Terror victims relieved as “Paradise Now” and “Munich” fail to win Oscars

March 06, 2006

* But disappointment over award for “Syriana”



1. “What they call ‘Paradise Now’ we call ‘hell now’, each and every day”
2. “I look forward to the day that Hollywood honors a Palestinian film that advocates peace”
3. The 78th Academy Awards
4. Spielberg fails to win
5. A film that “humanizes mass murderers”
6. Hany Abu-Assad
7. Syriana: “Osama Bin Laden could not have scripted this film with more conviction”
8. “Israelis ask Oscars to drop suicide bomb film” (Reuters, March 1, 2006)
9. “Anti-Semitism now” (By Irit Linor, Yediot Ahronot, February 7, 2006)
10. “UAE bans Brokeback Mountain” (Khaleej Times, February 9, 2006)
11. “Oscars for Osama” (By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, March 3, 2006)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


A group of Israelis who lost children to Palestinian suicide bombings are crediting a 37,000-signature petition they collected and handed into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences as having helped persuade the judges not to award the Oscar for best foreign-language picture to “Paradise Now” last night.

They say that “Paradise Now” glorifies suicide bombers and asked for its removal from Oscar consideration. “Paradise Now” had already won the best foreign-language award in the Golden Globes and was the favorite to pick up an award in the same category in the Oscars. It has also won several prestigious international awards, including the European Film Academy’s Best Screenplay award and the Berlin Festival’s Blue Angel award.

Yossi Zur, an Israeli whose teenage son Asaf was murdered in a suicide bus bombing in Haifa, accused the film of sympathetically portraying suicide bombers, “What they call ‘Paradise Now’ we call ‘hell now’, each and every day.”

Asaf Zur, 16, was one of seventeen people killed in the attack (one of many such attacks in Haifa). Eight other schoolchildren were killed in that attack, which occurred three years ago to the day yesterday. Over 50 others, including several children, were injured.

Supporters of the group also placed a full-page ad on Friday in the entertainment industry daily, “Variety,” featuring photos of an Israeli bus and teenager blown up by a suicide bomber.



The petition on behalf of the Israeli victims was handed into the Academy by Palestinian-American Nonie Darwish. Darwish, who grew up in the Gaza Strip, and whose father was killed fighting Israel in 1956, now campaigns for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. She warned that as the daughter of an Arab “martyr,” if “Paradise Now” won an Oscar it would have “sent a message to young Arabs that the West accepts suicide terrorism as a legitimate act.”

Darwish called for Palestinians to make “films about those Arabs who refuse to become Jihadists… We give too much honor to terrorists and not enough honor to their victims... I look forward to the day that Hollywood honors a Palestinian film that advocates peace.”

In a joint statement issued this morning from Israel, Yossi Zur, together with Yossi Mendellevich (who lost his 14-year-old son in the attack) and Ron Kehrmann (whose 17-year-old daughter was murdered in the attack) expressed relief at the Academy’s decision and said: “It is a manipulated work, more deserving of condemnation than praise. While we stand firmly in favor of freedom of speech and against any form of censorship, we are extremely concerned that this movie appears to justify suicide bombing and, far worse, could lead viewers to admire the two Palestinian suicide bombers. There should be no tolerance or understanding for such deeds.”



In the end, the Oscar for best foreign-language picture was won by “Tsotsi,” a South African drama about the violent life of a young Johannesburg gang leader.

In one of the most surprising upsets in recent years, the Oscar for best picture went to “Crash,” which beat off competition from the heavy favorite, the gay cowboy drama “Brokeback Mountain”.

The penultimate article attached below reports that “Brokeback Mountain” has been banned in the United Arab Emirates due to its homosexual content. The UAE has been at the center of a controversy about the operating of American ports recently.



Many Israelis, Jewish organizations, and groups campaigning against terrorism, also expressed relief this morning that Steven Spielberg’s film “Munich”, failed to win any awards. It had been nominated for five Oscars, including best picture. Spielberg called the film his “prayer for peace.”

Fox news commentator Cal Thomas (who is not Jewish) wrote of Spielberg “Jewish guilt can be hazardous to Jewish health. What is especially troubling is that Hollywood’s reservoir of sympathy is shallow and extends only to certain ‘favored’ subjects. Would the film industry do a movie about Joseph Stalin and how the forced famine he instigated in the 1930s in which an estimated 7 million people died was really about putting overweight Russians on a needed diet? How about a film on the life of China’s Chairman Mao, considered the top killer of the last century? A talented scriptwriter might portray Mao’s genocidal acts as a commitment to population control.”

