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Beyond Unbelief: Bibi’s Speech and Fred Cavayé’s Pour Elle

June 16th, 2009by Haim Watzman · 15 Comments · Culture and Ideas, Politics and Policy

Haim Watzman

Sometimes a mediocre film puts everything in perspective. When the lights went down in the Cinematheque last night I was in the middle of discussion with my companion (full disclosure: I’m married to her) how to parse Bibi’s two-state speech. One position (not mine) was that the prime minister had offered an honest and sincere statement of both Israel’s willingness to compromise for peace, whereas the other position (not hers) was that Bibi was just paying lip service to President Obama’s peace initiative and had no real intention of making any progress with the Palestinians.

The film was Fred Cavayé’s Pour Elle (Anything For Her), a thriller that calls for a willing suspension of more beliefs than does Christopher Hitchens writing about God.

Lisa and Julien are happily in love and have a cute little boy named Oscar. Lisa is arrested and convicted of a murder she did not commit. When all legal recourses are exhausted and Lisa turns suicidal, Julien, who teaches French in a high school, decides to free his wife by force. He consults with a former prisoner who has written a book about his many prison breaks (for a guy on the lam, the guy is startlingly easy to locate and oddly willing to speak freely to a total stranger). Then he carefully concocts a plan, scrawled all over the wall of his study at home, to grab Lisa when she’s being taken to the hospital because of her diabetes and abscond with her and Oscar to El Salvador.

Like all protagonists of this genre, bookish Julien displays a truly awesome talent for landing a left hook and shooting straight at a target, without any training or practice. To get fake papers, he does deals with Parisian lowlifes, and to obtain enough cash to support his family for two years in exile, he robs and shoots two drug dealers. In the process he leaves behind enough fingerprints, hairs, pieces of his car, and witnesses to fill an entire season of CSI scripts.

Of course, in a daring crime like this, anything can go wrong. In Julien’s case, nearly everything does go wrong. He ends up going much farther than he intended to go. His brother and father get wind of the plan, his robbery turns into a murder, the police quickly figure out that Julien is the culprit and that he’s trying to spring his wife, and Lisa wastes precious moments when she, at first, refuses to go along. Fortunately for Julien, although somewhat painfully for my brain’s mechanism for distinguishing between the highly unlikely and the laughably unlikely, everything goes wrong about five seconds too late for them to be apprehended. They make it to El Salvador, and the family is reunited, although there’s the small problem that one of its members is now a real killer and that Interpol is hot on his heels.

So what’s that have to do with Bibi’s speech? Bibi is also seeking to suspend our disbelief and make us accept what is almost certainly a fiction—that he really intends to pursue a two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. He’s concocted a complicated plan to stay friends with the U.S. while continuing to add housing units to settlements and condone the construction of ever more outposts in the West Bank. Anything could go wrong.

But, I have to admit, there’s a small chance that everything will go right. It’s just possible that Bibi’s strategy will unite the Israeli public behind a real peace initiative and create a dynamic that will take him much farther than he intends to go. After all, sometimes leaders act with courage and foresight by mistake. Gorbachev, after all, thought that glasnost would shore up rather than dissolve the Communist regime.

This may not be the film I’d like to see, but it’s the only one playing right now. Let’s hope that Anything for Obama is a real action—as opposed to non-action—movie.

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15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 TNM // Jun 16, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    It’s been observed that mediocre novels make for great movies (e.g., “The Godfather,”), nice to know that mediocre movies can also inspire. I can still remember Pauline Kael’s comment when “La Femme Nikita” came out–“the end of French Cinema as we know it.” Maybe she was right.

  • 2 Y. Ben-David // Jun 16, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Sorry, but Netanyahu has a solid national consensus behind him:

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1093234.html

  • 3 John Sterns // Jun 17, 2009 at 2:08 am

    Netanyahu stands well with Israelis – very democratic, no argument there. But what he offers to Palestinians seems like a Middle Eastern version of Tibet – formally an autonomous region, but not something that could be called a second state.

