Last night I watched a brilliant movie that must be seen by all of you ….. BLACKkKLANSMAN
It is timely, it is funny but worse of all, it’s true.
So download it, rent it, buy it but DO watch it. You won’t regret it.
Here’s the trailer …


Unlike the Israeli production of the film ‘BETHLEHEM‘ which was reviewed on this Blog over a year ago …

This film, like many before it about the conflict, is guilty of the sins of distortion and concealment: the context is missing, as if it weren’t there. The film is meant to depict complexity – the misery of the collaborator; the humanity of the agent – but in reality, the film paints a picture without context, and without context there is no truth.

A more realistic film is now available which was written by a Palestinian .



The movie was billed as a harmonious effort in film making and a shining example of Palestinian-Israeli cooperation. 

Hiding beneath the surface of this idealistic image is a different and far more telling story; one that mirrors everyday life in the Palestinian-Israeli dynamic, and ties directly back to the root cause of the conflict itself.

The above is from the  website which was created by the film’s writer, Nader Rizq, as a vehicle to freely express his opinion on how Israeli censorship, misinformation and stereotype of Arabs influenced the film. It was sent to me via email by him.

An International Effort

The film is an international effort. From its first time Palestinian American writer who started researching the subject matter and writing the script back in 1991, to its Academy Award winning British producer, Israeli director, American producer, Danish cinematographer, French editor, International co-producing partners; to its Hollywood actor working alongside Palestinian and Israeli talent, it was a venerable United Nations of very talented and committed individuals who believed in the heart and soul of the story being told.

Definitely a MUST SEE!


From a review at the Huffington Post

Zaytoun is a film about a most improbable and remarkable friendship between Fahed, a 12-year-old Palestinian refugee, and Yoni, a 30-year-old Israeli combat pilot. The film explores a liminal space between make-believe and reality, between a boy and a man, between Arab and Israeli, all set in the chaos of 1982 Beirut just weeks before the infamous invasion of the Shatila refugee camp where 700-800 Palestinians were slaughtered by the Lebanese Christian Phalangists with the tacit support of the Israeli armed forces. This liminal space extends to the very geography of the movie’s setting which takes place in the no man’s land between Lebanon and Israel, a strange borderland where horror is so dreamlike and prosaic, where hopes for peace are so remote, and where everyday reality in a struggle for survival, control, and power.


This film, like many before it about the conflict, is guilty of the sins of distortion and concealment: the context is missing, as if it weren’t there. The film is meant to depict complexity – the misery of the collaborator; the humanity of the agent – but in reality, the film paints a picture without context, and without context there is no truth.

‘Bethlehem’ is yet another Israeli propaganda film

Before lavishing praise on co-director Yuval Adler, critics should stop to consider his film’s message: the Israelis are the good guys, the Arabs the bad guys.

By Gideon Levy
From the movie 'Bethlehem’
From the movie ‘Bethlehem.’ Photo by Vered Adir

Yuval Adler is a talented director, but he has made an outrageous film. “Bethlehem,” his debut feature, has garnered acclaim and prizes – a critics’ award in Venice, first prize at the Haifa Film Festival, six Ophir Awards (Israel’s national film awards) and high praise from The New York Times.

Along with his writing partner Ali Wakad, Adler created a very well-made action movie. He also created (another) Israeli propaganda film. Before everyone starts to praise him, they should pay heed to his messages – the overt, but, especially, the covert ones – and not just the direction, acting, editing and impressive attention to detail. But the plethora of details makes it so you can’t see the forest for the trees, and it’s the same poison forest. Or should we say enchanted sea – the Israelis are the good guys, the Arabs the bad guys.

This film, like many before it about the conflict, is guilty of the sins of distortion and concealment: the context is missing, as if it weren’t there. The film is meant to depict complexity – the misery of the collaborator; the humanity of the agent – but in reality, the film paints a picture without context, and without context there is no truth.

“Let’s make a movie that won’t deal with the political conflict,” Adler said to Wakad, according to an interview he gave to Mike Dagan in Haaretz’s magazine (September 28). But Adler’s refusal to make a “political movie” is deceit and sleight of hand. It is in itself a political statement unlike any other. Adler did not make a film about the Sicilian Mafia, but rather a film about the intifada, which has a political context that he deliberately ignores. This blurring is the movie’s powerful, outrageous statement.

What is the film about? [Warning: Spoilers] Violent, power-hungry intifada fighters, motivated by greed, and in conflict with one another; cynical, corrupt, lying Palestinian Authority figures; and European donation money going to terror, of course. There is not a single word about what they’re fighting against, what they are dying for. There’s no occupation, no oppression, only a Mafia, which this time speaks Arabic. Against it stands the Shin Bet security service, pure of heart, and its merciful agent with the support of his wife and secretary (which the Palestinians don’t have, of course). The agent always takes care of his pet informant, lying to save his life, until the latter rises up to kill him by shooting him and bashing his skull in, ungrateful wretch that he is. The Israelis will love this. They already do. All of the images they teach about are in this film. Black and white, with 50 shades of gray that just need to be accounted for – the collaborator.

Adler’s avoidance of the issue is abominable. An Israeli who makes an action movie about the intifada without taking a stand is a coward. He knows the subject will attract viewers at film festivals abroad, but at the same time doesn’t want to anger Israeli viewers.

It is impossible to make a movie about the intifada without revealing what motivated it. Adler, educated in philosophy, made an excellent gangster film, a spaghetti Western, but like a true Western movie, to hell with the historical truth. Of course such a film can be enjoyable, but in the 21st century it’s no longer possible to buy a story that paints the cowboys as good and the Indians as bad. That’s “Bethlehem” as well: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Shin Bet agent, the collaborating terrorist, no Clint Eastwood, but with covert propaganda, which is worse than the overt kind.

In Bethlehem, the city, I met many armed and wanted men during the intifada. Some of them perhaps even fit the stereotypes presented in this film, but there were many others as well, who sacrificed their lives during their just struggle for freedom. None of them appear in “Bethlehem,” the film.

I’ve also met Shin Bet agents and heard about their exploits, and they certainly don’t look or sound like Razi from the film. Where’s the evil, torture, blackmail and lies? Adler acknowledges a few Shin Bet agents at the end of the movie; the Shin Bet should be grateful for this free promotional film. Adler chose to paint a one-dimensional picture, which will once again pat the Israelis on the back. Hey, look how right you are. Hey, look how they victimize you. Hey, look how hopeless the situation is. Go see “Bethlehem” and you’ll understand why.



ShowImage (2)
Israel sees the following as an attack, but we at DesertPeace see it as a victory….
‘The Times They Are A’Changin’ 😉
“Omar” received a standing ovation at its premiere as the first film fully funded by the Palestinian cinema industry.
Anti-Israel film wins Cannes prize

Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad’s ‘Omar,’ which presents Israeli security forces in unflattering light, awarded with ‘Jury Prize’ in international film festival

Amir Kaminer


An anti-Israel film funded by Palestinian and international institutions won the “Jury Prize” in the “A Certain Regard” section of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival on Saturday evening. It is the category’s secondary award.

“Omar” is a political thriller directed by Hany Abu-Assad, director of the 2005 film “Paradise Now,” which earned him an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe for best foreign film.

The film, which was shot in the West Bank and Israeli Arab town of Nazareth last year, tells the story of three childhood friends. It criticizes Israel’s policy and presents the IDF and Shin Bet in an unflattering light, including a scene in which a Shin Bet officer is seen brutally torturing a Palestinian prisoner.

The cast includes Adam Bakri, the son of Arab actor Mohammad Bakri who directed the 2002 film “Jenin, Jenin,” which asserts that the IDF committed atrocious war crimes and deliberately slaughtered innocent civilians during Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank city.

“Omar” received a standing ovation at its premiere as the first film fully funded by the Palestinian cinema industry.

“It is the only festival that I think still cares about different films,” said Abu-Assad,


Festival draws to close with cliffhanger ending

The 66th Cannes festival wraps up with a cliffhanger ending on Sunday, with uncertainty surrounding which film will be declared best picture after a 12-day frenzy of premieres, celebrities, rain and dramatic jewellery thefts.

Twenty films packed with sex, violence and emotional anguish are vying at the world’s biggest cinema showcase for the Palme d’Or, one of the most coveted film awards after the Oscars.

Frontrunners include French director Abdellatif Kechiche’s love story “La Vie d’Adele” (Blue is the Warmest Color) with its graphic lesbian sex scenes, and “Inside Llewyn Davis” about a struggling New York folk singer by the American Coen brothers.

Also on the short list are “La Grande Bellezza” (The Great Beauty) from Italy’s Paolo Sorrentino, a magical ode to the decadence of Rome, and “Le Passe” (The Past), a tension-filled domestic drama by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi.

Choosing the winner of the top prize and other awards is a jury led by US filmmaker Steven Spielberg with Australian actress Nicole Kidman and Oscar-winning director Ang Lee.

Written FOR


Michelle Obama presents best picture Oscar to ‘Argo’


As seen by Carlos Latuff ….
michele-obama-oscar-iran (1)
Full report HERE

Argo’s Oscar and the failure of truth
 Nima Shirazi

One year ago, after his breathtakingly beautiful Iranian drama, A Separation, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, writer/director Asghar Farhadi delivered the best acceptance speech of the night.

“[A]t the time when talk of war, intimidation, and aggression is exchanged between politicians,” he said, Iran was finally being honored for “her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.” Farhadi dedicated the Oscar “to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.”

Such grace and eloquence will surely not be on display this Sunday, when Ben Affleck, flanked by his co-producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov, takes home the evening’s top prize, the Best Picture Oscar, for his critically-acclaimed and heavily decorated paean to the CIA and American innocence, Argo.

Over the past 12 months, rarely a week – let alone month – went by without new predictions of an ever-imminent Iranian nuclear weapon and ever-looming threats of an American or Israeli military attack. Come October 2012, into the fray marched Argo, a decontextualized, ahistorical “true story” of Orientalist proportion, subjecting audiences to two hours of American victimization and bearded barbarians, culminating in popped champagne corks and rippling stars-and-stripes celepating our heroism and triumph and their frustration and defeat.

Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir aptly described the film as “a propaganda fable,” explaining asothershave that essentially none of its edge-of-your-seat thrills or most memorable moments ever happened. O’Hehir sums up:

The Americans never resisted the idea of playing a film crew, which is the source of much agitation in the movie. (In fact, the “house guests” chose that cover story themselves, from a group of three options the CIA had prepared.) They were not almost lynched by a mob of crazy Iranians in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, because they never went there. There was no last-minute cancellation, and then un-cancellation, of the group’s tickets by the Carter administration. (The wife of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor had personally gone to the airport and purchased tickets ahead of time, for three different outbound flights.) The group underwent no interrogation at the airport about their imaginary movie, nor were they detained at the gate while a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard telephoned their phony office back in Burbank. There was no last-second chase on the runway of Mehrabad Airport, with wild-eyed, bearded militants with Kalashnikovs trying to shoot out the tires of a Swissair jet.

One of the actual hostages, Mark Lijek, noted that the CIA’s fake movie “cover story was never tested and in some ways proved irrelevant to the escape.” The departure of the six Americans from Tehran was actually mundane and uneventful.  “If asked, we were going to say we were leaving Iran to return when it was safer,” Lijek recalled, “But no one ever asked!…The truth is the immigration officers barely looked at us and we were processed out in the regular way. We got on the flight to Zurich and then we were taken to the US ambassador’s residence in Berne. It was that straightforward.”

