Big enough to eat you
Is there a more appropriate venue for Benjamin Netanyahu, who is wholly self-image and self-staging, than the angle of the corner between the make-up room and the corridor leading to the stage?
You have to ring twice, you have to wait just a minute - and here's Benjamin Netanyahu, cruising the corridors (Mabat news, Channel One, Sunday, 9 P.M.) and conducting, in the course of a quick walk - isn't this how American films portray the character of the vigorous manager? - a lively conversation with a light-footed adviser who is doing a kind of weird dance in front of him in an effort to keep pace.
That same night, on the BBC news (1 A.M.), the camera caught him entering the corridor from the make-up room of a television studio. There, properly powdered, Netanyahu deep-voiced his political vision. Indeed, is there a more appropriate venue for this postmodern person, who is wholly self-image and self-staging, than the angle of the corner between the make-up room and the corridor leading to the stage?
Nor does it make any difference what this excellent actor will declaim. The main thing is that he knows the text by heart without rehearsals and speaks it professionally and without the familiar Israeli hesitations ("uh ... umm...").
That same evening, at another location in this large production studio called the State of Israel, in which the leader, perspiring with the effort, was looking for secondary actors to replace the stuck-up types from the left who walked out of the mini-series while the 54th episode was being shot, the Mabat camera caught another of the actors, with whom a contract had already been signed for the coming season.
In the background, fittingly and properly, were the sounds of the synthesizer of a wedding orchestra. The camera zoomed in on the table of the celebs, an oval table covered with an oval tablecloth. There sat Shaul Mofaz, who is going to play the defense minister in the telenovella that will continue after the next crisis and the next elections, and next to him the Israeli Maria Callas, the wide-eyed singer Rita.
Accordingly, the title of the next episode in the series will be "Big Eyes" and it will be about your big eyes - you who want to devour the remains on the government table, devour them to the last crumb, and if possible the flowers, too.
Mother America's backward child
It wasn't for French viewers but for us here in Israel, the excellent two-part series called "The Shattered Dream" (France 2, Sunday and Monday, 11:45 P.M.) by Charles Enderlin, the channel's longtime correspondent in this country. On the face of it, what can a foreign correspondent tells us about ourselves that we don't already know? The series is very businesslike and also balanced, in the Israeli sense of the word, meaning that it reports terrorist attacks at length and depicts the Palestinian street as a vengeful herd.
Its apparent subject is a chronological presentation of the deterioration that occurred in the Oslo process after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and of the pathetic attempts to resuscitate the process by U.S. President Bill Clinton and his various emissaries.
Yet precisely from this seemingly neutral perspective, post-Rabin Israel comes across as a child strong in body but mentally backward, constantly supported by Mother America and stamping his feat and screaming whenever someone tries to take away his most beloved toy - the occupied territories.
For example, wasn't Operation Grapes of Wrath in southern Lebanon in 1996 an act of political retardation by Shimon Peres, who suddenly coveted the role of commander-in-chief and inflicted unnecessary killing and destruction and buried his party deep in the earth? And what about Netanyahu's childish provocations when he was prime minister (such as opening the Western Wall tunnel despite the warnings by all the security chiefs)?
So "The Shattered Dream" is about the shattered dream that Israel will at long last espouse some sort of sane policy and not only an unbroken series of Pavlovian reactions to Palestinian violence.
Venture to the interior
In the eyes of an outsider, the Interior Ministry branch in East Jerusalem, at 2 Ibn Shaddad Street, looks like a prison or a pen. That in fact was exactly what a tourist who chanced to be there thought, and was amazed to be told that the place is the branch of a government ministry. Another tourist who happened to pass by was shocked: "Even animals are not treated like this," she shouted into the camera.
The camera was that of Amir Har-Gil, the director of the film "All Human Beings: The Line at 2 Ibn Shaddad Street" (Channel Two, Saturday, 11 A.M.), which documents the bureaucratic horror that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem have to go through in all their dealings with the Israeli state. The method is to have them line up outside the barred gates of the building, fry them well under the burning sun and then let them in by drips and drops so they can join another queue in the courtyard and finally become part of the coveted line inside.
Once there, they are sent back and forth from one counter to another and then instructed to go home and bring, say, their elementary-school report cards, without which there is no way to issue them a passport.
One of the marvelous things about this line is that it can be easily bypassed in return for a payment of NIS 100 or 60 or 40 to Massoud, who calls Imad, who signals something to someone inside, one of the Israeli security guards, who opens the gate to the coveted hall. All the others - the poor and the naive - have to suffer, among them a girl named Rana whose only desire is to travel to Italy with the benefactor she found, a Jewish woman named Giselle Levy.
A hidden camera documents the agonizing route followed by Giselle in the reception hall. First the guards shout at her and order her to sit down, then she discovers that her ward is not registered as a resident because of one thing and another, nor does she have health insurance because of one thing and another, and anyway her disabled grandmother has to be brought here in order to issue the required documents. They would not have been issued even afterward had the clerks not found out that they were the subject of a television film. You have to look positive on TV.
A dangerous profession
In the past year alone, 65 freelance journalists were killed in the line of duty around the world. That appalling statistic reflects the growing difficulty of being a field reporter in a world that increasingly subscribes to the idiotic slogan "blame the media," which is sometimes interpreted by a nervous soldier as a license to shoot the local representative of the blameworthy media.
"In the Firing Line" (BBC, Saturday, 10:10 A.M.) was devoted to these journalist heroes, some of whom were killed on the world's front lines, some of whom were wounded and some of whom displayed extraordinary courage. Who, for example, was the photographer behind the well-known shot of the first plane that struck the World Trace Center in Manhattan with someone in the background calling out "Shit!"? His name, it turns out, is Jules Naudet. He and his brother happened to be making a film about New York firefighters and he simply pointed his camera upward at the right moment. There is also Joe McCarthy, who went on filming the collapse of one of the buildings when everyone else had fled.
McCarthy was one of the finalists for the annual award given by the Rory Peck Trust, a British charity established in memory of Rory Peck, a freelance cameraman who was killed in October 1993 while covering the coup outside Moscow's television center.
The winner of the award was the Afghan cameraman Najibullah Quraishi, who photographed one of the bitter battles fought by a special forces unit of the British Army together with troops of the Northern Alliance against Al Qaeda fighters. Quraishi was wounded badly and on the way to the hospital asked to go by his house to ensure that the footage would reach its destination.
Roddy Scott, 31, a British freelance cameraman, was killed by the Russian army in Chechnya. The Russians proudly displayed his equipment, which they seized, in order to dissuade others from following in his footsteps. And what a shame for Israel is the footage that was shot in real time at the entrance to Jenin, in which a soldier is seen opening fire for no apparent reason at a journalist's car.
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