Join 3,524 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"An Uncovered Woman and Beatle-Haired Men Will Never Liberate Our Holy Places."
December 3, 2012 8:34 AM   Subscribe

From the BBC blog of documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis: "Save Your Kisses For Me: How the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and the Israeli Right became co-dependents in an abusive relationship." Includes images / film clips from the BBC news archive.

Curtis: Previously on Metafilter)
posted by zarq (37 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
The ones howling "NEVER TRUST POLITICIANS" are the ones who always reach for the gun first.

Great post.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:07 AM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Isn't this obvious by now? It's just a self perpetuating cycle of violence that the various sides seem happy to keep going. It is a force that gives their life meaning.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:08 AM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed.

Really, BBC?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:16 AM on December 3, 2012


Peace is just too boring. Only a warring people can be kept in order.
posted by Goofyy at 9:23 AM on December 3, 2012


I... don't know. This article's point seems to be that the problem is structural -- the political systems devised for a particular time and place have poorly adapted to changes in the political landscape. It seems to me that part of the problem is that pretty much all of the major forces in the region feel like they have their backs against the wall, whether historical, ideological, economic, whatever, so no one can shift in their position, only their tactics. So we have a stew of simmering misery that periodically flares into horror.

And, as he points out, this is so depressing and dismaying to people outside the region, they just shut down.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:39 AM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "Isn't this obvious by now? "

One problem that has arisen from this conflict is there are conflicting biased narratives (promoted by both sides) that detail the history of the region. Finding an unbiased source becomes essential to understanding the past and present properly. But they're hard to find. Each side wants to prove their righteousness of their cause, so they distort facts, hoping eventually that their depiction of history will become accepted.

Questions about the formation of Israel pop up on AskMe occasionally. The answers often note that a given source contains some bias.

Brandon Blatcher: " It is a force that gives their life meaning."

Yes, but with millions of people (literally) trapped between, who probably just want to live their lives in peace.
posted by zarq at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


War is peace. Eurasia, etc. :(
posted by basicchannel at 10:14 AM on December 3, 2012


This is a beautiful article that gives a good summary of not only the complexity of the physical conflict itself but also the changing attitudes behind it.
posted by schroedinger at 10:15 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The British promised the Arabs that they would create a new and better world for them. The only problem is that they promised the Jews the very same thing...

In the 1920s Britain took over the running of Palestine and came face to face with their hypocrisy and deceit.
here is where I stopped reading i.e. the beginning (though I skimmed the rest.) I'm sure the Brits were shocked, just shocked to come face to face with the consequences of hypocrisy and deceit. If Curtis can't get into the where's, why's, and how's of the British Empire, then he doesn't have any hope of getting through the sorry tale after the collapse of said Empire.

Exhibit A: Somehow Curtis can mention Nasser as some sort of tin-pot dictator without mentioning the whole Suez crisis:
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War, or Second Arab-Israeli War[13][14] (Arabic: أزمة السويس – العدوان الثلاثي‎ ʾAzmat al-Sūwais / al-ʿUdwān al-Thulāthī; French: Crise du canal de Suez; Hebrew: מבצע קדש‎ Mivtza' Kadesh "Operation Kadesh," or מלחמת סיני Milẖemet Sinai, "Sinai War"), was a diplomatic and military confrontation in late 1956 between Egypt on one side, and Britain, France, and Israel on the other, with the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Nations playing major roles in forcing Britain, France, and Israel to withdraw.[15]

Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel, and then began to bomb Cairo. Despite the denials of the Israeli, British, and French governments, evidence began to emerge that the invasion of Egypt had been planned beforehand by the three powers.[16] Anglo-French forces withdrew before the end of the year, but Israeli forces remained until March 1957, prolonging the crisis. In April, the canal was fully reopened to shipping, but other repercussions followed.

The attack followed the President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser's decision of 26 July 1956 to nationalize the Suez Canal, after the withdrawal of an offer by Britain and the United States to fund the building of the Aswan Dam, which was in response to Egypt's new ties with the Soviet Union and recognizing the People's Republic of China during the height of tensions between China and Taiwan.[17] The aims of the attack were primarily to regain Western control of the canal and to remove Nasser from power.

