Palestinian film maker doesn't win Oscar, but he's still dancing on rooftops

Five Broken Camera

A photo my daughter sent me from Facebook on Tuesday shows Emad Burnat, who directed (with Guy Davidi) and appeared in the film "5 Broken Cameras," standing on the red carpet in a tuxedo on his way into the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday. Next to him stands his son, who also stars in the film, and his wife, who is wearing a splendid Palestinian embroidered dress. As we now know, the film did not win an Oscar but it was impossible not to marvel at the rocky road the filmmaker from Bil'in - which after all is only a small Palestinian village in Samaria in the West Bank - has traveled to the Oscar ceremony.

To tell the truth, I was unable to hold back a tear from the corner of my eye, because the film and its plot are intertwined with a family story of my own: The main protagonist of "5 Broken Cameras," Bassem Abu Rahmah, known as "Pheel" (Elephant ), was the man my daughter Talila loved, and the two were destined to be together - until the terrible disaster happened: An Israel Defense Forces soldier fired a gas canister at Bassem, which penetrated his body at short range and killed him on the spot. In the film he is seen falling and dying, an event that was filmed by Burnat, the village cameraman. My daughter wore a white Palestinian dress embroidered in red, similar to the one Emad's wife wore to the Oscars, to the wedding of Rani, another young Palestinian from Bil'in, who was paralyzed by a soldier's bullet that struck his lower body. Unlike Pheel, he did not die, and he has been able to start a family. At his wedding the women of the village wished my daughter that the next wedding would be hers and Bassem's. Fate had other plans.

But even without this tragic story, it seems to me that everyone who has a human soul in his body should be moved by a Palestinian and an Israeli making a film together, that then gets nominated for an Oscar, especially as this film does not depict Israel in a particularly negative way.

And now, upon the news of the outcome of the awards ceremony, the new leader of religious Zionism, MK Naftali Bennett, of Habayit Hayehudi - whom an international magazine has dubbed "the new face of Israel," apparently correctly - has hastened to update his Facebook status to express glee over the fact that "5 Broken Cameras" did not win an Oscar and note that he is not shedding a tear over it.

In Bennett's very short political biography, there is already a considerable list of blunders, which are looking less and less like blunders stemming from a lack of political experience, and more and more like systematic slips of the tongue.

The method of letting unworthy comments slip out as though incidentally, with a wink, so that they will take root, and apologizing after the damage has been done, is a known method of the extreme right. In France, it was Jean-Marie Le Pen who specialized in this (among other things, in cases where he had something to say about Jews). In Austria, it was the late grandmaster Joerg Haider. Two good teachers.

One day this Bennett might become a minister in Israel's government. His nasty comment on Facebook reveals the cultural narrow-mindedness of someone who is prepared - like the bad mother in the saga of the judgment of Solomon - to have an Israeli film not win an Oscar only so the Palestinians won't get any enjoyment from it. This, apparently, will be the new face of Israel.

The evidence that this curmudgeonliness and pettiness aren't just the province of one individual or a certain sector but rather of more and more people, was the reaction of Ms. Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes to the non-winning of an Oscar by the other Israeli film in the competition, "The Gatekeepers." Shalom Nir-Mozes long ago turned herself willingly into a parodic figure, and her tongue-lashing of the makers of films nominated for Oscars and those who funded them - whom she says should be fired from their jobs - needs no rewriting and can be broadcast verbatim on the satirical TV program "It's a Wonderful Country."

But here, too, as in the case of Bennett and his slips of the tongue, there is a method, a somewhat primitive one - yet nevertheless a method: It is to transmit reactionary messages in a half-joking way, as though out of the mouth of a figure who isn't taken entirely seriously, who is supposedly speaking naively and saying what she has in her heart, the warm heart of an ordinary woman, who loves her homeland and her people. A figure like this doesn't even need to bother to see the films she is talking about. It's enough for her to know they aren't to her taste.

And now as I put Emad Burnat's wife, standing modestly on the red carpet in her Palestinian embroidered dress on her way to the Oscars, side by side with Shalom Nir-Mozes, who hasn't ever been invited to any Academy Awards ceremony (maybe that's the source of her frustration?), it isn't hard for me to know which of them seems to be the more noble and to have the more refined style.

True, not every Palestinian is a film director and not every Palestinian woman is a noble woman, and among them there are warmongers and murderers, and also narrow-minded curmudgeons like Bennett and Shalom Nir-Mozes. And, in fact, thanks to people like those two, we and the Palestinians are beginning to resemble one another more and more. They dance on the rooftops in glee at our troubles and we dance on Facebook in glee at their disappointments.