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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 28, 2009 By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- The fighting in Gaza ended months ago, but the fight over the war rages on be- tween Israel and NGOs. NGOs have been issuing reports accusing Israel of war crimes. In response, the Israeli army recent- ly released a 163-page, 460-point account seeking to rebut such claims and discredit those making them. At issue is the three-week Israeli invasion of Gaza starting in December 2008, launched in response to thousands of Palestinian rocket attacks against civil- ian targets in the south of Israel. Approximately 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the fighting, many of them militant fighters associated with Hamas, the Palestin- ian group in control of Gaza. But hundreds of Pal- estinian civilians are also believed to have been killed. Thirteen Israelis were killed, including several civilians. Hamas rockets during the war reached as far as the Israeli cities of Yavneh, Beersheva and Kiryat Gat. Some of the arguments between Israel and the NGOs revolve around al- ternating versions of the facts of the war, others ad- dress theories of the laws of war, and still others lunge with ferocity at the very legitimacy of one side or the other to even make an argument. The stakes are high-- as high as the threat of charges against Israeli of- ricers and an effort by some Israeli officials to use the law as a weapon to limit international funding of human rights groups. From the outset, the Is- raeli report cites an array of international law readings to show that Israel's war was just. It also takes aim at what it describes as the tendency of some critics to rush to draw conclusions of national guilt from scat- tered evidence. "Often," the Israeli report stated, "these leaps of logic bypass the most basic steps, such as identification of the specific legal obligation at issue and explanation of how it was violated." To buttress its case, the Israeli army paper cited a wealth of recommended practice from U.S., Brit- ish and Dutch military manuals, as well as rul- ings concerning the NATO action against Yugoslavia in Kosovo in 1999; the goal was to establish that there is a legally tolerable threshold of civilian death, particularly in cases of urban warfare. At times, the israeli report devolves into petty sniping at critics. Mean- while, in recent weeks, top Israeli officials smeared critics with ancient guilt- by-association accusations. It's not much prettier on the human rights side: Reconstructions of the horrific death of civilians replete with painstak- ingly gathered evidence are coupled with bewildering omissions of context and blended into a package that assumes an inherent Israeli immorality. The Israeli report repeat- edly expressed frustration with efforts to turn criti- cism of individual officers and soldiers into a whole- sale indictment of Israel's military establishment and the decision to resort to military force. It's a pattern that is in evidence in three successive reports published by Hu- man Rights Watch, perhaps the most prominent of the groups engaged with the government since the end of the war, One in March dealt with the use of white phosphorous; another in June dealt with high-pre- cision missiles fired from pilotless drones; the most recent, earlier this month, deals with the killings of individuals bearing white flags. Only the first report, on the use of phosphorous, chronicles what could be described as an alleged pattern of abuse. The other two reports from Human Rights Watch focus on a relatively small number of cases: six in- stances of Israeli drones allegedly hitting civilian targets isolated from fight- ing and seven shootings resulting in 11 deaths. Still, even in those reports, Human Rights Watch uses language suggesting per- vasive violations. The HRW reports fail to assess evidence~including videos of Israeli forces hold- ing their fire because of the presence of civilians--that Israel has provided to show that such incidents were the exception to the rule; they fail to examine what measures Israel has taken to prevent civilian deaths, which would be pertinent in examining any claim of war crimes. Israeli officials are also guilty of omissions. The army report cites ton- nage of food and medical equipment allowed into Gaza during the operation for humanitarian relief; it does not, however, trans- late these raw figures into proportions and fails to ad- dress claims by an array of groups--including Human Rights Watch--that Israel used humanitarian relief as leverage, and the result has been malnutrition and want. Similarly, in describing the lead up to the war, the Israeli army provides a per- suasive, blow-by-blow ac- count of the intensification of indiscriminate rocket fire that led it to launch its invasion; but it omits any mention of the three-year siege Israel has imposed on Gaza, or that Hamas rulers in Gaza usedthe siege as a pretext for the rocket fire. In one line, the israeli re- port states that Gaza is free of occupation, but fails to note that Israel continues to control all but one point of entry into the area. One of the more bizarre omissions in the Israeli army report is how it deals with the deaths of 42 police cadets in a missile strike in the first days of fight- ing. Human rights groups Facts on page 23A By Tom Tugend LOS ANGELES (JTA)--At least once a year over the last quarter century, a respected critic will prove conclusively ,,,~that films about the Holo- caust and the Nazi era have reached a saturation point and that movie and television audiences are suffering from Holocaust fatigue. Ignoring such earnest arguments, Hollywood and other moviemakers in the United States and Europe regularly roll out new slates of films on these topics. This summer was no ex- ception. Hollywood kicked things off Aug. 21 with the open- ing of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," fea- turing Brad Pitt, in which American Jewish GIs terror- ize the German army and almost singlehandedly wipe out the Nazi leadership. At least another five more Holocaust-related films from around the world are set to see wider distribution in the coming months. A similar list, and perhaps even more impressive, could be compiled for almost any other recent year. Going back less than 12 months, Hollywood alone released "The Reader," "Valkyrie," "Defiance" and "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas." So why the continuing flow--and public accep- tance-of films about the gruesome events of more than 60 years ago? Filmmakers, distributors