Tuxedos deflect the tear gas; Israeli right wing applauds
The fortunate failure of Emad Burnet and Guy Davidi to win an Oscar for ‘5 Broken Cameras’ gives Bibi an opening to disguise a threat as congratulations to Mr Burnet on the great privilege Israel has awarded him by letting him live in a country under violent military occupation. Every day a photo opportunity! Cartoon by Ami Kaufman in +972. For other consolations for Israel, Sigal Samuel, 1) and for mixed hope and fear, Barak Ravid, 2). For previous story see Tinsel-town meets the Occupation at Oscars
By Sigal Samuel, Daily Beast
February 25, 2013
If Israel’s reaction to last night’s Academy Awards ceremony teaches us anything, it’s that political parties like Habayit Hayehudi [Jewish Home] and the Likud desperately need to take PR lessons from someone like David Siegel, Israel’s Consul General in Los Angeles. When “5 Broken Cameras” and “The Gatekeepers”—both of which are highly critical of Israel—failed to win the Oscar for Best Documentary, Israeli politicians took to social media to celebrate the loss. But this only made them seem threatened by, and scared of, the two acclaimed docs. It also undermined the efforts of the Israeli Consul General, who had attempted to put a positive spin on the critical films by claiming that they’re a testament to freedom of expression in Israel.
Consider, for example, these four reactions from Habayit Hayehudi politicians. Naftali Bennett, the party’s leader, wrote on his Facebook page: “The Israeli film, the anti-Israel 5 Broken Cameras did not win the Oscar. I did not shed a tear.” MK Uri Orbach likewise got sarcastic on Facebook: “Make a face like you’re disappointed that the two documentary films that ‘represent Israel’ didn’t win the Oscar for Best Documentary. Oy, so unfortunate.” Meanwhile, MK Motti Yogev claimed that “5 Broken Cameras” should be boycotted because it “slanders Israel in a tendentious way and we should not cooperate with them.” And Bennett’s right-hand woman, MK Ayelet Shaked, expressed support for a group of military reservists who are threatening to sue the creators of “5 Broken Cameras” for libel.
The Likud party reacted in a similar vein, with MK Tzipi Hotovely mocking “5 Broken Cameras” on Facebook. “We found Guy Davidi’s reaction to [his film] not winning the Oscar,” she wrote, alongside a photo that looks like it was taken through a broken camera lens. Over on Twitter, Judy Mozes Nir Shalom, wife of Likud Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, stated that it was “great to wake up and read that the members of the Academy share my opinion. I hope those who were responsible for budgetary aid, which came from taxpayers’ money, for films that want to bury us will pay with their jobs.”
Shalom’s tweet refers to the fact that “5 Broken Cameras” was funded in part by the Israeli government. As she may or may not know, this is not the first time that government has used “taxpayers’ money” to finance a film that is critical of Israel; Yariv Mozer’s “Invisible Men,” which equates Israel’s policy of deporting gay Palestinians to the Occupied Territories with “sending them to certain death,” is another recent example.
But unlike Shalom, Israeli Consul General Siegel claimed, in reference to “5 Broken Cameras” and “The Gatekeepers,” that Israel’s policy of supporting “films that want to bury us” is actually something to celebrate, since it shows that diversity of opinion and freedom of expression are alive and well in Israel. “We can be proud of the open democratic political discourse we have in Israel,” Siegel told the Forward.
Siegel’s diplomatic strategy, which took films that aimed to criticize Israel and used them to burnish Israel’s democratic credentials, was far shrewder than the reactions emanating from Habayit Hayehudi and the Likud. Perhaps because they anticipated such a move, the creators of “5 Broken Cameras,” Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat and Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi, told the press early on that they would refuse any attempt by the Israeli government to embrace their film’s success. But the filmmakers, it seems, needn’t have worried too much: Israel’s right-wing government leaders undercut Siegel’s attempt to do just that all on their own.