Furthermore, Jimmy Carter has even acknowledged that “90% of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian [while] the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA…Ben Affleck’s character in the film was only in Tehran a day and a half and the real hero in my opinion was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.”

Taylor himself recently remarked that “Argo” provides a myopic representation of both Iranians and their revolution, ignoring their “more hospitable side and an intent that they were looking for some degree of justice and hope and that it all wasn’t just a violent demonstration for nothing.”

“The amusing side, Taylor said, “is the script writer in Hollywood had no idea what he’s talking about.”

O’Hehir perfectly articulates the film’s true crime, its deliberate exploitation of “its basis in history and its mode of detailed realism to create something that is entirely mythological.” Not only is it “a trite cavalcade of action-movie clichés and expository dialogue,” but “[i]t’s also a propaganda movie in the truest sense, one that claims to be innocent of all ideology.”

Such an assessment is confirmed by Ben Affleck’s own comments about the film. In describing Argo to Bill O’Reilly, Affleck boasted, “You know, it was such a great story. For one thing, it’s a thriller. It’s actually comedy with the Hollywood satire. It’s a complicated CIA movie, it’s a political movie. And it’s all true.”  He told Rolling Stone that, when conceiving his directorial approach, he knew he “absolutely had to preserve the central integrity and truth of the story.” “It’s OK to embellish, it’s OK to compress, as long as you don’t fundamentally change the nature of the story and of what happened,” Affleck has remarked, even going so far as to tell reporters at Argo‘s BFI London Film Festival premier, “This movie is about this story that took place, and it’s true, and I go to pains to contextualize it and to try to be even-handed in a way that just means we’re taking a cold, hard look at the facts.” In an interview with The Huffington Post, Affleck went so far as to say, “I tried to make a movie that is absolutely just factual. And that’s another reason why I tried to be as true to the story as possible — because I didn’t want it to be used by either side. I didn’t want it to be politicized internationally or domestically in a partisan way. I just wanted to tell a story that was about the facts as I understood them.”
For Affleck, these facts apparently don’t include understanding why the American Embassy in Tehran was overrun and occupied on November 4, 1979.  “There was no rhyme or reason to this action,” Affleck has insisted, claiming that the takeover “wasn’t about us,” that is, the American government (despite the fact that his own film is introduced by a fleeting – though frequently inaccurate [1] – review of American complicity in the Shah’s dictatorship). Wrong, Ben.  One reason was the fear of another CIA-engineered coup d’etat like the one perpetrated in 1953 from the very same Embassy. Another reason was the admission of the deposed Shah into the United States for medical treatment and asylum rather than extradition to Iran to face charge and trial for his quarter century of crimes against the Iranian people, bankrolled and supported by the U.S. government.  One doesn’t have to agree with the reasons, of course, but they certainly existed. Just as George H.W. Bush once bellowed after a U.S. Navy warship blew an Iranian passenger airliner out of the sky over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 Iranian civilians, “I’ll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever. I don’t care what the facts are.”  Affleck appears inclined to agree.
If nothing else, Argo is an exercise in American exceptionalism – perhaps the most dangerous fiction that permeates our entire society and sense of identity.  It reinvents history in order to mine a tale of triumph from an unmitigated defeat.  The hostage crisis, which lasted 444 days and destroyed an American presidency, was a failure and an embarrassment for Americans.  The United States government and media has spent the last three decades tirelessly exacting revenge on Iran for what happened. Argo recasts revolutionary Iranians as the hapless victims of American cunning and deception.  White Americans are hunted, harried and, ultimately courageous and free.  Iranians are maniacal, menacing and, in the end, infantile and foolish.  The fanatical fundamentalists fail while America wins. USA -1, Iran – 0. 
Yet, Argo obscures the unfortunate truth that, as those six diplomats were boarding a plane bound for Switzerland on January 28, 1980, their 52 compatriots would have to wait an entire year before making it home, not as the result of a daring rescue attempt, but after a diplomatic agreement was reached. Reflecting on the most troubled episodes in American history is a time-honored cinematic tradition. There’s a reason why the best Vietnam movies are full of pain, anger, anguish and war crimes.  By contrast, Argo is American catharsis porn; pure Hollywood hubris.  It is pro-American propaganda devoid of introspection, pathos or humility and meant to assuage our hurt feelings.  In Argo, no lessons are learned by revisiting the consequences of America’s support for the Pahlavi monarchy or its creation and training of SAVAK, the Shah’s vicious secret police. On June 11, 1979, months before the hostage crisis began, the New York Times published an article by writer and historian A.J. Langguth which recounted revelations relayed by a former American intelligence official regarding the CIA’s close relationship with SAVAK.  The agency had “sent an operative to teach interrogation methods to SAVAK” including “instructions in torture, and the techniques were copied from the Nazis.”  Langguth wrestled with the news, trying to figure out why this had not been widely reported in the media.  He came to the following conclusion:

We – and I mean we as Americans – don’t believe it. We can read the accusations, even examine the evidence and find it irrefutable. But, in our hearts, we cannot believe that Americans have gone apoad to spread the use of torture. We can believe that public officials with reputations for pilliance can be arrogant, blind or stupid. Anything but evil. And when the cumulative proof becomes overwhelming that our representatives in the C.I.A. or the Agency for International Development police program did in fact teach torture, we excuse ourselves by vilifying the individual men.

Similarly, at a time when the CIA is waging an illegal, immoral, unregulated and alwaysexpanding drone execution program, the previous administration’s CIAkidnappersandtorturers are protected from prosecution by the currentadministration, and leaked State Department cables reveal orders for U.S. diplomats to spy on United Nations officials, it is surreal that such homage is being paid to that very same organization by the so-called liberals of the Tinsel Town elite.

Upon winning his Best Director Golden Globe last month, Ben Affleck obsequiously praised the “clandestine service as well as the foreign service that is making sacrifices on behalf of the American people everyday [and] our troops serving over seas, I want to thank them very much,” a statement echoed almost identically by co-producer Grant Heslov when Argo later won Best Drama.

This comes as no surprise, considering Affleck had previously described Argo as “a tribute” to the “extraordinary, honorable people at the CIA” during an interview on Fox News.

The relationship between Hollywood and the military and intelligence arms of the U.S. government have long been cozy. “When the CIA or the Pentagon says, ‘We’ll help you, if you play ball with us,’ that’s favoring one form of speech over another. It becomes propaganda,” David Robb, author of Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies told The Los Angeles Times. “The danger for filmmakers is that their product — entertainment and information — ends up being government spin.”

Awarding Argo the Best Picture Oscar is like Barack Obama winning a Nobel Peace Prize: an undeserved accolade fawningly bestowed upon a dubious recipient based on a transparent fiction; an award for what never was and never would be and a decision so willfully naïve and grotesque it discredits whatever relevance and prestige the proceedings might still have had.*

So this Sunday night, when Argo has won that coveted golden statuette, it will be clear that we have yet again been blinded by the heavy dust of politics and our American mantra of hostility and resentment will continue to inform our decisions, dragging us closer and closer to the abyss.

***** ***** *****

* Yes, in this analogy, the equivalent of Henry Kissinger is obviously 2004’s dismal “Crash.”


1 The introduction of Argo is a dazzingly sloppy few minutes of caricatured history of Iran, full of Orientalist images of violent ancient Persians (harems and all), which gets many basic facts wrong. In fact, it is shocking this intro made it to release as written and recorded.

Here are some of the problems:

1. The voice over narration says, “In 1950, the people of Iran elected Mohammad Mossadegh, the secular democrat, Prime Minister. He nationalized pitish and U.S. petroleum holdings, returning Iran’s oil to its people.”

Mossadegh was elected to the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) in 1944. He did not become Prime Minister until April 1951 and was not “elected by the people of Iran.” Rather, he was appointed to the position by the representatives of the Majlis.

Also, the United States did not have petroleum interests in Iran at the time.

2. After piefly describing the 1953 coup, the narrator says Britain and the United States “installed Reza Pahlavi as Shah.”

Wow. First, the Shah’s name was not Reza Pahlavi. That is his father’s (and son’s) name. Furthermore, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was not installed as Shah since had already been Shah of Iran since September 1941, after pitain and the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Iran and forced the abdication of his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi.

During the coup in 1953, the Shah fled to Baghdad, then Rome. After Mossadegh had been forced out, the Shah returned to the Peacock Throne.

This is not difficult information to come by, and yet the screenwriter and director of Argo didn’t bother looking it up. And guess what? Ben Affleck actually majored in Middle East Studies in college. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t graduate.

The rest of the brief intro, while mentioning the torture of SAVAK, glosses over the causes of the revolution, but lingers on the violence that followed.  As it ends, the words “Based on a True Story” appear on the screen. The first live action moment we see in Argo is of an American flag being burned.

Such is Affleck’s insistence that Argo is “not a political movie.”

Still, as Kevin B. Lee wrote in Slate last month, “This opening may very well be the reason why critics have given the film credit for being insightful and progressive—because nothing that follows comes close, and the rest of the movie actually undoes what this opening achieves.”

 He continues, 

Instead of keeping its eye on the big picture of revolutionary Iran, the film settles into a retrograde “white Americans in peril” storyline. It recasts those oppressed Iranians as a raging, zombie-like horde, the same dark-faced demons from countless other movies— still a surefire dramatic device for instilling fear in an American audience. After the opening makes a big fuss about how Iranians were victimized for decades, the film marginalizes them from their own story, shunting them into the role of villains. Yet this irony is overshadowed by a larger one: The heroes of the film, the CIA, helped create this mess in the first place. And their triumph is executed through one more ruse at the expense of the ever-dupable Iranians to cap off three decades of deception and manipulation.

And brilliantly concludes,

Looking at the runaway success of this film, it seems as if critics and audiences alike lack the historical knowledge to recognize a self-serving perversion of an unflattering past, or the cultural acumen to see the utterly ersatz nature of the enterprise: A cast of stock characters and situations, and a series of increasingly contrived narrow escapes from third world mobs who, predictably, are never quite smart enough to catch up with the Americans. We can delight all we like in this cinematic recycling act, but the fact remains that we are no longer living in a world where we can get away with films like this—not if we want to be in a position to deal with a world that is rising to meet us. The movies we endorse need to rise to the occasion of reflecting a new global reality, using a newer set of storytelling tools than this reheated excuse for a historical geopolitical thriller.
This post originally appeared on Nima Shirazi’s website Wide Asleep in America on Saturday, Febuary 23, 2013 (i.e. the day before the Academy Awards)


  • Oscar-nominated films prove Israel is an apartheid state

  • Eli Ungar-Sargon

  • The Palestinian film 5 Broken Cameras offers clear and irrefutable evidence of Israeli ethnocracy.

     (Issam Rimawi / APA images)

Award season is in full swing in Los Angeles, and, for the first time in the history of the Academy Awards, two films about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are in competition for best documentary feature. For those of us invested in a just resolution to the conflict, a closer reading of these films can help decipher the meaning of this extraordinary attention.

The Gatekeepers is a classical talking-heads documentary. What sets it apart from other films in this genre is the identity of the heads doing the talking: six men who have led Israel’s Shin Bet, or Internal Security Service, from the early days of the state until the present. The film is deftly structured and moves effortlessly from history, which is served up with archival footage, to strategic analysis, which is provided against the backdrop of slick computer-generated listening rooms. The heart of the film comes through in the difficult ethical questions that Israeli director Dror Moreh occasionally interjects from behind the camera.

