Another Tack: Silent partners

The 'documentary' that isn't, and the people who helped perpetrate the deception.

Two years ago Israeli cinematheques offered their enlightened, avant-garde post-Zionist audiences a widely acclaimed "documentary" - Ford Transit - by Nazareth-born, Dutch-resident film director Hany Abu-Assad. Its defamatory portrayal of Israeli soldiers' villainy at military roadblocks is probably what earned it the Freedom Spirit Award at the 2003 Jerusalem Film Festival and unstinting tributes from the American Sundance, Canadian Hotdocs and Dutch IDFA festivals. Neither prizes nor praise were withdrawn when it emerged that the ostensibly genuine driver, around whose sorrowful story of mistreatment at Israeli hands the central theme revolves, was in fact an actor hired to play a scripted role. The scene in which he is brutally beaten by a sadistic soldier was performed per the director's meticulous instructions. This was nevertheless marketed as a documentary under the incontrovertibly astute assumption that viewers aren't likely to investigate - no more than Goebbels's Nazi-era moviegoers were prone to probe his infamous rodent-Jew analogy. Abu-Assad - a devoted disciple of the Third Reich's brainwashing master, despite claiming liberal leanings antithetical to Goebbels's celluloid contamination - has become the Left's poster-child both here and overseas, embraced and adulated by a broad assortment of human-rights outfits, generally of the sort that cannot abide anything not inimical to Israel. What Abu-Assad depicts as the monstrous barbarity of Israeli occupation parades as his recurrent motif and Europeans lap it up, pamper him with box-office triumphs, accolades aplenty and a plethora of awards. The fact that truth isn't coolest in relativist milieus works wonders in Abu-Assad's favor. Hence his latest feature - Paradise Now - could hardly bomb, even though its protagonists are two suicide-bombers during their last day among the living. The locally filmed French, German, Dutch and - shamefully also - Israeli production humanizes the mass-murderers, focuses viewer interest on their psyches, motivations, inner struggles and tactical quandaries. There's no second thought or secondary sympathy for the innocents they're about to blow to smithereens. Abu-Assad may deny he made heroes of humanoid guided missiles, but glorify them he has in an insidious almost politically correct, satanically sophisticated and cinematographically palatable manner. Attention is shifted to details, painstaking preparations and pragmatic calculations. The fiendish big picture is fragmented into composite diminutive jigsaw-puzzle pieces, which individually betoken no horror. ABU-ASSAD'S suicide-bombers are essentially an attractive pair with whom it's not difficult for faithful followers of fashion and the intellectually indolent to identify. Emotionally vulnerable Sa'id is shown hopeless in "besieged Nablus," until he feels that "death is better than inferiority." His love-interest and co-conspirator, Suha - the foreign-born daughter of an assassinated "Palestinian hero" - equivocates but cannot dissuade Sa'id from the "courage of his convictions." Quite predictably, she sets her uncertainties aside and joins him with explosives strapped around her midriff. The tragedy isn't the carnage they cause but the accidental separation of the dedicated duo. They lose sight of each other and are - alas - forced to face their altruistic fate alone and detonate solo. This tearjerker won the European Oscar for best screenplay on the day of last week's Netanya mall blast. Previously it received both the Audience Prize and the Best Film Award at the Berlin Film Festival. So far no surprise. We know that Israeli self-defense is out of favor abroad. What's insufferable, however, is that the Israel Film Fund - propped up by your tax deductions and mine - currently helps finance Paradise Now's distribution. We ordinary Israelis - after whose blood Abu-Assad's introspective malcontents lust - pick up the tab for a touchy-feely characterization of those who sacrifice themselves for the sanctified cause of butchering Jews. We mustn't despise our would-be annihilators, but regard them as sensitive souls whom we drove to despair. We must pay - via our Education Ministry's contributions to the Israel Film Fund - for the aggrandizement of genocidal mythology, vindication of unbridled animus towards ourselves, and underscoring of the provocative impertinence that our existence here constitutes. Unwittingly we thereby become involuntary silent partners in the industry of death. The Tel Aviv Cinematheque routinely screens such fare under the pretext of artistic freedom, and its ever-trendy patrons flock to iconoclastically thumb their noses at Israel's collective existential anxiety. Ironically, however, there's a security guard examining bags at the Cinematheque's entrance, lest a generic Sa'id and Suha drop by. This same Cinematheque invited Abu-Assad to a September 2003 symposium where he stirringly defended Ford Transit, his fiction-masquerading-as-fact. He wasn't alone among hostile Israelis. Quite the contrary - his bogus documentary was avidly boosted by local directors Yair Lev, Avi Mugrabi and Yigal Burstein. The latter even suggested that the cogent issue isn't veracity but "only whether the film works and sways the audience." Goebbels would have wholeheartedly concurred and doubtlessly mocked obsequious Israelis who in the name of higher values bamboozle Jewish taxpayers to foot the bill for the dissemination of malevolence, the amplification of hate, the face-lifting of atrocity, the soft-selling of diabolical homicide and the justification of terrorism against their own selves. All the above are facilitated by a spurious conceit that arrogantly makes light of the likelihood that the inflammatory purpose of Abu-Assad's odious productions is to prepare the ground for bloodshed, to convince international opinion and potential perpetrators that Jews deserve that which they bring upon themselves. Already back in 1940 Hitler's unabashedly demagogic and cynically manipulative Reichsminister for Public Enlightenment stressed that "the essence of propaganda consists of winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape it."