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An Israeli Director Feels ‘Stabbed in the Back’ by the Global Left

TEL AVIV – The hostages in Gaza are present everywhere in Tel Aviv. Photos of the missing 134 people hang from street corners, park benches, restaurants, private yards and show up on the home screen of the Hertz rental car agency.

Even as the hum of life goes on in this famously energetic city, with electric bikes and scooters whooshing past at breakneck speed, “Bring Them Home Now” is ubiquitous as a sign of the obsessive worry hanging over Israel. In recent days it has given way to the newer, more urgent phrase added to the backdrop of city life, “Get Them Out of Hell!” And on billboards with his picture, a menacing warning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “You’re in charge. You’re guilty.”

report-from-israel
report-from-israel

I met my friend Gidi Dar, a writer-director of several feature films, at a popular restaurant not far from what’s now called “Hostage Square” in central Tel Aviv. His most recent film two years ago told of the internecine war between Jewish sects that preceded the Roman invasion in 1st century CE, a parallel to contemporary infighting in Israel.

I had interviewed Dar in the early days after the Oct. 7 attack and wanted to check in on how he was doing. “It’s a roller coaster,” he said. “You go from shock to anger to a sense of victory to despair to a sense that we’re losing the war.”

Dar’s film, “Legends of Destruction,” goes back to the years when Jesus was a rebel philosopher and the Jews were warring among themselves, as Roman Gen. Vespasian waited patiently to invade the city, destroy the temple, massacre hundreds of thousands and take the rest to captivity. It was meant to be a warning as Israel was riven by bitter politics that left the country vulnerable.

It gives him no pleasure to have been on the money. “What astounds me was the shock of the event itself, and the dysfunction of the state. But everything was written on the wall,” he said.

Sharon Israel_2
A street in Tel Aviv. Signs urge the government to “save the hostages.” (Sharon Waxman)

Still, what surprised him most was the reaction of people in the West who he thought were fellow liberals. “You can’t believe it — the reaction of the world,” he said. “The left, the woke, the young generation, the press. It’s crazy.”

His words spilled out in a torrent of emotion: “On the 7th and 8th of October, as we were butchered, mutilated, raped, the attack began in full force.”

By that he meant the attack on Israel over social media and beyond. “Now you see huge anti-Israel elements from people who have no idea what ‘from the river to the sea’ means. It means: No Israel. If you are woke, you are anti-colonial, and you project all this onto Israel. And we are the Nazis and that’s it.”

He took a beat: “That shocked me. How big it was. And how well prepared was this ambush.”

“Now we’re facing an Orwellian situation where there is no truth, no sense, no facts, no history. No nothing. There’s almost this magical alliance between the woke left with the most fascistic elements in the world — now acting in concert. Queers for Palestine. It’s whacko.”

Dar’s feeling of betrayal was echoed in many conversations I had in Israel. The Israeli left has spent years — decades — on the same side of issues embraced by progressives — gay marriage, trans rights, women’s rights, equality and tolerance, including for their Palestinian neighbors.

“The left in Israel was stabbed in the back by the global left. As we were butchered, the left was holding demonstrations: ‘Kill them all,’” he said. “It signifies to me that the West is losing its mind.”

Similarly, the silence among his colleagues abroad is disturbing.

“I’m disappointed in the Jewish directors and actors who are staying quiet,” he said. And British director Jonathan Glazer, who said he refutes his “Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation” during his acceptance speech at the Oscars after winning the Best International category for “The Zone of Interest,” he found even worse.

“This is a very diaspora, cowardly Jewish thing to say,” Dar said. “And he made a beautiful movie. But it’s idiotic. He’s showing the banality of evil [in the movie] – and saying ‘We are the Nazis.’”

Dar is not immune to seeing the tragedy of the destruction in Gaza, and is concerned for the suffering of Palestinians. But like pretty much every other Israeli I talked to, Israelis consider their very survival at stake after the massacre of Oct. 7, and this will not take a back seat to losses on the Palestinian side that they see as part of Hamas’ cynical strategy.

“What’s the alternative? Stop the war? F–k off,” he said bitterly. “It all sounds so peaceful: no more war – against Hitler? Or against Al-Qaida? What’s wrong with Hitler?

“You can criticize us, but it has nothing to do with colonialism. If the woke understood that we are fighting for our lives, maybe they would think differently.”

With all this, Dar remains most worried about the divisions in Israeli society that drove his film two years ago. Like many Israelis, he’s furious at Netanyahu’s government. But the pressure from the world makes it all more difficult.

“The challenge Israel is about to face internally and externally are the biggest since 1948,” he said. “And maybe more. The only thing that matters is can we work together or not. The 7th of October gave us the opportunity to save us from ourselves when we were in a downhill slide. But in Israel, the cracks are coming back.”

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