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(photo credit: Courtesy)
A short film decrying the IDF blockade of Gaza released on the Internet Wednesday by Yoni Goodman, the animation director of Waltz With Bashir, was immediately blasted by media expert Yariv Ben-Eliezer as "an ugly, disgusting piece of work."
Goodman's 90-second movie combines animation with a background of real footage to depict the hardships of Gazans, with large hands relentlessly blocking the path of a boy as he pursues a flying blue bird, symbolizing freedom.
"I'm very much against the Israeli blockade policy, and the last war was just a mistake," Goodman told The Jerusalem Post. "Anti-Semitism is up, Israel is seen as the aggressor around the world, and at the end of the day we didn't achieve anything."
Ben-Eliezer, director of media studies at IDC Herzliya, lashed out at Goodman after being informed of the clip by the Post.
"This is an ugly, disgusting piece of work... and it will be surely be used as a tool against Israel," Ben-Eliezer said. "You have to be equally sensitive to the kids in the South of Israel being bombed every day by Hamas. He should get an award from [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad for this work."
In the film, Kassam rockets fly over the boy's head, exploding in a city on the horizon. Then there are retaliatory bombardments. The films shows the boy frantically trying to flee, but the hands along Gaza's borders fence him in. He is knocked over and has nowhere to run.
The boy tries to row out to sea, but a hand turns him back. He then approaches the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, but is stopped by two hands wearing flag cuffs, one Egyptian, the other Israeli.
In the final scene, the bird is caged by the hands.
The Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, an Israeli nonprofit organization, commissioned the film, called Closed Zone, and worked with Goodman on it for five months. They reworked its emphasis after Operation Cast Lead concluded in January.
Goodman stressed his unwavering support for Israel, despite his disagreement with its military policy.
"I hate Hamas. They're out to kill us. Of course they are my enemies," he said. "I feel sorry for the Palestinian citizens who want to live their lives."
But, he went on, there should be a solution that doesn't involve violence or the sacrifice of innocent people.
"People don't like to hear that Palestinians are real people. People prefer to think of them as evil, that they're all Hamas," Goodman said. "It's easier to say, 'let's punish them, let's kill them all.' It's a lot harder to regard them as ordinary people who want peace."
In a statement Gisha released regarding the film, it said Closed Zone was intended to arouse empathy for Gaza's residents, "human beings prevented from pursuing their aspirations because of restrictions on their movement."
Sealing off Gaza was a clear violation of Gaza residents' freedom of movement - a basic precondition for their ability to exercise other basic rights - "illegal in terms of international law," contended Sari Bashi, director of Gisha.
According to Bashi, the character's commonness is highlighted by the animation, "to help viewers understand who the real victims of the closure policy are - 1.5 million people who just want to live their lives.
"Though it is animated, the closure is all too real. Animation is not an obvious choice, but is a way to talk about a serious issue like Gaza, and is a way of circumventing stereotypes," said Bashi.
As a key part of Gisha's ongoing campaign for Palestinian freedom of movement, Closed Zone is to be used as both an educational tool and a conversation-starter.
Its larger purpose, according to Bashi, is setting the baseline for an in-depth report due to be published later this month delineating the accountability of all parties enclosing Gaza, including Israel, Egypt, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and the greater international community.
Gisha, which means "access" in Hebrew, seeks to secure the Palestinians' right to life, access to medical care, education, livelihood, family unity and freedom of religion, which it carries out through legal assistance and public advocacy.
Gisha is working toward opening Gaza's borders, allowing for the flow of essential supplies into the Strip, and formal respect for the right of freedom of movement, none of which can take place without "the absolute precondition of recognition that Gaza residents are human beings," said Bashi.
Waltz with Bashir followed a soldier struggling to recall suppressed memories of his involvement in the 1982 Lebanon War. The film won Golden Globe and Cesar awards and was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film.
Closed Zone was released on the Internet at closedzone.com and on YouTube.
AP contributed to this report.