According to Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ari Folman, known for his works “Waltz With Bashir” and “Where Is Anne Frank,” the United Kingdom’s reaction to the Israel-Hamas conflict is based on “hypocrisy” and a lack of knowledge.
Folman, a resident of Tel Aviv, expressed his belief that there is a significant amount of hypocrisy present. He is currently collecting testimonies from family members of Jewish individuals who were captured by Hamas. He also stated that it is impossible to ignore the situation in Gaza and not show empathy for both sides involved.
According to him, there is a lack of understanding in the western world that Hamas is a fundamentalist organization. They are not fighting for freedom but instead are cruel beings who have killed innocent children and beheaded people. He also mentioned instances of rape at a rave party, but has not seen any mention of these events being reported.
The director, a dedicated fan of Liverpool football club, expressed his dismay while watching the 21 October game against Everton. He noticed that while public support for Palestine was allowed, support for Israel was not.
I am a member of a dedicated group of fans who support Liverpool. We gather to watch games and have a Facebook group. During the Merseyside derby at Anfield, one of our members brought a sign in memory of four fellow supporters who were tragically killed the previous week. However, the sign was not allowed into the stadium, despite the fact that there were no Israeli flags present. Surprisingly, Palestinian flags were permitted.
When inquired about the taking down of certain Hamas hostage posters in London, Folman acknowledged, “We are not ignorant. We are well aware of the events happening in Europe and around the globe, particularly in the UK and prestigious universities like the Ivy League in America. We are familiar with the demonstrations against Israel.”
Folman spoke with the families of the Israeli hostages for the first time five days after approximately 240 individuals, including men, women, and children, were abducted from their residences. Currently, four hostages have been freed.
During the initial week, he stated that the individuals who were interviewed did not have any confirmation regarding the status of their loved ones – whether they were kidnapped, deceased, or missing.
At times, Folman and his team would inform relatives that their loved ones’ remains had been positively identified while in conversation with them.
The project, known as #BringThemHomeNow, has recorded about 70 individuals, according to the director and fellow colleagues Jasmine Kainy, Eliran Peled, and Smadar Zamir.
More interviews are yet to come as families have a strong desire to share their stories. Speaking about their experiences serves as a therapeutic process for them. It’s important to remember that the government completely ignored them during the initial week and no one reached out to offer support. It was complete chaos.
Chaim Peri, a 79-year-old peace activist, was one of the hostages and a friend of Folman. Peri’s son, Lior, has previously worked as a gaffer on the director’s films.
For the past three decades, this individual has been stationed at the checkpoint, assisting Palestinian children suffering from cancer. He would transport them to Israeli hospitals for treatment and then drive them back to Gaza.
Folman stated that while working on the project, he was reminded of his mother Wanda’s experience. Wanda, who is currently 101 years old, was 17 years old when she, her new husband, and her younger sister were deported to Auschwitz in 1944.
Folman’s parents were not living together, but Wanda managed to protect her sister until one day when she came home from work and encountered Nazi doctor Josef Mengele and his assistant. “They took her sister,” she often reflects, “If only I had been five minutes earlier…”
I believe the first time I experienced this in person was during my interviews with individuals who recounted, “They shot the mother, they shot the father, they left me, and they took the girl.”
The director feels that non-military volunteer efforts, like the movement #BringThemHomeNow, gained popularity rapidly due to the already strong presence of protests against Benjamin Netanyahu’s presidency.
“We have numerous WhatsApp groups dedicated to protest activities. Within one hour, they transformed into rescue groups.”
According to Forman, Netanyahu is unlikely to remain in office. There is widespread anger in Israel towards the government for its neglect of civilians. Once a ceasefire is reached, Netanyahu’s administration will likely be ousted.
The director anticipates that the Israeli hostages will be freed in return for the release of 5,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons. However, they are puzzled as to why it is taking a long time to negotiate this agreement.
In the 2008 animated documentary Waltz With Bashir, Folman delved into Israel’s involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacre that took place during the 1982 Lebanon War.
In his 2021 film about Anne Frank, the filmmaker explores the impact of the Holocaust. However, according to Folman, there is a significant distinction between his film and other acclaimed films about historical events. While those films were made years after the events, Folman’s film includes interviews with people who have recently experienced traumatic events, allowing for a more immediate and dramatic portrayal. The characteristics of each interviewee are evident and those who are naturally optimistic bring a sense of hope, while others may struggle to find optimism.
He describes Tel Aviv as a deserted city with constant sirens and empty streets. The city is in a state of disarray and its residents are deeply affected by the situation, leading to widespread feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
The director, who was only 10 years old during the Yom Kippur war in 1973, believes that the current conflict is significantly larger as it affects not just soldiers but also innocent civilians. It is a wound that will take many years to fully recover from.
I am confident that a solution will eventually be found. Throughout my life, I have had a sense that after a major disaster, there would be a reorganization in the Middle East. The current state of living is unsustainable.