West Bank Story

The Na’avi characters from James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar, a visually spectacular (if cliché ridden) allegory of imperialism, seem to be becoming an icon of protest.

In the village of Bil’in on the West Bank a group of Palestinian, Israeli and Arab activists protested against the building of an Israeli barrier by costuming-up as the blue-skinned Na’avi  from the blockbuster movie (albeit the women wore hijab) . The protesters at Bil’in, who consider the barrier a land grab by Israeli security forces, equated their struggle to the intergalactic battle for Pandora, the Na’vis homeland which humans try to forcibly occupy for its mineral resources.

Via The Lede:

Batsheva Sobelman of The Los Angeles Times reported from Jerusalem that last month “a screening of ‘Avatar’ erupted into a small ruckus in a suburb when one moviegoer loudly announced that the Palestinians should learn from this movie what to do to the Jews, causing a commotion and angering others in the audience.” Ms. Sobelman explained that the “opinionated moviegoer was Juliano Mer-Khamis,” an actor who was “Born in Nazereth to a Jewish mother and Arab father.”

Mr. Mer-Khamis told the Israeli newspaper Maariv:

No one dares to make the real analogy. ‘Avatar’ is one of the bravest films made. It portrays the occupation, but people aren’t making the analogy. Many would like to be like the blue people but don’t understand the meaning. This is why people got angry at the movie theater. It is no secret that I think the Israelis are occupiers and the Palestinians occupied. Israel sits forcefully on lands that belong to others and this is exactly what the movie is talking about.

Check out the video. Also, there are reports of state-meddling in the screening of Avatar in China since the government considered the movie to be close to ‘sensitive issues’ in China. However, other reports suggest that this maybe simply because of the Chines governments policy of helping local cinema by keeping Hollywood blockbusters out.

3 thoughts on “West Bank Story

  1. A very good article, indeed, though in my opinion the comparison might be to drastical.

    I don’t want to disagree, that movies transport everyday-political-messages, but I can’t really find such a striking parallel between the Na’avi of the movie and real-life palestinians.

    Exaggeration might be an excuse, but to use characters and settings of a movie to transmit a political message is somehow weird, and definitely nothing the movie was thought to be.

    And it definitely shoudln’t be used as a role model to fresehen and strengthen the cause for conflict between palestinian and jews…

  2. @ Oliver: You really cannot find a parallel between the Na’avi and the palestinians? Between colonized people who are restricted from access to their own land and resources? I guess this largely depends on your view of the conflict and of colonization.

    As for the activists dressing as the Na’avi, I find it an interesting case of art imitating life and life imitating art and so on and so forth. Art can be a revealing indicator of what lies on the mind of a particular society. Its guilt, its excesses, passions, obsessions… This is why modern art is so interesting. You will find installations of cracks on floors, toilets, plastic surgery alongside subversive representations of gender and sexual orientation, the current preoccupations of modern society. And colonial memories feature predominantly in the collective consciousness of both, the colonizer and the colonized. It is still how majority of relationships between people are defined today.

  3. @ Sayalee: of course I can find parallels, but I don’t think they really fit. Just compare the different motives why the lands were taken (the fictional and the real ones). I don’t know how you may see this conflict, I definitely sympthasize with the palestinians, not the Israelis. And still, I don’t like the comparison – the movie was made for entertainment, the characters stand for money and amusement- is this conflict really anything amusing?

    That was the reason why I simply dislike taking movies – made exactly for the opposite – and compare your situation with the one in the movie. It would have been definitely something different if it was the other way round, as I’ve mentioned already.

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