February 28: Film favor

Now that "Academy Award fever" is behind us, we might want to reflect.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Film favor Sir, - Now that "Academy Award fever" is behind us, we might want to reflect that in order to get international recognition, Israeli films need more than a strong plot, dynamic character development and technical excellence. They must also depict Israelis as cruel, ignorant or stubborn, and our society as racist, rotten or violent. If this is the case with Beaufort, it was also true of our previous Academy Award nomination, Beyond the Walls, where Jewish prisoners had no positive qualities and Arab prisoners had no negative ones. A few years ago, I attended the New York premiere of Beaufort director Joseph Cedar's first film, Time of Favor. Cedar spoke about the film after the screening and took questions. I asked him how he felt about making a movie featuring a Jewish suicide bomber. Wasn't there something profoundly dishonest about drawing attention to a purely imaginary phenomenon, when the only real suicide bombers were Palestinians, who were then murdering Israelis every week? Cedar replied that as a filmmaker he had artistic freedom, and that a Jewish suicide bomber was technically a "possibility." True enough, but I've ever since believed that this was crass sensationalism winning out over authentic artistic expression ("Beaufort bested in Oscar bid," February 25). DOUG GREENER Jerusalem Mediocre entry Sir, - I was surprised that you devoted only a small box to the result of the pre-Eurovision song contest, which featured five songs performed by Kochav Nolad winner Baruch Mauda. As a songwriter who together with some 450 others sent in a good entry for the contest, with considerable investment of time and money, I have the distinct impression that, like many other contests in Israel, this one was rigged in favor of the winning entry and its composer, Dana International. It is hard to believe that this mediocre effort won the enthusiastic approval of the judges and the public, and will represent us in the Eurovision final in Belgrade ("Israel chooses Eurovision entry," February 27). DAVID HERMAN Jerusalem Too high a price Sir, - Gershon Baskin asserts that most Israelis are willing to pay a "very high price" to obtain the release of Israelis kidnapped by terrorist groups, then tries to argue that if Israel is willing to do that to save one Israeli life, why not negotiate a cease-fire "that will include a prisoner exchange" in order to save many lives? ("To save lives - negotiate with the devil," February 25). But Baskin, tactfully, doesn't tell his readers how high the price will be. He doesn't mention that releasing jailed terrorists results not only in more kidnapping, but also in more murdered Israelis. Yet the evidence is stark: The 2006 report issued by the Almagor Terror Victims Association (ATVA) shows that between 1993-1999, Israel released 6,912 terrorists in the context of "confidence-building measures" and prisoner deals. Of that number, 854 (14%) were subsequently arrested for lethal terrorist acts that claimed the lives of 123 Israelis. In April last year, ATVA's director, Meir Indor, disclosed that 177 Israelis killed in terror attacks in the last five years were killed by Palestinians previously released from Israeli jails. MORTON A. KLEIN National President Zionist Organization of America New York The good news Sir, - A photo of Shimon Peres headlined "Reviewing the troops" (February 27) showed the president looking through binoculars. The caption noted that Peres had met "with OC Central Command Maj-Gen Gadi Shamni, who told him that terror attacks have been reduced to virtually nil. The president said the people of Israel owe the army a debt of gratitude for ensuring their security." The people of Sderot should be happy to read this good news ("Numerous operations await 10-year-old Kassam victim," February 27). AHARON GOLDBERG Hatzor Haglilit Jewish rebirth in Poland Sir, - For hundred of years Poland was a haven for persecuted Jews fleeing from surrounding countries: At one time it was home to the largest Jewish community in the world, growing into over three million, or one-tenth of the country's population. It was heartwarming, therefore, to see "Polish rabbis' association convenes for first time since the Holocaust" (February 26) and the photo of a stately "minyan" of rabbis. Their existence will no doubt encourage many hidden Polish citizens with Jewish roots to surface and possibly return "to the fold." In Frankfurt, Germany, about a year ago, a Jew was knifed on the street by a group speaking Arabic. A little earlier, in Zurich, Switzerland, a Jew was killed on his way home from synagogue. The list goes on, and one may wonder: Who really cared, there? But when in May 2006 Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Szudrich was accosted by a disturbed person in Warsaw, Poland's president and the head of the Polish Catholic church phoned the rabbi the same night and apologized for the incident. A debate on it was broadcast on state-owned TV. I believe this shows that the ancient spirit of Polish friendship toward our Jewish people has come to life again. HILLEL GOLDBERG Jerusalem No to POW status Sir, - Elhanan Miller urges Israel to grant prisoner of war status to Hizbullah captives in Israel's prisons on the twin grounds (a) that they are soldiers rather than criminals, and (b) that formally recognizing this undeniable fact will surely induce Hizbullah to treat Israeli captives as soldiers rather than criminals ("Declare Hizbullah prisoners POWs," February 27). Such a proposal betrays a serious misunderstanding of the existential nature of the conflict between Israel and the self-proclaimed "Party of God." First, Hizbullah are indeed criminals - war criminals; and, unfortunately, they have indeed morphed into an army - a terrorist army. In the Second Lebanon War they intentionally bombarded Israel's civilian population centers; more than a decade earlier they massacred scores of Argentinean Jews. Second, Israel's benign treatment of Hizbullah's prisoners to date has not induced the slightest reciprocity on the part of its leadership - not even bare "proof of life" of its Israeli captives. This is because Hizbullah does not crave Israel's respect; but it does want to use the coveted POW label for propaganda purposes. Let's not give it that victory. MARK ROSENBLIT, Attorney West Hartford, Connecticut For the record Sir, - I was surprised to see "Declare Hizbullah prisoners POWs" by Elhanan Miller, a Legacy Heritage Fellow who is an intern in my office. I wish to clarify that the article was written without my knowledge and in no way reflects my views. COLETTE AVITAL, MK Jerusalem Birds at the Wall Sir, - "The birds that prey for 100 days on the Western Wall" (February 27) brought back a memory of my only "out-of-body" experience. In the early '70s we decided to spend the night of Shavuot at the Western Wall. It was a beautiful night, with the murmur of prayers surrounding us. As dawn broke and the dark, velvety sky lightened, a swarm of birds flew down, circled the crowds below and flew away. At that moment I truly felt that my life was a "drop in the ocean" of the thousands of years that Jews have prayed at that site. Later I understood that the birds are a regular occurrence. I was delighted to learn more about it in the Post. RUTH GREENWALD Givatayim