Monday, June 25, 2018

Foxtrot? Tommyrot! 2

When I responded to Paul Byrnes' Herald review of the Israeli film Foxtrot (see my 21/6/18 post Foxtrot? Tommyrot!), I was under the impression that the grief-stricken Israeli parents of Act 1 were those of an Israeli soldier killed in Act 2. This, it seems, is not the case, as yet another review of the same film in the same paper (why?) indicates (A bloody legacy, Stephanie Bunbury, 23/6/18).

The parents who wake to a knock on their door one morning, only to be told by military officials that their soldier son, Jonathan, has been killed, apparently represent every Israeli parent: "In Israel, actor Lior Ashkenazi says, everyone knows exactly what has happened; in a country with compulsory national service, that morning knock is like a code. This woman's child must be dead. 'In Israel, everybody knows somebody in this position... It surrounds you: the grief'."

To which I can only add - Bunbury doesn't, of course - if the occupying Israelis are enveloped in grief, it is simply beyond imagining what the occupied Palestinians, whose death toll is infinitely higher, are going through. But when was the last time you saw a commercial release featuring Palestinians in a sympathetic light (not to mention getting TWO reviews in the same media outlet)? In fact, what this 'morning knock' business is really all about is hyping a supposed threat to the occupier by the occupied, and casting the occupiers as victims.

Bunbury then says of Michael, the father, that he "fought his own war in Lebanon. Of course he did: there is always a war on. Everyone carries the same burden." It seems she's blissfully unaware that all of Israel's wars have SFA to do with self-defence, and everything to do with acquiring more territory. Such land-grabs, of course, are always hyped as existential threats, and the "burden" in murder and destruction is borne exclusively by Israel's Arab victims.

Moving on to the second act (which, you'll recall from Byrnes' review, is set at a checkpoint in the desert), we're told that it's set at a "checkpoint near the Lebanese border." Here the confusion grows. The soldiers manning the checkpoint are described as lifting "the barrier for a lone camel passing through." There is, of course, no desert anywhere near the Lebanese border, and certainly no camels either. So what gives?

What Byrnes' in his review calls "an accident" is clarified in Bunbury's: "One of their number panics and shoots an entire car of young Palestinians. The solution presents itself: bury the car, including the bodies, in the ever-present mud." Which only leads to further confusion. Who are these mysterious Palestinian youths (over whom, it seems, no tears are shed)? If the checkpoint is "near the Lebanese border," then it's got to be in the Galilee, and the "young Palestinians" would therefore be Israeli citizens. If, on the other hand, they're Palestinians from the occupied West Bank, then all I can say is they're a bloody long way from home.

More confusion arises from the Israeli response to the gunning down of the Palestinians. As anyone familiar with the modus operandi followed by Israeli troops when they murder Palestinians will know, the invariable practice is simply to blame the victims, stick doggedly to the concocted story, and be hailed as heroes by the vast majority of Israelis. Burying the evidence with the help of a bulldozer that just happens to be nearby? I don't think so.

But Maoz, the film's director has an explanation. Bunbury quotes him as saying, "You don't have to be a genius to understand that there is not such a specific roadblock, not such a specific reality."

And you don't have to be a genius to understand that Maoz, quoted elsewhere in the review referring to Israel "a pathetic and anxious society with the distorted perception that comes out of a terrible past trauma," is playing the Holocaust card, a move designed to get Israel off the hook for its crimes against the Palestinians.

I'll let the Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy have the final say on this phony film:

"The film unit of the Israel Defense Forces spokesman's office would not have dared produce such a pro-Israeli and pro-army film like Foxtrot; they would have known that nobody would believe them. Neither could the unit have produced such an aesthetic film - poetic, symbolic and metaphorical. Nor is there a ship of fools that would accept such a demented level of ignorant assaults on the film by the culture minister without having seen it, she might not have realized what a PR treasure it is.

