In my so called review of Waltz with Bashir, I brought up some comments made on another review from the website Electronic Intifada, here it is again:
The question of who was doing whose dirty work is not so easily answered, however Israel was nobody’s sidekick when it invaded Lebanon. The film does not show us the Israeli shelling of Beirut that led to 18,000 deaths and 30,000 wounded, the violations committed against civilians, the destruction of Palestinian and Lebanese resistance. And what about the fact that the Palestine Liberation Organization and armed resistors had been evacuated more than two weeks before the massacres, and that it was the day after multinational forces left Beirut that Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon made it known that 2,000 “terrorists” remained in the camps? The focus of Folman’s quest for responsibility in Waltz with Bashir hones in on lighting the flares as the Phalangists “mopped up” the camps. That two months before the massacres Sharon had announced his objective to send Phalangist forces into the camps, that the Israeli army surrounded and sealed the camps, that they shelled the camps, that snipers shot at camp dwellers in the days before the massacres, and then having given the green light to the Phalangists to enter Sabra and Shatila, the Israeli army prevented people from fleeing the camps — all of this is absent in Waltz with Bashir.
In my eyes, a documentary is ideally a blend of investigative and accurate journalism mixed in with multimedia, be it using a camera to capture real life footage or, as in this case, using animation to record these events.
The aim of journalism, as many people believe, is to search for the truth. Some may believe that there is an objective truth to everything, others may believe that finding the objective truth is an impossible task. Personally, I agree with the latter, since the prejudices that crawl within our sub conscious constantly will tend to twist our perceptions, and these perceptions can be further twisted by our memories as time passes. But there is no reason for you to take on my view, and there is very good reason for you to go away, research and make your own judgements.
The above comment from Electronic Intifada makes one thing clear. When it comes to reporting the Lebanon War, Waltz with Bashir fails to mention many crucial events that even the most prejudiced of people cannot miss. But one has to keep in mind that the object of truth for Waltz with Bashir was not who the victims of the war were and what happened, but rather, it was why Ari (the protagonist), forgot everything about the war and in particular the massacre which he witnessed (and was an accessory to). The answer, of course, emerges and that is because he associated himself with the complacent Nazi guards in the concentration camps (as one theory goes) and the shock made his mind block this memory. Even at the very end of the movie, it is projected that the worst that the soldiers did was kill a few civilians by accident and unsuccessfully try to stop the massacre by contacting their higher ups. Nothing is mentioned about heavy shelling or preventing people from escaping during the massacre, but it is a fact of history.
Now I want to ask. Since the very act of simply firing flares to light the way for murderers during the massacre caused Ari to go into shock and completely forget everything, how do you think he will react to talking about how they had to prevent victims from escaping the horrific event? The entire a film is a product of his own perceptions and an interesting one at that. If the Israeli government, and even most of the Israeli people, refuse to take responsibility for events such as The Nakba which happened even before that, or if they do not dare but talk of the Lavon Affair in hushed voices, what do you expect?
I will make it no secret that my mother, and her side of the family, unfortunately witnessed and experienced this horrific war too. Their perceptions are radically different to Ari’s because they were in a different position. They and their fellow refugees have experienced injustices that outweigh the traumas that Ari and his friends suffered in the war, far outweigh them. That is why, if the object of truth was indeed the War itself and the injustices therein then it is essential to include the views and perceptions of the oppressed. However, for this particular film this was not that case.
I have arrived at the conclusion, that as a Palestinian who is aware of the other parts of history behind the Lebanon war, that I ought not to merely complain about this film’s inaccuracies, but realize that it is an insight into the mind of an Israeli soldier. Not only do they see as as faceless and nameless rabble, but they also see themselves as morally superior at every turn of event, finding difficulty in taking responsibility for any action they may commit. So let us go to them, let us let them know that of the 6+ million Palestinians scattered throughout Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the rest of the world, we are not faceless and we are not morally inferior.