For more on “Munich,” please see:

* Munich (1): “Spielberg is no friend of Israel”
* Munich (2): Spielberg: “For me this movie is a prayer for peace”
* Munich (3): BBC set to name woman agent who killed Olympics massacre mastermind)



“Paradise Now” has received even more criticism than “Munich.” It tells the story of two young Palestinian men recruited for a suicide attack in Tel Aviv.

Set over a 48-hour period, the story explores the motivations, doubts and fears of the two Palestinian men. The 90-minute film, shot entirely in Arabic, is set mainly in the northern West Bank city of Nablus and in Tel Aviv. The film ends with one of the two men sitting on a Tel Aviv bus with an explosive belt tied to his body.

The film has received some sharp criticism in Israel. The Jerusalem Post described it as a film that “humanizes mass murderers.” As a measure of the Israeli anger with the Academy for short listing the film, in Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s best-selling newspaper, renowned left-wing feminist Israeli writer Irit Linor went so far as to compare “Paradise Now” to a “quality Nazi film”. Linor argues that the film “spins a thin thread of understanding for those who resorted to desperate measures to solve the problem of the constant, unremitting evil of the Jews.” (Her article is attached below.)

A counter petition in support of the film delivered to the Academy drew about 8,300 online signatures.



The Israeli-born director of Paradise Now, Hany Abu-Assad, has made his views on Israel clear in recent weeks. When asked if he would consider become a “Shahid” (martyr-suicide murderer) in an interview with Yediot Ahronot, he replied “yes”.

In the same interview Abu-Assad suggested the most accurate term for a suicide bombing would be “a counter-terrorist act.”



George Clooney last night won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in “Syriana,” which critics say is yet another film that also glorifies suicide bombers.

In the final article below, leading Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer writes:

“Nothing tells you more about Hollywood than what it chooses to honor. Nominated for best foreign-language film is ‘Paradise Now,’ a sympathetic portrayal of two suicide bombers. Nominated for best picture is ‘Munich,’ a sympathetic portrayal of yesterday’s fashion in barbarism: homicide terrorism. But until you see ‘Syriana,’ nominated for best screenplay (and George Clooney, for best supporting actor) you have no idea how self-flagellation and self-loathing pass for complexity and moral seriousness in Hollywood.”

Krauthammer argues that this film carries “the most vicious and pernicious mendacities about America to a receptive world” and “Osama bin Laden could not have scripted this film with more conviction.”

I attach four articles below.

-- Tom Gross



Israelis ask Oscars to drop suicide bomb film: Paradise Now
By Dan Williams
March 1, 2006

A group of Israelis who lost children to Palestinian suicide bombings appealed on Wednesday to organizers of next week’s Academy Awards to disqualify a film exploring the reasoning behind such attacks.

The bereaved parents said they had gathered more than 32,000 signatures on a petition against the nomination in the best foreign film category of “Paradise Now,” a drama about two West Bank friends recruited to blow themselves up in Tel Aviv.

The controversial film was made by an Israeli Arab director and actors working with a Palestinian crew and locations. The producer was a Jewish Israeli and the funding was European.

Yossi Zur, whose teenage son Asaf was killed in a bus bombing, accused the film of sympathetically portraying a tactic hailed by many Palestinians waging a 5-year-old uprising.

“What they call ‘Paradise Now’ we call ‘hell now’, each and every day,” Zur told reporters. “It is a mission of the free world not to give such movies a prize.”

Film industry experts said it was unheard of for an Oscar nomination to be withdrawn. This year’s ceremony is on March 5.

Major Israeli cinema chains have shunned “Paradise Now,” with distribution experts citing concern that its portrayal of suicide bombers could spell a low box-office turnout and even boycotts.

The film shows Palestinians bemoaning the travails of life under Israeli occupation, yet its characters also debate whether this warrants resorting to violence.

One of the protagonists takes on his deadly mission to exonerate guilt over a relative who spied for Israel, a comment on the complex pressures within Palestinian society.