"Her colleague, a general in the war against the boycott, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who is also information minister, should have instructed his ministry to immediately distribute the film worldwide as part of his battle. There's nothing like Foxtrot for beautifying the image of the state. Look how beautiful we are, we Israelis. What great cinema we have, what beautiful homes we live in and how beautiful are our Holocaust survivors; even our much maligned checkpoints are so beautiful.

"Sanuel Maoz made a beautiful film - and a deceptive, misleading film. The last thing it deserves is to be decried as harming the state. Its foxtrot is dirty dancing. Maoz says that the film is a metaphor for universal questions about fatalism, choice, fate and the individual's ability to shape his future. Those are worthy and fascinating subjects. Maoz could have dealt with them by means of a story line about a wrong diagnosis of cancer, a critical date that a couple never went on, or someone who was fatally late for a flight. Instead, he chose to focus the debate in the context of the Israeli occupation. And so he shouldn't play dumb and claim that this is an artistic and imaginary film, without context or obligation to reality and truth. The moment he chose the occupation as the arena for his film, he turned it into a political and current events film. Not only is that not the way to dance the foxtrot, as Maoz discovered too late, this is not the way the occupation looks - in fact, there's no resemblance at all.

"Beautifying the occupation is no less grave than tarnishing its image. Calling Israeli soldiers is a terrible thing, but presenting them at checkpoints the way Naomi Shemer described the soldiers in her iconic 1968 song At the Nahal Outpost, where she saw 'lots of beautiful things,' as well as 'small poetry books on shelves' - that was no less grave. A lie is a lie, no matter what direction it takes. There aren't lots of beautiful things at a checkpoint. Not even one. Maoz decided to embellish it. He has the artistic right to describe reality as he sees it, but he can't ignore the implications of his hallucinations. When an IDF checkpoint looks like a beautiful surrealistic scene in an old-time Italian movie - maybe they'll believe it in Venice. Here it's not possible. There are no beautiful checkpoints like that, with a camel passing silently by and an ice-cream truck with a blond girl painted on it.

"Neither can he shirk responsibility for the message or for the fact that the Palestinians are momentary extras, and even in that context, their depiction is so different from the reality. In Foxtrot, they ride in a collector's Chevy, with Israeli license plates, wearing their finery, on the way to a wedding or back from a party, erupting in wild joyful song.

"There aren't a lot of apartments designed like the one where Yonatan's parents live and there are no soldiers who sit at checkpoints drawing comics in their many hours of free time and checking the incline of the packing container, which is a metaphor for the extent of being stuck in the mud.

"The soldiers at the checkpoints simply don't look like that. They don't throw sorrowful looks and they're mainly busy with brutality, not comics. Most of them didn't grow up in House Beautiful apartments belonging to handsome architects who married their students; the ones that did go to the elite 8200 intelligence unit. They can be shown anyway one wants, but when an Israeli director with political awareness does that, he's making propaganda, not cinema.

"It's not the 'scene' that everyone is talking about that makes this film infuriating. Not the killing by IDF soldiers and not the concealing of evidence that followed. Foxtrot is trying to conceal something else entirely: It's trying to conceal the ugliness." (A beautiful film about the occupation, 1/10/17)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

From the Horse's Mouth

Well, I'll be damned if Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation chief executive Simon Haines isn't conceding that our much-vaunted Western civilisation is "wicked, colonial, imperialist and racist":

"But normal academic processes will be followed, and the centre will have no power of veto. If the centre doesn't like the direction in which the university takes the course, it will withdraw. 'If we felt, three or four years into the degree, that this is not working out, the stories we are getting from the students [are] that most of the courses are pointing out that the West is a wicked, colonial, imperialist, racist... civilisation, we would say, 'look, we didn't give you the money to do that, we want something balanced'." (It may be academic, but it's talk of the town, Jordan Baker, Sydney Morning Herald, 23/6/18)

He just wants some balance, that's all...

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Time for a New Australian Party

Clearly, Australia needs a new political party. One unburdened by any pettifogging concern for the national interest. One that makes no bones about getting its inspiration and marching orders from afar. My suggestion is that it be called the Whatever Israel Wants Israel Gets Party (WIWIGP).

