Can You Hear Me?’ Part 2

Can You Hear Me?’ Part 2

One powerful image that Lilly Rivlin provides early in her film is of dead Israeli civilians, victims of a bus bombing, lying stiffly against their seats. This is the sort of picture Israelis and Arabs see often on their news broadcasts, but Americans are never shown. Most of the film depicts Israeli and Palestinian women struggling against the occupation — the wall/barrier (with memorable views of the five percent that is wall, instead of the 95 percent that is fence, but I’m not complaining), Machsom Watch women at a checkpoint, etc. But that stark initial footage of the victims of terror should convince anyone that Lilly is depicting the struggle against violence as well as the occupation.

In a question to the panel at the screening that I attended at the New School in New York last week, I tried – lamely perhaps – to get across my sense that the Israeli peace movement is making a tactical error in not equally emphasizing their opposition to terror, as well as the occupation. Panelist Rafi Dajani (executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine – an Arab-American group that forthrightly supports the two-state solution) presented a host of survey data that indicates clear majorities of Arab Americans, Jewish Americans, Israeli Jews and Palestinians as all supporting two states and peaceful coexistence, but also mistakenly viewing the “Other” as not holding similar views.

It seems to me that there is a similar misperception that the Israeli peace camp suffers from. Most Israelis share concepts and beliefs with the peace camp yet simultaneously hate it. Why? Because they don’t see the peace camp as being on “their” side. This is why I see a need for peace activists to more clearly articulate opposition to extremists on both sides and to be impatient with the weakness and shortcomings of both the Israeli and Palestinian Authority governments. I realize that Israel has more power in its hands than the Palestinians – clearly – but this does not negate the fact that unless reasonable Palestinians act against terror, progress toward peace will fail but again. It is devastating to the prospects for peace that Hamas, even as a party of government, has remained so violent and rejectionist.

By | 2007-06-20T14:18:00-04:00 June 20th, 2007|Blog|4 Comments


  1. Anonymous June 20, 2007 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    This second blog on the film “Can You Hear ME” is confusing. The author is the editor of this website yet attacks the Israeli peace camp TWICE. Is the author speaking as an individual or as the editor of the Meretz USA website–in which case, what exactly are the values of Meretz USA? Has it cut its ties with the “Israeli Peace Camp”?
    This author appears more than any other so it reads like Meretz USA policy. How is a read to know? Can this be clarified?
    Also, the reference to the Wall being only 5% of the total “barrier,” is a figure I would personally like to see substantiated by a source rather than take this author’s view as expertise, given his attacks on the “Israeli peace camp.”
    His attack on the film “Can You Hear Me” a full year after it opened the Jerusalem Film festival to great acclaim– and many other film festivals since– is also a puzzle, especially as it was made by the then-President of Meretz USA. Are we watching an inhouse fight on line posing as opinions? Carolyn Toll Oppenheim

  2. Ralph Seliger June 21, 2007 at 12:55 am - Reply

    Am I “attacking” the Israeli peace camp or making a reasonable criticism that one may or may not agree with? I suggest the latter.

    Of course Meretz USA has NOT cut its ties to the “Israeli peace camp,” but this is not entirely one camp (including, as it does, very loud minority currents that are non-Zionist [like Gush Shalom] and even anti-Zionist). I am in fact echoing a concern articulated by Meretz MK Avshalom (Abu) Vilan about two years ago that most Israelis don’t see the peace camp as being on “their” side, even though they share most of the same goals in favor of a withdrawal from most of the territories and the implementation of a two-state solution. In other words, I was raising a problem that needs to be addressed.

    I’ve been taking a lead role in this blog (acting as defacto editor) because until now we have not had enough collective participation to keep it going without my taking the initiative. But as I’ve indicated a few weeks ago, I’m stepping back in no longer posting on a daily basis. I’m also attempting to enroll more participants from our ranks and those of our Israeli khaverim so that there will be no question that this is a group effort. Can I count on volunteers from our board and among friends of Meretz USA?

    My understanding is that about 4% of the barrier is a wall as opposed to a fence, but perhaps the proportion has changed since I last saw this figure. I’m not sure of what source would be convincing. I believe that I gleaned this from journalistic sources; I might also have gotten it when we viewed the barrier from an observation point near Givat Haviva during a Meretz USA Symposium in 2004 or 05. I could ask khaverim in the Israeli peace camp and I could contact the Israeli consulate. Even if only 4% is a wall, the “fence” part is actually three fences — separated by a strip of dirt swept smooth (to reveal footprints) on both sides of the middle fence; thus the fence is more intrusive on Palestinian land than the far uglier wall.

  3. Ralph Seliger June 21, 2007 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    It’s not easy to find a breakdown of fence vs. wall in the security barrier, but I’ve just found this, by Yossi Alpher, from the March 12, 2007 edition of the dialogue Web site
    Bearing in mind that only eight percent of the currently existing barrier (and but four percent when the entire barrier is completed in a year or so) are constructed in the form of a movable concrete wall and the remaining 92 percent is metal fencing, it is quite an achievement for Palestinian public diplomacy to have labeled the barrier internationally “the wall”.

  4. Joanne Yaron July 3, 2007 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    It is exactly one year since Lilly Rivlin’s film “Can You Hear Me” was
    presented at the Jerusalem Film Festival, which is again, now in progress.

    Though I totally agree with the comments on Ralph Seliger’s two part review sent in by Carolyn Toll Oppenheim and Gila Svirsky, I would
    nevertheless like to add a few of my own.

    “Can You Hear Me” is about several Palestinian and Israeli women talking from the heart and the head even when they do not agree, even when they are angry and even when they seem to occasionally lose hope. It is a beautiful
    testament to the resilience of the women who participated in the film and of all people who care about finding an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict
    through peaceful solutions. It is not combative on the national origin, gender or left-right levels. It is simply an enchanting statement about women on both sides of the wall/fence whatever, trying to maintain hope by continuing to talk despite awful situations. It is an important statement not only for what it says, but for who says it, and for showing the very human side of the situation.

    Why Ralph brought extraneous, non-relevant topics into his 2-part review is a mystery to me. Though definitely not gender related – his 2-part review feels like a defensive reaction, which was definitely not necessary. This
    film was not intended as an analysis of the entire situation, but rather as a small, but very effective peek into the huge Palestinian-Israeli saga. Let’s
    give Lilly the credit she deserves and hope the film, which is unfortunately still very timely, gets shown over and over again to more and more people in more and more places.

    Yours in peace,
    Joanne Yaron

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