Palestinians seeking independence in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel captured in a 1967 war, won limited self-rule under interim accords that formed the Palestinian Authority. Some Jews opposed ceding the land, seeing it as their biblical birthright.

Fighting that erupted in 2000 and last month’s victory in Palestinian elections of the Islamic militant group Hamas have dimmed hopes for peaceful two-state co-existence.

Despite its controversial subject, “Paradise Now” won a Golden Globe prize in January, boosting its Oscar prospects.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is already debating how to present the provenance of the film. The academy’s Web site had listed it as coming from “Palestine,” drawing Israeli complaints as the state does not yet exist.

The controversy around “Paradise Now” compounds an already fraught Academy Awards for Israel, thanks to several nominations garnered by Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.”

A thriller about the reprisals the Jewish state launched after 11 of its athletes died in a Palestinian raid on the 1972 Olympic Games, Munich has been accused by pro-Israel groups of skewing history and criticizing Israeli security policies.

Spielberg called the film his “prayer for peace.”



Anti-Semitism now
By Irit Linor
Yediot Ahronot
February 7, 2006


Two years ago, the creators of Paradise Now asked the Israel Film Foundation for public funding to help produce the film. They were turned down thanks to a number of reviewers – including myself – who were taken aback by its moral character.

Thus, Israel missed out on the chance to be part to an exciting, quality Nazi film.

I don’t use the term “Nazi” frivolously or out of anger. Such a claim must be backed up, particularly when the subject is a film that conforms to all the criteria of quality filmmaking, and which barely contains any Jews. One could, perhaps, have been content with the phrase “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic”.

But the film hasn’t got any “Jews” in it and no “Israel,” because Jewish Israel is referred to in the film as “them,” or “occupation, ” or “killing” or an “injustice” that has no historic background or human form.

Ugly Jews

The only Jewish Israeli given a name is called Abu Shabab, the man who takes the terrorists to Tel Aviv and receives payment only after the terror attack (or “operation,” in the film’s phrasing) takes place. As he takes the terrorists to the Dolphinarium parking lot, the only Hebrew word in the film escapes his lips as he wishes the murderers “good luck.”

And so, in just a few seconds, Beyer and Abu-Assad manage to define the Israeli, that is, the caricature Jew: fat, ugly, older, bearded, hungry for young Aryan girls and prepared to do anything for money.

Why use a Jewish Israeli character for this role, when there have been no more than three Jewish collaborators over more than 1000 terror attacks, and in fact most of the Israelis who do aid terror are Arab? How did the creators come to surrender their link to reality? Was it artistic or ideological?

No choice

And since all the participants in the film repeatedly emphasize that all peaceful Palestinian efforts at solving the problems of occupation and ethnic cleansing have failed, and that there is therefore no alternative but to conduct suicide “operations,” the film’s subtext suggests a solution to the problem: mass murder.

And so we can rightly call “Paradise Now” a Nazi film: it spins a thin thread of understanding for those who resorted to desperate measures to solve the problem of the constant, unremitting evil of the Jews.

No Victims

And who are the suicide bombers in the film? They are no more than innocent victims of an occupation devoid of reason or purpose. Forget politics at the film’s conclusion, I was sadder about hottie Kais Nashef in the role of the suicide bomber than I was about a bunch of statistics in the role of Israelis on a Tel Aviv bus, most of whom were soldiers, as is the norm on Tel Aviv buses, and who we didn’t even see die.

The suicide bombing to which the innocent heroes go is an act that, from its genesis to its conclusion, is devoid of victims. There may not even be a bombing, just a close-up on Nashef’s soft eyes, and a white screen. Not even a ‘boom.’

Maybe in the end he just changed his mind. The two murderers are kind, their clothes Tarantino style fit them well, so you like them. How could you not?

Likeable killers

We liked Jackson and Travolta in “Pulp Fiction,” and they, too, where murderers who wore the tailored suits. Tarantino prepared the ground for us to like barbaric killers, and to feel good about it.

So although true “martyrs” don’t usually appear wearing suits, that’s how Hany Abu-Assad chose to portray them. He knew the image it presents.

“Ah, come on,” the critics will say, “that’s propaganda? What do you mean? It’s homage! At most, they’ll argue whether the clothes came from “Pulp Fiction” or the “Blues Brothers.”

