The film “Waltz with Bashir” about the first Lebanon War has been harshly criticized for presenting the actions of Israeli soldiers in total isolation, without context, without a reason. I admit that I haven’t seen the film and don’t intend to.
But I have seen a short (90 second) animation about Israeli restrictions on Gaza made by Yoni Goodman, who was animation director for “Waltz with Bashir”. It was created for Gisha, an Israeli NGO “whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents”.
The short film shows a young Palestinian who is prevented from following a bird, representing his freedom or aspirations, by huge hands. They block him in every direction, even sink his rowboat when he tries to follow the bird out to sea. Ultimately the hands place the bird in a cage as well. At one point, he sees rockets fired at Israel — from a location far from him — and almost immediately he is buffeted by nearby explosions as Israel retaliates. That’s the context — no Hamas, no suicide bombings, no thousands of rockets over 8 years.
The position of Gisha is also presented on their website without context:
Since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel’s military has developed a complex system of rules and sanctions to control the movement of the 3.4 million Palestinians who live there. The restrictions violate the fundamental right of Palestinians to freedom of movement. As a result, additional basic rights are violated, including the right to life, the right to access medical care, the right to education, the right to livelihood, the right to family unity and the right to freedom of religion.
Ignoring the absurdities like ‘freedom of religion’ — is participating in jihad an absolute religious right? — it’s clear that the rights of Palestinians to complete freedom of movement conflict with the rights of Israelis (to life, etc.) because of the very real phenomenon of Palestinian terrorism. But the film, and Gisha, don’t mention Israeli rights, and this constitutes a major distortion of the moral question.
It might make sense to say that Israeli restrictions are not necessary, or too harsh. But it doesn’t make sense to ignore the aspect of the rights of Israelis. How can Gisha be so ignorant or stupid not to see this?
The answer is not that they are ignorant or stupid, but that their distorted ideology does not recognize the equivalence of Israeli and Palestinian rights. The ‘post-colonial’ viewpoint that they apparently share with other contemporary left-wing groups, holds that in a colonial situation — which they think describes Israel’s relationship to the Palestinians — there is a fundamental asymmetry between the colonizer and the colonized.
For example, in this view the colonizer is racist, but the colonized people — even if they behave violently and hatefully toward the colonizers — cannot, by definition, be racist. In this view, racism is in part a power relationship, and it only flows one way, from the powerful to the powerless.
Another example is violence: when a colonized people uses violence, even terrorism, against a colonizer, that is ‘resistance’ and can be justified; but the attempts of the colonizer to protect itself are simply violence employed in the service of maintaining the subjugation of the colonized people and is never justified.
So it seems that for Gisha, there are not human rights. There are only the rights of those humans that — in their opinion — are oppressed.
And this is probably what underlies Gisha’s position. There is no need to look at Palestinian violations of Israeli rights because as ‘colonizers’, Israelis have no rights. Q.E.D.
When you watch the film below, ask yourself these questions:
- What purpose is served by portraying the Palestinian as alone?
- Why does the Palestinian have a face but Israel only has hands?
- Why does the rocket firing take place far from the Palestinian?
- Where is Iran in all this?
Gisha is funded in part by the European Union, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and the UK Government Global Opportunities Fund. It lists as “primary funder” a US non-profit named Echoing Green, a charity which funds “social entrepreneurs”.