Wednesday, July 30, 2008

30-Jul-08: Admissions about the power of lying

As parents of a child murdered by terrorists, we have been asked by - literally - hundreds of journalists over the past few years how it feels, what we think about the people who sent them, what we believe ought to be done to prevent massacres like the one that killed Malki and other questions of a similar nature.

The experience has been instructive, but largely depressing. We have frequently found ourselves being asked questions by reporters who seem to have only the most tentative understanding of the war they are covering. (Not always. We have met some professional and impressive journalists. Far too few.) They are often ignorant of even the most basic historical and current facts, making them the easiest of prey when slick political activists spin them. And this spinning happens all the time.

Sometimes their political and social prejudices are so evident that the process of meeting them and fielding their inquiries is itself upsetting, offensive and even - on occasion - deeply alarming.

An item in today's Haaretz focusing on the appalling Mohammed Bakri, a film maker, throws some light on why those encounters of ours with representatives of the media can be so deeply disturbing. The man made a film called "Jenin Jenin" that in our opinion is filled with outright fact-inventions and falsehoods. And not just our opinion: see "Seven Lies About Jenin" in which Dr. David Zangen who was there as a medical officer right in the thick of the Jenin battle reviews the Bakri film - and is horrified.

Bakri describes a massacre that never happened, Israeli outrages that have no factual basis, a version of Palestinian Arab victimhood that is a 180-degree inversion of reality. And for these actions, he is applauded, even by Israelis. As he makes clear in the article below, he is an active player in a political process. And as his words help us see, he's a fervent disciple of the "ends-justify-the-means" school of reportage.

This is an interview that will almost certainly go nowhere and will likely have little impact (especially coming on the day that the prime minister of Israel pre-announced his retirement from the position). But we view it as a rare insight into the role played by liars and their lies; the dishonesty of certain people who package and present the analysis of this ongoing war.

More than that, the Bakri confession below serves as additional confirmation of how some people with political agendas will bend and invent and distort the truth if they think they can get away with it.

The tragedy in this part of the world is there are so many people ready to do what it takes to get away with it. Truth is only one of the casualties, as we who have lost a daughter know to our great sorrow.

'I lie to save people'
Last update - 22:58 29/07/2008
By Nirit Anderman

When you think about an evening of homage to a creative artist, what usually comes to mind is a civilized and serene event, marked by smiles, handshakes and words of thanks. But on Sunday it became clear that when the creative person being honored is Mohammed Bakri, the rules change. When it comes to Bakri, Israeli society can't keep mum. Several dozen angry demonstrators waited on the sidewalk across from Tel Aviv's Left Bank Club, where the evening of homage for the actor and director was set to begin.

"Mohammed Bakri is living in a movie," declared one of the demonstrators' placards, playing on a Hebrew slang expression meaning that the person in question is out of touch with reality. "Mohammed Bakri is an Oscar nominee for best liar," screamed another. "You are giving homage today to a person who has slandered the Israel Defense Forces. We have come here to honor the IDF and shame you," one of the demonstrators shouted into a megaphone.

The many guests who came to pay homage to Bakri seemed surprised by the stormy reception. They quietly slipped into the building on Ahad Ha'am Street. It seemed as though the police were the only ones indifferent to the tumult - they had been called to keep an eye on the demonstrators.

After being subjected to a barrage of curses, journalists were disappointed to find that Bakri was not eager to speak. But they insisted, shoving the microphones his way. Yes, he felt victorious about holding an evening like this, and yes, the demonstrators waiting downstairs were acting like "murderers, beasts of prey." A musical ensemble took to the stage, signaling the start of the evening's cultural part. The master of ceremonies, journalist Shlomi Laufer, said the event marked 30 years of Bakri's creative work as film and stage director as well as actor. But Laufer also noted that the evening paid homage to freedom of speech, too. The guests wished to encourage Bakri and to congratulate him for having survived the lengthy trial against him, which ended just a month ago, when the Petah Tikva District Court judge acquitted him of the libel suit filed by five reserve soldiers. They had alleged that his film, "Jenin Jenin," damaged their reputation.

The executive director of the Agenda organization, former journalist Anat Saragusti, spoke about the legitimacy Israeli society accords to a militaristic and violent weltanschauung, while denying the legitimacy of alternative worldviews. "When 'Jenin, Jenin' was screened, it immediately became illegitimate," she noted. "It is necessary to raise an outcry: How is it that when something is screened depicting one particular security perspective, it is all right, whereas another viewpoint is immediately perceived as dangerous, as endangering our existence?"

... "You said that you lied in order to give hope. I want to say that your truth gives hope, and I want to thank you for this," said one of the guests at the end of the screening. "You should know that you are not alone - we are all with you in this tragedy."

... Bakri also referred to the demonstrators outside the hall: "I lie, they say. Yes, maybe there is an instance in which I lie - when it is a matter of human lives, I lie. If my lie saves people, then I am proud to lie. I lie when I create hope out of nowhere. But those who cause me to lie are not the ones who were standing here outside and screaming like wild beasts. You are the ones who cause me to lie, you are the ones who help me create a new world."
The rest of the article is here.

Those who bakri in the name of one cause or another, lying "to save people" as they so disingenuously put it, have a great deal for which to answer; their editors, publishers and distributors even more so. As the film-maker himself put it after the Israeli Supreme Court reversed a ban on his controversial film in 2003: “Every truth has two sides–our side and your side–and the two truths are one big truth.”

Or one enormous body of lies, as he now openly admits.

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