Narrow focus

The concept of The Gatekeepers, which Moreh continues to hammer home in his many public statements, is that these six men, who have been charged with keeping Israel safe throughout the decades, all agree that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Stripmust end.

From an Israeli perspective, this is a rhetorical gambit from a member of the decimated left: “listen to these people,” Moreh seems to be pleading with his compatriots. These political nuances will be lost on the American public, but The Gatekeepers fits nicely into the bizarre cultural regression we are currently experiencing in the United States with shows like Homeland and films like Zero Dark Thirty. The aesthetic of The Gatekeepersplays to our fetishization of counterterrorism and its voyeuristic technologies.

What about the Palestinian perspective? Unfortunately, The Gatekeepers reduces the Palestinians to abstract ethical entities in ticking-time-bomb scenarios. Granted, this derives from the general conceit of a film that chooses to narrow its focus to these six men, but the outcome is that the only Palestinians we spend time thinking about are “terrorist masterminds.”

Worse, one of the chapters of the film is titled “Victory Is To See You Suffer.” This comes from the former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon who credits the statement to Jabril Rajoub of the Palestinian Authority. Incredibly, Ayalon tells us that hearing Rajoub say this is what finally forced him to empathize with the Palestinians in their struggle.

Emotional resonance

In contrast, 5 Broken Cameras, is all about the Palestinian perspective. The footage that co-director Emad Burnat shot over five years at the weekly unarmed demonstrations in his village of Bilin, has an immediacy that shatters the high production value seductions of The Gatekeepers.

Made for a fraction of the cost that it took to produce that film, 5 Broken Cameras is like a punch to the gut. There is almost no historical context provided, but Burnat’s narration achieves an emotional resonance that only a first-person account can.

The Israeli co-director Guy Davidi wisely structured the film around the lifetime of the various cameras that Burnat used to document his life, each of which were eventually broken. Burnat and Davidi’s film is political in a less overt, but more subversive way than Moreh’s. It bypasses the calcified rhetoric that so often characterizes discussions of Israel and the Palestinians and cuts straight to the heart.

Like Julia Bacha’s Budrus before it, 5 Broken Cameras confronts the viewer with a reality that would be hard to believe if you weren’t watching it with your own eyes and hearing it with your own ears.

World waking up?

So what does the nomination of these two films tell us about where our culture stands on the issue of Israel and the Palestinians? Like the recent diplomatic revolt at the UN which led to the recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state, I believe this to be a sign that the world is finally waking up to the fact that something is rotten in the State of Israel. That something, however, is still being misidentified as the occupation of 1967. The truth, of course, is that the occupation is but a symptom of a rot that runs much deeper. The problem is Israeli ethnocracy.

The fact that Israel is not a state for all its citizens and never has been is the reason that a majority of the Palestinian people live in exile as refugees. It is also the reason that the Palestinian citizens of Israel continue to live as second-class citizens. The military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip persists, because were Israel to grant citizenship to the Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza, it would cease to be a Jewish-majority state.

Israel’s logic is therefore motivated by a model of nationalism that is hostile to the fundamental democratic value of equality. The occupation as seen through the lens of bothThe Gatekeepers and 5 Broken Cameras offers clear and irrefutable evidence of Israeli ethnocracy. But the occupation itself is neither the cause of, nor the solution to the conflict.

Will The Gatekeepers and 5 Broken Cameras have an impact on Israeli audiences? Unfortunately, I think not. There are already indications that The Gatekeepers has been met with indifference from the Israeli public and it looks like Davidi is facing an uphill battle in getting 5 Broken Cameras to screen to Israeli youth.

Might this change if one of the films wins an Academy Award at the end of the month? I’m pessimistic. As the recent Israeli elections demonstrated, the conflict with the Palestinians is no longer an issue that most Israelis care about. But the world is watching. And these films, along with the injustice reflected in them, now have a global audience.

Eli Ungar-Sargon is a documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He has been working on a documentary about the Israel-Palestine conflict for the past four years. The film is now entering the final stages of post-production.

Written FOR


Argo‘s Asinine Auteur and his American Audience:
Are We Hostages to Hollywood History?


By Nima Shirazi

Student demonstration, Washington, D.C., November 9, 1979

(Marion S. Trikosko)

Ben Affleck’s new film, Argo, hit theaters today.  It tells the tale of six American diplomats who, having escaped the besieged Embassy in Tehran in late 1979 and taken shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, were successfully smuggled out of Iran in a daring Hollywood-produced CIA operation under the guise of being a Canadian film crew.

From the movie trailer, one can tell a great many things.  The story is fascinating, the plot suspenseful and action-packed.  Yet there are worrying signs that the events depicted will present a rather decontextualized and myopic perspective of Iranian actions in the wake of their revolution.

“The actions of Iran have shocked the civilized world,” President Jimmy Carterdeclared two weeks after the embassy’s occupation during a November 28, 1979 press conference.  This was coming from the leader of the nation whose operatives orchestrated a coup d’etat 26 years earlier to overthrow the Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh for the crime of nationalizing his country’s oil industry and which funded and supported the brutal Pahlavi dictatorship for the next quarter century. Civilized, indeed.

A video of Carter speaking those very words opens Argo‘s trailer which is replete with sinister music, angry bearded mobs, clenched fists pumping the air, sounds of gunfire, glaring portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini and plenty of hand-wringing, hapless, innocent Americans and the concerned, humanitarian heroes of Tinsel Town and the Central Intelligence Agency who saved them.

The mastermind behind the clandestine mission featured in the film is CIA operative Tony Mendez, portrayed by Affleck himself.  In a short clip of the movie shown on The Daily Show, Mendez is described as an “exfil[tration] spec[ialist]” who “got a lot of the Shah’s people out after the fall.”  What a hero.

The issue is not that hostage-taking is legitimate or moral or that amazing true stories shouldn’t be made into big budget movies.  It’s not and they should be.  The issue here is context.  Without it, Manichean views of the world – with good guys and bad guys neatly identified – continue to prevail.  At a time of especially heightened tension between Iran, the United States, and now Canada, films likeArgo – with its narrative of American victimhood and Middle Eastern rage – certainly do favors.

I have not seen this film.  I could be wrong about all this.  Argo may very well include a nuanced and sophisticated exploration of the causes behind the Iranian Revolution and U.S. government decisions leading up to the hostage crisis, but then again, it might not.

In an interview at the Toronto Film Festival, Affleck said, “While the [action portrayed in the] movie is 30 years old, it really is still relevant.  Both in the sense that it’s about the unintended consequences of revolution and in the sense that we’re dealing with the exact same issues now than we were then.”

Earlier this week, Affleck joined blowhard ignoramus Bill O’Reilly on Fox News to discuss the film.  In describing Argo, Affleck said, “You know, it was such a great story. For one thing, it’s a thriller. It’s actually comedy with the Hollywood satire. It’s a complicated CIA movie, it’s a political movie. And it’s all true.”

In a thrillingly complicated comical twist, about thirty seconds later, the star of Surviving Christmas and Reindeer Games contradicted himself completely: “To me, I made a movie that my friends who are Democrats and my friends who are Republicans can both watch. It’s not a political movie.”

Affleck also spent much of his time praising the U.S. intelligence and foreign service agents, including those who actively worked against the popular revolution that overthrew the Pahlavi monarchy. “[T]his is really a tribute to the folks and our clan that’s in services, and diplomats in the foreign service who are risking their lives over there, tragically seeing examples of that very recently. And folks who are — what they give up to serve us and to serve our country.”  He added, “I’ve been to the CIA. I met General David Petraeus. These are extraordinary honorable people at the CIA. Make no mistake about it.”

O’Reilly summed it up: “This is a Valentine from Ben Affleck to the Intelligence Community,” he declared.

Affleck also demonstrated a dizzying fealty to alarmist misinformation over the Iranian nuclear program.  If the “Islamist regime,” he warned, “got a bomb, I think everybody thinks that would be trouble.”  Affleck then proceeded to opine that “Israel is not entirely capable of whacking them to the extent in which they need to be whacked.”  Read that again.

He continued, “And I wouldn’t outsource U.S. foreign policy to any other government…However, we have to have a line beyond which we say this is not acceptable in Iran.”  It didn’t take much for O’Reilly to draw out what his Fox News audience most wanted to hear.  “I wouldn’t oppose military action,” Affleck obliged.

Considering its filmmaker’s perspective, there’s a good chance Argo may not present a particularly erudite understanding of the events of Autumn 1979, despite the fact that the film itself opens with a quick review of Iranian history and the revolution.

With this in mind, there is some vital context that might – I repeat, might – be missing from Argo which every theatergoer should know in order to better contextualize what they’ll be watching this weekend:

Tyranny and Terror Under the Shah, Bankrolled by the U.S.

Jimmy Carter and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Tehran 1977

For most Americans, the history of Iranian-U.S. relations began on November 4, 1979, the day revolutionary students seized control of the American Embassy in Tehran.  According to the American narrative, one November morning – out of the blue – some crazy Iranian fanatics seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held dozens of innocent Americans hostage for 444 days because they were mean and hated Americans for no reason.

Here’s some of what’s missing:

The United States of America backed, armed and supported the tyrannical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, for more than 25 years,

As late as 1977, President Jimmy Carter, speaking at a New Years Eve state dinner, called the Shah’s Iran “an island of stability” in an otherwise turbulent Middle East. Carter said this at a time when in Iran, under the Shah, “dissent was ruthlessly suppressed, in part by the use of torture in the dungeons of SAVAK, the [American and Israeli-trained] secret police,” Time magazine reported, adding:

The depth of its commitment to the Shah apparently blinded Washington to the growing discontent. U.S. policymakers wanted to believe that their investment was buying stability and friendship; they trusted what they heard from the monarch, who dismissed all opposition as ‘the blah-blahs of armchair critics.’

Such commitment to the belief in the Shah’s “stability” and inevitable longevity was evidenced in many U.S. intelligence assessments at the time.   For example, as Jeffrey T. Richelson recalls in Wizards of Langley: “A sixty-page CIA study completed in August 1977, Iran in the 1980s, had asserted that ‘there will be no radical change in Iranian political behavior in the near future’ and that ‘the Shah will be an active participant in the Iranian life well into the 1980s.’

Another CIA report from mid-1978 and entitled “Iran After the Shah”, affirmed that “Iran is not in a revolutionary or even a ‘prerevolutionary’ situation.”

As Time pointed out in its January 7, 1980 report:

Even after the revolution began, U.S. officials were convinced that ‘there is no alternative to the Shah.’ Carter took time out from the Camp David summit in September 1978 to phone the Iranian monarch and assure him of Washington’s continued support.

Popular street demonstrations against the Shah’s rule became frequent throughout Iran in 1978 (as was the killing of protesters by government forces) and, eventually, many cities were placed under martial law. During a peaceful demonstration in Tehran on September 8, 1978, government security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing and wounding hundreds.

Nevertheless, that very month, the U.S. State Department expressed its confidence that the Shah would retain his control over Iran, though perhaps without “the same position of unquestioned authority he formerly enjoyed.”

At the same time that nationwide strikes spread throughout bazaars, banks, the oil and gas industry, newspapers, customs and post offices, mining and transportation sectors, as well as most universities and high schools, an “Intelligence Assessment” released by the Defense Intelligence Agency declared that the Shah “is expected to remain actively in power over the next ten years.”

