Controversial documentary Avenge but one of my two eyes by Israeli director Avi Mograbi, uses ancient history to illustrate the effects of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian people.
Initially considered a risk by Concordia’s Risk Assessment Committee, the film was finally screened at Concordia on Tuesday Oct. 10, accompanied by Mograbi and presented by Cinema Politica and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR).
The world-renowned director sat behind a table piled with informational pamphlets and warmly welcomed everyone to the screening. He introduced his film saying the idea behind it was “to try and have a little role-play.”
The Palestinian people in the film take on the role of the historical Zealots of 70 A.D. who led the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation and held them off for years in a desert fortress called Masada. In the end, they chose mass suicide rather than being captured and humiliated by the Romans, who represent the Israeli people.
The final role reversal has suicide bombers re-enacting the biblical story of Samson, a consecrated Nazirite who chose to die and killed 3,000 of his enemies with him. The documentary begins with a scene of an Israeli soldier ordering licensed Palestinian farmers to stop work because a supervisor is not present. The film then switches from scenes about the current Palestinian plight, to the Zealots at Masada, to the biblical story of Samson, and back to a present day Palestinian living in the occupied territory, who feels it makes no difference whether he lives or dies. All of these scenes interweave to show the viewer the mentality of suicide bombers as well as the desperation of the Palestinians.
After the film, Mograbi took questions from the audience. When an audience member asked whether he was a self-hating Jew, Mograbi laughingly responded, “But I am a self-hating Jew! Absolutely. well I think that it’s better to be a self-hating Jew than to be a Jew who hates others.”
After a pause he added more seriously, “I am not a self-hating Jew but in some situations I am labeled as such.”
He was then asked whether he might be inciting hatred toward Israelis with his film instead of helping the situation.
He answered, “I am but the messenger telling you people: ‘This is what is happening.’ Lots of times we [Jewish people] ask Germans, ‘Where were you? Where the fuck were you when we needed people to talk about what is happening?'”
“This is very different but we need to talk about what we [as Israelis] are doing.” His reply won huge applause from the audience.
Mograbi said that the only thing the outside world could do to “get Israel to do the right thing,” was by economic boycott. Unfortunately, he said, economical boycott would be impossible since the United States and Israel have such close relations.
A woman who described herself as an “ex-Israeli” said now that she watched the film for the second time she “realized that it operates on many levels” that she was not able to capture the first time she saw it.