Archive for the ‘Peace’ Category

Astute comments from comics

July 7, 2009

Last week I read and was moved by Joe Sacco’s engagingly intense graphic novel “Palestine”. It chronicles Sacco’s travels throughout the the area known as Palestine- the west bank and Gaza. He meet with a number of Palestinans, listening to them and documenting their stories from during the time of the second intifada (around 1993). Unfortunately, I found that his experiences and stories concur with my own experiences – from the time that served in the IDF in the West Bank in the mid-late 70s and from the period of the first intifada (1988) when I was wondering around the same towns that I had served as a soldier, only this time as an artist and witness. I say unfortunate because it is a tragedy of epic proportions- each side making blunder after horrible blunder, enslaving each other to oppression, hate, pain and bloodshed.
One encounter in Sacco’s book that I was deeply touched by occured towards the end of the book In it he recollects a meeting with several people- Israeli Jews, Palestinians, Americans and Europeans. One Israeli is quoted as saying that one state or two states does not matter. What does it matter if the racism of one state oppresses the other. What is important, he says, is if the different peoples there can simply learn to live with each other. A wise comment, almost Buddhist in nature- can we manage to let go of our personal pains and learn to live with each other even with our differences.

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Dancing around the waltz

December 5, 2008

I just finished watching a screening of  “Waltz with Bashir”. It was shown for just before the holiday lunch of one of the departments that I work with. An interesting choice, to say the least, it was ultimately a bit of a surreal experience, which actually mirrors the film. The film is excellent and disturbing, and is described as an “animated documentary”. The footage is shot and then rotoscoped, animated and given effects. The story is of an Israeli man, a film-maker, confronted with the fact that he has no memories of his time during the war in Lebanon, particularly surrounding the tragic events of  the Sabra-Shatilla massacre. He is told by a friend that he needs to find and speak with people who were there with him directly or served in the army at the same time. What follows is a harrowing series of conversations and flashbacks as he tries to recover his memories and understood what happened and where he was.

One of the primary issues addresses historical memory connected to a time of trauma. An Israeli psychologist interviewed in the film describes how a human mind can make itself forget what it needs to, in order to continue to live.

This film touched me deeply and personally. Having spent 2.5 years in the Israeli military (and it seems in the same combat unit of the director), I was familiar with both the visuals and the psychological and emotional issues of serving and post-serving. How memories can get smushed and fuzzed with the passing of time as well as the need to not remember. I was not in Beirut, but was in southern Lebanon, which I often think of in terms of a phrase from the movie “Circle of Deceit”: “There is a saying here, that there are two paradises- one in heaven and one in southern Lebanon”. It was beautiful and experienced too much hell there from all of the wars.

The film was visually stunning, dreamlike, hallucinatory, nightmarish, surreal. It captures the hell, surreal and chaotic nature of war in a way that I do not think a non-animated movie could. It captures the emotional and practical confusion of the Israeli experience as well as the more universal experience of war. The film seems to have been made with a yellow filter, that matches the yellow of the flares that lit up the nights during the war in Beirut, and were part of the filmmakers dream. 

Disturbing as the film may be, it is an important film. It opens discussions about both the Israeli and Christian activities in Lebanon, about the lasting effects war has on the human psyche and condition. I have found many Jews and Israelis who have been unwilling and/or unable to address the the complexity of the war and of Israeli involvement. Although it happened over 20 years ago, its’ effects are still being felt and it is still impacting policies in old ways. Perhaps this movie will help open up discussions and dialogues that can lead to real and positive change.

I served in 1975-7 and went back in 1988 to do art with Jewish, Christian, Moslem an Druze children, perhaps trying to clean up some of my karma, perhaps reflecting a realization that peace is not a passive experience, but rather one that requires action to make it happen and to maintain, like any good relationship. Some images and stories  of these two experiences can be found here: www.golemgrafica.com/photo_1.htm#”