  • 4 Y. Ben-David // Jun 17, 2009 at 6:37 am

    For those of you who still believe that an Arab-Israeli peace can be reached “if the two sides just sit down together and be reasonable”, read this from Ha’Aretz about the lies Palestinian officials tell about Jews and Jerusalem. After reading this, then consider how it is that the Palestinians are going to agree to concessions on Jerusalem.

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1093586.html

  • 5 TNM // Jun 17, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    You certainly won’t get concessions if you give up in advance on trying to get them.

  • 6 george hilborn // Jun 17, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Y how is it inside your rotary gerbal cage? Bush the ” funtional illiterate ” had a consensus” higher than Bibi once .Where did he end up?Lies are not the exclusive province of the Palestinians such as after the 1948 conflict the Palestinians such got up and left their villages and homes not that the Jews drove them out. Your highly touted God gave us Israel and thus there is only room for us is what’s dooming any chance of peace . Enjoy your upper hand as long as things go your way. All good things come to an end someday.

  • 7 Bloix // Jun 18, 2009 at 5:12 am

    Y Ben-David, you persist in believing that this has something to do with justice, or historical entitlement, or something. It doesn’t. It’s got nothing to do with what’s right, or what people deserve.

    It’s very simple: Israel can’t govern these people. It can’t give them the vote, because if it does they will outvote the Jews and there will be no more Israel. And it can’t continue to not give them the vote, because the contradictions of an apartheid state ruled by force will tear the country apart, and eventually make it a true pariah state, as South Africa was. You can’t have Jews who can vote and Arabs who can’t living within a few hundred yards of each other. Soon enough the Arabs will start demanding the vote and that will be the end.

    It has to get rid of them. And it can’t get rid of them by expelling them or killing them, because if it does the most productive Israels will move to San Diego and those that are left will be impoverished pariahs who will starve on their pile of nuclear weapons.

    So it has to get rid of them by getting rid of the land they live on. There’s no other choice. It doesn’t matter if they are good or bad, or lie or tell the truth, hate Jews or love Jews. Israel has to get rid of them. And that means a Palestinian state. Anything that stands in the way of a Palestinian state – as the settlements do – hastens the destruction of Israel. The settlers are the enemies of Israel and of all Israelis. They are deranged, evil people.

    Sharon understood that. Bibi doesn’t.

  • 8 Y. Ben-David // Jun 18, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Bloix, you said:
    ——————————————————-
    The settlers are the enemies of Israel and of all Israelis. They are deranged, evil people.
    ——————————————————

    Are you including Gershom and Haim in this category? They are, after all, settlers, too. Came from the US where they had a good life to live on Palestinian land (just as I have). Who is evil?
    The Palestinians say all the things about Jews and Israel that you are saying how Israelis relate to the Palestinian problem. They say they can’t abide having Jews around. They say they have to get rid of them. Does this make them evil?

  • 9 Y. Ben-David // Jun 18, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    George-You have repeatedly regaled us with stories about your illustrious Quaker ancestor who was hanged in Boston Common in IIRC 1652. If I am not mistaken, that was only about 30 years after the Plymouth Colony was founded. Was your ancestor hanged because he was preaching to his fellow citizens that they were on the way to creating a NAQBA for the American Indians there and if they wanted to be good Christians, they should go back where they came from, i.e. England? After all, his highly touted diety was not “tribalistic” like you seem to think mine is.

  • 10 Bloix // Jun 18, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    “Does this make them evil?”

    My God you’re an idiot. All you can think about is, they’re evil and we’re good. Who cares if they’re evil? Yes, they’re the spawn of Satan. What difference does it make? And who cares if Gershom is good? I don’t. I don’t care about the moral issues. They don’t matter. I want Israel to survive and thrive and I don’t care about what happens to the Palestinians once they’re on their own. For Israel to survive, it has to stop governing them. It can’t kill them, it can’t expel them, and it can’t rule them. Therefore it has to cede land to them. The only question is how to get there from here. And the greatest obstacle is the settlers. They are the major existential threat to Israel. Therefore they must be defeated.

