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Reader intervention
Elia Suleiman has defied all the odds to create his surreal escape/rescue comedy Divine Intervention. The film envisions miracles but the greatest miracle of all is its creation. Which of us could create a feature film under the demoralizing, degrading, utterly devastating conditions of the Occupied Territories?

Roundups, snipers, helicopter attacks, tanks. Dead, wounded and imprisoned husbands, wives and children. Mountains of rubble where once people laughed, played, loved, argued, and planned for the future. Extreme poverty, food and fuel shortages, tenuous employment, endless frustration and daily jeopardy.

Not long ago, two British MPs (one of them Jewish) had the political and moral courage to speak out on the Palestinian predicament. They compared the territories to the Warsaw Ghetto, and called out to Israel to repudiate their policies of hate and aggression.

Their analogy is apt. The plain truth is that Palestinians have no rights in Israel. Since the founding of Israel, Palestinians have been treated as pariahs. Their situation is similar to that of the native Americans in the United States--to the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto--or to South African blacks in the townships. Several Knesset members have called for mass deportations. And the 24/7 propaganda/censorship war that prohibits any criticism of Israel (no matter how egregious their actions) and casts 3 million people as ignorant, backward terrorists is unparalleled both in its scope and ferocity. Its intent is to demonize anyone who dares call out for human and civil rights, for respect for international law, for even a smidgen of restraint or compassion.

And so I am not surprised to read Mr. Mills' attack on Godfrey Cheshire [Back Talk, June 25] for daring to suggest that Palestinians are humans, and are suffering and dying due to Israeli policies. Such attacks (on "the messenger") have become commonplace in the U.S. press. What else is new? But I am still disappointed. Godfrey Cheshire is a very fine writer and film critic. And in his last column he demonstrated something else: that he is knowledgeable about current affairs. There is no separation between art and politics. To demand such is to advocate censorship, cowardice and complicity.

Mr. Mills, does freedom of the press not apply when it comes to Israeli policies? Do you expect the entire world to overlook the murder and attempted murder of peace activists, journalists and medical personnel, house to house roundups and public assassinations, rocket attacks on residential neighborhoods, schools, mosques, clinics, radio stations, and community centers, the bulldozing of homes, the beating and imprisonment of children, women and hundreds of conscientious objectors? These are fully documented facts. The Israeli occupation is a tragedy and travesty. It is untenable by any person of conscience. It must stop.
Rhea Worrell
Chapel Hill

Godfrey Cheshire's movie review "Present Ten(se)" in the June 18 issue makes clear his position of solidarity with the Palestinians in the current Middle East conflict. Unfortunately, Mr. Cheshire omits facts and cites tangential opinions of an anonymous sympathetic Jewish friend in a lazy and offensive attempt to bolster his opinion.

He states, "Last week--after I began writing this review, in fact--Sharon launched the second phase of this war ..." Check the news reports of that week and you find the following:

  • President Bush and Prime Ministers Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas meet in Jordan on Wednesday, June 4.

  • Hamas assassinates 5 Israeli soldiers on Monday, June 9.

  • On Wednesday June 11 Israeli defense forces attempt to assassinate Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi.

  • On June 12, Hamas sends a recruit to Jerusalem who blows himself up on a bus killing 16 and wounding 100.

    Certainly Mr. Sharon is no blameless saint, but it is irrefutable that Palestinian militants were the first to break the silence. And they purposefully and successfully targeted and killed the vast majority of civilians in the week following the summit. As a result, I find Mr. Cheshire's assertion simplistic and factually unjustifiable.

    The movie that Cheshire describes as, " ... a work of exuberant imagination and mind-blowing wit" is little more than a listless and confused mishmash of surrealist ponderings. More accurately Elia Suleiman's Divine Intervention can be interpreted as a metaphor for existence currently in the Middle East; a disorienting, frustrating and impotent experience. That this equals a successful movie in artistic terms and is worth moviegoers sitting through is as fallacious as Mr. Cheshire's narrow understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    Rafael Goldberg
    Chapel Hill

    When I began reading Godfrey Cheshire's June 18 movie review, it was to learn about two movies showing in local theaters. By the time I finished reading the six column article, I was horrified to realize that this once respected reviewer had sunk to unconscionable unprofessional lows.

    In case readers missed it, instead of using his journalistic skills and the space provided for a movie review, Cheshire abused his privileged position by using it as a platform to have a vitriolic diatribe against Israel. He wrote about "Israel's brutal subjugation of another people." He said, "Sharon paid perfunctory lip service to an American road map." He actually had the impudence to imagine on paper what was in Sharon's mind as relates to US: " ... Think again squirt. As long as the Jewish lobby and their fundamentalist Christian allies in Washington remain as powerful as they are, I call the shots. I'll wage war as long as I want to, and you'll keep paying the bills, supplying the weapons, and, oh yeah, carrying my coat." Here's one more. When writing about "the captive U.S. media and its central big lie about the Israeli-Palestinian struggle," he concludes the paragraph with this beauty, "The rich bully on top is in the wrong, the stateless little kid he's pummeling into the dirt is right."

    In addition to being factually wrong, his negative personal views against Israel destroyed his credibility as a journalist. I believe he should be fired from his position immediately. I certainly will never look at another "review" he writes. I am also concerned that the editors of The Independent, whom I greatly admire, allowed this embarrassing situation to occur. We as a community deserve better. A movie reviewer should not be allowed to take an editorial position and most certainly not be able to present his personal anti-Semitic views in the midst of a movie review.
    Barbara Chaiken
    Chapel Hill

    What an opportunity lost, Mr. Cheshire! You spent more time on your own political pique than you did on analyzing Divine Intervention [June 18], which, for anyone who follows this explosive tragedy, would have revealed the absurdities and pathos endured under this particular occupation (and "occupation" is a dirty word no matter what the nation). There was so much to be gleaned from this film that could have been exploited to get your own political message across but instead you blew it and gave the movie short shrift. It makes me wonder if you actually sat through it all.
    Patricia A. Highland

    I am amazed and dismayed on how Mr. Cheshire, in his review of Divine Intervention [June 18] could attribute such inflammatory remarks to the Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, by the use of quote marks. If this was not a direct quote from Mr. Sharon, as Mr. Cheshire implies with his use of quote marks, then who is doing the speaking? Is it Mr. Cheshire himself, or someone else? As a reader we really don't know. In respect to this type of divisive rhetoric in our prevailing political climate, I believe we deserve more clarity from a writer about the sources from which quotes stem.
    Stanley R. Nelson
    Chapel Hill


    An article in the July 16 Black Culture issue gave an incorrect location for Andre Richardson's leased land in Wake County. His land is in Riley Hill.

    In the July 9 poet laureate story, we incorrectly identified the Fellowship program that works with the poet laureate, as a service of the N.C. Writers' Network. The fellowships are actually a program of the North Carolina Arts Council, another way that the Arts Council helps artists advance their work.

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