Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
'My films can arouse disgust.' Sivan
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Photo: CD Bank
‘I Love You All’ tells the story of a high-ranking officer in the East German secret police
Photo: CD Bank
Eichmann during his trial in Israel
Photo: GPO

Filmmaker: Israel regime like East German Stasi

In interview with Yedioth Ahronoth magazine 'Seven Days,' Eyal Sivan, Israeli maker of controversial film about Adolf Eichmann, says idea of his new film ‘I Love You All’ is ‘to show how evil in East Germany, as in Israel, was mainstream’; adds: Equality, creating state for its citizens not possible within Zionist ideological framework

”Hater of Israel,” “anti-Semite,” and “murderer of Jews” are among the names Eyal Sivan has been called as a result of his documentaries and articles, most of which deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Screams and curses, threats to his life, and bullets in his mailbox are also part of the repertoire.


Sivan has been living and thriving in France for 21 years. Currently in Israel to teach courses at the Sapir College in the Negev and a film school in Nazareth, he will attend the Israeli premiere of his documentary film “I Love You All” at the Southern Film Festival in Sderot, to be held from June 12-16. Sivan is the festival’s artistic advisor.


“I Love You All” tells the story of a high-ranking officer in the East German secret police, the Stasi, and reveals the surveillance methods used by the officer, who justifies his actions by referring to state security, defense of the regime, and obedience to the law.


For Sivan, this film is an allegory about Israel. “In the Stasi the terror and intimidation of the populace were done in the name of the law,” says Sivan. “The idea in the film is to show how evil in East Germany, as in Israel, was mainstream. Evil was justified there, as was the soldier, who justifies his actions with obedience to the law, in acting for the state and security.”


At the age of 18, after a rich past including political action against religious coercion and for dialogue with the PLO, Sivan decided not to serve in the IDF, and was released on the grounds of mental health problems.


He went to live in Tel Aviv, where he began to photograph models for fashion magazines. Three years later he decided to leave Israel in order to “experience something different, to experience it alone, far from the feeling of belonging to a collective.”


'I was not a PLO member'


His choice of Paris was a result of the influence of his mother, who had studied there for three years. He read Sartre and was attracted to the Paris’s atmosphere.


He performed odd jobs like selling balloons and posters, and at the same time wrote his first script. A chance encounter with a producer led to a collaboration, and Sivan’s first documentary was on its way. The film, “Aqabat Jaber, Vie de passage,” written with Noa Gedi, tells of a day in a refugee camp near Jericho. In the film, 22 people tell of their expulsion in 1948.


Alongside his developing film career, Sivan continued his political activism, joining a far-left Israeli political party, directing the party’s election ads, and contacting members of the PLO.


“I was not a member of the PLO, but I was close to the PLO’s Israeli Department…I was part of a group working to bring Israelis to talks and conferences with the PLO in the period when such meetings were prohibited by Israeli law. I tried to encourage dialogue.”


Sivan’s film career thrived, and his resume now includes directing and producing over ten documentaries, most of them about the open wounds in Israeli society. His films have won many prizes in important film festivals. His best-known film is “The Specialist,” which is based on archival film footage from the Adolf Eichmann trial.


The film was produced in 1999, shown all over the world, and caused a sensation, mostly in Israel. Sivan was accused by the head of the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive of distorting facts and of portraying Eichmann as a calm, harmless man. A complaint was submitted to the Attorney General. Intellectuals called Sivan a hater of Israel and an anti-Semite.


“While in the rest of the world discussions were held and books written on the subject, in Israel it was claimed that I am an anti-Semite who presents Eichmann as normal. This is the method used in Israel to avoid getting into a discussion of the topic. Anyone who claims that the film covers up Eichmann’s evil must ask himself questions. Isn’t blind obedience to the law evil? In the film he is seen sitting and planning with tables how many people will go to the gas chambers. Is this not evil? If he didn’t scream in the film, does this mean that he isn’t evil? That kind of thinking says something mainly about the viewer.”


'Zionist vision does not interest me'


Even those of Sivan’s films that do not focus directly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict deal with the subject indirectly, whether in the film he did on genocide in Rwanda or his new film on the Stasi.


“In all of my films I deal with evil in the regime, and my natural laboratory is Israel-Palestine. I am interested in dealing with the ‘banalization’ of evil. How evil grows not because people are evil but from the patterns of the society, within the normality of the mainstream. You don’t have to be a hate-filled racist to be a participant in evil. Eichmann was not an extremist for his time. In general evil is presented in the theater as absolute through the victims or the evildoers, who are psychopaths. This presentation gives the viewer the feeling that he is human," Sivan says. 


“I choose to show the ‘Norma paths,’ the people who seem normal but commit terrible acts, and then questions and dilemmas arise for the viewer such as who am I, what would I do in that situation. And I don’t provide the answers. My films can arouse disgust and screams because I say that the danger is hidden in the mainstream, and not in the fringes.”


