I attended my second screening of “Paradise Now” at the University of Judaism on Jan. 19, and I was concerned on a variety of levels. Having seen the film I realized the audience would be exposed to a one-sided perspective which would include phrases like “we have no other choice, but to use our bodies to resist the occupation - we are already dead here," etc. These and other constant comments, without offering important information about incitement, terrorist groups, about how the corrupt Palestinian Authority which did not engage in building roads, schools or improve sanitation, etc., would be misleading and out of context.
I knew Israel’s viewpoint would have some airing after the film at the UJ, during the question-and-answer session, partly because the Q&A panel would be moderated by Marc Ballon, a reporter from the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, and include Nadav Morag, UJ staff member. Also sitting on the panel would be “Paradise Now” director Hany Abu-Assad as well as two other pro-film panelists.
The film is a well done piece of propaganda. Seeing the movie for the second time underscored its open attempts to sanitize Jihad and incitement, push a one-sided anti-Israel narrative, and omit critical information that would help educate the audience. It would now be used to "educate" people about the plight of the Palestinians albeit presented out of context. While there is no denying that Palestinians have suffered, it appears that the filmmakers intended to lead people to "understand" that such misery can push many ordinary Palestinians to conclude that suicide bombing is sadly yet understandably the only answer to their plight and an appropriate form of resistance to Israeli occupation.
I was also right about Israel's voice being heard during the Q&A after this one-sided film was shown. I was disturbed however, as I listened to director Abu-Assad admit to "sanitizing" this film’s reflection of hateful Jihadist incitement so that it would be artistic and acceptable to a wide range of audiences. Although at first he said that he opposes suicide bombing, Abu-Assad later stated that under certain circumstances even he could understand suicide bombing as a response to desperation.
The director told a story about how he was detained at a checkpoint for three hours. After waiting through the second and third hours he became so angry, Abu-Assad realized he could understand how people would become suicide bombers.
Abu-Assad’s comments at the University of Judaism underscored the most chilling aspect of “Paradise Now” as it tries to normalize suicide bombing and makes it appear to be an ordinary response to poverty and frustration. It is not; it is a pathological response devised by radical Islamic strategists, supported by an organized infrastructure and presented as a viable alternative to troubled young people. People do not choose suicide bombing unless they have been taught that it is a valid behavioral reaction. People cannot strap bombs around their waists unless the bombs are produced and provided by bomb-makers who are supported with money and materials from abroad.
“Paradise Now” does not touch on radical Islam and yet it is the radical Islamists who have introduced this tool most recently which is used almost exclusively by radical Islamic groups in countries all over the planet. Is this all Israel's responsibility? Or is it a function of dangerous ideology?
And what about the promise of heaven and virgins and the unforgivable indoctrination by the PA -approved religious leadership to become martyrs and make their way to paradise? The guarantee of 72 virgins (plus hero status) sounds heavenly if this is pounded into one's head since childhood, and supported by the pressure of that society coming from TV, religious leaders, media, terrorist groups, and the Palestinian Authority affiliates.
I felt sad as I left the University of Judaism, knowing that misinformation in this film will now spread to unsuspecting audiences who will not have the benefit of people like Marc Ballon and Nadav Morag there on a panel to deconstruct “Paradise Now” for them after they watch the film. Once again, Israel will be demonized and the barbarity of raising young people to become suicide murderers will get a pass.
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