    But you, you won’t even grapple with the issue. All you want to talk about is the moral high ground. Your mind has cut a groove so deep you can’t even see over the side.

  • 11 george hilborn // Jun 18, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Y you again show your ignorance about the Quakers who sailed from Holland because they were presona non grata in England. It wasn’t a he,it was a she that was hung.
    Quakers helped found People United for The Separation of Church and State and always have shown a distain for the state church or religion contrary to most Israelis. Quakers are not a proselylizing sect in the first place as such. Their main thrust has been the welfare of the less fortunate and adherence to the abolition of war by not participating.
    I would like to comment on the moronic term bandied about called Protestant Secularism( huh) as a root cause for racism filtering it’s way into Jewish life by way of Reform Judaism in the United States. As a Protestant I find the term not only insulting but stupid. Protestants are every Christian who isn’t Roman Catholic if we use the Church of Rome’s criteria. As we know that historical anti-semetism starts with the Greeks then to the Roman church then to the vitriolic diatribes of Martin Luther as a root cause of such bigotry.. But the misnomered “racism” is still an outgrowth of religious fervor and should not be typecast as Protestant Secularism which truly is a oxymoron. No group has a corner on bigotry or G-d

  • 12 Y. Ben-David // Jun 19, 2009 at 5:52 am

    Yes, Bloix, the settlers are a threat to the Palestinians, that’s why they are fighting them. I mean the settlers that came after 1917. They are ALL illegal as the Palestinians see it, they are are “evil” as you put it, again, as the Palestinians see it, and even if Israel does pull back to the pre-67 borders, the Palestinians will continue the war, only from a better position. After all, they will say, “gee, the Jews ran away from their holy places in Judea/Samaria, so now all we have to do is keep up the pressure and they will run away from Tel Aviv”.

  • 13 george hilborn // Jun 20, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Y my famous ancestor was Mary Dyer who was hung by the Boston Puritan Church because she had a big mouth ,who had the audacity to claim that God could be communicated to without the benefit of clergy. This proclamation caused the Boston group to”go ape” She was hung on June 1,1660 and said after refusing to repent”I hope my sacrifice will result in a change toward greater tolerance of religious faith ” The Protestant Ayatollas’ here in the US could take a leaf from this book as well as some of the ultra- orthodox world-wide.

  • 14 Y. Ben-David // Jun 20, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    George-
    I don’t claim to know anything about Quakers, except that on the one hand, they in general don’t like Israel, but on the other hand, there was an American Quaker who was on a commission after World War II that was supposed to decide what to do about Palestine, and after visitin the yishuv he came out in favor of creating a Jewish state. I do also recall hearing that in line with their pacifism, they opposed prosecuting Nazis after the war because, as I understand it, they say that no man has a right to stand in judgment of any other (while of course, it would have been preferable that the Nazis had not murdered all of my people). If I am right, then I see we Jews are generally on the wrong side of the Quakers, i.e. when we are the victims we are not supposed to fight in self-defense and not to seek justice, but on the other hand, when we do have state power, we are still no good because suddenly we are “oppressors” that SHOULD be opposed , even though it was WRONG to oppose Nazi oppression. If my analysis is correct, I would assume this makes sense to someone although not to me.

    Regarding your complaint that we are persecuting Israeli Arab Christians, all I can say is that you are now following the line of Pat Buchanan who has said now for a long time that he is sick of hearing about Christian antisemitism, it is now time to talk about Jewish anti-Christianity. (Of course, it would ben interesting to compare the persecution they are suffering from us Jews from that they are getting from their brother Muslims).

    If you agree with Buchanan, all I can say, let’s compare the historical “body count” and see who is ahead.

  • 15 Bloix // Jun 24, 2009 at 4:36 am

    “even if Israel does pull back to the pre-67 borders, the Palestinians will continue the war, only from a better position.”

    So what? The problem for Israel is not that it can’t beat the Palestinians in a war. It can beat the shit out of them in a war. The problem for Israel is that it can’t govern them. Israel can’t maintain control of a population that does not have the vote and has no access to public resources.

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