Saturday, September 3, 2016

Amos Gitai's RABIN THE LAST DAY


RABIN, THE LAST DAY (2015) by Amos Gitai [trailer] from Richard Lormand on Vimeo.

This film is marketed as a somber, mature analysis of the Rabin murder and looks for a sign of sanity.
However, it fails in laying even a shred of liability for the occupation with Rabin and the Labor Party. Instead, much like is typical of liberals in the United States when it comes to colonialism, it is always the fault of 'the Right' and their boogieman, here being Bibi Netanyahu. The reality is that the majority of settlement construction took place under Labor and not Likud.
Gitai presents a cerebral film that re-stages the inquiry after the assassination and sequences that were on the periphery of causing the violence, such as an ultra-Right placement of a curse on Rabin.
Yet missing in the story is a single Palestinian voice. Here is a story about violence in the ranks of a colonial gendarmes caused as a result of alleged decolonization. But not one of the Palestinians, even Arafat, appears!
As an interesting contrast, consider the debate on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman at the time of the event. At least there is some honest effort here to articulate the rights of Palestinian self-determination.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Elie Weisel

Hearing of the death of Elie Wiesel brings me no joy. But I know the people who were consistently and systematically targeted by his blatant racism, masked by a liberal sheen of Holocaust invocation, will find some reprieve from his wretched chauvinism.

Anyone who is familiar with the cause of Palestinians knows and understands quite well that Wiesel stopped being opposed to racism a long time ago. He instead used his victimization by Nazi racism to justify Israeli racism. Every time Israel felt pressure over how awful they were and are to Palestinians, Wiesel would swoop in and begin to talk about "the new anti-Semitism" and a load of nonsense that distracted people from actual racism. His fifty years of this act made him a showboat and a charlatan. Any value to be gleaned from his childhood experiences in Nazi Germany were squandered intentionally by him decades ago so to squander hope for the end of Palestinian victimhood.

Consider his words during the last pogrom in Gaza:


That's right, a nuclear-armed military power acted like a bunch of cowards and attacked a population armed with fireworks and Wiesel blamed the victims and called their martyrdom at the hands of the most powerful military force in the Middle East "child sacrifice". I correspond with the children of people who were in the Warsaw ghetto uprising that compared what happened to their parents with what happens to people in Gaza without shame. They have no problem equating Wiesel's behavior and words with bigotry.

And what did Wiesel say when Israelis illegally forced Palestinians out of their homes in East Jerusalem, occupied Palestinian territory that is illegally annexed by Israel in violation of UN resolutions calling for a two-state solution on the pre-June 1967 borders?

“As Sukkot begins, we are thrilled to bless the tens of new families joining us at this time in the Jewish settlement in the City of David. We salute the Zionist action in Jerusalem of those involved. Strengthening the Jewish presence in Jerusalem is a challenge that we all face and with this act of settlement you are raising our stature. Together with you we will receive the pilgrims, the holiday visitors. We value and cherish you.”

What a mensch!

And this is not even bringing up the fact that he was caught plagiarizing and lying multiple times!

I feel about his death the same way I feel about the death of any proud racist who uses their misfortunes to victimize the weak.

[caption id="attachment_49638" align="aligncenter" width="300"]If you like my reporting, please consider contributing to my Patreon! If you like my reporting, please consider contributing to my Patreon![/caption]

