Letters to the Editor: The Israeli Film 'Foxtrot' and a Racist State

A scene from Samuel Maoz's "Foxtrot."
A scene from Samuel Maoz's "Foxtrot." Giora Bejach/Lev Cinema and Spiro Films

Neither right nor left, and anti-racist 

In response to “U.K. leftists and anti-Semitism,” Haaretz, October 30

Last weekend Haaretz published an opinion piece by British Zionist Ben Gidley. Although his article labelled me a “racist,” a “hate speaker” and a “Holocaust denier,” Gidley failed to properly source a single accusation against me, citing opinions printed in extreme Zionist and Jewish outlets.

In fact, in my entire career I have never referred critically to Jews or anyone else as a race, biology or people. My work is anti-racist, it focuses entirely on culture, ideology and identity politics. I believe that these crucial factors must be subject to criticism.

In my work, I argue that if Israel defines itself as a Jewish state then we must ask ourselves: Who are the Jews? What is Judaism? And what is Jewishness? We must examine the relationships among these three and grasp how they relate to Zionism, Israeli politics and policies.

My views on the Holocaust are based on ethics, philosophy and history. I maintain that if history is the attempt to narrate the past as we move along, it only becomes a meaningful intellectual adventure once we are free to revisit, rethink and revise the past. History is intrinsically a revisionist project and this applies to the Holocaust, the Nakba, slavery or any other event in the past. When history is treated as a stagnant recitation of acceptable tenets it is reduced to a religion that adheres to the primacy of one people’s suffering.

Some of the charges Gidley makes against my work are correct. It is true that my writings are circulated by some right-wing and conservative outlets and thinkers, although they are at least as popular within left-wing outlets and progressive circles. This is because my work offers a metaphysical and philosophical analysis and is not merely political. I defy left-right binaries. I provide a postpolitical discourse that is ethically and universally driven.

Those who are interested in or concerned about my work are invited to watch “Gilad and All That Jazz.” This 2011 documentary examines my ideas and interviews my most vocal opponents.

Gilad Atzmon
London

More like a beautiful poster than a harsh mirror

In response to “How the occupation feels from the inside” (Bradley Burston, October 20)

The writer lists several reasons to see “Foxtrot.” He desperately urges us to go see this film, raising expectations for profound insights and cathartic enlightenment.

Well, I went to see “Foxtrot,” unknowingly adhering to Burston’s rationale (it was a day before the column was published). Aggravated by my culture minister, I was eager to be presented with a mirror which will uncompromisingly reflect the grave militaristic reality in my country.

However instead of a harsh mirror, I saw a series of beautiful images. This applies especially to the middle part, focusing on the occupation. The surreal atmosphere which hovers above the characters diminishes the link to reality, and the skillfully crafted esthetics overpower the content and suffocates the message. This middle part should have injected depth and meaning to the sheer gravity of the (reliable and very well acted) first and last parts. Instead it is reduced to a flat picturesque continuum, chewed up like stale bubble gum. The viewer, expecting to be punched in the stomach, is left with a wry smile of embarrassment. 

I agree with almost every statement Burston asserts regarding the current state of affairs here in Israel, but to correlate these statements with “Foxtrot” is virtually ridiculous. In this sense, the author stands side by side with Culture Minister Miri Regev, attributing to the movie a lot more meaningfulness and persuasive power than it actually possesses.
When the hype dies down, “Foxtrot” will remain no more than a very pretty “Footnote” in the history of Israeli political cinema.

Eyal Aviv,
Herzliya

The racism of my people

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman proposes to expand the home demolition policy to include homes of terrorists whose acts cause serious injury or death. According to one thorough study, terror attacks declined somewhat during the months immediately following a “punitive demolition,” but that effect proved “small, localized and diminish[ing] over time.”

Punitive home demolitions are done mostly “to placate the Israeli public” (The New Republic, December 2014). 

Many assert home demolitions are “collective punishment” and violate Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons ... is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”

Home demolition is illegal and immoral. It’s a tool used by a government claiming to act in my name in a sickeningly racist manner; no home of any Jewish terrorist has been demolished, whether those murdered were Jews or non-Jews.

If Lieberman expands this policy (and I pray wiser heads prevail), the Israeli government must apply it to all equally.  Or we will continue to confirm in the eyes of the world that Israel is, in fact and practice, a racist state.
And that possibility chills me to my core!

Judy Bamberger,
O’Connor, Australia  
(Currently harvesting olives in Marda, the West Bank)

Letters should be exclusive to Haaretz and must include the writer’s name, address and telephone number (an email address is not sufficient). Please note that letters are subject to editing. Please send your letters to letters@haaretz.co.il