One of the big reasons secular socialism failed in Egypt is that, surprise (see Mossadegh), the British went to war to prevent it from impinging on the last gasps of their empire. The story of the post-colonial era is complicated but Curtis is selling you something here and it isn't pretty at all. And that's not even getting into the Jewish "immigrants" moving to a "a backward and sparsely populated land" and whether or not they resemble the "immigrants" who formed Rhodesia in other reaches of the empire.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:25 AM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm sure the Brits were shocked, just shocked to come face to face with the consequences of hypocrisy and deceit.

Particularly when you could say it blew up in their faces. I had a British history teacher and he cried when teaching us WWII history. Not about the war mind you. But about what happened after when he was diverted to Palestine.

The pawns in these geo-political chess games are people. Who cry.
posted by srboisvert at 10:35 AM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The story of the post-colonial era is complicated but Curtis is selling you something here and it isn't pretty at all.

Please say what you're going to say here clearly, rather than by implication, so it can be discussed. Curtis's account seemed to me reasonably fair, if inevitably incomplete for such a complex history.
posted by feckless at 10:54 AM on December 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yes, but with millions of people (literally) trapped between, who probably just want to live their lives in peace.

Perhaps, but there's a percentage that wants the current state of affairs to continue. So it does and things go further down the rabbit hole, where people are more willing to kill each other then live peacefully.

It's a very bizarre situation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:58 AM on December 3, 2012


It's baffling how so many people who want the same thing can't learn how to share, but there seem to be large swaths of local and personal history that inevitably go ignored, even in a comprehensive attempt like this blog post. Regardless, the prevailing theme in all of this seems to be that the most extreme decisions are never made by the everyday people; the majority just appears to be complicit or complacent in one way or another. I wish someone or something could make the extremists step back and ask themselves why they're really fighting. Without just accepting the first answer about vengeance or misguided ownership, but continually asking "Why?" like a five-year-old child until everyone realizes the pointlessness of it all.

>It's just a self perpetuating cycle of violence that the various sides seem happy to keep going.
>Yes, but with millions of people (literally) trapped between, who probably just want to live their lives in peace.

There's just something basically geometric about situations like these. When the fringes of several different groups attack each other, the majority ends up caught between. I imagine there are people who don't even realize there's a left wing in Israel or that Palestine is full of regular ol' boring people and not terrorists, but these people can't possibly be the majority, can they? I suppose the same thing happens with the military wing of the US and its enemy du jour, but painting a realistic picture of these conflicts has got to be the most frustrating thing in the world.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 10:59 AM on December 3, 2012


The story of the post-colonial era is complicated but Curtis is selling you something here and it isn't pretty at all.

There are many more details to the situation but from my studies of the region none of them refute the overall thesis of Curtis's post.


Perhaps, but there's a percentage that wants the current state of affairs to continue. So it does and things go further down the rabbit hole, where people are more willing to kill each other then live peacefully.

The percentage who wants things to continue are the ones in power because they gained power by pandering to the general populace using fears of "the Other". Us. vs. Them is tremendously easy rhetoric compared to realizing your enemy has largely the same fundamental desires for peace, family, love, and meaningful work, and finding a compromise. I don't think this aspect of the war is particularly bizarre or unique, we see it repeated across cultures everywhere. It explains the success of the Tea Party.
posted by schroedinger at 11:13 AM on December 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


One problem that has arisen from this conflict is there are conflicting biased narratives (promoted by both sides)

If post-colonial history teaches us anything, it tends to be that minority narratives - in this case that of the Palestinians - tend to gain far greater weight as time goes on. We in Europe and the US haven't really had two conflicting narratives. We've largely heard one narrative, and are, I suspect going to hear more of the other over the next few decades.

Just a few years back, you would have been dismissed as a Chomsky-esque conspiracy theorist for suggesting Israel actively supported Hamas in its early days. I see articles like the one you linked to as part of a growing trend to address, and possibly revise, the existing narrative.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:13 AM on December 3, 2012


ennui.bz: "And that's not even getting into the Jewish "immigrants" moving to a "a backward and sparsely populated land" "

There were 1 million people on the land in total when the British took census in 1931. The total population reported was 1,035,821 (1,033,314 excluding British military.) That was an increase of 36.8% since the previous census in 1922. The Jewish population had increased by 108.4% since 1922, making Jews 16% of the total population.

Between 1932 and 1936, 174,000 Jews came into the area (probably fleeing Nazi Germany) and the Jewish population rose from 16% to 28%. By 1947, total population was 1.9 million, with 31% Jews.