And this could be it in embryo:

"Senator Fraser Anning (QLD) [Katter's Australian Party] last night filed a Notice of Motion... to the effect that Australia will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of of Israel and move our embassy to the western side of Jerusalem... the motion was defeated in the senate today by 50-4... Dr David Adler, AJA [Australia Jewish Association] President said, 'It is an explicit core policy of AJA that Jerusalem is the eternal undivided capital of Israel and the Jewish nation... AJA has worked closely with Senator Anning's office and support his motion. 'We want to recognise him as a friend of the Jewish people... It is an opportunity to put Australian senators to the test on this important matter of principle... ' [...] Dr David Adler told J-Wire: 'Obviously we are disappointed that the vote... was lost It appears that both major parties instructed their senators to vote no. We know that there are quite a few LNP senators that given a free vote would have voted yes'." (A motion to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital & to move the Australian embassy there, jwire.com.au, 19/6/18)

Senators Anning, Bernardi, Burston and Leyonhjelm are obvious founding father material, and WIWIGP is sure to grow like topsy as Liberal and Labor politicians, who orate endlessly about 'shared values' and 'unbreakable bonds', declare their true allegiance at last.

In fact, WIWIGP could end up as the largest party in Australia's federal parliament!

Finally, some honesty in Australian federal politics.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Foxtrot? Tommyrot!

How depressing are those book/film reviews in the msm which, inadvertently or otherwise, distort and cover up the reality of Israel's war crimes. (Of course, it goes without saying that Israeli books/films are virtually the only ones to make it into the msm.)

The latest specimen is Paul Byrnes' review of Israeli 'war' film Foxtrot for the Sydney Morning Herald. Herewith my gripes and grumblings:

"If a film makes war seem fun, you can pretty much know the director has never been near one. Samuel Maoz is an exception. He served in the Israeli Defence Force in 1982 during the Israeli occupation in Lebanon. It's clear that it was a shattering experience." (Painful portrait of war's deep scars, 21/6/18)

Yes, Paul, "a shattering experience" it was - particularly for the over 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians who got it in the neck (not to mention the more than 30,000 wounded) when Maoz and his mates blitzkriegged into Lebanon at the time. But we don't want to talk about the real victims here, do we, Paul?

"His first feature film, Lebanon, recreated the life of a tank crew on active duty. The whole film was set inside the tank, which was both technically daring and completely terrifying."

C'mon, Paul, seriously now, where else would you set an Israeli film? Except perhaps in a cockpit, or in the space immediately behind the sights of a rifle.

"Foxtrot is a different kind of movie, but just as scarifying. It steps back to dramatise what it's like for the family of an Israeli soldier when they receive news that he has been killed. That's the first act."

But emphatically not what's it's like for the family of a Palestinian blown away by an Israeli soldier.

"The second act takes place in the desert, where a group of young IDF soldiers man a lonely checkpoint."

Just a minute, Paul. You mean there's still some desert left in Israel - after over 100 years of making the desert bloom? Or are we talking about the Sahara or the Gobi here? Is that where Israel's borders are now? But seriously, the whole fucking point of your Israeli checkpoint is that it's set up with only one purpose in mind - to mess with the lives of occupied Palestinians (as in 'how many checkpoints does a Palestinian have to negotiate to get from occupied Bethlehem to occupied Jerusalem?'). Do you get my drift, Paul? Your Israeli checkpoint needs PEOPLE. Ergo, there is NO SUCH THING as "a lonely checkpoint," OK?

"A third act returns to the family, now in post-traumatic disarray."

Hey, Paul, was part of their "post-traumatic disarray" having their home demolished? Oh wait... that only happens to Palestinian families.

"Foxtrot has been hugely controversial in Israel... The right in Israel objected to the film's depiction of Israeli soldiers covering up evidence of a killing."

Noooo! The most moral army in world, lying? You're kidding me. I simply don't believe it.

"One of the soldiers is Jonathan... In one of the film's most surreal moments, Jonathan dances with his rifle as if it's a woman... making his comrades laugh... He's just a kid, horsing around, trying to entertain his pals and relieve some tension; he's also a bulwark, a defender of the nation."

