“Tears of Gaza”

“Tears of Gaza”

Controversy has erupted in certain quarters over the documentary “Tears of Gaza,” which details the 2008-09 Israeli bombing of Gaza — the campaign known as Operation Cast Lead — from the viewpoint of the Palestinians residents. There are shocking scenes of bombs exploding and excruciating images of dead or wounded men, women and children.  The film has been shown at festivals around the world, including the Jerusalem Film Festival, and won several awards.

Norwegian director Vibeke Løkkeberg was not allowed by either the Israelis or the Egyptians to enter Gaza and managed to interview only one of the three psychologically or physically damaged children she features in her film. However, she said all the questions posed in the film were written by her.

“I used writers and directors who are very professional and who work internationally. I sent them a script and asked them, ‘Can you please go to this family and just film their everyday life, how they survive in their house, how the woman cooks, what the children say about how it is to lose a father, when they go to the grave and when they go to the beach?’ ”

She continued, “I had to work with this production company in Gaza, and I said I would like to see if you can give me bombing during the night, general bombing, phosphorus bombing. That was the way I had to do it. But it had to be smuggled out, because this is not something that would make the aggressor happy.”

The film has made numerous members of the worldwide Jewish community very unhappy, to the point of outrage. In an article headlined “The Antisemitism to Come,” available at the Huffington Post blog, French writer and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy comments about the film’s omissions.

“Has one the right to show images, dreadful like all images of war, without mentioning one word about the ideology of the masters of Gaza, their responsibility in triggering these operations, as well as their style of fighting — by obliging parents, for example, to turn their children into human shields?”

And J.J. Surbeck, executive director of Training and Education About the Middle East (TEAM), wrote in the San Diego Jewish World of what he calls “decontextualization.” The “film doesn’t say anything about the reasons for which Operation Cast Lead was launched in the first place. 9,000 rockets over Israel? As far as this production was concerned it never happened. Dozens of Israeli children killed or maimed during the second intifada? In the filmmakers’ view, they don’t count.”

“In this case,” Løkkeberg maintained, “400 children were killed by airplanes with phosphorus and bombs. They were not using all these weapons towards Israeli children. They have not used F-16s; they have not used bombs, because they are a lot more primitive. So I cannot compare what happened in Cast Lead and what happened with some rockets that some idiots are sending.”

Løkkeberg insisted that her only aim was to give a name and a face to people she feels are anonymous and stigmatized as terrorists, and that “Tears of Gaza” is an antiwar, not an anti-Israeli, film.

“I can just tell you, when it comes to Israel, I was brought up with Anne Frank. I was brought up collecting for trees and sending to Israel from the time I was a child. I am completely on your side about the Holocaust; everything is terrible, but this has nothing to do with Israel. It has to do with some children in Gaza.”

“Tears of Gaza” begins screening in L.A. theaters Sept. 21.