not to accept his self assesment other than the things he continually says.”

        He is, I must say, brilliant at producing that effect.

  7. phylliprezzel
    phylliprezzel
    June 19, 2015, 2:21 pm

    Funny you should suggest that name change. WHYY, our local station which hosts Terry Gross, replays her program MANY times during the week. When my daughter and I used to listen (and contribute) regularly to the station, our reaction to a re-broadcast was, “Oh, turn it off, it’s stale air again.” Now I tune into WHYY for Garrison Keillor and the gardening show only.

    As we have become more informed via Democracy Now! and Free Speech TV and internet sites like Mondoweiss and the Electronic Intifada, we have switched our radio dial (and our contributions) to Temple Public Radio with a classical music and jazz format.

    It’s been a downward spiral for them . . . less gov’t money, fewer listener contributions, and more corporate sponsors/ads. Another ‘small d’ democratic idea bought out by big money; the fat cats can’t have the 99% get any ideas!

  8. Chu
    Chu
    June 19, 2015, 4:44 pm

    Strange how the diaspora Zionists like Gross, are quicker to sweep discussion under the rug than an Israeli like Moverman.

    Hopefully oneday Moveman can produce a film about the occupation that captures the essence of its rotten, stinking reality.

    • ckg
      ckg
      June 19, 2015, 7:17 pm

      That would be nice, Chu. Moverman is not reticent to speak his mind or fear the consequences.

  9. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    June 19, 2015, 4:44 pm

    RE: “‘Fresh Air’ turns a critique of the occupation into an Oedipal issue”
    [WARNING: Audio/volume varies considerably]

    P.S. ❤ ❤ ❤ Sophocles Oedipus Rex 1957 [VIDEO, 1:27:40] – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZUCgq8LfhY
    Filmed by the famed British actor/director Sir Tyrone Guthrie, this elegant version of Sophocles’ important play adds a brilliant stroke–the actors wear masks just as the Greeks did in the playwright’s day. The story of Oedipus’ gradual discovery of his primal crime–killing his father and marrying his mother–has influenced many of the great plays, films and books of all time. When this landmark film production of one of the great dramas ever appeared, it was hailed from all corners: “Spectacular and awesome…this film is a jewel of great price!” raved The New York Times.

  10. CigarGod
    CigarGod
    June 20, 2015, 8:31 am

    Great…finally, a tiny bit of value from her.
    A nice break from her constant fawning over actors, musicians and fiction writers…which all sound as if they paid to be on her show, to promote their work. Virtually all Jewish, btw. Standard NPR template.

    • DaBakr
      DaBakr
      June 21, 2015, 1:17 am

      @cg

      as usual-careless, loose-lipped and bigoted. if one just checks the first 20-25 interviews past on fresh air there may be 2-3 ‘Jews’ but not many. Just scrolling down from top to bottom of 1st page: Emma Thompson, Sam Baker, M. Gauthier, Pussy riot, Julian Fellowes,S. Sotomayor, Pete Seeger, Ray Davies, BB King–“virtually all Jews”…… a true paranoid bigot, and not too well informed either.

      * and I don’t particularly care for Ms. Gross but she is still considered one of the greatest interviews on past couple decades-wether you like her style or don’t-she earned her spot. And when the far-left starts referring to Fresh-Air as if it represents some politically polar opposite you know the that far-left has circled round so far they are pretty much crawling up the back-sides of the far-right.

      • CigarGod
        CigarGod
        June 21, 2015, 9:18 am

        Aren’t you a funny guy.
        Where the hell you did your “survey”, we’ll probably never know. But, the Fresh Air schedule page at this moment…supports my point at 50% of guests. Now, the last couple weeks, she seems to have had less focus on entertainment guests, but no less inordinately Jewish and no less sounding like the deck is stacked. Go sell your bigotry to people without eyes and ears. Whatever you do…dont read a real survey…by Walt and Mershiemer. Oh yeah, they’re Jewish guys that support my point.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        June 22, 2015, 12:08 pm

        “Emma Thompson, Sam Baker, M. Gauthier, Pussy riot, Julian Fellowes,S. Sotomayor, Pete Seeger, Ray Davies, BB King–“virtually all Jews”

        And why shouldn’t they be? Inclusiveness is the way to go! You would object to any of those people being Jewish? I certainly wouldn’t.