Politically, Sivan holds views that today are accepted on the need for a bi-national state, but he supports the right of return.


“You need to address the entire area of Palestine-Israel as another area in which you have to find a joint Jewish-Arab solution,” he explains. “For me this means the ‘de-Zionization’ of Israel. Equality and creating a state for its citizens is not possible within the Zionist ideological framework,” he says. 


Are Jews not entitled to their own state?


“In concrete, not theoretical terms, the Zionist vision does not interest me. The results are what interest me. If the Holocaust justifies social discrimination, then there is a problem. The Holocaust does not give a permit for doing anything. If anything, the Holocaust is the opposite, a warning sign that radical nationalism brings not only hatred of the other, but also causes the other to disappear, and on the other hand, collective obedience necessarily leads to disaster.


“Although the Holocaust took place in the West, we aren’t afraid today of the Western Christian world—which destroyed the largest number of Jews—but of the Arabs. Israel is a country of two peoples, and both of these peoples deserve equality. There is a question here of discrimination and racism… What is important to the left is whether the majority in Israel is white or black. The question is the question of Arabism. We need to recognize clearly that Israel is in the east. Israeliness, which acts as if we are a suburb of Vienna or New York, is a denial of this. The problem is that this country does not want Arabs here.”


Maybe they don’t want us either.


“It’s true for both sides. The question is not who will live here, but rather how we will live here. The extreme left believes that we are here and they are there. One of the fantastic things in the Israeli way of thinking is that they are guilty, they throw bombs. This way of thinking justifies all military actions, but what are you doing? The Israelis don’t take responsibility for their part in the violence. As far as I’m concerned, this is a question to be addressed in film, of point of view, like the question what the frame is in film. The discussion in Israel conceals our actions in order to preserve in the frame the actions of the other.”


The Israeli left, as can be easily understood, appears ridiculous to him.


“They don’t want to live with the Arabs and Sephardic Jews. As far as they’re concerned, to live with Arabs is to eat hummus and to hear two Middle Eastern songs. They see themselves as white and they want to preserve white supremacy, and mainly they hate Judaism. In their talk about the religious there is anti-Semitism," Sivan says.


"This is a group with hegemony that is foreign in Israel, feels its foreignness, and is afraid. They present themselves as enlightened but they are racist towards the religious and towards Sephardic Jews. Israeli leftists are a lot more bothered when someone screams ‘death to the Arabs’ at a soccer stadium than when Arabs are killed. For them it’s an esthetic problem.”


Sivan’s ongoing endeavors include provoking the Jewish community in Paris, which he drives crazy with his extreme views. In 2003 he published on the first page of Le Monde an article called “The dangerous confusion of France’s Jews” in which he claimed that the community’s blind support for Israel was creating confusion between Zionism and Judaism, which was inflaming anti-Semitism.


The article aroused sharp responses, and a debate was arranged between Sivan and the head of the Jewish community, broadcast on cable news channels, during which Sivan was called “Hamas.”


He also received threats to his life, including a package in his mailbox that contained a 22 millimeter bullet. The packages said, “The next bullet will not arrive in the mail.”


Sivan claims that anti-Semitism is not increasing in France, and that the opposite is in fact the case.


“In France I’ve encountered love of Jews just because they are Jews, since Jews are considered to be powerful and intelligent. In other cities in Europe there is a very natural response that does not surrender to anti-Semitic blackmail and continues to view Israel critically, but then people say that all criticism of Israeli policy is a result of anti-Semitism. One of the dubious successes of the Israeli Zionist state is to cause confusion between two realms, Zionism and Judaism, between the state and the fact that there is a Jewish majority here,” he says. 


Sivan’s slander trial against French Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut is about to end. “He claimed on a radio broadcast that I am a Jewish anti-Semite who wants to kill Jews,” says Sivan. “The question is whether calling someone anti-Semitic and a murderer of Jews is legitimate in a discussion. This makes the term ‘anti-Semitism’ banal. Today people who are ostensibly friends of Israel attack anyone who criticizes Israel. The idea is to try to prevent criticism of Israel. They think that they are doing something good. I think that with Jewish people like that, we don’t need enemies.”


Sivan holds only an Israeli passport, and has chosen not to have a French passport.


“I feel Israeli in spite of the fact that half of my life I’ve lived in France. Nevertheless, I am ashamed to be an Israeli. I’m ashamed of what Israel’s government is doing, and most of Israel’s residents are a party to this. My political work is my way of overcoming the shame.”


Why do you not live in Israel?


“Because I have a girlfriend in France; her child is here, her friends. I also believe that political activity that is not local is important. Through such activity you can bring about a change in perception.”


פרסום ראשון: 06.11.06, 20:14
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