Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Tom Segev: Waltz with History

5 February 2009

By Tom Segev, Haaretz – 5 Feb 2009

Tom Segev

Tom Segev

The film “Waltz with Bashir” belongs to the kvetch genre: “Oy, how traumatic that massacre in Sabra and Chatila was for us.” The Jewish Agency is afraid that the tender soul of American Jewry might be hurt by the film and therefore it is offering them psychological relief on the Internet (

It is not clear what the Agency sees as the main problem: Is it the psychological difficulty of remaining “pro-Israel” after watching the film, or is it that viewers will not remain “pro-Israel”? Whatever the case may be, a single solution has been found for both these problems: to disassociate the film from the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to transfer it to the most distant possible realms, as though it were just a work of art.

This is not a “pro-Israel” film and it is not an “anti-Israel” film, the Web site reassures us: “Life in modern Israel is far more complicated than ‘good or bad.'” The site proposes discussions in forums that resemble support groups, and instructs their moderators to avoid making any binding statements: “Don’t expect to know the ‘answers'; in fact, don’t expect there to be ‘right answers’ at all!” In other words, it is an absolute no-no to criticize anything that was done under the aegis of Israel, even if it is a crime against humanity.

The creators of the site warn: “There may be a temptation to treat the film as a commentary on current events in Gaza. We urge Jewish organizations not to be sidetracked into a political battle that would strip art of its multivalency.” In order to protect art from history, the site suggests that we “address the film in all its complexity and take the opportunity it offers for sharing and clarifying the mixed emotions and ideas it sets flying.”

The site does not give details of how to relate with “mixed emotions” to the slaughter in Sabra and Chatila, but to make it easier for viewers to remain “pro-Israel,” it offers historical background. The perpetrators of the massacre were men belonging to the Phalange, not Israeli soldiers. And nevertheless, 400,000 Israelis went out to demonstrate, and in response to their demand, a commission of inquiry was established. This is equivalent to 34 million people demonstrating in America, the site explains, and it proffers sections from the report of the Kahan Commission that investigated Israel’s role in the massacre.

To make it easier for American Jews to continue being “pro-Israel,” the site informs them of how the Israelis rid themselves back then of Ariel Sharon, by sending him into the “political wilderness,” out of which he emerged a mere 13 years later. The truth, of course, is that Sharon was allowed to continue serving in the government even after he had to give up the Defense Ministry. After having remodeled history, the site asks participants in the discussion whether they would not prefer that the film be remodeled, too – by leaving out pictures from the massacre.

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