On October 27, 1978, as the revolution surged, the CIA issued another report, this one suggesting that “the political situation [in Iran] is unlikely to be clarified at least until late next year when the Shah, the Cabinet, and the new parliament that is scheduled to be elected in June begin to interact on the political scene.”

Just a few months later, in the face of a massive popular uprising representing the end of millennia of monarchy in Iran, the Shah and his wife Farah fled Iran in early 1979, never to return. They flew to Egypt, where they received a warm welcome by Anwar Sadat.

Following the Shah’s departure, the transitional Iranian government immediately cut ties with two countries: Apartheid South Africa and the State of Israel, both nations founded on the violent dispossession, forced displacement, and institutionalized discrimination against an indigenous population.

Despite the leading role it had played in propping up the Shah’s dictatorship for so long, Iran did not break off relations with the United States in the hopes of ushering in a new diplomatic relationship based on mutual respect.

Catalyzing the Crisis

Jimmy Carter, April 25, 1980 (AP)

Later that year, in October 1979, the Shah sought medical treatment in the United States for his worsening cancer, the interim government of Iran warned the U.S. against admitting the Shah as it wished for the deposed dictator to face trial and justice in Iran for his crimes against the Iranian people.  When asked whether it would be problematic if the Shah’s young children to enter the United States for schooling, Iran’s secular Prime Minister, Mehdi Barzargan, responded that such would not create any difficulties, but still “reiterated his warning about the dangers of admitting the shah himself.”

President Carter had to make a decision and asked the advice of his closest advisers.  “He went around the room, and most of us said, ‘Let him in.'” recalls Vice President Walter Mondale. “And he said, ‘And if [the Iranians] take our employees in our embassy hostage, then what would be your advice?’ And the room just fell dead. No one had an answer to that. Turns out, we never did.”

It is rumored, however, that Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and Undersecretary of State David Newsom all tried to hedge their bets and prevent the Shah’s admission to the U.S. in the hopes that it would help mend relations with the new transitional government in Tehran.

In favor of admission, on the other hand, were National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Chase Bank chairman David Rockefeller, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and former World Bank president John J. McCloy, who had served as Assistant Secretary of War during World War II and U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, who were collectively dubbed “influential friends of the Shah” by Brzezinski himself.  Apparently, Brzezinski personally “felt strongly that at stake were [the United State’s] traditional commitment to asylum and our loyalty to a friend. To compromise those principles would be to pay an extraordinarily high price not only in terms of self-esteem but also in our standing among our allies….”

In response to such lobbying by the Shah’s good buddies, President Carter acquiesced to the Shah’s demands on October 21, 1979.  The very next day, Pahlavi and his family arrived in New York City on October 22, 1979 aboard Rockefeller’s private jet.

Reporting in The New York Times in May 1981 following the Shah’s death and state funeral in Egypt, Dr. Lawrence K. Altman wrote that, from this decision “flowed a chain of events that dramatically reshaped recent American history and led, all too inevitably, to the 444 days of the hostage crisis.”

Henry Precht, the senior Iranian task-force officer at the State Department, who was then in Iran, is quoted in Altman’s article as saying that “the initial reaction of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the Iranians was ”exceptionally controlled.” Precht added, however, “But one had the feeling that the Iranians, always suspicious, now sensed that they had indeed been duped and that the Shah had come to the United States not for medical treatment but to set up counterrevolutionary headquarters.”  In response, Altman reveals, a group of Iranian students met “in a small mountain village above Teheran to determine what action they would take to vent their fury at the Shah’s admission to the United States.”

Following the seizure of the Embassy and the taking of hostages, a reporter asked Carter why he had reversed his previous position and permitted the Shah to enter the U.S. when “medical treatment was available elsewhere [and] you had been warned by our chargé that the Americans might be endangered in Tehran.”  Carterreplied that he has made “the right decision” and had “no regrets about it nor apologies to make.”  He said:

“The decision that I made, personally and without pressure from anyone, to carry out the principles of our country, to provide for the means of giving the Shah necessary medical assistance to save his life, was proper.”

Carter’s humanitarian mission to save Iranian lives was apparently limited to that of a single corrupt despot, a puppet dictator that served Washington’s hegemonic designs in the Middle East for decades.  The lives of Iranian civilians who suffered under the Shah’s rule and American largesse, however, had not been considered worth saving.

Decades of Torture and Repression

Iranian student demonstration in Tehran, December 15, 1979

(Mohammad Sayad/AP)

The Shah’s Organisation of Intelligence and National Security, known by its Farsi acronym SAVAK, acted as the dictator’s personal secret police force, was tasked with suppressing dissent and opposition to the monarchy.  Created in 1957 with the help of American and Israeli intelligence agents, the SAVAK grew in size and brutality and, as journalist Marsha Cohen points out, included “thousands of informers, censorship, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, and widespread torture and assassination of political opponents. A censorship office monitored journalists, academics and writers, and kept a watchful eye on students. The penalty for possession of forbidden books included interrogation, torture and long term imprisonment.”

In 1976, according to Amnesty International, the Shah’s Iran had the “highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture which is beyond belief.”  The report concluded, “No country in the world has a worse record in human rights than Iran.”  The number of political prisoners detained at any given point was reportedly “anything between 25,000 and 100,000.”

The same year, renowned Iranian poet and author Reza Baraheni wrote in New York Review of Books, “The CIA re-created the monarchy, built up the SAVAK and trained all its prominent members, and stood by the Shah and his secret police as their powerful ally. Iran became the police state it is now.”

He continued:

Thousands of men and women have been summarily executed during the last twenty-three years. More than 300,000 people have been in and out of prison during the last nineteen years of the existence of SAVAK; an average of 1,500 people are arrested every month. In one instance alone, American-trained counterinsurgency troops of the Iranian Army and SAVAK killed more than 6,000 people on June 5, 1963.

In another article, Baraheni wrote that “[c]orruption is so widespread that threats of jailing, even shooting, cannot solve the problem, because at the heart of corruption are the Shah himself and the royal family.”

The Associated Press also ran a story about the abusive, and sometimes lethal, treatment of prisoners by the SAVAK as reported by the Red Cross, which had gained access to “5,000 inmates in 37 jails and prisons” over three separate visits to Iran between March 1977 and February 1978.

Both the United States and Israel played a large role in the SAVAK’s activities.  As Robert Fisk points out in his book The Great War For Civilisation, “A permanent secret US mission was attached to Savak headquarters.”

Jesse Leaf, a former high-level CIA analyst in Iran until his resignation in 1973,revealed years later “that the CIA sent an operative to teach interrogation methods to SAVAK” in seminars that “were based on German torture techniques from World War II.”  While no Americans admitted to witnessing torture, Leaf recalled “seeing and being told of people who were there seeing the rooms and being told of torture. And I know that the torture rooms were toured and it was all paid for by the USA.”  When asked why none of the American agents protested such brutality, Leaf explained, “Why should we protest? We were on their side, remember?”

“Methods of interrogation” often used by SAVAK, writes Fisk, “included – apart from the conventional electric wires attached to genitals, beating on the soles of feet and nail extraction—rape and ‘cooking,’ the latter a self-explanatory form of suffering in which the victim was strapped to a bed of wire that was then electrified to become a red-hot toaster…They recorded that the inmates had been beaten, burned with cigarettes and chemicals, tortured with electrodes, raped, sodomised with bottles and boiling eggs.   Interrogators forced electric cables into the uterus of female prisoners.  The Red Cross report named 124 prisoners who had died under torture.”

According to Iranian scholar R.K. Ramazani, “Mossad was totally identified with the Shah’s CIA-created SAVAK. This was the principal instrument of the regime’s repressive measures, which included  physically punishing religious and secular political dissidents by electric shock, tearing out of fingernails and toenails, rape, and genital torture.”

The Mossad connection was confirmed earlier this year by CBS News’ Dan Raviv and Israeli journalist Yossi Melman in their book Spies Against Armageddon, in which they reveal, “Israeli intelligence trained Savak, the Shah’s brutal secret police and espionage service. As part of the compensation, the Shah allowed the Mossad to operate on his soil as a base for recruiting agents in Iraq and other countries. Iran even provided documentation to enhance the Israelis’ cover stories.”

In early January 1980, an Associated Press report noted that the “Iranian militants…holding some 50 Americans hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran…say they will not release them until Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is returned to Iran to stand trial on charges of corruption and other crimes – including the reported torture.”  The article continued, “The Iranian government has demanded an international hearing of its grievances against the shah and his former government.”

When asked about these demands by the press, President Carter replied:

I don’t know of any international forum within which charges have ever been brought against a deposed leader who has left his country. There have been instances of changing governments down through the centuries in history, and I don’t know of any instance where such a leader, who left his country after his government fell, has been tried in an international court or in an international forum…

But as I said earlier, I don’t think there’s any forum that will listen to the Iranians make any sort of claim, justified or not, as long as they hold against their will and abuse the hostages, in complete contravention to every international law and every precept or every commitment or principle of humankind.

Within three weeks of the Embassy takeover, about a dozen women and African-Americans were released by the Iranian students in what Khomeini called an act ofsolidarity with oppressed minority groups in the U.S.  Later, a sick hostage was also released. None of the hostages were killed.

Open Hands and Iron Fists

The remaining 52 American hostages were released upon the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan in January 1981, in accordance with the Algiers Accord, an agreement signed by both Iran and the United States.

Shortly after the hostage-taking, President Carter imposed sanctions upon Iranand had frozen billions of dollars of Iranian government assets in an act that one U.S. official described as “economic and political warfare.” The Accord assured Iran that all assets would be returned; to date, the U.S. has never complied with this agreement.

The Accord also affirms, as its primary point, that the “United States pledges that it is and from now on will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran’s internal affairs.”

Since then, not only did the U.S. government renege on this promise two years later when it again imposed sanctions on Iran, it has continued to violate the agreement through relentless and inhumane economic warfaredronesurveillancecovert operationssupport for Iranian terrorist groups, and cyberattacks, not to mention the sporadic murder of Iranian civilians.

In March 2009, President Obama delivered a Nowruz message to Iranians and their government in which he declared that his new “administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community” and affirmed that the “process will not be advanced by threats.” Just nine days before this message, however, Obama had announced the extension of economic sanctions on Iran imposed by President Clinton in March 1995 and were set to expire.

Subsequently, Obama has imposed ever more brutal sanctions on the Iranianpeopleincreased arms sales to Iran’s Middle East neighbors, substantially built-upAmerica’s own armaments and warship presence in the Persian Gulf and Indian Oceanexpanded covert operations in the region (and in Iran specifically), and hasconsistently maintained the aggressive posture that “all options are on the table” when it comes to dealing with Iran, code for the willingness of the American executive to commit the supreme international crime of launching a voluntary war.

Nevertheless, this weekend, moviegoers will be treated to a full dose of Western diplomats running scared from angry Middle Eastern mobs, unwitting victims of seemingly irrational rage. Even though Argo‘s audience will obviously be rooting for the daring rescue to succeed, it’s still essential to understand what all those Iranians might have been so upset about.

Written FOR


To censor or not to censor?  That is the question facing YouTube …

YouTube Blocks Anti-Islam Movie in Egypt, Libya

Afghan Officials Also Move Against ‘Innocence of Muslims’


By Reuters

 YouTube, the video website owned by Google Inc, said on Wednesday it would not remove a film clip mocking the Islamic Prophet Muhammad that has been blamed for anti-U.S. protests in Egypt and Libya, but it has blocked access to it in those countries.

