Thursday October 23, 2014
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23.10.2014
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Uri Heitner

Five perfectly functioning cameras

This is a scene worthy of a movie: A man of Middle Eastern appearance steps onto a bus. The camera focuses on his face. He utters a sentence that reveals his Arabic accent. Suddenly, the driver stands up from his chair, grabs the man, ejects him forcefully from the bus and shuts the swinging doors behind him. Cut.

This kind of scene has the potential to teach audiences about the racism that permeates Israeli society, using the driver's actions, throwing a man off his bus just because of his ethnic background — just because he is Arab — as the means to convey the lesson. But what would have happened if just seconds after the cut, the man who was thrown off of the bus detonated an explosive belt? It would turn out that the driver had identified a suicide bomber, prevented a terrorist attack and saved the lives of dozens of passengers.

And that is how you make a documentary, calculating where to "zoom" and when to "cut." That's what it's all about. Whether you're using one functioning camera or five broken ones, the technical devices matter less than the director's decision-making process. The director's decisions express his or her agenda. If the director wants to represent Israeli society as a racist one, then he or she can do that by splicing the picture from the larger context — namely, the context that revealed a racist terrorist attack against Israelis and against Jews, and which was averted thanks to the driver's ingenuity. Over the years, there have been numerous bus drivers who have succeeded in staving off terrorist attacks and saving lives, just as described. Unfortunately, in many cases, this was not how things ended. For a long time, the conversation steered toward the topic of "exploding buses," but the truth is that it wasn't the buses that exploded. Rather, it was people who turned themselves into booby-traps and blew themselves up, hoping to slaughter as many Jews as possible in buses, malls and nightclubs.

The wave of suicide attacks that washed over Israel in the late 1990s and the turn of the 21st century expressed hope, not despair. The leading sentiment among Palestinians was that they had found the ultimate war doctrine, one that the enemy could not cope with, and one that would exhaust, break, crush and defeat the toughness of Israeli society.

Israelis, however, fought back with resounding resilience. The nation rebutted and won the battle against suicide terrorism. This war was fought by deploying a number of different strategies, many of them offensive in nature: Operation Defensive Shield, targeted killings, the reinstatement of the Israeli security apparatus within territories ruled by the Palestinian Authority, and nighttime arrests that continue to this day. These developments have forced Palestinian terrorists to spend most of their energies on finding places to hide and not on planning attacks. And defensive measures were also implemented, including highway checkpoints and the security barrier.

These efforts were not in vain. Today, the Palestinian struggle is centered around the issue of incarcerated terrorists. In light of all these Israeli successes, the prisoner issue has become their soft underbelly.

The Palestinians who engage in terror, as well as their supporters in Israel and abroad, are feeling deep frustration and a demoralizing sense of defeat on the battlefield after they thought they had finally divined the road to victory. This frustration is reflected in the war against the security barrier, which to them signifies the failure of suicide terrorism. Their arguments over the delineated course of the security barrier is a shallow point in their struggle, intended to mobilize dubious support from pro-Palestinian activists in Israel and Europe.

The struggle against the wall in Bil'in is a violent one, in which over the years activists have pelted Israeli soldiers with stones on a weekly basis and attempted to thwart the construction of the security fence. Still, it is impossible to produce a film about this struggle without showing the larger context, the reason Israel felt it needed to build the fence in the first place. You can't make this film without displaying photographs of hellacious suicide bombings that murdered, in total, more than 1,000 Israelis. "Five Broken Cameras" ostensibly represented Israel at the Oscars, and was funded by our taxpayers' shekels, but it seems that I am no patriot. I didn't want "our" movie to win.

By the way, I make a clear distinction between "Five Broken Cameras" and "The Gatekeepers." The latter film stars six Israeli patriots who have dedicated their lives to state security and who, today, profess opinions that I oppose and that sometimes even infuriate me. Nevertheless, I respect these people and their opinions. This is not the case regarding the propagandizing, anti-Israel film "Five Broken Cameras."

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