, Salem, MA


March 14, 2013

Watson: Palestinians and Israelis prolong a mutual tragedy


To assassinate a suspect, as Shin Bet does, is to wield enormous power, and to raise terrible questions. Based on suspicions alone, can we kill a potential terrorist? How many innocent family members can we acceptably kill? Can we torture Palestinian prisoners to make them reveal plans for violence?

Shalom — and all the directors — are haunted by these questions and the inadequacies of any answer. Shalom concludes that there is a limit to how much morality can be involved in these cases.

He asks, is there morality in the terrorists? He is well aware that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

The film shows footage of blown-up Israeli buses — just shredded carcasses of steel and the dismembered bodies of women and children.

At the same time, the film shows footage of the first intifada when, as one director puts it, a nation (the Palestinians) rose up in desperation and cried out. Thousands of men — and notably, women — poured into the streets to protest and throw rocks at Israeli soldiers. The director says that only live fire — scenes of which we see — could have stopped the crowd.

Ami Ayalon, director from 1996 to 2000, describes the plots of the fanatical, Israeli religious right, who have murdered Palestinians, uprooted their olive groves, imposed new settlements on their lands and nearly blew up the iconic Islamic Dome of the Rock. Ayalon says that was the first time he saw clearly the hatred and division within Israeli society.

He is hard on the Israeli government. Although he acknowledges all of the Palestinian contributions to violence, he says that Israeli prime ministers over the years could have done far more — taken more initiative — to push for conflict resolution.

He states that there is simply no alternative to talking and trying, and talking again. He sees Israel as the more empowered of the two actors, and thus more able, and more required, to challenge the status quo.

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