The Worthless Movie About Gaza That Every Israeli Must Watch

‘Shivering in Gaza’ is must-see cinema only because it’s the only way to overcome the fear that gets movies banned.

Geert van Kesteren / Offspring M

After Sderot and Be’er Sheva, it was Yeruham’s turn for the cancellation of a scheduled screening of the short documentary “Shivering in Gaza,” planned for this Wednesday evening.

Amnesty International Israel has been organizing the screenings of this film by Geert van Kesteren, about the work of trauma expert Jan Andreae with a number of Gaza Strip residents in the wake of last summer’s war.

The public board of the Yeruham community center, where “Shivering in Gaza” was to have been shown last night, canceled the screening under pressure from right-wing activists.

The key sentence in the report on the cancellation that appeared in Haaretz (Nirit Anderman, September 8), notes that Hani Briga, who was behind the plan to show the movie in the town — the director of the Yeruham-based Center for Volunteerism and Civil Society, she serves on the board of the community center — invited board members to watch the film before deciding, but they refused.”

Geert van Kesteren / Offspring M

In other words, yet again people who did not see the work of art in question censored it. I do not comprehend the mental process behind this.

There must be some psychological term for rejecting something without having any knowledge of it. This seems not only thoroughly unintelligent but also perverted to some extent, whether it is a matter of actual censorship, as in this case, or of only expressing opposition, such as when then-Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat declared that she objected to the documentaries “The Gatekeepers” and “Five Broken Cameras” and did not intend to see them. Moreover, she said she hoped they would lose at the Academy Awards. (Both were nominated for best documentary feature in 2013.)

I am trying to find some sort of logic for the cancellation of “Shivering in Gaza” for the third time, but apparently logic cannot be found where fear prevails, and it is fear that motivated the cancellations in Sderot, Be’er Sheva and now in Yeruham.

Geert van Kesteren / Offspring M

Fear of the unkown

Two types of fear are at play here. The first is the fear of the right: In her report, Anderman quoted Yeruham Mayor Michael Biton as saying that he had no objection to the film being screened later, and not at the community center: “I was attacked by the far right, but the community center has management, and I don’t intervene in its decisions. The board decided that the community center was not the venue for political exploration,” Biton said.”

The other source is the fear of the unknown, in a film that people refuse to see.

Because the community center board members certainly knew what the film is about, the unknown, or more precisely what they don’t want to know, is the trauma experienced by the people of the Gaza Strip in the wake of the last war, the suffering that we cannot and do not want to deal with, because if we acknowledge it and deal with it we will have to acknowledge the fact the inhabitants of Gaza are human beings, like us. (I no longer remember who it was who once declared on television, after seeing an Iranian film, how surprised he had been by the similarity between the Iranians and ourselves).

We prefer to relate to Gazans as an abstract bloc of people, without an identity, that is punished for the deeds of their leaders, that “deserves” the trauma it is experiencing.

To look at this trauma could create an equality between them and we Israelis, who also experienced trauma. It could even create a balance of trauma, and this we prefer to put leave beyond the Pale in an era when the education minister declares that the other is not me self and the prime minister, on the first day of the school year, frightens first-graders when he tells them that Hamas wants to destroy them but we won’t let them — in a style reminiscent of a good father telling his children a fairy tale out of the Brothers Grimm.

I watched “Shivering in Gaza” and it is hard even to call it a film. It is a filmed report that has no cinematic value. It deals with the war but is interested mainly in its results, which are the results of every war.

Geert van Kesteren / Offspring M

The word “Israel” is not mentioned in the film and Israeli soldiers are not seen in it. Those who are seen are a handful of Gaza residents who come together to try Andreae’s treatment.

Truth be told, the movie did not convince me of the efficacy of the method for treating the trauma of war. There is something a bit New Agey about it.

The film does not touch at all upon ideology or politics, but rather only upon the basic human experience of victims of war, any war. However, as I have said, these facts are not relevant to people who are motivated by fear, fear that prevents them from daring to have a look at the reality depicted in the film.

The cancellation of the official screenings of “Shivering in Gaza” is an absurd example of the effectiveness with which fear has penetrated our lives.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” declared U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his first inaugural address. The cancellations of the screenings prove the extent to which fear can combine stupidity and callousness.

The fear of “Shivering in Gaza” is the peeling-off of another layer of our humanity, of our ability to acknowledge human complexity.

My recommendation is: Screen this film at every opportunity you can. We need it, not for its cinematic value and not because the method it shows is convincing in its effectiveness, but rather so it will not be possible to frighten us, to reduce us and to defeat us. Screen it wherever possible, because “Shivering in Gaza” is causing trembling in Tel Aviv.