Another purely artistic consideration was the banding together of hotties Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman in the role of the murderers. I’d have to rack my brain to recall the martyr who could have sidelined as a male model.

But there we’ve got Kais as one of the bombers, and it’s clear that whoever causes him to suffer ought to be punished.

Humble terrorist

It is purely out of artistic considerations, of course, that he recites his ideological speech some lying, sanctimonious Hamas drivel not with fanatic shouting, but rather with humility, sadness.

This is no Hitler in a stadium, but rather a delicate wildflower, ravaged by the spring winds and by the occupation, of course, which is a ritual cleansing bath for every Palestinian moral blight.

The girl who opposes the suicide bombings (and who is also madly attracted to Kais) opposes it so vehemently not because she is opposed to killing civilians but rather because “it just gives them (that is, the Israeli root of evil) the alibi to continue killing.”

In other words: it just isn’t practical. And she’s the humanist in the film. She’s also cute.

Out of artistic considerations, the taxi driver in the film explains to Nashef that the settlers poisoned the wells by Nablus in order to harm the quality of Palestinian offspring. Nashef doesn’t raise an eyebrow. Neither will viewers abroad. They’ve already internalized the link between Jews and well poisoning.

The bomber is me

The message of “Paradise Now” is simple: “We’re all people, even mass murderers.” You see, anyone has the potential to blow up children and babies in a restaurant. It can happen to anyone, like dandruff.

The movie is a success because of the sophisticated direction of Hany Abu-Assad. There is no blood, and Nablus apartments with exposed cinderblock walls look every bit as romantic as a Tuscan villa. Everything is so beautiful, it’s clear the terrorists are just like us, just with more tastefully decorated homes.

And again the message is clear: if these people can become murderers than clearly so could I.

Out of artistic considerations, you understand, Hany Abu-Assad doesn’t linger on the less photogenic aspects that can lead someone to commit mass murder a distorted mentality of honor, an anti-Semitic education, Islamic radicalism, the cheapening of human life.

He only sells us a humanity whose outer characteristics we find palatable: young heroes, sweet families like us not religious fanatics, but marginally traditional, t-shirt wearing secular folk. You know, just like us.

But that’s not wholly accurate, because the two murderers of “Paradise Now” aren’t quite like us, nor are they like most other Western viewers. They’re much more than that.

Son of God

They’re the son of God, in all his splendor and glory. Yes indeed, the screenwriters were well aware of the film’s Christian audience, so they prepared something especially for them.

Just before they go out to blow you and me up, the two cool killers sit down to eat a final meal, together with eleven men, in the exact arrangement and with the exact number of participants in Leonardo’s famous painting of the Last Supper.

In order to prevent any of the non-Jews from interpreting the scene inappropriately and to maintain its visual context, there are no cuts during the scene.

There isn’t a Christian on the planet who isn’t familiar with that painting, or who doesn’t know who’s sitting around that table. The Christian whose mind will have no trouble conjuring up the association of Jesus just prior to his crucifixion.

So we’ve got a modern day Jesus and an innocent victim who will die because of whom? An interesting question.

And Abu-Assad marches towards his Oscar, and we’ll receive the next martyr. Let’s just hope he’s as hot as Nashef.



UAE bans Brokeback Mountain
By Afkar Abdullah
Khaleej Times
February 9, 2006


The Ministry of Culture and Information will not allow the screening of the Hollywood film Brokeback Mountain in the UAE because of scenes involving homosexuals.

Brokeback Mountain is a film which has nothing positive about it. The portrayal of the sexual behaviour of its main character is offensive to eastern societies, particularly Muslims and the Arabs since Islam forbids abnormal behaviors like homosexuality, said Dr Abdullah Al Amiri, Chairman of the Committee of Financial, Economical and Industrial Affairs of Sharjah Consultative Council yesterday.

“The film will upset the people of this culture and tradition,” he said, explaining that there were scenes showing two men romantically inclined to each other.

The decision of the Ministry of Information was hailed by the members of the Sharjah Consultative Council during the meeting yesterday. The members thanked the ministry for its efforts in protecting the society from unethical and immoral practices.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, an official from the Ministry of Information said that the rules and regulations of the censor section at the ministry did not allow “these kinds of movies to be screened in the country.” The censorship department is making great efforts to review all the movies before it allows its screening in the theatres in the country. This kind of movies will destroy the values and morals of the society, he explained.

