Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Dear Father, Quiet We're Shooting"

On Tuesday night, I went to see David Benchetrit's new movie, "Dear Father, Quiet We're Shooting." This was another highlight of the festival. In the film, Benchetrit allows a group of men to tell their stories of refusal to serve in the Israeli military. Of different ages and from different parts of the military, the men explain why for them conscientious objection to serving in either Lebanon or the Occupied Territories is the only moral choice. While some might critique the film for its lack of background exposition, I found that the main speakers in the film were so eloquent about their own reasons for refusing to serve that the choice made sense. For someone quite familiar with the context of the events already, as most Israelis, the film's intended audience are, the speakers introduce new ways of thinking about the military and the war. While not as detailed in the description of atrocities, this film is comparable to the landmark "Winter Soldier."
The story of history that they tell is that Israel's disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was equivalent to the US's invasion of Vietnam, and that it involved horrible war crimes (aerial bombardment of civilian targets, Sabra and Chatila) for which the highest levels of government must be held responsible. They argue that they have learned from the Nazis that "I was following orders" is not an acceptable account. They criticize Peace Now members for "crying and marching" and then going back to the army again, "shooting and crying." They are critical of terrorism (and the film shows scenes of both Israeli and Palestinian funerals) while also saying that it's wrong for the IDF to be in the territories and that the Palestinians who commit these acts are in a hopeless situation. The speakers addressed and demolished just about every argument that's been made in defense of the actions of the Israeli state. Benchetrit's films are made to provoke political debate in Israel, and I think this film will do that. Benchetrit is convinced of his own rightness and is unapologetic about his choices as a film-maker. This may seem to be arrogant, but I appreciated his confidence in his own decisions. No doubt, this is what makes him such a damn good political film-maker. The comments by the conscientous objectors also resonated with many other similar situations. I think it might be required viewing for the contemporary anti-war movement in the US. The song, "Dear Father, Quiet we're shooting," once banned in Israel, was also very powerful, and I wish I could find it online. No luck yet, and it's time to end this entry!

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