The clip, based on a longer film, depicts the prophet as a fraud and philanderer and has been blamed for sparking violence at U.S. embassies in Cairo and Benghazi. The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other American diplomats were killed in an attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi on Tuesday.

“This video – which is widely available on the Web – is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube,” Google said in a statement. “However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt, we have temporarily restricted access in both countries. Our hearts are with the families of the people murdered in yesterday’s attack in Libya.”

The 14-minute clip is a trailer for a film called the “Innocence of Muslims,” produced by a man who described himself as a California-based Israeli Jew named Sam Bacile.

Google has generally adopted a hands-off approach to political speech, although its “community guidelines” prohibit “hate speech,” including speech that attacks or demeans a group based on religion.

“We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions,” Google said in its statement. “This can be a challenge because what’s OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere.”

In the past, Google has selectively filtered videos that violate local laws.

On Wednesday, Afghanistan’s general director of Information Technology at the Ministry of Communications, Aimal Marjan, told Reuters, “We have been told to shut down YouTube to the Afghan public until the video is taken down.”


And who do you think produced the movie?

Israeli filmmaker in hiding after anti-Islam movie sparks deadly Libya, Egypt protests

Film by Sam Bacile, who self-identifies as an Israeli Jew, led to protests at the U.S. consulate in Libya and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo; one American staffer killed in clashes.

By The Associated Press
Read the report HERE


An Israeli activist claims that the demonstrations (which have now apparently died down) did achieve a pause in the evictions, but that the settlers occupying the al-Kurd home remain. The wider, unmentioned, reality is that Israeli evictions in other Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem (and, in fact, all over Palestine) continue unabated.
New documentary inadvertently demonstrates failures of Zionist left
Asa Winstanley *
Official trailer of film appears at end of this post…


Muhammed al-Kurd in Sheikh Jarrah.

 (Emily Smith / Just Vision)

My Neighborhood is a new documentary from the creators of the film Budrus.

The story told is that of Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem from which Palestinian families are being evicted to make way for right-wing Israeli colonists.

The story is ostensibly told from the perspective of Mohammed al-Kurd, a Palestinian teen whose house is divided into two so that settlers can move in (with the backing of the Israeli courts). “I hate them,” Mohammed says of the settlers. “I hate them for a reason, because they are making our life the worst life in the world.”

But then, three weeks after the eviction, hope arrives in the form of “good” Israelis protesting against the settlers, waving banners in Hebrew, chanting and banging drums. We see the start of the demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah, which reinvigorated the Zionist left in Israel for a time.

Mohammed is skeptical of the Israelis at first, but soon warms to them. “I learned about something called right and left and that opinions differ within societies,” he tells the filmmakers. By the end, he has decided he wants to be a lawyer and use the courts to remove them from his home.

But this film is deeply problematic for several reasons.

Beyond the fact that Palestinians are being kicked out, we learn little of their story. There is very little in the way of context or history. The viewer learns almost nothing about Palestinian struggle in East Jerusalem.

The film is really about something else: what American-Israeli journalist Joseph Dana once called the “fight to save the Zionist soul” (“One year in, the Sheikh Jarrah movement faces its biggest challenge – Zionism,” Mondoweiss, 9 August 2010).

Palestinians bypassed

Aside from Mohammed, we hear very little from Palestinians, and a whole lot from Israeli activists. At a key point in the film, one of these activists says, “we came up with the idea of holding marches” against the evictions.

Was this an initiative of the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, or did these Zionist liberals just decide to swoop in and “save” them from the nasty settlers? As this activist has it, it seems to have all been the idea of the heroic Zionist liberals. But we simply don’t know, because the film does not explain it.

The same activist also says that “our struggle is not against the settlers … it’s against the state.” At this point, it becomes crystal clear the film is fundamentally about an internal Israeli debate. The few Palestinians featured in this film are little more than ciphers.

We meet the parents of that same activist, and learn about their relationship with their children and how they were scared to join the demonstrations at first.

Although they claim to be non-political, we learn they moved from the US and the Netherlands to settle in occupied Palestine. Apart from the artificial and entirely arbitrary green line (Israel’s internationally-recognized armistice line with the occupied West Bank), one might ask: what really makes them so different from the religious/right-wing settlers they denounce? And actually, it’s not even clarified in the film whether these activists live in “East Jerusalem” or not.

At the London launch of this film which I attended, the co-director, Brazilian filmmaker Julia Bacha, said that Israeli activists are “very afraid” of opening up the issue of the Palestinians kicked out of their homes during the 1948 Nakba, the systematic ethnic cleansing that led to Israel’s establishment.

This is because the al-Kurd family were originally from Haifa, but were kicked out by sectarian Zionist militias in 1948, and resettled in East Jerusalem.

Sham solidarity

This film is a good example of what law student and activist Budour Hassan once described as “the sham solidarity of Israel’s Zionist left.”

Maybe the Palestinians in East Jerusalem love being swamped by hordes of young liberal Israelis banging drums in their front yard. But we simply can’t know because the Israelis in the film are too are busy explaining their feelings.

Bacha’s earlier film Budrus was also problematic in similar ways, but at least you could learn about Palestinian stories and struggles, and at least it succeeded as a film in itself, even if it did overly pander to American liberal sensibilities. My Neighborhood has all the negative aspects of Budrus, magnified but with few of the redeeming features.

The film ends on a sour note. An Israeli activist claims that the demonstrations (which have now apparently died down) did achieve a pause in the evictions, but that the settlers occupying the al-Kurd home remain. The wider, unmentioned, reality is that Israeli evictions in other Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem (and, in fact, all over Palestine) continue unabated.

The activist doesn’t mention this because of the film’s exclusive focus on Sheikh Jarrah. At another point in the film one settler described his takeover of the al-Kurd home as “the continuation of the Jewish-Zionist project.” Some right-wing Zionists still maintain a sense of perspective that liberal Zionists lack, it seems.

*Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist from London who has lived and reported from occupied Palestine.


Written For



It was refreshing to see a review on an American Jewish Website of a new film against the occupation. Even more refreshing was reading opinions taken in that review that for sure would not be popular in Israel. For example, One of the main characters in the film, Phil, is a village leader and charismatic big brother to the children in Bil’in. Young, broad-shouldered and full of hope, he has a following of young boys who look up to him. Phil, a Palestinian, is always pushing for peaceful resistance, even as grenades and tear gas are lobbed and rubber bullets fired at the villagers. It is important to see another, less publicized side to the resistance — a non-violent approach. At points during the film, it is hard to imagine how Phil maintains dedication to peaceful resistance as progress seems non-existent and Israeli military incursions are continual.
The above is not at all what the zionists would have you believe. Despite what looks like pro Israeli undertones in much of the review, the film itself seems worth looking into.

Images of Occupation at Sundance

‘5 Broken Cameras’ Tells Human Story of Life in West Bank

Two Eyes, ‘5 Cameras’: Director Emad Burnat got his first video camera to film his son. It would up opening an unusual candid window on Palestinian life under occupation.
Two Eyes, ‘5 Cameras’: Director Emad Burnat got his first video camera to film his son. It would up opening an unusual candid window on Palestinian life under occupation.*

Selling out a screening or getting a standing ovation at Sundance is hard enough for a seasoned filmmaker, let alone for a farmer from the West Bank. But director Emad Burnat, from the village of Bil’in, brought Park City, Utah, to its feet with his debut documentary about his family’s life beyond the security barrier and amid Israeli settlements.*

Shot from his own perspective, “5 Broken Cameras” is a refreshing change from documentaries with political agendas that reverberate throughout. Instead of an embedded political message, the film focuses on one person’s reality and his child’s vantage point.*

There’s no escaping the situation, but Burnat, who ends up filming his village’s non-violent response to Israeli settlement building and construction of the security barrier, begins his documentary by explaining that he actually bought his first video camera to film his son, who was born in 2005.*

Over the seven years of filming, Burnat used six cameras, five of which were destroyed. The life and death of each camera has its own distinct chapter in the film.*

Co-produced by Israeli Guy Davidi, the film gives the majority of airtime to Burnat; however, footage of Israelis from all walks of life joining villagers from the West Bank in non-violent protest is one of the most powerful parts of the documentary.*

Armed with a video camera, Burnat documents the changing landscape of his village and the surrounding area as the security barrier is built, settlements spring up and religious Jews move into complexes that tower over Palestinian villages in the disputed territory. Similar to the 2009 film “Budrus,” about a Palestinian village’s nonviolent response to the security barrier, “5 Broken Cameras” does not focus on media attention, but rather on family and personal experience through the eye of the camera lens.*

Burnat has a way of constantly juxtaposing joy and pain. Footage of army aggression and village protests sits alongside happy family events, footage of his son, Gibreel, and his patient and brave wife, Soraya. In between bursts of occasional gunfire, he captures the innocence of Gibreel’s childhood. The child’s laughter, first words and intimate family moments illustrate how life continues even in challenging times.*

One of the main characters in the film, Phil, is a village leader and charismatic big brother to the children in Bil’in. Young, broad-shouldered and full of hope, he has a following of young boys who look up to him. Phil, a Palestinian, is always pushing for peaceful resistance, even as grenades and tear gas are lobbed and rubber bullets fired at the villagers. It is important to see another, less publicized side to the resistance — a non-violent approach. At points during the film, it is hard to imagine how Phil maintains dedication to peaceful resistance as progress seems non-existent and Israeli military incursions are continual.*

While viewers who have knowledge about the West Bank may be aware that non-violent protest is not the norm, the point of Burnat’s film is to represent his experience, from his point of view. The film’s goal is not to show whether the rationale for the barrier and checkpoints — to reduce bombings — has been vindicated.*

Instead, the audience witnesses the progression of the villagers’ anger as little seems to change for the better in Bil’in. Indeed, things get ever worse as the IDF enforces laws that are not explained to the villagers.*

Burnat and Davidi focus on youngsters in Bil’in rather than on hardened villagers that audiences often see in documentaries about the West Bank. This approach offers a glimmer of hope when hope seems fleeting. Instead of seeing enraged Palestinian children as rock throwers on the road to extremism, the film suggests that the children in the village are committed to a non-violent approach to resistance. In “5 Broken Cameras,” the kids carry banners in protest, and in one scene Gibreel hands an Israeli soldier a symbolic olive branch as he passes through the barrier. This illustrative scene depicts not only the positive interaction between two people, but it shows as representative interaction between Palestinian and Israeli that is deliberately not violent.*

As the documentary progresses, we witness Gibreel’s growth from a baby to a sensitive boy. He and the audience become aware of what is going on around him, and the physical separation between the Arab and Jewish West Bank is seen through the eyes of a child. He sees the division between two populations, not just a line to separate two lands. The disturbing image of young boys with peyes and tzitzis playing in beautiful apartments in settlements that peer down at Palestinian children in semi-permanent shacks sticks with the viewer. Men dressed in suits and black hats throw violent punches at Burnat as he films. It is hard not to share a sense of frustration.*

While the film focuses on peaceful demonstration and a non-violent approach to Palestinian protest, “5 Broken Cameras” lacks explanation as to why Israeli soldiers entered the village of Bil’in in the first place. The trade-off in offering an individual perspective is that the film does not show the broader clash of systems that has led to terrorism, on the one hand, and Israeli incursions and searches, on the other. Throughout the film, viewers see uniformed IDF soliders launching grenades and tear gas at villagers during what look like non-violent protests. The villagers are understandably upset, but the lack of context undermines any larger claim for justice.*

Nevertheless, “5 Broken Cameras” subtly reinforces hope for peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians, a much needed belief when peace seems far-fetched. The co-production of this film, combined with the portrayal of Palestinian children and villagers who resolve to accomplish political change through peaceful means, can only strengthen even a discouraged viewer’s resolve to achieve peace. As Burnat says: “It takes strength to turn something negative into something positive.” 

