While the Albanian lobby in America is pulling out all the stops to win Jewish support once again for its land grab in Serbia, circulating press releases to Jewish newspapers across the country, speaking at synagogues and Jewish centers and disseminating documentary films exploiting the catchy statistic that Albania ended up with more Jews after WWII than before, a 17 year-old Albanian-American high school senior from Chester, VA, Anida Kulla, was awarded second place in C-Span’s annual “StudentCam” film competition for her anti-Israel work “Peace in the Middle East: Israel and Palestine.”
The perversity of enlisting Jewish help in redefining Kosovo to its Hitler-bestowed borders aside, the claims of Albanian “pro-Jewishness” are called into question by young Anida’s compulsion to add a simplistic contribution to the impressive body of anti-Israel work that’s already out there.
Kulla’s intention, as she related in a recent C-Span telephone interview, was to analyze “how American foreign policy affect[s] that region and that conflict specifically.” To that end, the film begins by attempting to unravel the premise that America and Israel share common values, with Kulla’s best friend and co-producer Anna Halbrooks-Fulks mock-reporting that “In the eyes of many people, the reality of Israel today is not the original concept upon which it was founded in 1948 under the UN Charter. Over the years, the perception of human rights, self-determination, and the disparities in living conditions between the two populations have all changed how the world views the conflict.”
Early in the ten-minute documentary we see a Harvard professor named David Little, who explains America’s support of a Jewish state as having something to do with feelings of guilt over the Jewish refugees whom America rejected during WWII. Next we see Israeli Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni citing a stumbling block to peace: “extremist Jews…spreading hate.” Despite Muslim-Albanian protestations of non-religiousness (and for all we know, Kulla may be Catholic or Orthodox Christian), the most camera time goes to a young Muslim teacher wearing a headdress, named Saedah Qasem, who was speaking before an American classroom and complaining that American loyalty “right now [lies] with Israel.”
By the time we get to a video of an AIPAC spokesman outlining America’s and Israel’s common values and threats, the viewer receives his words with some cynicism, and the background graphics of Islamic terror on the march and of Bush shaking hands with the AIPAC spokesman strike the viewer as exploitative, meant to further the interests of the nefarious Jewish lobby.
Next, a sound bite from Barry Gabay, member of something called the Jewish Commentary Federation of Richmond, ends with “Israel is a victim and an oppressor. It’s the victim because its people are being shot at and blown up. It’s the oppressor because they are heavy-handed with Palestinians,” adding with great indignation, “You can’t lock down people.”
The clip ends before we hear what Gabay’s superior ideas for preventing imminent Jew-killing might be. We later hear from a guidance counselor named Downy Roberts-Gabay, presumably Gabay’s wife, in what is the project’s one nod to balance: she likens Palestinians to a dysfunctional family blaming an outsider instead of the head of the family. Back again to Qasem, who projects the Muslim world’s desperate search for a holocaust by saying of the Jews, “I think they do want to remain the victim. I think it’s in their best interest to remain the victim in people’s eyes.”
Harvard professor Little, who reportedly went out of his way to help the girls with this project, offers the following novel, professorial concept: “I would like to see American administrations put some restraints on Israel, to urge them to build bridges, to work out a peaceful relationship with the Palestinians…Israel needs to be reined in and given some direction. Some people say there’s no adult supervision in Israel and I think that’s right. I think the United States ought to exert adult supervision.”
“They…play the victim,” continues Qasem, “‘Oh look at these crazy Palestinians again. They’re all bombing people...look what they’re doing...What are we supposed to do? We have to control these crazy Palestinians.’ Well why are the crazy Palestinians crazy? That’s the question. It’s because [Israelis] push buttons.”
So the Palestinians are crazy not for the same reason that Muslims blowing things up everywhere else are crazy, but for some unique, Jew-caused reason.
Inspiring this project was a comedy show Kulla saw, titled “Stand up for Peace” and starring Jewish-American comedian Scott Blakeman and Italian/Palestinian-American comedian Dean Obeidallah.
“They gave me a great starting point for our documentary,“ Kulla told a local paper called Village News, meaning that after seeing a “pro-peace” show, she walked away understanding that the responsibility for there not being peace in the Middle East lies with Israel. (The Village News reporter added, “They created an unbiased film” -- so no need to judge for yourself.)
The comedy of Obeidallah, whose jokes play on the fact that his last name means “servant of Allah” (and indeed is almost pronounced “Obey Allah”), was raised Christian by his Italian-American mother and late father, a Palestinian Muslim from the West Bank. Rather than consider that perhaps his dad knew what he was doing by not raising him Muslim, Dean jumped with both feet into “coming to terms with his Arabic roots” after 9/11 – which to him means devoting his comedy to combating post-9/11 “prejudice.” This frequently entails telling Americans they’re racists for fearing Middle Easterners, to loud applause.
Yes, it is the duty even of a lifelong American who is only half-Arab and not at all Muslim to do the bidding of the Muslim world, which makes little room for the likes of his Catholic mother.