Oh no, Paul. He's neither "bulwark," nor "defender of the nation." He's an OCCUPIER, pure and simple. Strewth, is it really that hard?

Apparently so. Paul Byrnes has given Tommyrot 4 stars.

On Crossing Lines

Where some people draw the famous 'red line' never ceases to amaze me:

"A line was crossed last week when Charles Sturt University students turned up at a 'politically incorrect'-themed party in costumes from three of the most horrendous episodes in history." (Ignorance or arrogance behind offensive outfits, Vic Alhadeff, Sydney Morning Herald, 20/6/18)

Golly, gosh, gee, isn't this the same Vic Alhadeff (chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies) who, as (LOL) NSW Community Relations Commissioner, just couldn't restrain himself from leaping to apartheid Israel's defence while it was busy dispatching Palestinian civilians in Gaza to kingdom come by rocket and shellfire, and, as a consequence, ended up resigning from the CRC position after coming under criticism? (See my posts Baruch O'Farrell's Poisoned Chalice (13/7/14), They Hardly Felt a Thing (14/7/14) & Vic Alhadeff: Multicultural in NSW, Monocultural in Israel (28/7/14) for the gory details.)

Not that Alhadeff considered himself to have crossed a line at the time. In fact, far from blaming himself for his decision to resign, he blamed "the reaction from some" (to his whitewashing of Israeli murder and mayhem) for constituting "a distraction to the work of the CRC."

Nonetheless, the Herald has no compunction whatever in hosting Alhadeff's humbug from time to time. For example, in the same piece we get the following gem of gems:

"[W]hen we lose sight of fundamental principles of decency and the lessons of history, we risk losing our moral centre and slipping into dangerous territory in which prejudice and bigotry are permitted to flourish."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Where's Israel?

I just love the annual Lowy Institute Poll and its 'Feelings Thermometer', don't you?

"Please rate your feelings towards some countries, with 100 meaning a very warm, favourable feeling, zero meaning a very cold, unfavourable feeling... "

"This year for the first time," says the Poll, in its gloss, Feelings towards other countries, "we have included in the same 'thermometer' question the three nations Australians have felt most warmly towards in the past: New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Each is very warmly regarded, and the separation between them is almost insignificant."

I just don't understand! Why isn't Israel included here?

After all, PM Harbourside Mansion (salary now almost $538,500) is on record as saying that we and Israel share the values of "ingenuity, resilience and hard work," and that "we have an unbreakable bond that is only getting stronger."

UNBREAKABLE, mate!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The War in Yemen: No Proxy Conflict with Iran

"Alongside their throttlehold over which reporters can visit what parts of Yemen, and thus what story they can tell, Saudi and Emirati investments in public relations, lobbying, think-tanks, and political consultants are shaping the narrative about their war there. Headline writers, pundits, Wikipedia, news correspondents, and even some so-called experts frame the asymmetric conflict as a 'proxy war.' Sunni nations led by Saudi Arabia are battling Shi'a Iran and its regional proxies, the story goes; the world's worst man-made humanitarian disaster thus appears as un-named collateral damage.

"The word 'proxy,' incongruously accompanied by the label of a 'civil war' between an 'internationally recognized government' and 'Iranian-backed militia,' rationalizes the unwarranted, unprovoked Saudi-UAE intervention in Yemen. Some headlines and stories reflect sloppy journalism and the tendency to mindlessly reiterate hackneyed tag-lines. However, make no mistake: big petrodollar spending around DuPont Circle systematically produces a story-line that exonerates the murder and starvation of Yemenis who are not even 'Shi'a' in the name of countering overblown Iranian influence.

