Home » commentary » Video: “In Defense of the Rocket,” or…’Let’s pardon a murderer!’

Video: “In Defense of the Rocket,” or…’Let’s pardon a murderer!’

The description accompanying the above video reads: “The rise and fall of the Middle East peace process in photos, to the rhythms of Beethoven’s 7th symphony.”

Made by French filmmaker Martin Ginestie, the short, five minute piece has been shown at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam as well as a number of other festivals (a complete list accompanies the video description).

So what gives with the title–“In Defense of the Rocket”?

Is Ginestie trying to justify the firing of rockets into Israel by Palestinians in blockaded Gaza? Could there be any justification for such?

“At festivals, I’ve definitely got people being offended by the title. But that was the purpose,” the filmmaker said in an interview with the Electronic Intifada.

The “moment of inspiration” that inspired the film, he adds, was the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza, although admittedly “it was very hard to find anything positive” about that violent and bloody 51-day conflict. And while he admits the title is intentionally provocative, the object, he says, is not to advocate violence–but rather to remind Westerners that they haven’t walked in the shoes of Palestinians or experienced life under occupation the way the Palestinians have.

Or as he puts it:

The ambition of the film was to provoke Western liberals – at the time there was a lot of sympathy for Palestinians but very little sympathy for armed resistance. That was kind of a red line. I wanted to provoke people, not to support armed resistance – it’s not for us to decide how Palestinians resist colonization – but to get people to reframe the Western debate about the use of violence…I wanted to make a film that retraced the past 20 years of Palestinian politics and give some kind of historical logic for what the Palestinian resistance was doing.

The perhaps stereotypical Zionist response can be found at the Elder of Ziyon website, which describes Ginestie’s work as “a film that defends and romanticizes Palestinian terror rocket fire towards Israeli civilians.” The proselytizing here is not very subtle. On the one hand we have “Palestinian terror rocket fire” and on the other “Israeli civilians,” while the headline above the entire piece reads, “‘Progressives’ romanticizing Hamas terror rockets at film festivals.”

After quoting Ginestie’s comments to the Electronic Intifada, the writer adds:

Anyone who frames Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, Israeli citizens being bombarded by rockets and Israel finally fighting back after years of inaction as “colonization” is an imbecile.

And anyone who says that Palestinians have the right to murder Jews in the name of “resisting colonization” if they choose but Israelis don’t have the right to defend themselves is a hypocrite.

Yet a score of film festivals think that a poorly made piece of pro-terror propaganda is worth showing – because supporting terror against Jews is now considered “provocative” “art.”

I wonder how “provocative” it would be if we did a video comparision–Ginestie’s video with, say, the video shot last year showing Israeli soldier Elor Azaria firing a bullet into the head of 21-year-old Abd al-Fatah al-Sharif as he lay wounded on a Hebron street.

As I reported in a post yesterday, Azaria has been found guilty on the charge of ‘manslaughter,’ and while he could face a maximum penalty of 20 years, it’s highly doubtful he will spend any significant amount of time in prison. In fact, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has now joined the chorus of Israeli politicians calling for his pardon.

“This is a difficult and painful day – first and foremost for Elor, his family, Israel’s soldiers, many citizens and parents of soldiers, among them me … I support granting a pardon to Elor Azaria,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu is joined in his call by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Culture Minister Miri Regev, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, and Knesset Member Shelly Yachimovich. But there are a few Israeli politicians who are said to be breaking ranks and opposing a pardon. One of these is Likud Knesset Member Yehuda Glick.

“I do not believe that a pardon is the right direction in this case,” Glick said. “In my view, leniency in his sentence is preferred. But he must take responsibility and understand that he acted incorrectly.”

Whether Glick is concerned about international political fallout should a pardon be granted I can’t say, but clearly he doesn’t think Azaria did anything all that bad.

“Those who created an atmosphere around Elor Azaria — that he’s a hero, etc. — haven’t helped him at all,” Glick said.

Haven’t helped Azaria at all? Or does the Knesset member really mean to say that they haven’t helped Israel at all?

“Elor violated the orders on opening fire, and therefore he should have confessed to that and been judged in a military trial, not a show trial. Elor is ‘our son’ but he is not a hero,” Glick continued. “But on the other hand, he is not a murderer. He didn’t go out to kill.”

So it would seem that even those Israelis who oppose a pardon for Azaria, really aren’t all that bothered by the idea of a soldier shooting a wounded Palestinian execution-style in the head. They still think of such an individual fondly as “our son.”

To Glick, Palestinian life is obviously cheap. How can his remarks be characterized as anything other than a racist, Jewish supremacist outlook?

Contrast Glick’s sentiments on the matter to those expressed by Yusri al-Sharif, the victim’s father:

“He (Azaria) should be sentenced in this court like they do with Palestinians … life sentences, torture and then ending up dead lying in a refrigerator,” al-Sharif said.

The grieving father isn’t simply engaging in rhetoric. As I reported in a post back on May 27, 2016, Israeli authorities held on to the 21-year-old al-Sharif’s body for two months before finally returning it to his family.

Given all of this, reasonably it might not be hard for us to understand why someone would make a video and entitle it, “In Defense of the Rocket.” And perhaps “Western liberals”–plus who knows who else, maybe even the “Elder of Ziyon”–might want to take some of this into consideration when evaluating Ginestie’s film.

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