I don't think "sparsely populated" is necessarily the right term. But it doesn't appear to have been densely populated, either.

For contrast, here are the top ten most populated cities in the US in 1930.
posted by zarq at 11:14 AM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thank you for this. Very interesting.

I think Curtis's failure to mention the Suez War may well be a wish to avoid it taking over the story. Coming from a UK outlook, there is so much that could be said on the war that isn't relevant to the plot, so to speak. Suez is a deeply shameful part of the UK's post-war history, and had a fundamental change on how we saw the world, but it's not for the telling here.
posted by Jehan at 11:21 AM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think Curtis's failure to mention the Suez War may well be a wish to avoid it taking over the story. Coming from a UK outlook, there is so much that could be said on the war that isn't relevant to the plot, so to speak. Suez is a deeply shameful part of the UK's post-war history, and had a fundamental change on how we saw the world, but it's not for the telling here.

You can't talk about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood without talking about the failure of Nasserism and you can't talk about the failure of Nasserism without talking about the Suez war.

Curtis wants to talk about big ideas in film clips, but without encountering the actual history i.e.:
In the 1950s Nasser used his power to try and enforce his vision of a progressive, planned world. Now Morsi is doing the same - to try and enforce his vision of a deeply conservative, rigid world.

Again it will fail because it is impossible to control the world in that way - either for progressive or conservative aims. What is badly needed in the Middle East - and in the West - is a new, sophisticated politics that accepts the dynamic forces of history, yet tries to seize them and use the chaotic events of this incredibly exciting time we are living through to try and change the world for the better.
He sounds like he thinks Egypt needs a Tony Blair to find a third way! It just ends up being shallow, and coming from a citizen of Great Britain, self-serving with respect the very real history of the British empire.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:51 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


ennui.bz: "And that's not even getting into the Jewish "immigrants" moving to a "a backward and sparsely populated land"

zarq: I don't think "sparsely populated" is necessarily the right term. But it doesn't appear to have been densely populated, either.

Curtis isn't offering up his opinion that the land in question was either "backwards", or "sparsely populated". Instead, he's talking about Theodor Herzl's Altneuland. The passage in question, from the article:
In the novel the characters listen to a phonograph roll that describes the achievements of The New Society for the Colonisation of Palestine. It describes how the benevolent technocracy that runs this new society has brought the benefits of European progress to a backward and sparsely populated land. [emphasis mine]
I think it's fairly obvious that it's the bolded "it" here – the phonograph roll in Herzl's novel – which refers to a backward and sparsely populated land.
posted by Len at 11:56 AM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


He sounds like he thinks Egypt needs a Tony Blair to find a third way!

I don't know if you mean he feels Middle-East politics needs a third way in general, or if they need Tony Blair in particular. If it's the latter I think that's a seriously misguided reading of the article. If it's the former, well, what is your issue with it? That nationalism, as it was executed by Nasser, was an ideal? It had advantages but was hardly a panacea, and glossed over the very real ethnic and religious tensions within the Arab world itself.

Curtis isn't arguing for a complete revamping of Middle Eastern political discourse along Western philosophical lines. That's totally unrealistic and inappropriate, and note he explicitly call out of the West itself on its need to change as well.
posted by schroedinger at 12:17 PM on December 3, 2012


I think it's worth considering that Curtis is a British author writing for the BBC, so he's not likely to dig into the sordid history of the British Empire. I don't at all disagree that that's necessary to understand the Middle East, but not everything that has happened there is due to British influence, and I do think this article is insightful and worth reading. If nothing else, the archive clips are fascinating even if you find the analysis shallow.
posted by eurypteris at 12:25 PM on December 3, 2012


"A number of historians have argued that Eichmann's trial created an enormous shock to Israeli society because for the fifteen years after the second world war no one in Israel - or in the Jewish communities in America - really talked about the Holocaust. It was if it was forgotten and wiped.

Hundreds of thousand of survivors from the death camps came to Israel, but the mood among them was to look towards the future - turning their faces towards a better future promised by the Zionist dream, and trying to forget the horrors of the past.

Above all they didn't want to be seen as victims in an optimistic age. The leader of the American Jewish Committee wrote that "--this is just not right at all!

Israelis did not want to recognize the Holocaust victims because they thought of them as overly weak and not having defended themselves. The Eichmann trial gave them a new perspectdive4 and a new recognition ...added to that the idea that surrounding Arab nations were intent on exterminating them.

