Who is afraid of Julian Schnabel?

Jordan Elgrably writes:

Miral, currently in theatres, portrays the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an entirely Palestinian perspective. It is nothing earth-shattering (a brief filmography at the end of this article offers other films that do this far more effectively) except that it was made by a Jewish filmmaker.

Several Jewish organisations and the Israeli government have seen fit to protest against the film. They say it does not tell both sides of the story. But that is precisely the point. When director Julian Schnabel – previously lauded for his lavish features Basquiat, Before Night Falls and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – decided to make this film, based on the book by Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal, his intention was to tell the story Rula tells in Miral.

Schnabel is an Academy-Award nominated director, and his film has brought “the conflict” into the mainstream. The fact that he happens to be Jewish while representing the Palestinian perspective inflames some in the Jewish community, who consider his film an act of betrayal.

I saw the film earlier this week in a special screening hosted by Javier Bardem, who starred in Before Night Falls and wanted to support Schnabel’s “brave film”. The director was there with his daughter Stella, who appears in the film, and with his new wife – Rula Jebreal. I could not help but wonder what the Jewish community thinks when a Jew marries a Palestinian.

More to the point, why are some Jews afraid of Jews who embrace narratives other than those officially sanctioned in the Jewish and Israeli community? Why do such narratives when told by Jews – including books by Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky, and Israeli revisionist historians such as Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappé and Tom Segev – cause such ire?

I am one of these contrarian Jews. Why do I strive to see things not only from the Jewish perspective but the Arab one? Because my father’s family lived for centuries in an Arab country, Morocco, and because long ago I recognised that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about nothing else if not conflicting narratives.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email