by Selam Aster
When I saw Harvey Weinstein on the news over the weekend, discussing his company’s film “Miral,” I was a bit surprised. Miral is a movie about the Israel-Palestine conflict told through the perspective of Palestinian women. Needless to say, it’s controversial since it comes by way of a Jewish producer, Weinstein, and a Jewish director, Julian Schnabel. At a recent premier screening of the film at the United Nations, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League protested, obviously unhappy with the less-than-flattering portrayal of Jews in the never-ending struggle for land preservation and conquest in Israel.
Growing up in California, I knew many Jewish people. When I first came to understand how modern-day Israel came to be, I asked one of my Jewish friends what he thought about the displacement of so many Palestinians. All he could say is that he supported Israel because he was Jewish. I kept badgering him for a more worthwhile explanation of his support but I was unsuccessful. Later, I would come to understand that this was just the code of conduct. But even after so many years, I still don’t accept it. Would I, as a Black person, defend certain projects (no matter how advantageous it was for my people), because I was Black? No.
For many Jews, when it comes to Israel, loyalty trumps all. The lens that an average Jewish person may use to assess the other ills of the world become foggy when it comes to Palestine. It certainly makes me wonder about the dangerous role of religion. There are many injustices present in the world but what’s so concerning about the Israel-Palestine conflict is that it is one that cannot be fairly assessed (or called out) because of the delicate nature of money and power involved.
I do admire Weinstein for going where few would expect him to go. He’s obviously proud of his Jewish heritage but also proud of his own individuality and sense of judgment. Schnabel himself is married to the woman whose story inspired the film, and contends that despite the fact the Palestinian perspective takes priority in this film, his intentions are to promote balance.
“I love the state of Israel. I believe in it, and my film is about preserving it, not hurting it,” he told the LA Times. “Understanding is part of the Jewish way, and Jewish people are supposed to be good listeners. But if we don’t listen to the other side, we can never have peace.”