      • CigarGod
        CigarGod
        June 22, 2015, 2:08 pm

        No argument, there.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        June 22, 2015, 2:29 pm

        I swear, Zionists drive me nuts. They don’t want anybody who isn’t Jewish to be Jewish, and most of the people who are Jewish don’t meet their standards, and they don’t want them to be Jewish either. Buncha real downers.

  11. John Wagner
    John Wagner
    June 20, 2015, 11:44 am

    This is an excellent analysis. I hadn’t known about Terry Gross. Thanks Phil for all you do.

  12. Citizen
    Citizen
    June 20, 2015, 3:10 pm

    Oedipal issue? IRS policy & Illegal Israeli settlements: Y does every facet of US policy make a special case if it involves Israel? http://www.newenglishreview.org/Jerry_Gordon/Z__STREET_vs._The_IRS/
    Zionists attacking IRS

  13. RoHa
    RoHa
    June 21, 2015, 12:27 am

    Off topic.

    For those of you who were wondering whether your mental image of Australia was inaccurate, here are a couple of stories to assure you that it isn’t.

    The first is about a new discovery.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-05/new-tarantula-genus-discovered-in-australias-nt/6525552

    The second is about a completely different new discovery. It starts with the enticing phrase “A floodplain near Maningrida thought to have the highest concentration of tarantulas in the world …”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-21/spider-expert-hails-medicinal-possibilities-from-nt-tarantulas/6560978

    I note that Dr. Raven has named more than 400 spiders.

    “This one is Dorothy, and this one is Tiddles, and he’s Mr. Fang, and next to him we have Elvis and Fluffykins, and …”

    Ex Australia semper aliquid novi et venenosam.

  14. simonsj
    simonsj
    June 21, 2015, 10:31 am

    I don’t actually agree with the analysis here: “she flicked off Moverman’s explicitly political statement to ask him about “being a man in the culture of the military.” She allowed a generic critique of the military to keep her audience from hearing about a political issue. ” Part of an integrated critique of “occupation” precisely is a critique of Israel’s militarism, which also has very strong gender connotations, as it’s a masculinist militarism. The personal, and the cultural, is political.

  15. MRW
    MRW
    June 22, 2015, 6:54 pm

    The problem, as I see it, is that Terry Gross has become tedious, and it is very difficult for longtime NPR listeners like me who remember the flap from Jewish donors in 2002/2003 over the Israeli/Palestine coverage to forget how NPR was cowed into shutting up.

    Sure there are some excellent interviews. Every once in a while; as much a symptom of the quality of the guest than anything else . But Gross does NOT have the snap and vigor of the two who interview on CBC’s As It Happens, where they ask probing questions and let the interviewee answer fully, sometimes with stupendously controversial statements. The woman is better than the man. (This was the show that Barbara Frum starred in. What’s her son’s name? David?) Granted, the As It Happens team does news stories two or three days, sometimes a week, after the fact and probe the details. But sometimes they do living legends. Their skill is exemplary. And they’re on air every day for three hours. Frank Mankiewicz copied CBC when he created NPR. He told me that directly in 1980, and his VP told me that in 1979.

    I used to like Gross. But now she talks down to her listeners. She thinks we don’t read, or have as much info as she has. So when we get annoyed and write the NPR ombudsman and complain that they are committing wild sins of omission particularly in their IP coverage and we get ignored because they are afraid of their donors, then, yes, people biotch.

    I found the interview of Gross with some guy recently, whose name I don’t remember, to be entirely engaging. But she has editorial shackles on her now than make her mundane. And yes, tedious.

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