Monday, September 10, 2007

Paradise Now

Paradise Now is an Arabic film that details the journey of two Palestinian suicide bombers who must decide whether or not they truly wish to die for the cause. I've been looking forward to watching it; Sarah and I picked it up at the store awhile ago at "Buy 4 for $25" sale as the fourth movie, and just last night we had a chance and were both in an emotional frame of mind to watch a movie about suicide bombers.

Generally speaking, I find myself to be much more identified with the Israeli side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even more so that I have been reading The Haj by Leon Uris, which is rich with detail about the history and development of that conflict. When the Jews first started arriving in Palestine, it was because the Palestinian Arab leaders were selling off land that they thought was useless. There was no invasion of Jews, and the division the country experiences now is due not to Jewish/Israeli hatred of Arabs/Muslims, but the other way around. The two sides never made peace when the Jews began to buy and build on the land, and when the conflict escalated into violence and the Arabs lost, they still would not acknowledge the right for the state of Israel to exist. And now, with the land in partition, the Palestinians have only themselves to blame. Israel does not seek their destruction; it seeks its own preservation.

Paradise Now follows two friends who have previously made the decision that they wish to commit a suicide attack together. They are finally called on to do so, and one agrees eagerly, but the other is hesitant, contemplative. As they cross the fence between Palestinian and Israeli territory to meet their accomplice, a guard drives up, and they are forced back across, getting separated.

One makes it back to the headquarters of the terrorist organization, but the other - the seemingly hesitant one - does not. With a bomb still strapped to his chest, he makes an effort to get back in contact with his handlers. But when he returns to headquarters, they have left, fearing that he has betrayed their location.

His friend goes out in search for him, and in the process they both reevaluate their decision about giving their lives for the cause in this way. The friend who at the beginning was so eager to give his life has a conversation with a girl which convinces him violence will only beget more violence. The other, however, only ends up far more solidified in his resolve to die. He soliliquizes at one point that life as a Palestinian is like serving a life imprisonment: always behind bars and wires; that there is no point to living when one lives as a slave.

I can understand that sentiment. I certainly can, and it saddens me to think that many Palestinians are suffering for the sins of a few. But it cannot be argued that this imprisonment suffered by the Palestinians is anyone's fault but their own. Israelis are not a terribly narrow-minded people; I am quite certain that were the Palestinians to choose to integrate into Israeli society peaceably, that they would be welcomed. But collectively they do not choose to do so. They decry a lost homeland, but in truth that homeland is only lost because they would not allow the Jews to come and live there peacefully. They chose to fight them when they arrived.

So, I am sorry for the Palestinians, trapped in their own homes. But to accuse Israel as responsible for that imprisonment is faulty. They should use that feeling of imprisonment to motivate their own people to lay down arms, and live side by side as neighbors with the Israelis. It's natural to wish to lash out at the prison guard, but when it's your own actions that sentenced you to prison in the first place, what good does striking the guard do? It just lengthens your sentence.

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