(By Gal Stav and Noam Bedin)"Testimony", the opening film at the Cinema South Film Festival, tells only one side of the story and is no more than propaganda that is a direct continuation of the campaign to de-legitimize the State of Israel. Furthermore, the very fact that it was chosen as the opening film of the Sderot Festival events, is no more than a political statement on the part of the Festival''s organizers.
The Cinema South Film Festival – An Unnecessary Political Statement
The Cinema South Film Festival, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, opened Sunday (May 29th) in the City of Sderot. The Festival opened with a prescreening of "Testament," Shlomi Elkabetz''s new movie. In essence, the movie is composed as a single monologue, told by 24 different actors. The movie attempts to describe the complex relationship between Palestinians and Israelis. In the director’s own words: "the movie is an attempt to describe the blood-filled relationship and the lack of separation between Palestinians and Israelis, both of whom occupy and ‘make their voices heard’ on the same piece of land. The conflict is, in reality, two voices which are one."
Freedom of Speech versus Sensitivity
The movie’s pretense of presenting two narratives is a problematic one, when in reality only one narrative is conveyed. An accurate representation of two separate narratives would have dealt with both sides of the conflict, focusing on the Palestinian residents versus the Israeli citizens. Instead, the movie depicts the Palestinian residents'' suffering as opposed to the Israeli soldiers'' remorse. In other words, the side that suffers gains strength from the feelings of guilt and remorse held by those directly responsible for its wretched state. Morals and compassion can not apply to one side alone; screening such a movie in a city that has suffered more than any other from the results of the Palestinian – Israeli conflict may sanctify the principles of freedom of speech and artistic expression but lacks even the simplest sensitivity to the suffering of the residents of Sderot and the Western Negev settlements, who have been suffering from the firing of and the threat posed by Kassam missiles for over a decade.
Is there any other Western democratic state in the whole world that would tolerate a reality of one missile fired into its sovereign territory?
Besides its insensitivity, the movie may be perceived in the future as a historical truth- a truth which is completely subjective and which places the blame for the Palestinians’ suffering on the IDF soldiers, without reference to the fact that the Palestinian population’s abject state of affairs is a direct result of their living under the reign of terror led by Hamas and the corrupt rule of the Palestinian Authority. There is no doubt that a Palestinian woman’s description of having to undress in the street is painful, the picture of children terrified by soldiers bursting into their homes in the dead of night is incomprehensible. However, what is even more incomprehensible is the fact that Hamas uses its children and women as human shields. 97% of the Kassam missiles fired from Gaza into Israeli territory are fired from inside the residential areas of Gaza Residents. This situation creates a terrible dilemma for the IDF, but should it not check homes, schools, kindergartens and mosques? Should the State of Israel in the name of the supreme moral code let Hamas arm itself within its residents’ homes? The true question remains- why do these isolated incidents of Israeli misconduct not give precedence to the fact that this very behavior and policy have ultimately lead to the prevention of widespread killing and destruction in the State of Israel?
Gaza is only one kilometer (0.62 miles) from the city of Sderot; Israel is the only country in the western world that fights terror from within its territories and on its borders. The picture could have been very different had the movie presented both narratives equally. However, contrasting the monologue of the “Oppressed” with the pangs of conscience of the “Oppressor” is simply a mockery - especially since Sderot is not a territory which was occupied in 1967, and is not part of the political map in the current political discussions. The Arabic version of the Izz ad-Din al Qassam web site is far more outspoken and frank about their goals than the English version. In their communiques, they refer to Israeli towns such as Sderot as "settlements" and to Israeli casualties in those towns as "settlers."
The question is not whether or not the movie should be screened at all, but the sensitive location of its screening. A movie that portrays only one side is no more than propaganda that continues to be part of the campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel. It is doubtful that had the movie been screened at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque it would have created turmoil of such magnitude. However, placing it as the opening movie of the Film Festival in Sderot is no more than a political statement of its organizers.