Who's Mad That an Israeli Film Won an Emmy Award?

Maya Zinshtein's 'Forever Pure' has been criticized for showing an 'ugly reflection' of Israel. Is that a good topic for a documentary film? I'd say it is

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From the Emmy-winning film, "Forever Pure," on the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team.
From the Emmy-winning film, "Forever Pure," on the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team.Credit: Haim Zach
Iris Leal
Iris Leal

Congratulations to the Israeli documentary that just won the prestigious Emmy award. It’s a real success for Israeli producer Maya Zinshtein. You’re all certainly happy about it, but it’s worth noting that in an article in Yediot Ahronoth, Yoaz Hendel called you sourpusses – there’s that word again. He said your joy is not “about Zinshtein’s considerable achievement but about Israel being disgraced.”

He added that unfortunately too many Israeli leftists feel comfortable with “an ugly reflection.” Remember this absurd and ridiculous definition, “ugly reflection,” because I’ll return to the concept later.

But first, a summary: “Forever Pure” follows the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, which has never had an Arab player. At a significant moment in its history, the 2012-2013 season, the team’s owner at the time, Arkady Gaydamak announced the addition of two Chechnyan Muslim players, and all hell broke loose. Fans from the La Familia group – a local version of the Ku Klux Klan, without the white hoods – launched a racist campaign that literally set the club on fire and broke the team apart.

Is that a good topic for a documentary film? I’d say it is. The jury for the Emmy awards certainly thought so, too. But Hendel has trouble understanding why a movie should be made about such a regrettable issue that presents Israel in a bad light, instead of one about the wonderful things going on here such as – I kid you not – farmers who have invented a new strain of vegetables.

And he also has a suggestion for the culture minister: In order to encourage more movies about genetically engineered vegetables and famous chefs – the “beautiful reflection” of Israel – she should provide such filmmakers with financial incentives.

Two different claims Hendel makes in the article show the difficulty he has looking in the mirror. The first claim is that La Familia is a marginal phenomenon that doesn’t represent the entire country. Well, the culture minister displayed her affection for the team and publicized photos of herself embracing its fans.

Another cabinet minister, Zeev Elkin, who is running for mayor of Jerusalem, refused to say in a radio interview that he is in favor of an Arab player joining Beitar. He said that politicians shouldn’t intervene in deciding who should be on a soccer team. Does Hendel think the story about the German team Bayern Munich – that has acquiesced to fans’ anti-Semitic demands by refusing to hire a Jewish player while Germany’s cabinet ministers refuse to interfere – would also be a bad topic for a documentary film?

>>Until an Arab plays for Beitar Jerusalem...

Now that we’ve taken apart the first argument, and we’ve realized that la Familia is an organization embraced by cabinet ministers and whose blessing is sought by aspiring politicians who tolerate its racist segregation policies – let’s take another look at the ugly reflection and ask ourselves whether the actual object – the mirror – is ugly or whether it just the image that is?

Hendel thinks that if the face of society has gotten ugly then we should at least embellish it in the mirror. This is called promotional movies, propaganda and advertisements. But there is no category in the Emmy Awards for producers of movies about “genetically modifying the soul through propaganda.”

Soon Regev will ask the Knesset to approve a cultural loyalty bill and Hendel will most certainly rally behind it. He thinks that a country should only fund movies that glorify it. Dictators who understood the danger in freedom of the arts have held similar views.

It is amazing that there are still people who believe that feeding the people a diet of propaganda and threats will spawn national happiness. Art is their enemy. It is a bit too capricious. It prefers to examine racism rather than the exciting creation of hybrids of guava and turnips.

"Forever Pure" wins the 2018 Emmy award for Outstanding Politics and Government DocumentaryCredit: Youtube

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