There were three other feature programs I attended in this year’s recently concluded festival, all memorable. One was a scintillating panel consisting of Ari Shavit — a journalist for Ha’aretz who has been riding high lately with his best-selling history, My Promised Land — and American civil war historian David Blight, moderated by American news commentator, Emily Bazelon. It was entitled, “The Challenges of a Young Country: Comparing Israel and the US at the Age of 66.”
We’ve written much about Shavit in the past year (search this blog by entering his name at the top-left window), noting that he’s an excellent writer but not nearly as liberal or “left” as many believe. I am critical of Shavit’s attitudes toward unilateralism and a limited settlements freeze (more on that below). Although no fan of the settlements, he often denigrates the Israeli left for being naive about Palestinian intentions, yet he tends to be more rhetorical than factual. For example, the problem with Sharon’s Disengagement from Gaza was not simply the actions of Palestinians (as he suggested), but that the withdrawal was so unilateral that it empowered Hamas, giving them an arguing point in favor of “armed resistance.”
Shavit’s proposal for an unlimited freeze on construction in settlements outside the settlement blocs has its merits, but also some drawbacks. For one thing, there’s the question of what exactly constitutes the settlement blocs; “everyone” does not “agree,” as he contends. The Ariel bloc is problematic for jutting into the West Bank as far as it does; Ma’aleh Adumim is similarly problematic, especially if the E-1 corridor is settled. Moreover, this says nothing about East Jerusalem.
Earlier in the week, I attended a free screening of two episodes of “Arab Labor,” the television sitcom about the lives of an extended Israeli-Palestinian family in their many interactions with Jewish Israelis. In a panel after, the writer/creator of this series, Sayed Kashua, appeared with cast members and others to reflect on the series and why he has decided to emigrate to the United States in the wake of this past summer’s violence and other unpleasantness. He writes about this here: “Why I have to leave Israel.”
Still, the “other Israel” highlighted by the festival is not always about Palestinian and Israeli Arabs. The Dove Flyer is a feature film that dramatically depicts the expulsion of Iraq’s Jewish community in the early 1950s. Way before the persecution of Christians and Yazidis, or the violent confrontations between Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds in today’s Iraq, about 150,000 Jews (a community with roots in Iraq that precede Islam by over a thousand years) fled to Israel under harsh and cruel circumstances.
P.S. Forgive me if I seem rushed or overly summary with this post; I need to do more to prepare for Thanksgiving. A Khag Sameakh to all!