Sunday, March 04, 2007
Ari Sandel's Amazing Twenty-Four Hours
As Sandel and his family celebrated West Bank Story's victory, the West Bank town of Nablus, with a population of over 100,000, was under curfew. According to the Union of Health Care Committees, "two houses were demolished in the Old City, another was set on fire at Al-Makhfyah Neighborhood, and more than 100 doors of 'commercial stores' were destroyed, not to mention the damage brought upon the entrance of every house on the pretext of searching for 'wanted people.'" Israeli soldiers beat medical workers and prevented them from reaching the old city. Houses were comandeered, twenty people were forced to stay in one room. A Nablus man was killed on his balcony and his son shot.
Also during the "most amazing twenty-four hours" of Sandel's life, a five year old girl, Ebtisam Al Tardh died of shock, brought about when Israel's occupation soldiers broke into her house in the middle of the night. Her father, despite his daughter's death and his heart disease, is in an Israeli prison, along with ten thousand other Palestinian political prisoners.
Another little slice of Palestinian life during Sandel's "amazing twenty-four hours" included the death of Yosra Ahmad Al Rajabi, aged 60. She attempted to keep soldiers from abducting a Palestinian youth. For her trouble she was "repeatedly clubbed" on her head "until she fell unconscious" and subsequently died.
Sandel, who belongs to AIPAC and Peace Now, says he has gone to great pains to "maintain balance and equality between the sides" in his send-up of West Side Story. His version has a Palestinian girl, played by the American actress of Indian background, Noureen DeWulf, whose family runs the Hummus Hut, fall in love with an Israeli soldier, whose people run an adjacent cafe called Kosher King.
The website for the movie asks "Can the couple's love withstand a 2000 year old conflict and their families' desire to control the future of the chic pea in the Middle East?" For one knowledgeable about Palestine, this mention of a 2000 year old conflict, in addition to the director's boast of balance regarding a situation which is agonizingly unbalanced, indicates that the short is little more than Zionist propaganda most likely to fool those Americans who are ignorant of the conflict.
Sandel speaks of the overwhelmingly positive response to his film and tells of initial criticism from some audience members at a Dubai screening but then boasts of a refugee from Gaza, who like a deus ex machina, rose amid the criticism to laud the film, thus in Sandel's view bestowing it with the Palestinian imprimitaur of approval.
It is hard to imagine any Palestinian with a modicum of self-respect regarding this film with anything other than revulsion. In one scene one of the members of the soldier's family states he will build a wall between the two cafes. An actor portraying a Palestinian jokes, "What, Jews and construction?" I'm sure that will play well in a Los Angeles comedy club, but Palestinians are most likely thinking, " Israeli Jews don't construct; they destruct." They destruct homes; they destruct lives; they destruct families, and they've been doing it for about one hundred years now. And at the time Sandel was picking up his award from the Academy, Israel's soldiers weren't romancing Palestinian girls, rather masquerading as Palestinians and shooting three Palestinian young men in Jenin, one of whom, clearly wounded and incapacitated, was then shot dead.
Sandel's "West Side Story," Annie Annab incisively notes, is "pathologically insane--not funny at all, egotistic and self-absorbed," in which "the Israeli killing machine is so deluded about itself it thinks Palestinian beauty and decency can not help but admire and fall in love with Israeli 'heroics' and 'sensitivy.,"
What Sandel has done according to Annab is "crown the economic crime called Israel and its land grabbing immigrant bigots as Kosher Kings and put shishkabobs through Arab heads (the Palestinians wear shishkabob hats in the film). . . skewer Palestinians and then make that particular insult waggle so that Palestinians look like asses with big floppy ears."
Akram Awad notes that Ari Sandel's movie portrays the conflict as one between Arabs and Jews. Not only is the conflict not two thousand years old, neither is it one between Arabs and Jews. The conflict is about ethnic cleansing and theft of Palestinian patrimony by immigrants. The conflict rages on, not because of Palestinian aversion to Jews, but because of Israel's refusal to abide by international laws. In Awad's review of the film he writes:
"Mr. Sandel, Muslims and Palestinian Christians do NOT have a problem with the Jews. When I take your bag the only justice is to return your bag to you, and you are the victim and I am guilty until I do so. If you really long for peace in the Middle East you need to be among those who seek the truth, unveil it and stand against the racist criminal ideology of Zionism and its advocates."
Palestinians clearly are irrelevant and Israelis really are Kosher Kings when a Palestinian girl is depicted as falling in love with an Israeli soldier. This would be anathema to any normal Palestinian girl. Akram Awad writes, "A Palestinian woman falling in love with a Zionist Israeli soldier; that's only in your dreams! No Palestinian woman will ever betray her people or cause and sell her honour and heart to someone whose duty is to kill her, her parents, brothers, sisters, children, neighbours, friends, classmates and colleagues."
There are no parallels between a Palestinian girl in the occupied West Bank and Maria of West Side Story. Tony's gang wasn't ethnically cleansing New York of Puerto Ricans, demolishing their homes, humiliating old men, beating up medical workers, clubbing old women, shooting kids in the head, uprooting olive trees, poisoning wells, and stealing land. If he were, we'd call Maria a collaborator, skank, and a whore for taking up with him.
In true Zionist fashion, Ari Sandel employs what Shakespeare calls "a jade's trick," which simply means to stop conversation. Young British and American Jews who make aliyah to Israel employ the "Jade's trick" frequently when they refuse to discuss Israel's right to exist or their right to be there. In similar fashion Sandel halts criticism of his movie: "This film is not meant to be a learning tool for the situation in the Middle East. It is not an historical explanation, or a political solution on screen. It is a movie about HOPE and PEACE and that is it."
Ari Sandel once stated that his film about "hope" and "peace" had Palestinians playing the Palestinians and Jews playing the Israelis. Then in another interview the "Palestinans" changed to Muslims and Arabs. Guess a New York girl with an Indian background with another girl doing the singing passes as a Palestinian in Hollywood. Hardly matters who plays the parts because Palestinians are irrelevant to the film's Zionized narrative. And the choice of this film by the Academy clearly shows that Palestinians are irrelevant in a Hollywood which has honored a garish film that presents ethnic cleansers and killers as singers and dancers. Perhaps Ari Sandel's next film will feature a young Jewish concentration camp inmate falling head over in love and kicking up her heels in a chorus line with her Nazi warden.
Here's a story which he would have been better to document rather than making the movie that he made.
Hopefully it will have a happier ending for this couple.
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