Waltz With Israel’s Image


Should we be rooting for the Israeli entry, “Waltz With Bashir,” to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film on Sunday night?

Many Jews, no doubt, will feel a surge of pride if the highly praised Ari Folman account of the 1982 Lebanon War wins top honors, a first for Israel. But there are many who, while praising the work for its creative and artistic merit, are deeply concerned that more attention for the film will further erode Israel’s image around the world.

Katie Green, an Israeli filmmaker, complains that “Bashir” lacks context, never explaining adequately why Israel was fighting in Lebanon in the first place. In fact, the conflict began as an effort to stop Yasir Arafat’s PLO from terror attacks on Israeli communities in the north. “Although the faces of Israeli friends,soldiers, therapists and politicians are lovingly illustrated in close-up all the way through the film, the enemy being engage has no name and no face,” Green notes in an essay on this Web site.

She argues that “the film plays into the hands of the worst of our detractors, depicting us as mindless invaders who care little for human life.”

But Marco Greenberg, a public relations expert in New York, came to the opposite conclusion after viewing the film.

In fact, he insists that “Bashir” is a more effective pro-Israel too than all of the hasbarah efforts by the Israeli government during the 22-day Gaza campaign because it depicts Israeli soldiers as real people, not a juggernaut.

In expressing their anguish over the long-ago conflict, these men express empathy, compassion and remorse, humanizing rather than demonizing them, according to Greenberg.

Which only goes to prove that we read so much into what we see, depending on our emotions and biases. Judge for yourself when you see the film, whether or not it wins an Oscar.

was editor and publisher of The Jewish Week from 1993 to 2019. Follow him at garyrosenblatt.substack.com.