None of this was lost on MK Nitzan Horowitz of Israel’s left-wing Meretz party, who stated, “The satisfaction that the MKs from Habayit Hayehudi and Likud draw from the fact that the films didn’t win is disgusting. Instead of being happy that an Israeli film is internationally recognized and promotes culture in Israel, they are busy trying to minimize public discourse and shut mouths.” Far from buying Siegel’s claim that the docs prove Israel supports diversity of opinion, Horowitz thought the politicians’ reactions gave rise to the exact opposite takeaway: “The government that apparently will be formed will not be better than its predecessor in everything connected to preserving Israel’s democratic nature and will continue fighting against freedom of speech instead of for it.”
So next time U.S.-based Israeli Consul Generals want to put a good face on Oscar-nominated films that are critical of Israel, they’d do well to check in with the handlers of the politicians back home. Diplomats may know how to craft a clever PR spin palatable to American audiences, but Israel’s right-wing politicians sure don’t.
While neither local documentary won an Oscar this year, the hoopla surrounding the films helped wake Israelis up to the ugly reality of the occupation.
By Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz
February 25, 2013
There is nothing further from the reality in the West Bank than the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. Although they are a 16-hour flight apart, the two worlds were briefly brought together on Sunday night. On Israeli television, reports about the protests in Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah were intermingled with predictions of Dror Moreh, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s Oscar prospects.
Perhaps this night – filled with tear gas in one place and tuxedos and evening gowns in the other – actually articulated the reality of the occupation better than most. For those who were paying attention, the red carpet blared a warning of the outbreak of a third intifada.
The local documentaries nominated for Oscars, “The Gatekeepers” and “Five Broken Cameras,” reveal the makeup of the occupation from which the next violent conflagration will erupt. Like a punch in the gut or a slap in the face, they try to shock Israelis out of the escapist stupor we have allowed ourselves to drift into. They pry open our tightly shut eyes, making it hard for us to remain blind to the fact that the Palestinians exist and that conscripting ultra-Orthodox men into the army and bringing down housing prices are not our most pressing national concerns.
“The Gatekeepers” offers a glimpse inside the Shin Bet security service machine that over the course of 46 years has been tuned to perfection. But while it is providing absolute security to Israelis it is grinding the Palestinians into a powder.
“Five Broken Cameras” shows the despair and the anger churned up by the same well-oiled juggernaut. It captures the futile struggle of an ordinary Palestinian citizen who has been robbed of his land so we can sleep without fear.
In “The Gatekeepers,” the legendary Shin Bet chief Avraham Shalom talks about how the Shin Bet sought out work for itself in the West Bank in the 1970s. He explains how, without anybody noticing, the organization became a mechanism that feeds itself by creating more and more terrorists, producing more and more assassinations and arrests.
Shalom’s words echo in the recent death, 40 years later, of the Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat in Megiddo Prison. Jaradat was not an arch-terrorist. He led into Israel’s interrogation cells by the circumstances of his life. When he was arrested last week, three months after his crime, he admitted to having thrown stones. True, stones kill. But is every stone-thrower a legitimate target for the Shin Bet? If he is a Palestinian, yes; if he is a “hilltop youth,” not necessarily.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not watched either of the Oscar-nominated film. He undoubtedly believes Burnat is a terrorist, Davidi is an anarchist and Moreh is a leftist commissar who – together with the Shin Bet chiefs in his movie and the hostile media – only wants to topple the regime. The truth is Netanyahu is simply afraid. If he watches the films, he might see the reality of the occupation, and worse, he might even agree, heavens forefend, with some of what he sees.
Moreh, Burnat and Davidi left the awards ceremony empty handed. The members of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences loved their films but not enough to award them the cherished Oscar statuette. But the directors did leave the ceremony with one significant accomplishment. By means of five broken cameras and the six gatekeepers, they brought the bleeding conflict between us and the Palestinians back into Israeli discourse. These days, that is quite the prize.