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Foxtrot film doesn’t dance to the Israeli state’s rhythm

This article is over 5 years, 1 months old
It was funded and then boycotted by the Israeli government, but Nick Clark argues that it reduces the occupation of Palestine to a story-telling device
Issue 2644
Foxtrot is part of the “Brand Israel” project
Foxtrot is part of the “Brand Israel” project

An Israeli state-funded film has just been released in Britain, but Israel’s culture minister doesn’t want you to see it.

Miri Regev has apparently never seen Foxtrot. But she hates it—and she hates that it was made with cash from the Israel Film Fund. In fact, she hates it so much that she wants to pass funding laws to stop films like it from ever being made again.

Released last Friday, the film centres on the death of a young Israeli soldier and his family’s grief. It also features a moment when that soldier kills four Palestinians held at a checkpoint—a killing covered up by the army’s top brass.

So for that reason Miri Regev hates it. When it was shown at the Israeli Film Festival in Paris last year, the Israeli embassy boycotted it.

Foxtrot is “boosting the BDS ­movement,” Regev said—referring to the campaign to boycott Israeli products in solidarity with Palestinians.

It shows “Israeli army soldiers in a deceptive manner as ­murderers and harms the good name of the Israel Defence Forces.” And it even “destroys the greatest celebration of the 20th century—the state of Israel.”

That’s a pretty telling insight into how Israeli politicians view culture.

More than a decade ago the Israeli government launched a “Brand Israel” programme. It has poured millions of pounds into promoting musicians, artists and films as the liberal face of Israel, explicitly to replace ­stories of its occupation of Palestine.

The problem for Regev is that in some cases—like Foxtrot—it doesn’t work out the way she imagined it.

So Regev wants a law that says any film supported by state-backed film funds would have to hire script ­readers from a ­government-controlled agency.

That’s a position made all the more extreme by the fact that Foxtrot isn’t as damaging to Israel as Regev seems to think.

It’s not so much a film about the occupation of Palestine as it is a study of an Israeli family’s grief.

Four bored teenagers—stuck at a desert checkpoint—become the stony faces of the Israeli occupation and the systematic humiliation that makes up daily Palestinian life. But really the focus is on the impact this has on the soldiers, not their victims.

Even the four murdered Palestinians are little more than a story-telling device, their killing just part of the sequence of events leading up the Israeli family’s trauma.

We don’t see their families ­grieving. We don’t get to study the lives torn apart by their deaths.

That’s why others—such as the right wing Times of Israel—like the film. Their reviewer wants the world to see it “the better to understand the price we continually pay for our very existence.”

While the film undermines one Israeli narrative—its “most moral army in the world”—it also reinforces another.

So it’s absurd that Regev doesn’t want you to see this film. But I’m not sure I want you to either.

Out now at Curzon cinemas

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