FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The First Waltz

Watching Ari Folman’s Waltz With Bashir inevitably reminded me of Eran Riklis’ Cup Final, also an Israeli film about its 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

When Cup Final came out in 1992, it made me think that a common future for Israelis and Palestinians was possible. I had expected the same of Waltz. Both films deal with the story of young soldiers during Israel’s horror-filled 1982 war. Both won critical acclaim, though Cup Final won just one award compared to the 10 Waltz scooped up before it hit the Oscars (but lost to another foreign film, Departures).

But there the resemblance ends. By contrast to Waltz, Cup Final gives voice not just to Israeli soldiers but also to the Palestinian guerrillas then based in Southern Lebanon.

It starts with an soldier bemoaning his fate: He has to fight instead of going to watch the World Cup matches in Spain for which he’s got tickets. Serves him right for voting for the rightwing Likud, his friend retorts.

The two soldiers are captured by Palestinian guerrillas, led by the handsome Palestinian actor Muhamad Bacri, and taken from South Lebanon to Beirut so they can be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners. On the way, an unlikely friendship develops, rooted in a shared passion for football — and in the Israelis’ growing understanding of what the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is really about.

For me, the funniest — and saddest — moment of the film comes when the Israeli soldier speaks passionately of his love for Jerusalem. One of his Palestinian captors is from Jerusalem and he says how much he longs to see his hometown again. Why, the Israeli wonders, doesn’t he just go back to visit?

Palestinian and Israeli stare at each other for a long, long moment. I could sense the Palestinian character’s thoughts as clearly as if they were my own. Should he start by explaining about the expulsion and flight of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948, which is how his family ended up as refugees in Lebanon in the first place? Should he take a dip in history, back to the founding of Zionism in 1897, or the British promise to hand Palestine over to Zionist Jews in 1917 and the waves of Jewish immigration that followed?

Finally the Palestinian simply says, “It’s a long story.”

It is indeed a long story, but a simple one. That simplicity is captured in all its complexity by Cup Final director Riklis. The ending is tragically inevitable.

Waltz too leaves the viewer shaken. But its absence of context is problematic because it produces not just an incomplete story but also a distorted history. The distortion is deliberately fed by the film’s publicity materials and by the many Israeli and international Zionist organizations that have embraced it, some going so far as to issue a viewer’s guide to the film.

This one sentence from the film’s website — echoed in the viewer’s guide — illustrates the missing context: “In June 1982, the Israeli army invaded South Lebanon after Israel’s northern towns had been bombarded for years from the Lebanese territory.”

No mention is made of the fact that an informal ceasefire between Israel and the PLO had kept the border quiet for nine whole months. Then Defence Minister Ariel Sharon used the excuse of an attack on the Israeli ambassador to London by a renegade Palestinian group — one that was also anti-PLO — to launch his Lebanon invasion.

Does any of this sound familiar? In December 2008, Sharon’s political heirs launched a hellish assault on Gaza ostensibly to stop the rockets against Israel’s southern towns. Yet an informal ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that began in June 2008 had brought quiet to those towns — until an Israeli incursion on November 4 killed six Hamas fighters and led to a resumption of rockets, providing the excuse for the assault.

Waltz does not question the reasons for the Lebanon war, or even Israel’s role beyond its “indirect responsibility,” as an Israeli inquiry put it, for the massacre at Sabra and Shatila at the end of the war. But some 18,000 Lebanese and Palestinians were killed during the 3-month war for which Israel was directly responsible.

The Lebanon war was illegal, just like the war on Gaza. It was also unnecessary because enemies that shoot at each other can reach peace agreements; friends don’t need to. Sadly, Folman’s film contributes to the widely-held (and widely wrong) view that Israel is a moral country on which war is imposed.

Peace is – must be – possible. Films like Cup Final help because, unlike Waltz, they contribute to an understanding that will lead to justice. Thinking back to the earlier film, I hope one day to meet Riklis, Bacri and the cast. Perhaps even next year in Jerusalem.

NADIA HIJAB is a senior fellow at the Insitute for Palestine Studies.

 

 

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail