Why “West Bank Story” is dangerous

By Vic Rosenthal

Yesterday NPR interviewed Ari Sandel, director and co-writer of the film “West Bank Story”, the Oscar-winning film about Jewish and Palestinian falafel stands:

A musical comedy set in the fast-paced, fast-food world of competing falafel stands in the West Bank… David, an Israeli soldier, falls in love with the beautiful Palestinian cashier, Fatima, despite the animosity between their families’ dueling restaurants. — westbankstory.com

OK, I will go see this when I get the liquid Helium concession in Hell, but that’s not the point. In the interview, Sandel said “[I wanted to show that] both sides are more similar than they care to admit”.

Sandel was criticized by Arabs and others because “the film didn’t show the suffering of the Palestinian people” or Israeli brutality. In other words, it was not the propaganda film they expected. Debbie Schlussel devoted a column to the horror of what happened when a suicide bomber walked into a real falafel shop. It’s true but a cheap shot.

But here’s what’s really wrong with the film: the message is that the conflict is basically a misunderstanding. That both sides actually want the same thing, peace and prosperity, and that coexistence is possible if only the details can be worked out and the extremists on both sides suppressed.

The truth is that both sides do not want the same thing. The Israeli side, by and large, does want peace and coexistence. The Palestinian side wants to reverse the historic ‘injustice’ of 1948 and take possession of what they believe is their property, from the river to the sea. And this has very important implications for what we ought to demand of Israel and of the Palestinians.

Sandel seems to be a decent guy who really would like the conflict to be soluble. Unfortunately, at least today, it isn’t.

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