Now the Holocaust is taught in their schools and there are of course museums etc to honor the4 victims of that horror.
posted by Postroad at 12:31 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Postroad: "Israelis did not want to recognize the Holocaust victims because they thought of them as overly weak and not having defended themselves. The Eichmann trial gave them a new perspectdive4 and a new recognition ...added to that the idea that surrounding Arab nations were intent on exterminating them."

I don't know what the prevailing attitude about Holocaust victims was at the time, but there were official Israeli commemorations of the Holocaust prior to the Eichmann trial.

1942, a Holocaust memorial is proposed by Mordechai Shenhavi to the board of the JNF. Shenhavi incidentally, came up with the name "Yad Vashem." Nothing happens right away.

1947, Monument to Jewish children who were slaughtered in the Holocaust, L'Yeldei Hagolah (To the Children of the Exile,) is commemorated in the Mishmar Ha'Emek kibbutz.

1948 Martef HaShoah, The Chamber of the Holocaust is commemorated on Mount Zion. (Originally it was a symbolic graveyard, with gravestones representing over 1000 communities that were wiped out by the Holocaust. Put together by Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, Isaac Herzog. He traveled to various concentration camps and collected ashes of those who had died which were then buried in the chamber. The site is now a museum and contains artifacts from some of those destroyed communities.)

1953, Israel passes the Yad Vashem Law, which among other things creates an authority for Holocaust commemoration(s).

1961, Eichmann trial.
posted by zarq at 12:54 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a picture and description (for anyone interested) of "To the Children of the Exile" in this book, which notes that it was Israel's first Holocaust memorial.
posted by zarq at 1:00 PM on December 3, 2012


Jehan: “I think Curtis's failure to mention the Suez War may well be a wish to avoid it taking over the story.”

Adam Curtis has a long habit of leaving things out if they don't suit his narrative. He's entertaining, but I'm never sure how far once can accept his explanations of things.
posted by koeselitz at 1:01 PM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think it's worth considering that Curtis is a British author writing for the BBC, so he's not likely to dig into the sordid history of the British Empire.

No, Adam Curtis (and the modern BBC) aren't generally like that

For instance ( just one of many), this
posted by Bwithh at 1:22 PM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Adam Curtis has a long habit of leaving things out if they don't suit his narrative. He's entertaining, but I'm never sure how far once can accept his explanations of things.

Yes, Curtis's No.1 interest is weaving an engaging and entertaining audio-visual documentary narrative for the audience. Polemical and selective arguments are collateral damage tendencies stemming from this,
I think of him as the Grandmaster Showman Extraordinaire of Brilliant But Flawed Undergrad Essays
posted by Bwithh at 1:26 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find it hard to accept Curtis' theory when he's grossly wrong about historical facts that (a) undermine his narrative; and (b) are very easy to check. From another thread where this was linked:
Here’s a paragraph that sums up Curtis’ approach to history:

“Starting in the 1930s, the Israelis set out to try and build in Palestine the new kind of Zionist society that Theodor Herzl had laid out in his novel Altneuland – Old New Land. ”

What? Quite apart from the howler of calling them Israelis in the 1930s, everybody knows that the first large Zionist (as opposed to just Jewish) settlement was Rishon LeZion ("first to Zion"), founded in 1882. Even this was long after the first Zionist projects there, e.g Mikveh Israel in 1870.

Then he says that "The new capital was called Tel Aviv [....]"

In fact Tel Aviv was named and formally laid out in 1910 after decades of Jewish migration to the then-small town of Jaffa nearby. The architect Patrick Geddes, referred to by Curtis presented his plan to the Tel Aviv council in 1925 – but Curtis describes this as being based on “the technocratic belief that flourished in the 1930s – and again in the 1950s – that you could shape the environment around human beings as a total system that would make them stronger, more confident and morally better human beings. ”

So, not only late, but fascist.

posted by Joe in Australia at 1:58 PM on December 3, 2012


Bwithh: “Yes, Curtis's No.1 interest is weaving an engaging and entertaining audio-visual documentary narrative for the audience.”

At this point it feels like a propagandist technique to me, which is why it tends to rub me the wrong way. This one seems to be arguing theses that Curtis has gone over a bit in previous film essays – chiefly the supposed fall of the idea that politicians can be a force for good that can change the world for the better. But he insists on using this incredibly manipulative narrative style.