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.


I received an email from Yoav Shamir. He is an Israeli director/producer/cinematographer.
In part, here is what he had to say;
I hope you are well. I am writing to you because I know you appreciated my previous films such as “Checkpoint” and “Defamation”, and I need your help with my new film “10% – What makes a hero”.*

Before I proceed with what kind of help am I asking for and why -let me tell you a little bit about the film.

“10%” is my new feature length documentary- it deals with a very simple question: “What make some people do good, while most people look away? What makes some people do good even when there is a potential personal toll? Some people will refer to them as Altruistic, some will call them heroic.

Examples from recent history would be the Non Jews who saved Jews during the holocaust, even though there was a serious risk potential doing so, the white South Africans who fought Apartheid while most whites enjoyed the benefits of this racial system, those few who straggled alongside the ANC paid many times a serious personal toll.

Are there some common patterns to all the individuals mentioned above? Common traits? A Psychological blue print?

The film follows a Stanford University research that attempts to tackle this question, as it highlights Palestinian and Israeli peace activists. The head researcher is the famous Prop. Philip Zimbardo (who back in the 70’s conducted the famous “Stanford Prison Experiment”), alongside with an Israeli and a Palestinian team.*

Best to see what Yoav has to say about the film….*


To read more about Yoav Shamir and to find out how to help produce the 10%, go to THIS Website. Keep in mind that no money is coming from the big shots in Hollywood…. this is truly a people’s project for the people.


On the March: Palestinian women protest the construction of the separation barrier near their town, as depicted in ‘Budrus,’ a film opening in cities across the U.S. this month.

The zionist wants you to believe that every Palestinian is an armed terrorist or potential suicide bomber. They have been painting that picture for over 62 years enabling Israel to maintain the status of ‘eternal victim‘.

The reality of the situation is that most Palestinians that are actively involved against the occupation of THEIR land are employing non violent resistance as the primary method of their struggle. A new film, Budrus, depicts this as it pertains to the struggle against the wall of apartheid in one occupied village and how this inspired others to follow.

The film depicts one village’s protest against this expropriation in 2003 and 2004 by a coalition that included members of Fatah and Hamas, as well as Israeli Jews and international supporters. Due to their protests, the route of the barrier around Budrus was eventually changed to hew closer to the pre-1967 borders.

Since 2004, nonviolent resistance against the separation barrier has grown far beyond Budrus. Similar movements are active in about 10 Palestinian towns and villages, including high-profile instances in Bi’lin and Ni’lin.

Loss of the status mentioned above will result in loss of funds collected to maintain the scam of the century…. THAT is Israel’s greatest fear…. not an uprising or an Independent Palestine, loss of funding.

The italics are taken from a Forward article which appears below…. a must read about a film that is a must see!

How Will Jews React to ‘Budrus’?

A Film Highlighting Non-violent Resistance to Israeli Policies, and Israel’s Tough Response, To Get U.S. Premiere, With Jewish Support.

Protesters in the Palestinian town of Budrus were growing frustrated. After months of nonviolently demonstrating against the Israeli separation barrier being built through their olive groves, the demonstrators faced increased force from Israeli border police who were firing tear gas and swinging batons. Young Palestinians began tossing rocks at the soldiers despite pleas from protest organizers, and Israeli forces occupied the town, sending live ammunition down the narrow streets.

These scenes, which took place in the West Bank six years ago, are now coming to a mass audience in America in “Budrus,” a new documentary premiering in New York in October.

For American Jews whose image of Palestinian resistance to Israel is dominated by violence and terrorism, the film promises to highlight the current wave of Palestinian civic resistance.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, who has yet to see the film, views the situation the film depicts as part of a broader trend that he supports — and he thinks American Jews will see it that way, as well.

“You can’t follow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict generally and not be aware that there seems to be growth in the assertiveness and the extent of nonviolent protest, and I think it’s a constructive development,” he said.

Not every Jewish communal official agrees. The American Jewish Committee’s associate director of communications, Ben Cohen, who has not yet seen the film, predicted that American Jewish reaction to the movie will be skeptical. “Most people are not going to assume that because the soldier is armed and the activist is not [in one frame], all the violence is on one side,” he said.

The documentary, which has won plaudits on the film festival circuit, depicts a mostly nonviolent series of protests against the separation barrier that Israel has set in place between its citizens and West Bank Palestinians. The long trail of fences and walls was built in response to the second intifada, an extended campaign of suicide bombings against civilians by Palestinian terrorist groups. But the ostensible security barrier often deviates from the internationally recognized Green Line that separates Israel from the occupied territory to go deep into the West Bank, taking in acres of Palestinian land, and sometimes separating villagers from their own fields, groves and farms.

The film depicts one village’s protest against this expropriation in 2003 and 2004 by a coalition that included members of Fatah and Hamas, as well as Israeli Jews and international supporters. Due to their protests, the route of the barrier around Budrus was eventually changed to hew closer to the pre-1967 borders.

Protest Leader: Iltezam Morrar features prominently in the film as an unlikedly leader of the protests against the barrier.  

just vision
Protest Leader: Iltezam Morrar features prominently in the film as an unlikedly leader of the protests against the barrier.

“This film came out of a constant question that we got: ‘Where’s the Palestinian Gandhi?’” said Ronit Avni, founder and executive director of the American not-for-profit organization Just Vision, which produced the film. Avni said that audiences told her: “If Palestinians adopted nonviolence, there would be peace. That is the assumption that is dominant in the Israeli and the American Jewish public.”

Since 2004, nonviolent resistance against the separation barrier has grown far beyond Budrus. Similar movements are active in about 10 Palestinian towns and villages, including high-profile instances in Bi’lin and Ni’lin.

As in Budrus, the army has routinely broken up the protests by using tear gas canisters and rubber bullets, and sometimes, live fire. On the Palestinian side, cases of stone throwing have occurred. Protesters have been injured and killed in these demonstrations. The Israeli army says that more than 100 soldiers have been hurt, some seriously. Still, few question these demonstrations represent a fundamental break with the tactics of the recent past.

Avni’s group, which advocates nonviolent cooperative efforts between Israelis and Palestinians toward resolutions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, created the documentary mostly from footage taken by activists and observers during the events in Budrus. Coupled with contemporary interviews, the footage depicts the efforts of Ayed Morrar, a local activist, to organize protests against the separation barrier. His daughter, Iltezam, a teenager at the time, plays an important role in the protests and in the film, at one point throwing her body into a pit being dug by an Israeli bulldozer, effectively halting work on the barrier.

The film graphically depicts the sometimes aggressive response of the Israeli security forces tasked with protecting the demolition crews and controlling the crowds at Budrus. A female Israeli border patrol officer, seen in the film hitting Palestinian women with a baton, narrates some of the footage.

“Part of what this unarmed resistance is about…[is], you are trying to hold up a mirror; you shame the wrongdoers into changing their behavior,” said the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation’s senior research fellow and co-director Daniel Levy, who has participated on panels following screenings of the film. “It’s easy to say all the inequities of the occupation are because of Palestinian violence. As soon as you don’t have that place to go to, the idea is, you have to look deeper inside yourself.”

But Cohen said that the Palestinian nonviolent strategy will not win sympathy from American Jews. He said that the participation of local Hamas leaders in the protests invalidated them because of that group’s role in sponsoring numerous terrorist attacks.

“If I see Hamas participate in a demonstration, it doesn’t have to end in a specific terror act for me to underline the point that Hamas’s presence belies the claim of nonviolence, because Hamas is based on violence,” he said.

He rejected the view that the proximate goal of a particular rally mattered more than the broader ideology of the participants.

Supporters of “Budrus” say that this film is bound to spark debate among American Jewish audiences. Indeed, a Jewish group is among its funders.

At a panel discussion about “Budrus” that followed a screening at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival earlier this year, there was “this incredibly civil conversation,” said Elise Bernhardt, executive director of the Foundation for Jewish Culture, which funded the film through its Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film.

“To my mind, whether I agree with the perspective, it doesn’t matter, because I think what [the] filmmakers are after is to get a conversation going about what are the options here to solve this problem,” Bernhardt said.

Budrus was not the first town to adopt nonviolent tactics against the separation barrier. But according to Mohammed al-Khateeb, a leader of the protests in Bi’lin and of a committee that coordinates protest activities around the West Bank, Budrus’s success in changing the route of the barrier was influential.

“If we use the violence it will be confused, and the Israelis will use the military reason and the military excuse and the security excuse to attack and to strengthen their occupation under the security regime,” Khateeb said.

The film opened in theaters in Britain at the end of September. After its U.S. premiere in New York in early October, “Budrus” is scheduled to appear at theaters in New York, Boston, Washington, Los Angeles and Denver.

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

Also see an earlier post including a trailer of the film HERE


Jared Malsin

Watching ‘Budrus’ in Gaza


I just got back from a screening in Gaza of Budrus, Julia Bacha’s film about grassroots resistance against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of the same name. Some 100 people, Palestinians and a few foreigners, came to the screening in the courtyard of the French Cultural Center.

Having been to many unarmed demonstrations in the West Bank, just like those depicted in the film, watching the movie alongside Palestinians in Gaza was a genuinely moving experience.

For me, watching the film reminded me, yet again, about how the real story of Israel and Palestine today is not a diplomatic story about the negotiations between Abbas and Netanyahu, the melodrama about the settlement freeze, and so on. Rather it is a political struggle, and Palestinians are fighting against a brutal system of segregation that has been thrust upon them.  There is no way for me to see scenes from Budrus—of club-wielding Israeli border police beating peaceful Palestinian demonstrators—without recalling, to cite just one example, the African American freedom struggle in the US.

I also chatted with two Palestinians who attended the screening, one young man and one young woman. The first thing both of them remarked on to me was the presence of Jewish-Israeli activists in the demonstrations in Budrus. For them, this was something authentically new. This struck me as an important observation. You have to imagine, Palestinians living in Gaza, 20 or 21 years old, who have been trapped here their entire lives. The only Israelis they know of are peering from distant watchtowers.

Muhammad, with whom I attended the film, is active in some of the nonviolent demonstrations taking place here in Gaza. He remarked as we walked home on how in the West Bank there is face-to-face contact between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. In Gaza, anyone who even approaches the militarized border will be “killed,” he said. “Shot,” I corrected him. “No,” he said, “killed.”

We walked further and pondered this point a moment, and then we both came to the same observation, that the live-fire buffer zone around Gaza, and Israel’s military actions against Gaza, is a military response to a political problem. The only reason Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from the interior of Gaza, Muhammad argued, was because of resistance on the ground here, except here the opposition to occupation historically has taken on a violent form.


BBC News also reported on the film…..

Budrus: A Palestinian story of non-violent protest

By Yolande Knell BBC News, Jerusalem
Ayed Morrar addressing demonstrators Ayed Morrar united Palestinians and Israelis in peaceful protests against Israel’s separation barrier.

In the opening sequence of the new documentary film, Budrus, the camera follows a winding road to the home of Palestinian activist, Ayed Morrar.