"A proxy war is a clash between contending powers that do not engage directly in combat. Rather, rivals arm, train, and goad third parties in smaller countries to fight one another. The classic Cold War cases were civil or cross-border wars in Central America and southern Africa where communist or socialist forces battled US clients. In the big antagonism between patrons - the Soviet Union and the United States - the battlefield was in the so-called Third World. Some sources (like Wikipedia) characterize the Korean and Vietnam wars as 'proxy' conflicts, because the American objective was to defeat communist 'proxies;' but these conflicts, named for the places US forces engaged, are more commonly, and accurately, recalled as direct American interventions, or instances of American imperialism. Like scores of US interventions during the era of bipolar competition, they reflected a hegemonic urge to insulate friendly allies from popular revolutions, and to perpetuate dependent regimes.

"The US- and UK-supported Saudi and UAE dynasties and their hired analysts insist that their Yemeni adversary is a proxy of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The inference is that Arab Gulf monarchies righteously resist Iranian - or Shi'a - influence in the Peninsula. Therefore, forty months of relentless bombing and blockade are justified as self-defense.

"Poppycock. Sure, the Houthi militia have ex post facto Iranian support - not in their several pre-2011 rebellions against the Salih government, but more recently. When they swept into Sana'a in 2014, with the turncoat support of Salih and his regiments, they instigated regular flights to and from Tehran. This infuriated the Saudi and Emirati governments, who ordered the bombing of Sana'a's runways and the indefinite shutdown of the airport. Improbably and irrationally, given the domestic roots of their grievances, the Houthis adopted Iranian slogans "death to America, death to Israel." PressTV and other Iranian propaganda outlets champion the Houthi cause.

"Civilian transport and propaganda do not, however, proxies make. The evidence of Houthis receiving Iranian arms despite the strangling Saudi-led, US-backed air and naval blockade is thin; the missiles they fire are low-tech and antiquated, mostly leftovers from the Soviet era. Iranians have not been filmed inside of Yemen. If anything, cries of 'Iranian-backed' grossly inflate Tehran's influence, and even that is more self-fulfilling after-the-fact prophesy than casus belli. No reasonable claim can be advanced that the Houthis take their marching orders or even their inspiration from the Islamic Republic. Two rather aside points in this regard: first, until recently the Persian Twelvers did not even consider the Zaydi Fivers as Shi'a; and secondly, the 'cold war' between Tehran and Riyadh is as much about republican vs. royal visions of an Islamic state as it is a denominational confrontation between the two great branches of Islam.

"Moreover, the 'internationally recognized government' has been in comfortable exile in Riyadh since March or April of 2015. 'Internationally recognized' is another way of saying that the so-called government of Abdarrubuh Mansur Hadi - often portrayed as a puppet - has no domestic mandate or following, only Gulf sponsors. These patrons, particularly Saudi Arabia, have a history of meddling in Yemen against popular movements and democratic impulses. Among other instances, the House of Saud backed the Zaydi Imamate against republican officers in North Yemen during the 1962-1970 civil war: then, and perhaps now, the fear of republicanism overrode any antipathy towards Zaydi Shi'ism. The Gulf patriarchies worried about uprisings in North Africa; the mass protests in Yemen in 2011 - led, incidentally, by women - caused genuine panic in the palaces.

"The most dangerous aspect of the 'proxy war against Iranian-backed militia' narrative is that is deflects attention away from indisputable war crimes. The Saudi-led coalition is now making a push on the strategic Red Sea port of al-Hudaydah, which has already been out of commission for three years and remains 'occupied' by Houthi rebels. Al-Hudaydah port and the governorate of al-Hudaydah lie along the Red Sea coastal plain known as the Tihama. The people of the Tihama, residents of fishing, herding, pottery-and-basket-making, and sharecropping communities who have already suffered disproportionately from Saudi-led bombing and the naval blockade, are dark-skinned Yemenis of mixed Arab and African ancestry. Spiritually, they identify with the Shafi'i denomination of Sunni Islam. Socially, they are the poorest of the poor. Politically, they have no sympathy for the Houthis, much less Iran.

"The victims of the coming - or current - onslaught are not 'proxies of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.' They are starving children under attack by filthy-rich monarchies wielding the most advanced weapons Britain and the United States have to sell." (War of aggression: the Saudi & UAE slaughter in Yemen isn't a proxy conflict with Iran, Sheila Carapico, juancole.com, 6/6/18)