Only Israel Would Claim Oscar-tapped Films as Its Own

Only in Israel do we latch on to every achievement abroad. Only in Israel is every success ascribed to the collective.

We didn't lose any sleep last night, but waited until morning to find out whether "Ajami" had won an Oscar. We didn't even lose sleep over the lastest scandal concerning the movie; there are enough other reasons for insomnia.

"I cannot represent a country that does not represent me," "Ajami" co-director Scandar Copti said yesterday, just hours before the Oscar ceremony. He was immediately pounced upon by ministers and Web commenters. The greatest of his critics was Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, who holds the purse strings.

"Without state support, Copti would not be walking on the red carpet," she chided.

Only in Israel do we latch on to every achievement abroad. Only in Israel is every success ascribed to the collective. And Livnat, who has already broken the Olympic record for jumping onto the winner's podium, demands a gold medal for herself.

That is how a basketball team that is not the national team becomes the "state team," as if its players were from our neck of the woods; how Nobel laureates become "the glory of the State of Israel," as if the state is a partner in their success, investing in them yesterday and remembering them tomorrow. That is how "Beaufort," "Waltz with Bashir" and "Ajami" became films that are seen as promoting Israel.

Artistic and cultural creations belongs to their creators, and to them alone. For that reason, people in Germany, Peru, France and Argentina slept soundly last night, even though a film by one of their countrymen was vying for the prize. I am not even sure whether residents of those countries knew that their national prestige was hanging in the balance last night.

Only in a sad place do people transform every individual joy into collective joy, with the president and prime minister rushing to congratulate the winner by trans-Atlantic phone call.

I saw "Ajami" and thought it was a good film. I want it to win because of its good qualities, not because the state has suddenly graced it with its patronage. I want it to win not because of "everything it represents" but because it represents itself alone, and the talents of its directors and actors.

They receive financial support as artists, not as ambassadors. Such support is accepted practice in most countries, which view the film industry as another worthy enterprise to encourage. If money has no smell, then certainly it should not imbue movies with the fragrance of the state.

We may assume that Copti said what he did out of pain. Even before the film won anything, the state, courtesy of the police, had already held another party for his two brothers. From the reports, we had the impression that they did not really enjoy the refreshments they were served in the interrogation room.