“We don’t have time for war. We want to raise our kids in peace and hope,” he states in Hebrew, addressing any Israelis in the cinema audience.

Mr Morrar comes from one of six small villages close to the occupied West Bank’s border with Israel, which were due to be encircled by the Israeli separation barrier in 2003.

The plans would have cut off Budrus residents’ access to some 300 acres of land and torn up their olive trees.

The film, produced by a Palestinian and an Israeli, follows the villagers’ largely peaceful protests against the barrier.

As the film is shown around the world – in New York and London as well as Israel, the West Bank and Gaza – it is being held up as a positive case-study of how non-violent solutions to conflict can yield results.

Director Julia Bacha who works with the non-profit group, Just Vision, says the documentary addresses a question her organisation is often asked.

“The question was: where was the Palestinian Gandhi? Why aren’t Palestinians using non-violent resistance? If they used non-violence, there would be peace.”

“We knew the situation on the ground was a little bit more complex than that… but we wanted to choose a successful story,” she adds.

Rare unity

In Budrus, villagers held 55 demonstrations over 10 months.

Unusually, members of rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, presented a united front and women and girls joined the front line of the struggle.

At one point in the film, Mr Morrar’s 15-year-old daughter, Iltezam, is seen stepping into the path of a bulldozer, forcing it to retreat.

Women marching in Budrus Women were at the heart of the struggle to save the olive trees and land of Budrus.

“It’s good to feel even when you’re so small and have nothing, you can do this,” she observes.

The role played by hundreds of Israeli peace campaigners is also underscored.

Some shot the compelling original footage which shows marches dispersed with tear gas and rubber bullets, and verbal confrontations with soldiers trying to uproot trees.

In some scenes, the situation looks hopeless. Budros is placed under curfew and live bullets appear to be fired by Israeli forces trying to establish control. When a young man is arrested, angry locals try to tear down the barbed wire of the security barrier with their bare hands.

Eventually, though, the Israeli government decides to change the route of the barrier, claiming it is a “political” decision, leaving locals access to 95% of their land.


“Start Quote

Through our non-violent struggle we prove that if you want to build security you can do it without punishing people and encouraging them to take revenge on you.”

End Quote Ayed Morrar Palestinian community organiser

Audience members at a small screening in East Jerusalem gave high praise to the documentary.

One Arab Israeli, Hani, said he found inspiration in it. “I think right now we need to develop our form of resistance and this is the right choice,” he remarked.

“We need to just show the world that we’re not violent, we’re not terrorists, we don’t want to kill Israelis, we just want our freedom.”

“It was a brilliant movie,” a young Israeli, Sefi, commented. “It really shows in an amazing way the consequence of the occupation from a personal point of view.”

Among the voices included in the documentary was that of an Israeli army spokesman who maintains that Israel’s objective of providing security “trumps everything.”

However, the Israeli border police commander, Yasmine Levy, sent to ensure the wall got built according to the route set by the military, develops a more complicated relationship with local women who call out to her by name in protests.

While she continues to act on orders to block the protests, she is impressed by their resolve.

“Even if the women were beaten or shot, they had no problem with it. They went to all lengths to ensure the land would remain theirs,” she remembers.

Israeli soldiers guarding a bulldozer Israeli soldiers tried to prevent protesters from reaching the bulldozers being used to clear the land.

The documentary ends on a high note with people from Budrus joining similar campaigns to support other villages.

As a West Bank resident, the main protagonist, Mr Morrar needed Israeli permission to come to East Jerusalem for the film’s opening night. It was refused.

However, he told the BBC that he had watched the film and liked it. He expressed hope its message would get across.

“Through our non-violent struggle, we prove that if you want to build security, you can do it without punishing people and encouraging them to take revenge on you,” he said.

“I am sure that if any village in Palestine in general works exactly like Budrus then all of them will succeed like Budrus.”


Guarding the crop…..

I watched a movie on TV last night called American Gangster…. it was absolutely brilliant.  It took me over an hour to determine who the ‘bad guys’ were and who the ‘good guys’ were until I realised that they were all ‘bad guys’….

It takes place in the late 60’s, during the American conflict in Vietnam, dealing with the international drug trade at the time. Apparently the film is based on a true story…. truth that America obviously hasn’t learned from.

The cast was absolutely brilliant, Denzel Washington, Russel Crowe and Ruby Dee were among the stars. I couldn’t help notice how much Washington looks like President Obama… and wondered how long it would take for Hollywood to cast him in that role. But, checking the Net this morning I found that Hollywood already has done that.

I would like to see Hollywood probe the drug trafficking that is going on today via the US Military…. It certainly did not end in Vietnam…. it continues in Afghanistan and Iraq to this day.

Ruby Dee could also star in the movie, I propose… perhaps as the mother of the First Lady. It’s all well and good to look at these dealings of the past….. but they are continuing to this very day as can be seen in THIS report.
Americans are being duped. Under the guise of ‘protecting Freedom’, they are protecting the interests of the drug cartels.

Good stories for the Big Screen….. but not for the nation. The film is a must see…. check it out on the Web for DVD or download… you won’t regret it.



HYPOCRISY at its newest and highest level! KILL, KILL, KILL….. and then create an image of ‘Make love not war’…..

Last year one of Israel’s military magazines featured porno shots of female soldiers to encourage tourism….


The latest ‘campaign’ is aimed at the international gay community. Forgetting that Israel treats its gays as second class citizens, that they are brutally attacked constantly by extreme right wingers and religious zealots, the ‘campaign’ wants gay tourism to ‘save its image’. WHAT IMAGE????? A murderous nation that has convinced the world that everything is OK here…. Well…. IT’S NOT! Was it also forgotten that just a month ago one of Israels gay community centres was the scene of a shootout?

BUT…… busine$$ is busine$$…. and obviously porn is a good one.Whether or not the ‘campaign’ is successful or not, the film ‘Men of Israel’ will surely be a moneymaker…. that’s all that really counts, right? The film won’t be showing the wall of apartheid or Israeli men taking aim at Palestinian children. It won’t be showing images from the recent war in Gaza or the Palestinians living on the streets of Jerusalem… after being illegally evicted from their homes by Israeli men. No…. it will show the viewers a false image of a love that just does not exist in Israel.

Read an excerpt from the Pornographic Stimulus Plan

By Michael Kaminer

“It’s free PR for Israel, and it’s much better than the PR they’re getting on the news,” he said during a tour of the company’s expansive second-floor offices, with views of the New York Times building across the street. “The reality is that Israel has only one face to people on the street, and that’s the West Bank and Gaza. All people see in the media is a country of disaster. They get images of a blown-up bus.”

By contrast, Lucas said, the images in “Men of Israel” — filmed in telegenic Tel Aviv, Haifa and desert locations by Israeli fashion photographer Ronen Akerman — amount to a pornographic stimulus campaign for gay tourism.

“Nobody goes to Israel for Golda Meir, I’m so sorry,” Lucas said in heavily Russian-accented English. “People don’t care that you have a great orchestra, and they’re not particularly interested in the Holocaust museum. Gay people, and straight people, want beautiful beaches, beautiful nature, beautiful men and women, good food, good hotels. Israel shouldn’t be mistaken about why people go there. They need me.” Neither the Israeli Consulate nor the Israel Ministry of Tourism office in New York returned calls or e-mails for comment.

Read the full report HERE

Perhaps the next film can be called ‘ISRAEL’S UGLY MEN’…… sights that could possibly get a gay man to ‘switch teams’ 😉


Herr’ Kahana

‘Herr’ Lieberman
‘Herr’ Marzel
‘Herr’ Settlers


 Jane Fonda joins boycott of Toronto film festival over homage to Israel
  Jane Fonda, Danny Glover and Eve Ensler have joined the growing list of artists who are boycotting the Toronto film festival over a program honoring Tel Aviv’s 100th anniversary, gossip blogger Perez Hilton reported on Friday.

The three have added their names to a letter aimed at festival officials claiming that Tel Aviv was built on violence, ignoring the “suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants,” Hilton reported.

Several Israeli films are being screened at the festival’s new City to City event, which this year celebrates Tel Aviv’s centennial.

Culture critic Naomi Klein and director John Greyson are among those who had already announced their protest over the homage to Tel Aviv.

Two-time Oscar winner Rabbi Marvin Hier, who founded the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called the boycott “an attack on the heart and soul of Israel.”

“People who support letters like this are people who do not support a two-state solution,” he was quoted as saying on Hilton’s blog.

“By calling into question the legitimacy of Tel Aviv, they are supporting a one-state solution, which means the destruction of the State of Israel. I applaud the organizers of the festival for celebrating on the 100th anniversary of Tel Aviv. If every city in the Middle East would be as culturally diverse, as open to freedom of expression as Tel Aviv is, then peace would long have come to the Middle East.”

Fonda, 72, rose to fame as an actress in the 1960s, but has since become known for her political activism, including her opposition to the Vietnam and Iraq wars.

Glover, who is probably best known for co-starring with Mel Gibson in the four Lethal Weapon movies, has also been politically active since his student days. He made headlines in 2006 when he traveled to Venezuela with a group of celebrities to show solidarity with president Hugo Chavez.

Ensler, whose father is reportedly Jewish, is an American playwright and activist who wrote The Vagina Monologues.



Who hasn’t fantasized a group of soldiers wreaking revenge on Nazis? Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” puts that fantasy on screen and Jordana Horn asks him whether he thinks it’s OK to revise history…….

Glorious Bastard

Tarantino Talks About His Not-A-Holocaust-Movie

By Jordana Horn


Quentin Tarantino is a film director, writer and cinematic iconoclast, known for works such as “Kill Bill,” “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” that revel in non-linear plots, pop culture references and the portrayal of violence. His most recent film, “Inglourious Basterds,” takes the viewer on a bloody stroll through a revisionist, fictitious story in which a band of Jewish-American soldiers is given free rein to go to occupied France and kill as many Nazis as possible. After the film’s first New York screening at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, Tarantino met with the Forward’s Jordana Horn to discuss his film, revenge and fact versus fiction.

Getty Images

Jordana Horn: I wanted to ask you how you felt, both going in and coming out of the screening last night, within that particular context.

Quentin Tarantino: …You know, you can have your take on it, but I thought it was a complete triumph. I was very excited about it, and we went out and had a really good time afterwards. I thought it was a very thought-provoking conversation…. I like my movie. I’m really proud of my movie. And if they didn’t like it, I would have been like, “Well, screw you guys, all right? I like my movie!” You know, it wasn’t like I was currying favor. But yes, I do think I wanted them to like it. And I do appreciate it that they did. … The movie has a… certain tone to it. I think more or less that it is a situation where they’re just kind of saying, “This is not Schindler’s List.”…. So, you know, don’t go expecting that. And look, when you do a movie that has as much humor as mine has, you know, it’s understandable that some people could be touchy about it.

This is not a Holocaust movie, really.

No, it really isn’t at all. I mean, my thing is, the idea that leads you in, and this is how I work with storytelling in general — it’s more of the thing of the bunch of guys on a mission. Like a ‘60s movie, like the Devil’s Brigade or Dirty Dozen or something like that. But that’s the way I normally do stuff. I start off with a certain genre, and then, that’s the jumping-off point. Now, I intend to expand the genre, sort of blow the doors off of it. But the starting-off point is that: there’s a bunch of guys, and there’s a mission. I actually think that this movie’s closer to something like E.L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime,” with a community of characters, an overall ‘big story’ that leads somewhere and a mix of invented characters and historical figures.