Saturday, January 23, 2016

ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS,

This essay previously appeared in Counter Punch on December 25, 2015.
A new documentary film, titled ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS, has just premiered on Netflix. Telling the story of independent film studio Cannon Films, run by Israelis Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, it is presented as a comical jaunt down memory lane for anyone who remembered renting these B-grade pictures at the video store in the 1980s and 1990s, a kind of nostalgia piece for the generation of Reaganomics, Game Boy, and the Walkman.
Sadly, as is now becoming typical of the once intellectually-stimulating documentary genre, the film fails to account for what has been previously emphasized by Jack Shaheen in his classic study Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies A People and the later adaptation by Dr. Sut Jhally of Media Education Foundation, that the Golan-Globus partnership generated a great deal of hasbara for the anti-Palestinian propaganda machine in its heyday. In pictures like the Chuck Norris action film THE DELTA FORCE (1986) and others, Cannon Films created vile, ahistorical, senseless propaganda about anti-Semitic Arabs who thirsted for Jewish blood. Shaheen says in the Jhally film:
One reason we have not been allowed to empathize with any Palestinian on the silver screen is due to two Israeli producers, Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus. These two filmmakers created an American company called Cannon. And they released in a period of 20 years at least 30 films, which vilify all things Arab, particularly Palestinians. They even came out with a film called HELL SQUAD showing Vegas show girls trouncing Arabs in the middle of the desert. I think the most affective film they have ever done, one of the most popular, and more racist is THE DELTA FORCE. Here Palestinians hijack a plane and terrorize the passengers, especially the Jewish ones. There is no form of communication more powerful than film in creating propaganda and Golan and Globus took it to another level.
This can be said for a good many other Cannon films regarding other minority groups. Though the new documentary does lightly acknowledge some of the more glaring instances of Cannon’s bigotry, the reality is that Cannon produced some of the most blatantly racist and sexist exploitation films of the period. A Cannon production that did not feature at least scantily-clad women, if not repeated full-frontal nudity, waiting with bated breath for the male hero was a rarity. Almost all of the Cannon women seemed to consistently and constantly be in a type of peril that could only be ameliorated with vivid heterosexual coitus that kept the teenagers filling the cinemas and feminist film critics like the great Molly Haskell disgusted. African men were likewise typically shown as brutes and rapists, particularly in the action/adventure films. It perhaps bears some irony that one of the ‘serious’ pictures that Cannon produced, Franco Zeffirelli’s adaptation of the opera OTELLO, featured Plácido Domingo in blackface and was based on the Shakespeare play that trafficked in the racist myth of the sexually-scorned African driven to homicidal rage.
Cannon Films is a perfect illustration of what the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser said in his classic essay Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses :
To put this more scientifically, I shall say that the reproduction of labour power requires not only a reproduction of its skills, but also, at the same time, a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order, i.e. a reproduction of submission to the ruling ideology for the workers, and a reproduction of the ability to manipulate the ruling ideology correctly for the agents of exploitation and repression, so that they, too, will provide for the domination of the ruling class ‘in words’. In other words, the school (but also other State institutions like the Church, or other apparatuses like the Army) teaches ‘know-how’, but in forms which ensure subjection to the ruling ideology or the mastery of its ‘practice’. All the agents of production, exploitation and repression, not to speak of the ‘professionals of ideology’ (Marx), must in one way or another be ‘steeped’ in this ideology in order to perform their tasks ‘conscientiously’ – the tasks of the exploited (the proletarians), of the exploiters (the capitalists), of the exploiters’ auxiliaries (the managers), or of the high priests of the ruling ideology (its ‘functionaries’), etc. The reproduction of labour power thus reveals as its sine qua non not only the reproduction of its ‘skills’ but also the reproduction of its subjection to the ruling ideology or of the ‘practice’ of that ideology, with the proviso that it is not enough to say ‘not only but also’, for it is clear that it is in the forms and under the forms of ideological subjection that provision is made for the reproduction of the skills of labour power.
By creating films that were catering to the lowest common denominator while impregnating the plot-lines with misogyny and racism, Golan and Globus furthered the hegemony of the power structure and hindered the ability of a legitimate liberation dialogue to flourish. They might have disagreed with the neoconservatives on moral issues such as abortion and sexuality, but their jingoism, Zionism, and other ideological traits were truly reactionary and capitalist in vision.
I can understand this nostalgia for 1980s films, it was a period where, if one were not savvy to the brutality of American empire, a white teenager could move about the landscape with relative ease and now, in middle age, yearns for those golden days when gas was cheap, rock music ruled the airwaves, Pac-Man was the most difficult video game, and the economy was favorable to one’s particular demographic. Yet on reflection we instead should see this film as a warning, a representation of a calm period before the storm. Reagan’s economic deregulatory policies, begun by Carter and continued by his successors, have come to fruition in the most bitter and harmful ways. His failure to properly deal with climate change is now bringing about near-Biblical droughts, floods, and other environmental catastrophes. And his support for Zionism has continued to brutalize the Palestinians in an occupation that is older than our sitting President.

The frontline of hasbara is on PBS

This essay previously appeared in CounterPunch on January 8, 2016.
On January 5, 2015, PBS aired a new Frontline documentary NETANYAHU AT WAR, a profile of the troubled relationship between the Israeli Prime Minister and President Obama. It is now available on the PBS website in some markets and will perhaps be on other platforms such as Netflix, who have previously carried Frontline specials.
The film is typical of what we should now call Hasbara 2.0. No longer are we subjected to the Irving Howe-styled apologias wherein Israel is some great social democratic wonderland besieged by the terrorist Arabs. Now we are given a much more nuanced vision where there are problematic Israelis (here, the antihero of our narrative, Bibi) but where a criminal like the late Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin is a fallen hero and American presidents like Bill Clinton and Obama are the poor Sampsons who are betrayed by Likudnik Delilah. In other words, it is a complete and utter farce that unfortunately deceives many people.
The point to begin with is the interviewees. The talking heads here are not experts on the topic, like Dr. Norman Finkelstein or Dr. Ilan Pappe. Instead, we get Peter Beinart, Avi Shavit, and David Remnick regurgitating Beltway gossip and Tel Aviv talking points like they are great chroniclers of the modern realpolitik. For the Palestinians, we have voice of Saeb Erekat, the negotiator whose diplomatic skills were summed up best by Dr. Finkelstein :
Abbas and his imbecile sidekick Saeb Erekat are playing good cop/bad cop. Abbas says “yes, this agreement might work,” whereas Erekat whispers to the media—you know, the “senior Palestinian negotiator who doesn’t want to be identified”—that “oh, this agreement is horrible, it’s terrible, it’s awful, they can shove it.” Erekat thinks that’s being clever, it’s putting pressure on the Americans, as if anyone on god’s earth gives a flying fig what Erekat has to say about anything.
Ergo, if PBS thinks getting Erekat on the record is a big score, we are in for a travesty.
On the American side, we have the likes of Dennis Ross, Sandy Berger, and Martin Indyk giving high praises to the Oslo years and Clinton’s annexation process. Consider this passage of narration:
Known as the Oslo Accord, it was designed to end years of violence by laying out a peace process, a deal that could give Palestinians their own state and land captured in the ‘67 war.
This is perhaps able to be true in some technical sense, maybe if one stands on their head and squints, but it is totally removed from reality. From the outset, be it Republican or Democrat, the Palestinians have never found a fair negotiator in the United States. Consider what Dr. Chomsky wrote in September 1993:
The US was therefore in a good position to advance its rejectionist program without interference, moving towards the solution outlined by Secretary of State James Baker well before the Gulf [War] crisis: any settlement must be based on the 1989 plan of the government of Israel, which flatly bars Palestinian national rights (Baker Plan, December 1989).
Even when President H.W. Bush was allowing Secretary Baker to infamously goad the Israelis by telling them the White House phone number during his House testimony, the Americans have always been all show and allowed the dispossessions to continue.
Consider another line of narration: Palestinians launched a new round of violence, a sustained uprising, the [Second] Intifada. This is so preposterous when one remembers the words of Alex Kane:
Neve Gordon…tells us that the 2nd Intifada began as a nonviolent popular uprising, but only turned violent after Israel brutally suppressed the uprising, firing 1.3 million bullets into the West Bank and Gaza Strip after Israeli security forces were directed to “fan the flames”, as Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar reported in 2004.
This is just par for the course here and demonstrates the level of duplicity the PBS is involved in here with your tax dollars.
The film serves two purposes. Besides the aforementioned hasbara effect, it also tries to salvage what it can of the Obama legacy and create a post facto explanation for why this Presidency has been an almost complete disaster. In that regard, it shapes recent history into a bizarre narrative, failing to mention the words “Cast Lead” or “Protective Edge” while trying to float the preposterous idea that Obama tried to be ahead of history and support the Arab Spring. My own view, while perhaps incorrect, is that he instead succeeded in subverting the genuine democratic uprisings across the region to serve his own ends. When things in Egypt became far too complicated by having a Muslim Brotherhood government across the Sinai from besieged Gaza, a coup was initiated and al-Sisi installed.
Of course, this obviates the question of whose voice should be heard here. My own wish would be that of the late Edward Said. Although Dr. Said was not alive for these events, there is a double meaning that makes his presence necessary. First, in his writings he was absolutely open and honest about both Israeli brutality and Palestinian bravery, yet also the failings of leaders like Arafat. But also of a second degree of value is the infamous image of him speaking with a younger Obama at a dinner. Perhaps his voice would continue to speak a truth to Obama’s career that needs to be heard.