Fascism or just a sad joke? marking the Nakba to become illegal

Posted: May 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: culture, In the News, racism | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The government of Israel has decided to make life easier for those who claim it is an Apartheid state (or just a Fascist one). Haaretz reports:

The Ministerial Committee on Law and Constitution on Sunday approved a preliminary proposal which would make it illegal to hold events or ceremonies marking Israel’s Independence Day as a “Nakba,” or catastrophe (…) According to the bill, those found in violation could face up to three years in prison.

The ministerial approval is only a preliminary step and has no legal bearing yet. Before the proposal could become a law, it must first undergo Knesset approval and cabinet consideration.

I won’t go into explaining why this offer is both bad and stupid. If you don’t understand that freedom of speech is meant to allow expressing such views – even if most Israelis find them offensive – look for your first lesson on democracy somewhere else. And if you think that you can prevent people from remembering their national heritage just because you don’t like what it says about yourself – you better learn some history as well, and start with Jewish history.

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Posted: March 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: culture, elections | Tags: , , | Comments Off

And that’s Goni Riskin’s funny blog, where she posts her pics with (mostly) old political T-shirts.


Someone Blinked?

Posted: March 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: culture | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Israel’s public Radio, “Kol Israel”, just reported that Kadima and the Likud have resumed negotiations. Yossi Verter reports similar things in Haaretz:

…    sources in Kadima and Likud say there is ongoing, active underground channel between her and Netanyahu. The two don’t speak directly, but emissaries convey messages; for example, from Kadima ministers who are unhappy about their imminent forced exile from the government, or Likud officials appalled at the government that’s taking shape.

Are we going to have a national unity government after all? I’m not sure. More likely they are discussing how to build the government in a way that will enable Kadima to join it in the future.


Posted: March 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: culture | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Israeli musician Ofir Yekutiel, aka Kutiman, has created an exiting musical project: he took dozens of instructional videos and practice sessions from Youtube, and edited them into 7 great videos (titled “thru-you”). Without any PR, it became an overnight web sensation. Kutiman’s site is down most of the time due to overwhelming traffic, but here is a mirror site, and naturally, someone posted the project on Youtube.

This one is my personal favorite. It’s called “I’m New”:

Animation against the Siege

Posted: March 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: culture, war | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »

For those who haven’t seen it yet, here is the short animation film by Yoni Goodman, one of Wlatz With Bashir’s animators, protesting the siege on Gaza.


Dion Nissenbaum has more about this film.

The First Oscar?

Posted: February 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: culture | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

Running in the park a few days ago, I passed a group of runners who were discussing the film “Waltz With Bashir”. Like many Israelis, they liked the film, but one of them also felt that it exaggerated in blaming Israel for the Sabra and Shatila massacre, when it was the Christian militia who did the actual shooting.

I feel differently: while the film sort of blames Israel’s leaders for the massacre, it absolves the narrator, and in that sense – all Israelis, which appear in the film as victims. Not victims in the way the Palestinians were, but a kind of “psychological victims”, traumatized by the things their country made them do. It is that double move – of assuming responsibility and rejecting it at the same time – that helped make “Waltz” into a comfortable pill for Israelis to swallow.

The strange thing is that the film actually makes people favor Israel – and that’s why I think it’s going to win an Oscar tonight. UPDATE: The Japanese “Departures” won. I haven’t seen it.

And here are some more of my thoughts about “Waltz” and other Israeli war movies.

Waltz with Bashir

Posted: December 24th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: culture, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

“Waltz with Bashir”, an animated war documentary by Ari Folman, opens in the US on Dec 26th. It’s a great film, certainly worth watching. Here is the US trailer:

And here are some of my more critical thoughts on the film (no spoilers, I think):

First, I have to admit I really love war films (Tora! Tora! Tora! Is one of my all time favorites). It’s a shame that as Israelis we have so many wars and so few war films, though this is beginning to change recently (we have more films).

Watching “Waltz with Bashir” made me think of two other Israeli war movies from recent years: “Kippur” by Amos Gitai, and “Beaufort” by Joseph Cedar. I don’t mean that the film itself resembled the other two – I think “Waltz” is the best film of the three; it’s a better story, it’s more fun to watch, it provides a stronger experience and in Israeli terms, it’s a real artistic breakthrough. But rather, that on some key themes – both ideological and narrative – those films have something in common. And I think what they have in common say something about the relationship between culture and politics in Israel.

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Avrum Burg

Posted: December 21st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: culture, The Left | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

Avrum Burg is a nice and intelligent guy. I once interviewed him. We had breakfast at the lobby of the Tel Aviv Hilton, and talked for three hours. He is very self-aware, but also comes across as trying to impress. I think he is self-aware of that too.

Burg usually moves real fast to talking about the “Big” issues, like the role of Zionism in the Jewish history and the future of the Jewish people in a Globalized world. Coming from a politician (even an ex-politician) I always find this kind of talk boring and unproductive. There are real political battles to be fought – and that’s something Burg was never good at. At least he is honest and self-aware enough to admit to that too.

Burg’s latest book, “The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise From its Ashes” (what a weird title!) is out in English. The NYT published a piece on it. It appears that some of the juicy controversial stuff was edited out of the English edition.

Contrary to what the last paragraph in the article says, Burg is not very important in Israel.

Dancing with Tears in Our Eyes

Posted: December 8th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: culture | Tags: , , , | Comments Off
Dancing with Tears in Our Eyes (book cover)

Dancing with Tears in Our Eyes (book cover)

Today came out “Dancing with Tears in Our Eyes: History of club and Discotheque Culture in Israel” (לרקוד עם דמעות בעיניים: ההיסטוריה של תרבות המועדונים והדיסקוטקים בישראל), a new book by Nissan Shor, a journalist and a music critic. The book does not only tell the story of clubs and music genres, but also puts it in political and historical perspective in a way that was never done before in Israel.

Shor recognizes the constant tension in Israel – dating to the days before the state was born – between the mainstream ideology and different sub-cultures who fight to built and maintain autonomous enclaves (most of the time without much success). He shows how, even as late as in the 80′s and 90′s, music and entertainment were considered “respectable” only when they didn’t put the mainstream Zionist values at risk. He quotes Knesset debates and newspapers articles concerning the dangers of “the misbehaved youth”, and tells the story behind some of Tel Aviv’s most famous establishments and nightlife figures.

It’s one of the most fascinating Israeli history books I read lately, but on top of all, it remains a book about the love of music and life.