Despite criticism, the controversial movie was named ‘Best Picture’ at the 17th Annual Producers Guild of America (PGA) awards on January 22, 2006.



Oscars for Osama
By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
March 3, 2006


Nothing tells you more about Hollywood than what it chooses to honor. Nominated for best foreign-language film is “Paradise Now,” a sympathetic portrayal of two suicide bombers. Nominated for best picture is “Munich,” a sympathetic portrayal of yesterday’s fashion in barbarism: homicide terrorism.

But until you see “Syriana,” nominated for best screenplay (and George Clooney, for best supporting actor) you have no idea how self-flagellation and self-loathing pass for complexity and moral seriousness in Hollywood.

The “Syriana” script has, of course, the classic liberal tropes such as this stage direction: “The Deputy National Security Advisor, Marilyn Richards, 40’s, sculpted hair, with the soul of a seventy year-old white, Republican male, is in charge” (Page 21). Or this piece of over-the-top, Gordon Gekko Republican-speak, placed in the mouth of a Texas oilman: “Corruption is our protection. Corruption is what keeps us safe and warm.... Corruption... is how we win” (Page 93).

But that’s run-of-the-mill Hollywood. The true distinction of “Syriana’s” script is the near-incomprehensible plot – a muddled mix of story lines about a corrupt Kazakh oil deal, a succession struggle in an oil-rich Arab kingdom, and a giant Texas oil company that pulls the strings at the CIA and, naturally, everywhere else – amid which, only two things are absolutely clear and coherent: the movie’s one political hero and one pure soul.

The political hero is the Arab prince who wants to end corruption, inequality and oppression in his country. As he tells his tribal elders, he intends to modernize his country by bringing the rule of law, market efficiency, women’s rights and democracy.

What do you think happens to him? He, his beautiful wife and beautiful children are murdered, incinerated, by a remote-controlled missile, fired from CIA headquarters in Langley, no less – at the very moment that (this passes for subtle cross-cutting film editing) his evil younger brother, the corrupt rival to the throne and puppet of the oil company, is being hailed at a suitably garish “oilman of the year” celebration populated by fat and ugly Americans.

What is grotesque about this moment of plot clarity is that the overwhelmingly obvious critique of actual U.S. policy in the real Middle East today concerns America’s excess of Wilsonian idealism in trying to find and promote – against a tide of tyranny, intolerance and fanaticism – local leaders like the Good Prince. Who in the greater Middle East is closest to the modernizing, democratizing paragon of “Syriana”? Without a doubt, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, a man of exemplary – and quite nonfictional – personal integrity, physical courage and democratic temperament. Hundreds of brave American (and allied NATO) soldiers have died protecting him and the democratic system they established to allow him to govern. On the very night the Oscars will be honoring “Syriana,” American soldiers will be fighting, some perhaps dying, in defense of precisely the kind of tolerant, modernizing Muslim leader that “Syriana” shows America slaughtering.

It gets worse. The most pernicious element in the movie is the character at the moral heart of the film: the beautiful, modest, caring, generous Pakistani who becomes a beautiful, modest, caring, generous... suicide bomber. In his final act, the Pure One, dressed in the purest white robes, takes his explosives-laden little motorboat headfirst into his target. It is a replay of the real-life boat that plunged into the USS Cole in 2000, killing 17 American sailors, except that in the “Syriana” version, the target is another symbol of American imperialism in the Persian Gulf: a newly opened liquefied natural gas terminal.

The explosion, which would have the force of a nuclear bomb, constitutes the moral high point of the movie, the moment of climactic cleansing, as the Pure One clad in white merges with the great white mass of the huge terminal wall, at which point the screen goes pure white. And reverently silent.

In my naivete, I used to think that Hollywood had achieved its nadir with Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” a film that taught a generation of Americans that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA and the FBI in collaboration with Lyndon Johnson. But at least it was for domestic consumption, an internal affair of only marginal interest to other countries. “Syriana,” however, is meant for export, carrying the most vicious and pernicious mendacities about America to a receptive world.

Most liberalism is angst- and guilt-ridden, seeing moral equivalence everywhere. “Syriana” is of a different species entirely – a pathological variety that burns with the certainty of its malign anti-Americanism. Osama bin Laden could not have scripted this film with more conviction.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.