He could have written an essay subtitled "the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and the Israeli right have become co-dependents in an abusive relationship." He could have presented the facts and attempted to make the case that this is what has happened. And I think he has some good points he could make; the idea in itself is a strong one. But he didn't do that; instead, he attempted to explain how this has happened, and he goes over history point by point for the reader. He's good at doing that without seeming patronizing, so people reading this are not likely to realize that they're being told what to think.

The thing is that his favorite thesis that he's cramming into this story – that people once believed politicians could be a force for good, but now are disillusioned – is ill-fitting and probably not very explanatory of the situation, I don't think. Most of all, I think it's a simplistic view in light of the relationship of politics to Islam. The Iranian revolution, for example, certainly can't be seen through that lens. Moreover, even in Palestine, I don't think it's accurate to say that the past hundred years have seen nothing but disillusionment with politicians. I'm just not sure how that relates to what's going on there, and I'm not sure it matters.
posted by koeselitz at 2:00 PM on December 3, 2012


(And good lord, he's having fun misreading Hannah Arendt, isn't he?)
posted by koeselitz at 4:58 PM on December 3, 2012


Seriously, the way he treats Arendt is pretty much offensive. He basically calls her a nihilist, and just like Adam Curtis he doesn't actually have the guts or the brains to read her and quote her and adduce his conclusion from her writings – he gives you interviews with her biographer and some of her students. This is the problem with Adam Curtis: it's routine to him to leave things out and grossly misread people's writings and misinterpret what they've said, and then to present his misreadings as truthful narrative.
posted by koeselitz at 5:17 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Adam Curtis = the British Michael Moore?
posted by acb at 5:03 PM on December 4, 2012


rather Adam Curtis = Malcolm Gladwell - Canada
posted by steve jobless at 11:55 PM on December 4, 2012


Choose Your Own Israeli/Palestinian Peace Deal, with interactive partition drawing exercise.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:22 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


the man of twists and turns: I thought that mapping tool was fantastic when I first saw it, but: So it's something that looks as though it has massive potential, but it seems as though it's designed to force you into accepting the author's of views, even though they're quite different from other positions held by respected members of the discussion going on about borders.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:47 PM on December 12, 2012


What You Will Do
You will reenact this moment in mirrored reversal the next day, back in Jerusalem, with other friends who are Israeli, whom you had invited naïvely the previous day to also come to Palestine and who had reacted with bewildered astonishment. Of course I can’t go, one of these friends had told you. I’m a Jew. This will have seemed impossibly oversimplified but will soon become axiomatic. But before it does, you will still be hoping to effect only the smallest of changes, aiming, you hope, for an achievable goal: telling stories is something that can make a difference. You will be proud of yourself for maintaining idealism without veering into naïve foolishness or neocolonialism. You are only telling stories, after all, and their effect will be small, but that (you will reason) is at the heart of why it just might work; this is how real change happens. So you will tell your Israeli friends, whom you love and who are beautiful and kind, of your day in Ramallah. We met the nicest guy, you will say. We were a bit worried to say my friends lived in Tel Aviv, but he didn’t care at all. Wait for the impact of this statement on your Israeli friends. Small changes, you will think. All they want, your friend will say, is for us to die. Disagree with this. Assume you are well traveled and erudite and sophisticated and very well informed. Say something like All they want is to live their lives in peace, just like you. Try not to be offended when the look on your friend’s face resembles a parent’s. You are good friends; there is room for disagreement without hurt feelings or dismissal. But you have been rebuffed. Even your smallest dose of optimism has been undone.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:00 AM on December 17, 2012


For the first time in five years, Israel on Sunday allowed 20 truckloads of building materials into Gaza for use by the private sector, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials. One of the first tangible concessions under a cease-fire deal reached after eight days of intensive fighting in November, it signaled a shift in Israel’s approach to the Palestinian enclave.

Israeli officials said that construction materials would now be allowed in on a daily basis via the Kerem Shalom crossing on Israel’s border with Gaza.

The shipment on Sunday came in addition to 34 trucks of gravel that crossed into Gaza over the weekend from Egypt, which also had Israel’s approval. The materials from Egypt were earmarked for housing complexes and other construction projects that the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, pledged to pay for when he visited Gaza in October.

posted by zarq at 6:33 PM on December 30, 2012


« Older A soccer stadium in Palestine was destroyed recent...  |  Dispatch from the Boring 2012 ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments