Israel's Long Waltz With The Palestinians

Howard Arenstein is the Washington Bureau Manager for CBS Radio News.
(AP Photo/Sony Pictures Classics)
I just watched the Israeli animated documentary "Waltz with Bashir." It is about a horrible massacre in Beirut in 1982, but it is just another sad tale in the long, tragic history of the Israelis and the Palestinians that is now being played out in the Gaza Strip.

The director, Ari Folman, chose to draw his characters instead of showing them in real life, to allow him to portray dreams and fantasies that only soldiers who have experienced war can appreciate.

The movie is a work of art. This month, it won the National Society of Film Critics' 2008 Best Picture award. Not best foreign film. Best film. On Sunday, it won Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes.

Peter Rainer of The Christian Science Monitor praises it: ""Waltz With Bashir" is a supremely courageous act, not only as a piece of filmmaking, but much more so as a moral testament."

In the film, it is the Christian Phalangists who slaughter Palestinian men, women and children, but it is the Israelis who stand guard outside the Sabra and Shatila camps.

The film is about how the Israeli soldiers obliterated the memory of the massacre, which is brought to real life at the end with actual footage of the victims.

Journalist Ron Ben-Yishai, now a reporter for Tel Aviv's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, was then a TV reporter, covering the Lebanon conflict. He was among the first told of the massacre as rumors spread through the ranks.

Ben-Yishai soon called then-Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon to alert him. Sharon's response was "thanks for letting me know." Sharon apparently did nothing to intervene. The murders were not stopped until the next morning when an Israeli officer ordered the Phalangists to stop shooting.

Today, Ben-Yishai has been among the Israeli reporters embedded in Gaza with the Israel Defense Forces. The Israelis have been criticized for, so far, allowing only a handful of foreign reporters to enter Gaza to witness the fighting and its victims.

Ben-Yishai's latest post is here.

Palestinian Adham Khalil, a resident of the Jabalya refugee camp, is blogging about his experiences in the Gaza war.

(Full Disclosure: My wife, Orly Azoulay, is the Washington bureau chief for Yedioth Ahronoth. From 1975-1978, I lived in the northern Sinai just below the Gaza Strip in a small Israeli development town called Yamit. The town was returned to Egypt in the Camp David Accords. The ruins are just a few miles from Rafah, where Israeli forces are trying to destroy Palestinian tunnels used to smuggle weapons into Gaza.)