In Kulla’s Obeidallah clip, set to images of Palestinian poverty, the comedian reaffirms Qasem’s point: “If you make peaceful resolution impossible, you make violent resolution inevitable,” he says, and comes up with another novel idea: that Israelis and Palestinians should negotiate. While his colleague blames the Jews, Jewish comedian Blakeman offers platitudes like “You can’t just be pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian; you have to be pro-peace.”
It may cost this writer—who is a comedian acquainted with both comics—a gig or two to say this, but what the hell, it’s jihad, and Obeidallah has called me a racist anyway: these two otherwise charming fellows are quintessentials of the mold that hopes to be the last one killed.
As is filmmaker Kulla. Her project begs the question: Why is she preaching to Israelis and Israel-supporting Americans, when they’ve spent decades—from the Israel-despising Jimmy Carter era to the Oslo-Clinton era to the Road Map Bush era—trying everything that the cardboard cutouts in her film recommend? Nor is there any acknowledgment of the fact that Ehud Barak made an unprecedented offer, which the Palestinians rejected, because “peace” was never the end game for them. And if the recommendation is to be pro-peace, how can one expect peace by teaching hate?
While Kulla’s anti-Israelism has a typical American-young-person flavor to it, if the Albanian-Jewish friendship that Albanians have been playing up has any weight, Kulla should have been inclined to go the opposite way. Instead, her view of the conflict reveals Muslim solidarity in Albanian quarters, which continually insist they’re not like “those” Muslims. Just more evidence that despite their protestations of secularity, pro-Americanism and pro-Jewishness, Albanians will go, and are going, in the direction of the wider Muslim world—much of which isn’t “religious” either.
In her telephone interview with C-Span, Kulla explained that her last name means “something like a stronghold or fortress.” Specifically, Kulla is a type of Albanian stone house in Kosovo, a place where Albanians have ethnically cleansed just about all non-Albanians and non-Muslims, including the last of the Jews. Albania itself, that bastion of Jew-saving, is down to 10 Jews, the near-last of whom were airlifted to Israel in 1991. Israel is the place that does make room for other kinds, but to this teen named after the now mono-ethnic Kosovo, it’s Israel that warrants scrutiny.
Rather than ask her about the Fort Dix plot that involved four Albanians, the C-Span interviewer asked Kulla whether she was aware that President Bush would be visiting Albania this past Sunday and whether it meant anything to her. Despite Bush’s pro-Israel stance, Kulla managed to be positive: “I am excited about that. Albanians love Americans—let me just put that out there right now. They’re very Western-oriented people and they’re just so excited to have any interaction with Americans. President Bush being over there [Sunday] is definitely a step forward for American-Albanian relations.”
Being pro-American means supporting American values which, unlike in Albania or Kosovo, have their parallel in Israel. Given that Albanian values look nothing like our own, it’s poetic that an Albanian is trying to move America away from supporting its values by distancing it from the lone democracy in the Middle East. And here it becomes important to remember why Albanians like America: we cleared out their ethnic rivals.
Ms. Kulla may not be of the Ft. Dix plotter variety, with barn animals being slaughtered in the backyard and regular run-ins with the law. No, while the Duka brothers and their like, plentiful in this country, handle the dirty work of jihad, this sophisticated, Americanized suburban teen who is “very interested in politics; it’s a passion of mine” will go off to Yale next year, majoring in political science and international studies, and continuing to handle the clean side of the dirty job. She will grow up to be the clean-cut, often unwitting, Western shill for jihad.
The film ends with a clip of UCLA professor Judah Pearl, father of Wall St. Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was slain by Muslims in Pakistan. The elder Pearl was addressing an audience next to former Pakistan ambassador to England, Akbar Ahmed. Pearl’s great insight was that the Israelis shouldn’t view it as giving up land, but as sharing, and should say, “Let’s play in this sandbox together…Let’s share it and have fun.” The final shot is a feel-good moment when Ambassador Ahmed invites a former Palestinian refugee in the audience to come up on stage and shake hands with Pearl, who finishes by saying, “We come from the same father.”
That Kulla closes with Pearl offers one final irony. It was this man’s son who early on uncovered that Kulla’s people in Kosovo had fabricated a genocide against them—even concocting an “Anne Frank of Kosovo” story—to secure a land grab for Albanians and Albanians alone. That Albanian-Muslim “Anne Frank with a laptop,” Kujtesa Bejtullahu, was brought to the U.S. by a Protestant church. Much like Kulla, she finished high school here and pursued her interest in international relations at Stanford University. “No,” writes historian Carl Savich, “Anne Frank of Kosovo did not die in a ‘Serb concentration camp.’ She ended up working for Deutsche Bank.”
The real Anne Frank died at Bergen-Belsen, where the Albanian Nazi SS Skanderbeg Division sent the Jews it rounded up in Kosovo.
C-Span is airing the winning entries through June 15th.