Sunday, November 14, 2010

Seattle AJC: Addressing Israel's Future: Akiva Tor, Yehudit Barsky on BDS & "Lebanon"

Last Thursday evening, on the 15th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, the American Jewish Community and the Consulate General of Israel co-sponsored “Addressing Israel’s Future,” a program discussing new challenges and threats to Israel and the world Jewish community. The night also featured a private screening of Lebanon, winner of the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival.

The program was promoted as a “BUYcott Israel” event, and the sold out audience was encouraged to join the anti-boycott movement and strike back at the forces behind BDS, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that has been gaining traction worldwide. The Pacific Northwest has become a lightning rod for the BDS movement, where the first successful boycott of a food co-op in America took hold in July at the Olympia Co-op.

Akiva Tor, the Consul General for the Pacific Northwest spoke about the importance of countering BDS, a movement whose agenda promotes the vilification and delegitimation of Israel, under the guise of promoting justice and freedom for the Palestinians. Tor described the groups supporting BDS as fringe organizations on the far left. Though lacking any real political power, he cautioned that the danger they pose is significant because of the power of symbols. And by deeming Israel as illegitimate, by extension, a shadow is cast on those who support it.

He applauded the efforts of the AJC, both locally and globally, educating the public to the insidious nature of these attacks against the Jewish State. Tor talked about the imperative to be proactive, citing the work the AJC and groups like StandWithUs have done, challenging the Administration at Evergreen College to secure a safe and normative educational environment for its beleaguered Jewish students, and the achievement of thwarting the proposed boycott at the Port Townsend Food Co-op.

Yehudit Barsky, director of AJC’s Division on Middle East and International Terrorism was also on hand, speaking about recent threats to the Jewish community, when two parcels containing bombs were recently intercepted in Dubai and Britain, with addresses earmarked for synagogues in Chicago. She noted that the media gave short shrift to fact that both targets were against Jews, with news reports downplaying the anti-Semitic intent of those behind the attempted terror attacks. Barsky, who is fluent in Arabic, described the work her division does around the clock, monitoring publications and websites of extremist groups like the ones behind the failed parcel bombs. While in Seattle, she met with the FBI and local police intelligence to discuss the growing risks posed by such terrorist organizations, particularly against Jewish targets.

Before the screening of Lebanon, Akiva Tor invoked the memory of the late Yitzchak Rabin, paraphrasing remarks Israel’s current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu made at the memorial service held at Herzl cemetery in Israel. Bibi described how Rabin united the Israeli populace, evolving from a security hawk to a peace-seeking, and more importantly peace-believing dove. Despite media portrayals to the contrary, Netanyahu emphasized that Israel is less polarized today than it was when Rabin was its leader. Living through the collective trauma of the collapse of Oslo and the Second Intifada, the Right understands the Left better today, with the reverse being equally true. He ended by noting that the country is in fact more like Rabin today.

Tor then gave the sold out audience a brief historical backdrop to Israel’s war with Lebanon from 1982-1985. He explained the rationale for Israel’s initial incursion into Lebanon (the effort to eradicate the stepped up terrorism emanating from the PLO against northern Israel) and the problematic nature of the conflict, with Israel quickly finding itself in the quagmire of the Lebanese civil war. Tor spoke of how that war came to define his generation, and how that generation went on to come of age and produce powerful artistic testaments to that period, most notably through literature and film. Movies like Yossi and Jaeger, Beaufort, and Waltz with Bashir have all received international critical acclaim, with Beaufort and Waltz both nominated for Best Foreign Film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Lebanon, Samuel Maoz’s first feature film, is a virtuoso addition to that already impressive body of work. A stunning artistic achievement, the film is shot entirely from the perspective of the inside of a tank (with the exception of the first and last shots). Psychologically riveting, cinematically daring and excruciatingly honest, Lebanon offers an unfiltered look at the chaos, confusion and terror experienced by four young Israeli soldiers thrust into battle on the first day of the war. Only through their periscope are we given a window to the fog of war outside the dank and darkened interior of the tank. And that window is filled with the horrific carnage that all wars leave in their wake. In fact, it is the universality of the soldiers’ experience that lends the film its distinctive humanity, despite the graphic, brutal violence it portrays. In the second to last scene, one of the Israeli soldiers performs an act of inordinate compassion to their Syrian prisoner. In those moments, when the two meet eye to eye, the essential humanity of the other trumps all else.

Israel can be proud that it fosters a culture which is willing to be that self-reflective, unafraid to look at itself, warts and all, and in the process produce such transcendent works of art.

David Brumer
Co-Chair, AJC Seattle Jewish Film Festival
Seattle AJC Executive Committee Member


George Jochnowitz said...

Israeli novelists, filmmakers, and essayists always created nuanced, objective works. Israel's opponents, on the other hand, are totally unaware of this. Among those who choose to boycott Israel are feminist and gay-rights groups, who are unaware of the honor murders of women and homosexuals in the world of Islam. They are equally unaware of the fact that Golda Meir was the first woman head of government who was neither the wife nor the daughter of a previous head of government. They are unaware of the fact that Israel has always drafted iopenly homosexual men and women into its armed forces.
There is no such thing as a nuanced anti-Zionist. Leftists hate Israel with blind, simple-minded faith.

LJansen said...

Yes, it's true. Leftists do hate the stuff Israel does. What in hell is wrong with them.

What's 9 dead human rights activists, anyway? They were asking for it, weren't they?

And the women and children killed by those F16s in Gaza? Heck, they were warned. Is it Israel's fault if there was nowhere for them to run to?

George Jochnowitz said...

In 2005, Israel gave Gaza a gift with no strings attached: independence. The Gazans did not understand this. They elected Hamas and later began aiming rockets--designed to kill civilians, at Israel. The world excuses these rockets since they were not particularly effective, killing only a few people. Effective or not, they served no political or strategic purpose whatever. They were launched because killing Israelis was considered beautiful by Hamas.
Read the Hamas Charter. It excludes the possibility of peace--ever.
When Israel invaded Gaza in order to stop the rockets, Hamas deliberately surrounded its soldiers by civilians, who were meant to be either shields or martyrs. If they worked as shields, they would lead to a military victory. If the civilians were martyred, they would instantly get to heaven. Furthermore, the world would have another reason to hate Israel.
Ever since 1947, Arabs have been fighting against Palestinian independence with their lives and the lives of their children. They did so by rejecting the UN vote that would have created a Palestinian Arab state. They did so with the Three No's of Khartoum in 1967. They did so at Taba in 2001. And the did so by rejecting independence for Gaza in 2005 and ever since.
The left loves them for their selflessness. The left loves them for rejecting independence in favor of virtue--with virtue defined as dying in a jihad while killing Jews.
The volunteers who joined the flotilla, which was designed to open up Gaza to importing arms, were soldiers in a war. They attacked instead of letting Israel divert the boat to Ashdod, where food could be unloaded and shipped to Gaza. They too chose virtue over Palestinian independence.
The left licks Islamic ass.