‘Miral’: A Palestinian story

Yalla Peace: Instead of attacking the movie, I wish Israelis and Jews would watch it. I wish they would step back from their anger and try to understand our side.

March 22, 2011 23:51
3 minute read.
THE FRENCH film poster for 2010’s ‘Miral,’

Miral movie 311. (photo credit: Movietainment.net/WikiCommons)


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Just recently, a movie called Miral was released. It was produced and directed by Julian Schnabel, who is Jewish. His previous films include The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Before Night Falls and Basquiat.

Miral is based on a real story, a firstperson diary of two women, including one young girl, Miral, who is raised in an orphanage in east Jerusalem. I know, Israelis get all meshuganeh when they hear a Palestinian say “east Jerusalem.” But try to focus on the bigger issue here, okay? Miral’s mother is killed when the girl is five. Her teacher at the orphanage is the famous Hind Husseini (played by Hiam Abbass, The Visitor). In 1948, after the first war, Husseini gathered up 55 Palestinian orphans whose parents were killed and she turned her father’s home into the Dar al-Tifel Institute – an orphanage and school for Palestinian children.

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I have been to Dar al-Tifel many times. The stories from there are tragic, heartbreaking human stories. I have been to the Holocaust Museum, too, by the way. I am not saying that when it comes to mass murder, the Palestinian story is even close to the Holocaust, but you have to agree the experience of Jews and Palestinians sometimes overlap, especially on the issue of dispossession and loss of property and rights.

When the film was to be screened at the UN General Assembly, Israeli and American Jews went berserk. How could they dare show that film? It’s anti-Semitic. It’s anti-Israel. It’s onesided.

It’s political. It’s unfair.

Anything they don’t like is apparently anti-Israel.

It is a perspective that we need to hear. The film tells the Palestinian story of the Nakba [catastrophe].

Oops. There’s another word, one of many Israelis say Palestinians have no right to utter. But the Nakba is the Palestinian side of Jewish independence. It’s our story.

Extremists in Israel are pushing for a law that would make any commemoration of the Nakba a criminal act. When there are so many real crimes in the world, do people actually have to make laws about what people think is tragic? Instead of attacking the movie Miral, I wish Israelis and Jews would watch it.

I wish they would step back from their anger and hostility and understand the Palestinian side of the story.

I say the same thing to Palestinians. We have our share of fanatics – many of them hate me as much as they hate Israelis and Jews because my wife and son are Jewish.

Alison (my wife) and I talk about these and other issues all the time. That’s one reason why we coexist as a family, living together and sharing experiences. Palestinian and Jew. Just as we want our son to know and understand the Holocaust, he’s also going to know and understand the Nakba. That’s what true peace is all about.

Instead of rejecting the film, Israelis should ask that it be shown in the Knesset. Yes, the Knesset. Because then maybe – someday – they might show Shindler’s List or The Diary of Anne Frank (or any of the dozens of films about the Holocaust) in the Palestinian parliament and schools.

When we can tolerate each other’s stories without denying them or pointing fingers of blame, we just might be able to achieve peace and create a world where all our children, Palestinian and Israeli, will have a future without hate or violence.

MANY HISTORICAL figures from Palestinian and Jewish history are quoted about why we need to hear each other. But I am going to quote the famed Hollywood producer and the distributor of Miral, Harvey Weinstein, who said he thinks people are overreacting.

“The people who don’t want you to see the movie for political reasons are crazy or wrong,” Weinstein said. “I think the idea is, let there be peace... If they see the movie, they’ll see something that’s a pathway to peace and a beautiful coming-of-age story.”

Instead of throwing shoes at each other, let’s walk in each other’s shoes for a change.

The writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com

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