and scholarly experts agree on some reasons and to a lesser degree on others. "The Holocaust has 6 mil- lion compelling stories, and Hollywood is always desperate for a good story," said Meyer Gottlieb, president and chief operating officer of Samuel Goldwyn Films and a child survivor of the Holocaust. "It is only the media that think the public is tired of the subject." Rabbi Marvin Hier, found- ing dean of the Simon Wi- esenthal Center and producer of several Oscar-winning documentaries on the Ho- locaust, insists that films and books about the Final Solution will never be out of vogue. "Why sit through some- thing about the invasion of aliens from outer space when the reality was so much more incredible and frightening?" he asked. Howard Suber, a UCLA professor considered among the top film teachers and consultants, believes that all Holocaust films are varia- tions on "the world's greatest storyline": A character is trapped in a certain situa- tion-will he have what it takes to get out? He adds that "the mo- ment a Nazi storm trooper or a swastika appear on the screen, the audience knows a survival story is coming." "That story always works, from baby Moses floating down the Nile and Joseph and his brothers to 'Robinson Crusoe' and the TV'Survivor' series," said Suber, author of "The Power of Film." Considerably more touchy is the thesis that the promi- nence of Jewish studio heads, producers and directors in Hollywood and European movie centers tilts their pro- fessional judgment toward films on the extermination of 6 million fellow Jews. According to this theory, the question is: If the found- ers of Hollywood and their modern-day descendants had not been Jews, but instead had come from Rwanda, Armenia, Bosnia or Darfur, would we be watching films about genocides in their countries? Sharon Rivo, executive di- rector of the National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University, is convinced that personal ties and family ex- periences strongly influence later professional decisions. "At least once a week I get a pitch by someone who feels that he or she must make a film about parents or grand- parents who survived the Holocaust," Rivo said. "I believe there have been only two feature films about the Armenian genocide, nei- ther one with much impact," she said. "I would love to see top dramatic films about the suffering and genocides of Gypsies or Rwandans, but they need to be familiar with the levers of production in this business." Even as consummate a pro- fessional as Steven Spielberg believes that personal back- ground counts. Well before the release of "Schindler's List," he told JTA that he learned to count numbers by tracing the scratches on the forearm of a survivor be- friended by his parents. Suber holds a strongly divergent view, asserting that ethnic or other kinds of sentiments play no role in the tough, bottom line- obsessed entertainment busi- ness. Fortyyears ago, tackling the subject in a study on the interaction between Jewish culture and film culture, he concluded there was none. The Eastern European immigrants who founded the film industry went out of their way to downplay their Jewishness, he recalled. Even today, Suber maintained, "Hollywood Jews are secular Jews, they are American busi- nessmen who don't put their race or religion first." Whatever the reason, a new wave of Holocaust films is hit- ting theaters in the coming months: In"Inglourious Basterds," Pitt is the leader of the fero- cious band of American Jewish GIs, and writer-director Tar- antino infuses the film with his stylized camera work and violence--his GIs don't take prisoners but slowly scalp the German soldiers or crack their skulls with baseball bats. Along with "Defiance," which glorified the Jewish partisans in World War II, "Basterds" may mark a new sub-genre in which the Jews are no longer the victims but the pitiless avengers. A slyer and less bloody satirical fantasy about turn- ing the tables comes from Germany in Dani Levy's "My Fuhrer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler." With the Third Reich crum- bling, Hitler's henchmen fig- ure that only a fiery speech by the Fuhrer on New Year's Day 1945 can rouse the German masses and turn the tide. But Hitler is in a funk, locked in his room, and only the great act- ing coach Adolf Grunbaum, currently in a concentration camp, can restore the dicta- tor to his old form--and in the process extract his own form of revenge. The German import, previously seen in this country at a number of Jewish film festivals, is opening its first American theatrical run in various cities. Due in the fall is "Four Seasons Lodge," a feature documentary about a com- munity of Holocaustsurvivors who come together in New York's Catskill Mountains every summer to celebrate their lives. In "Tickling Leo," three generations of a Jewish fam- ily, with roots in Hungary and branches in New York and Israel, try to connect its members to each other. The key to their reconciliation involves the still controversial World War II "Rudolph Kast- ner Affair," in which a Jewish leader bargained with Adolf Eichmann, the "architect of the Holocaust," for the lives of!,000 community leaders in return for money and supplies for the Nazi war machine. "Being Jewish in France" Universal Pictures "Inglourious Basterds" features Brad Pitt as the leader of a band of American Jewish soldiers wreaking havoc on the German army. details the love-hate relation- ship between the French and their Jewish compatriots from the anti-Semitic Dreyfus Af- fair of the 1890s to the present. Excellent archival footage strengthens the focus on the World War II era, when the Vichy government and the French police did much of the dirty work for the German occupiers. The three-hour documentary is now on the film festival circuit but is worthy of wider theatrical distribution. Denmark, which saved nearly all of its 7,500 Jews, contributes "Flame & Citron," based on the true story of two legendary Danish resistance fighters who sabotaged the Nazi occupiers and assassinat- ed their local collaborators. The film was released in July. Waiting in the wings are two completed independent films on little-known aspects of the war. Karin Albou's "Wedding Song" follows the story of two 16 -year-old Tunisian girls, one Muslim and the other Jewish, whose lifelong friendship is tested by the six-month Nazi occupation of their country. "About Face" is a well-researched documentary by Steve Karras about young Jewish refugees from Ger- many and Austria who fought their one-time tormentors by joining the U.S. Army and an elite British commando unit.