Could you go a little bit more into why you picked this particular time and place in history?

World War II is one of the most interesting and fascinating story subjects of the 20th century. It was the most profound thing that happened in the 20th century. We actually — humanity — stopped the return of the Dark Ages, which could have very well happened if the Nazis had been successful. Before that, it was the way it always was for countries at war: might makes right. I take your country and make it mine, and that’s the way the world was governed. Forever, all right? And the Industrial Age stopped that, but we could have gone back to that, if the world hadn’t risen up. And to me, it was just very interesting. But all the different subjects that we put in the movie pertain to World War II, whether it was the idea of American Jews getting vengeance behind enemy lines in a way that their European counterparts and uncles and aunts couldn’t, in a way that they didn’t have available to them, and even just the way that you’re dealing with Germany via filmmaking inside the Third Reich. And even just dealing with Josef Goebbels, not as the architect of evil, the way he’s always seen, but in his job as studio head…

I mean, the fact that the filmmaking in the Third Reich under Josef Goebbels personally supervising 800 movies — the fact that that had never been touched on before… just dealing with it at all was such rich material….

What made the Nazis so bad was their wholesale devaluation of the sanctity of human life. At what point, when you’re laughing at the scalpings, do you think, you’ve turned it around?

I didn’t know where I would be coming from during the war. If you’re dealing with people like the Nazis … well, you either eat the wolf or the wolf eats you. You know? And so that’s where I would be coming from in a situation like that. ….

Why not make Raine Jewish?

You know, he just wasn’t… when I came up with the scenario of all of them together, he just wasn’t. You know, I don’t manipulate my characters in that way. It was very important to me that he was a hillbilly. Every outward appearance, you’d think he’d be a racist redneck. And in fact, he’s the opposite of that. He was probably fighting the Klan in the ‘30s before the war. The Nazis? Same thing. He’s a student of history, so he knows about the Apache resistance. His thing is that he openly chooses — he decides — I want Jewish soldiers in here, because I want it to be a holy war. I want them to bring what a gentile wouldn’t. Where he’s coming from is that the gentiles have the luxury of being soldiers. The Jewish-American soldiers have the duty of being warriors.

…I had many different ideas for this story through the course of writing it. At one point, in my first imagining of this story, Shosanna was a much more badass character, kind of a Joan of Arc of the Jews. And she’s killing Nazis and has lists of Nazis to wipe out and stuff. And when I put it away and ended up doing Kill Bill, what I wanted to do with Shosanna, I gave to The Bride.

It had a very nice effect, because then, when I came back to this story, I thought, well, I can’t do that anymore. And it just made Shosanna all the more realistic. She’s a survivor. And it made her more like Jackie Brown. Her power is in keeping it together…. That becomes her strength, as opposed to wiping out Nazis. But there was an idea that I had, and it was a pretty good story line, but this was when it was almost more of a mini-series concept, was one of the ways Nazis were able to really clamp down on people acting against them was that one German life worth ten lives. So you kill a German soldier on the street in Paris, then that entire block would be leveled to the ground… So she wasn’t part of the resistance in this version, and she’s killing Nazis, and then they were going to kill ten resistance prisoners every week until she gave herself up. And then where I had her coming from was that, to hell with the resistance. I’m not fighting for the resistance; I’m fighting for the Jews. F*** the French. They give more of a damn about Notre Dame than the damn Jews, so I don’t care about them. I’m fighting for Jews, make no mistake about it.

[Later]…. I think one of the things that makes the movie enjoyable to watch — just the fact that it’s a World War II movie, you can’t help but have associations in your mind about what you think it’s going to be. The movie ends up being very different from that, and I actually think that’s part of the liberating fun of actually watching it, is that it plays out differently from what you’d imagined. There’s really been no World War II movie quite like this one.

How is this movie different from your other movies, you think?

I don’t think it’s that different at all. Some of the qualities that make this movie particularly unique to the World War II genre are part and parcel of what I do in film. Humor is part of what I do. That’s part of my thing. And actually the basis of most of that humor is getting you to laugh at things that really aren’t that funny. If I were to write and direct something that didn’t have those qualities, if I were you, I’d be suspicious. I don’t know how to do it any other way.

What’s up with the misspelling of the title?

It’s an artistic stroke. To describe it would take the piss out of it. Consider it a Basquiat-esque touch [laughs].

[laughs] I wish I could describe the hand gesture that you made as you said that.

[laughs] It was sort of like, why is he getting the check? But he has Elmer’s Glue stuck in his hand.

Christoph Waltz’s character [of Nazi officer Hans Landa] was amazing. I would have been very interested to see how, if Waltz had come to the museum, he would have been received.

Well, you know, Waltz’s son is a rabbi.


Yes. And I’m actually kind of glad about that. There are several qualities in Christopher that are very similar to Landa. Not the Nazi part, obviously, but his erudition and his cleverness. Because of that, I can actually make parallels between him and Landa and not get too worried about calling him a Nazi.

A rabbi… where?

In Israel. I had to check on a Yiddish word, and Christopher called his son in Israel, who is actually a Yiddish expert. Christopher is obviously a language expert himself as well.

I came into this film thinking, ‘Surely there are enough films about the Holocaust already without Tarantino making one too.’

For the last 30 years, all the movies coming out about World War II, whether it be feature films or TV movies…lots of TV movies…they really focus on the Holocaust and the victims of World War II. That has been the diet for the last 30 years. But even during the war, when they were actually fighting the war, and even during the ‘60s, you know, with the guys-on-a-mission movies, there was no crime in telling a thrilling story. You didn’t feel like an idiot, for example, when you said, ‘I had FUN watching The Great Escape,’ even though Nazis mow down and kill people. I have a great time watching that movie. It’s very entertaining. And that doesn’t make my movie better or worse, but it’s something that has been lost in the last 30 years of the telling.

Jordana Horn is a lawyer and writer at work on her first novel.

International trailer for “Inglourious Basterds” — widely considered the best trailer for the film!





Movie Review

Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Ari Folman and David Polonsky/Sony Pictures Classics

Israeli soldiers in “Waltz With Bashir,” an animated documentary by Ari Folman on the 1982 Lebanon war.

Inside a Veteran’s Nightmare

“Waltz With Bashir” is a memoir, a history lesson, a combat picture, a piece of investigative journalism and an altogether amazing film.

Directed by Ari Folman, an Israeli filmmaker whose struggle to make sense of his experience as a soldier in the Lebanon war of 1982 shapes its story, “Waltz” is by no means the world’s only animated documentary, a phrase that sounds at first like a cinematic oxymoron. Movies like Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life” and Brett Morgen’s “Chicago 10” have used animation to make reality seem more vivid and more strange, producing odd and fascinating experiments.

But Mr. Folman has gone further, creating something that is not only unique but also exemplary, a work of astonishing aesthetic integrity and searing moral power.

That it is also a cartoon is not incidental to this achievement. Art Spiegelman, in “Maus,” turned an unlikely medium — the talking-animal comic book — into a profound and original vehicle for contemplation of the Holocaust. Similarly Mr. Folman, crucially assisted by his art director, David Polonsky, and director of animation, Yoni Goodman, has adapted techniques often (if unfairly) dismissed as trivial into an intense and revealing meditation on a historical catastrophe and its aftermath. “Waltz With Bashir” will certainly enrich and complicate your understanding of its specific subject — the Lebanon War and, in particular, the massacre of Palestinians by Lebanese Phalangist fighters at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps — but it may also change the way you think about how movies can confront history.

Why did Mr. Folman, who has worked on more conventional documentaries in the past, decide to use animation in this one? The answer to the question is another question: How else could he have recorded dreams, hallucinations and distorted memories, his own and those of other veterans? The core of “Waltz With Bashir” is a series of conversations between the director, depicted with graying hair and a thoughtful demeanor, and other middle-aged Israeli men who were in Lebanon in the summer of 1982, when the Israeli Defense Forces pushed up through the southern part of the country toward Beirut. Most of them were in the western part of that city from the 16th to the 18th of September, when Christian militiamen slaughtered as many as 3,000 civilians, ostensibly to avenge the death of Bashir Gemayel, Lebanon’s newly elected president, who had been assassinated a few days before.

More than 20 years later Mr. Folman confronts his interlocutors amid the trappings of their relatively calm daily lives. (All the interview subjects speak in their own voices except for two, whose dialogue has been dubbed.) One lives in the Netherlands, where he owns a chain of falafel restaurants. Another appears in a martial arts studio. Others reminisce in their apartments or in bars, and as each tells his story, the scene dissolves and we see a younger version of the same man — usually leaner, perhaps cleaner-shaven or not as bald but still recognizable — in the nightmarish landscape of war. The freedom afforded by animation — a realm where the prosaic standards of verisimilitude and the inconvenient laws of physics can be flouted at will — allows Mr. Folman to blend grimly literal images with surreal flights of fantasy, humor and horror.

At one point a soldier, passed out on the deck of a transport boat, dreams of a giant naked woman who climbs out of the water and cradles him in her arms. At other times rough, cynical pop songs (with lyrics like “Good Morning Lebanon” and “Today I Bombed Beirut”) play out over montages of chaos and destruction. Mr. Folman is haunted by a weird recollection of naked soldiers walking onto the beach in Beirut as the city’s bombed-out skyline is illuminated by flares.

These are highly personal images, culled from admittedly unreliable memories, but it is precisely their subjectivity that makes them so vivid and authentic. “Waltz With Bashir” is not, and could not be, the definitive account of the Lebanon war or the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Instead it’s a collage and an inquiry. “Can’t a film be therapeutic?” one of Mr. Folman’s friends asks him early in the movie, and in a way everything that follows is an attempt to answer that question and interrogate its premise. It depends on what is meant by therapy, and on who is undergoing it.

The complicity of the Israeli command in the atrocities at Sabra and Shatila was established by an Israeli government report by the Kahan Commission in 1983, which found the military indirectly responsible for the actions of the Phalangists.

What no commission of inquiry can precisely define is the responsibility of the ordinary soldiers who were nearby, witnessing the slaughter and allowing it to continue. And this ethical question becomes more and more urgent as Mr. Folman’s patient probing brings him closer to the awful facts his mind had suppressed for so long.

Since it was shown in Cannes last year, “Waltz With Bashir” has attracted a lot of attention and a measure of controversy, some of it surrounding the very last moments of the film, in which the animation stops and the audience is confronted with graphic, horrifying images of real dead bodies. This ending shows just how far Mr. Folman is prepared to go, not in the service of shock for its own sake, but rather in his pursuit of clarity and truth.

The Israelis who were witnesses and (mostly inadvertent) accomplices to the killing, and who came home from the war to lives of relative normalcy and tranquillity, have the time and the means to reflect, to explore, to engage in therapy. The victims are beyond any of that, and the blunt literalness of this film’s denouement is a reminder of that unbridgeable gap between the living and the dead. It is also Mr. Folman’s way of acknowledging that imagination has its limits, and that even the most ambitious and serious work of art will come up short against the brutal facts of life.

“Waltz With Bashir” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has graphic violence, sex and brief nudity.


Opens on Friday in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Ari Folman; animation by Bridgit Folman; art director and illustrator, David Polonsky; director of animation, Yoni Goodman; edited by Nili Feller; music by Max Richter; produced by Mr. Folman, Yael Nahlieli, Ms. Folman, Serge Lalou, Gerhard Meixner and Roman Paul; released by Sony Pictures Classics. In Hebrew, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes.