Tag Archives: israel

Wonder Woman Refuses to Celebrate Violence

by Jill Raney

I love superhero movies. Like, my love for superhero movies borders on obsessive. (I saw Ant-Man on opening night. I already know what I’m doing for Valentine’s Day next year, and it’s seeing Black Panther. I will never, ever forgive Joss Whedon for Age of Ultron.) And I fracking love Wonder Woman, which may come as a surprise to some who know me for my work against Israel‘s occupation of the Palestinians.

First, Wonder Woman is an actual good superhero movie. It has an actual plot, several characters grow and change in meaningful ways, and the fight scenes are meaningful parts of all that plot and character development. Superhero movies are starting to ruin themselves, and it’s so satisfying to see a superhero movie use its tropes to tell a genuinely great story.

But more than that, it’s a superhero movie that doesn’t glorify violence. It’s an explicitly feminist superhero movie that doesn’t argue that women joining in on militarism is feminist — because feminism instead requires honoring every person’s humanity. Wonder Woman manages to make a coherent, compelling argument that violence doesn’t fix anything. Wonder Woman shows us that killing someone might stop that person from killing others, but killing someone doesn’t have the power to end suffering. Only loving each other, strategically, even when it’s hard, can do that.

This message is especially meaningful because Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot served in the Israel Defense Forces and makes a point to speak positively of her military experience, ignoring that her military service was a contribution to Israel’s decades-long military occupation of the Palestinians. As she told The Daily Beast, “I want people to have a good impression of Israel”.  (Loving problematic things is hard, and I respect the hell out of people who are skipping Wonder Woman because of Gal Gadot’s politics.)

I’m glad the talents behind Wonder Woman decided to alter the canon to tell a story of World War I, again for two reasons.  First, it makes it a better movie, because there’s already a great superhero movie about a hyper-competent brunette soldier and her boyfriend Steve who dies in an airplane in World War II. (Seriously, Wonder Woman manages to feel so fresh despite sharing many plot points with Captain America: The First Avenger. See: the hero gaining military training by subterfuge, a disfigured science-y supervillain who wears a mask, the romantic leads’ witty banter about sex and military tactics, the hero undertaking an unauthorized rescue mission and stopping the enemy’s chemical warfare alongside their international and racially diverse hand-picked special forces unit, a battlefield goodbye to doomed romance, a solemn celebration of the end of the war, etc. At least Diana and her Steve got laid, sorry Peggy and other Steve.)

But more than that, it gives the movie room to breathe that it might not have were its Israeli actress fighting Nazis on screen.

Extremely valid Jewish trauma from the Holocaust was the most reasonable of causes for many Jews to move to Palestine after World War II. Extremely valid Jewish trauma from the Holocaust, generations later, is much of what Jewish institutions throw in our faces unreasonably when a Jew speaks out against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians. (Coincidentally, that’s what I was doing the same day as I saw Wonder Woman — and shortly before I crashed the Celebrate Israel Parade to hold a “No Celebration with Occupation” banner with IfNotNow, I saw a parade spectator wearing a “Magneto Was Right” t-shirt, which is a whole other essay about Jewish Holocaust trauma and troubling relationships to violence.)

Gal Gadot, with her decidedly non-English name, is visibly Jewish in a way her comic book actress contemporaries Natalie Portman (Thor’s genius girlfriend Jane Foster) and Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff, who deserves her own Black Widow trilogy) are not. Surely many of us might feel some satisfaction to watch a famously Jewish actress punch Nazis in the face. But I suspect that, were Wonder Woman set in World War II, we would not have seen Diana be so forgiving to German soldiers once the immediate threat had passed. And that would have made Wonder Woman a lesser movie.

Diana seeks to kill Ares, believing that destroying him will end humanity’s inhumanity. She kills General Ludendorff, mistaking him for Ares, and finally kills Ares himself, but she spares Doctor Maru, whose supervillainous mustard gas had killed the villagers Diana had saved just days before. She spares the German soldiers who survived her battle with Ares. Diana knows that more killing will not end inhumanity, only love can do that.

The Israeli government and mainstream Jewish institutions refuse to allow our community to forgive, to spare those perceived as enemies, and that institutional refusal to honor Palestinians’ humanity in particular makes its way past our gas masks of critical thinking and into our minds and souls. As I saw Diana lift that tank over Doctor Maru, weigh the moral choice before her, and decide that this death would cost more than it would save, I couldn’t help thinking of Gal Gadot’s Instagram post in support of the Israeli troops who were attacking Palestinians during the 2014 Gaza war.

Did Doctor Maru deserve to die for her crimes against humanity?  It’s not about what she deserved, it’s about what you believe.

What’s so delightful about superhero stories is their ability to help us imagine what we might do if regular social norms or the laws of physics didn’t apply to us. They invite us to imagine who we might be if what holds us back weren’t there, and they invite us to consider whether the things holding us back are truly strong enough to stop us.

Diana, Princess of Themyscira, is a goddess, trained in combat by the Amazons to protect all life, raised in a peaceful (and queer, fight me) paradise, with no understanding of or patience for the misogynist, racist social mores of 1910s Europe. The rules don’t apply to her. I can’t fly, and neither can Gal Gadot, and sadly, neither of us has a Lasso of Truth. I’m an American Jew and I don’t know what it’s like to choose between jail time and mandatory service in an occupying army — but Gal Gadot does, and she made her choice. I do know I can expect some nonsense on Twitter for this piece, and I can expect continued hostility from Jewish institutions for my work to oppose the occupation.

The laws of physics and the expectations of our communities apply to us mere mortals. Those expectations that our communities place on us can feel as heavy as gravity, but they are not gravity, and we can choose to flex our ordinary, non-super muscles and push back.

Do Israelis and Palestinians deserve freedom and dignity? It’s not about what our people deserve, it’s about what our people believe.

It feels like too much to hope, but maybe some of the little Israelis who go see Wonder Woman because of Gal Gadot will internalize the movie’s message. Maybe they’ll grow up to refuse to occupy in part because of the example set by Diana, Princess of Themyscira.

Jill Raney is an anti-oppression advocate, entrepreneur, and enthusiastic genre nerd. They live in Washington, DC, where they are a member of IfNotNow, the Jewish movement to end our community’s support for the occupation.

Lebanon’s Economic Ministry Calls for a Ban on Wonder Woman

Spats between nations looks like a hurdle even Wonder Woman can’t deflect. Lebanon‘s economy ministry has asked the country’s security agency to ban Warner Bros.‘ Wonder Women which opens this week. The reason? Lead actress Gal Gadot is Israeli. The former request hasn’t been received as of this post.

Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and a decades-old law boycotts Israeli products and bars Lebanese citizens from traveling or having contact with Israelis. The war has flared up on and off of the years with a devastating volley in 2006 that left hundreds dead and damaged Lebanon’s infrastructure.

Gadot is Israeli and like many of its citizens, served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). She has also spoken out against the group Hamas who is considered by many to be a terrorist organization.

The ban requires a recommendation from a six-member committee from the Ministry of Economy, but that process hasn’t begun. The film is slated to open Wednesday and would be shown in at least one theater in Beirut.

Some members of the BDS movement have also attempted to build a boycott of the film. The “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” movement condemns Israeli policy towards Palestinians calling it “apartheid” and “settler-colonialism.” Some see the BDS movement as anti-Semitic.

(via Al Jazeera)

Marvel Vs. Kippa Man

Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post

Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post

Marvel’s has decided to go after a Jerusalem kippa maker over copyright violations with a lawsuit. The company is suing the well-known Kippa Man shop for NIS 100,000 ($25,274) in damages. The kippas feature many Marvel characters. The lawsuit is being brought by local Israeli attorneys Ivtsan-Netzer-Wolecki & Co. Marvel is claiming it lost revenue due to breach of intellectual property by Kippa Man.

A photograph of a kippa purchased featuring Spider-Man was submitted as evidence of the infringement.

Avi Binyamin, the owner of the shop claims that the real lawsuit should be brought against the company that produces them in China. The store is one of many on the street and the most well known, which is why Binyamin thinks he was targeted.

The court document claimed copyright violations have become rampant in Israel over the years, so expect more.

(via Times of Israel of Jerusalem Post)

Around the Tubes

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It’s a new week and the news for the weekend trickled up a bit.  But, while you were out seeing X-Men: First Class this weekend, here’s the news you might have missed.

Around the Blogs:

Vietnamnet Bridge – Hanoi through comic booksA short article about a comic book festival in Vietnam that has some really nice art.

The Jerusalem Post – People of the (comic) bookA solid article detailing Jewish contributions to the graphic medium.

Kotaku – Sunday ComicsKotaku brings the week’s best web comics.

Post Flashpoint:

Bleeding Cool – DC Relaunch: Details On Teen Titans #1

Bleeding Cool – DC Relaunch: Greg Capullo’s Cover To Batman #1

Con Coverage:

MTV Geek – HeroesCon 2011: Artist Peter Krause Talks To Us About Leaving Irredeemable

The Beat – HeroesCon Frolic — Fri-Sat

The Right Blindly Attacks Sarah Glidden’s The Waiting Room

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Sarah Glidden who has used graphic narrative to explore her own thoughts on being Jewish and traveling to Israel for Birthright has focused on Iraqi refugees displaced since the recent war in Iraq and now reside in Syria in The Waiting Room.  The 20 page web comic is fairly balanced focusing on the hurdles of the refugees.  In Syria, they are not allowed to hold jobs, but many are educated and have skills they can bring to the workforce.  At the same time their status as refugees remains in limbo, forcing them to rely on the slow processes of international efforts to gain basic necessities such as food and education.

What a shock in the usual culprit over at The Astute Blogger Avi Green saw this as an opportunity to attack Glidden for her reporting and also not bother to fact check any of his incorrect opinions.  Right off the bat Green labels Glidden as a “would-be” graphic novelist, demeaning her first piece of work, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less.  I thought her first piece of major work was excellent, giving it an overall 10 in the review.  She’s not a “would-be,” she is a graphic novelist.  That remark coming from a “would-be” journalist like Green is downright unnecessary and petty like much of his attacks.

I’m also not quite sure Green has read her work, as he calls it a “a negative stance on Zionism.”  The graphic novel is anything but.  Instead Glidden admits going into the story she expects a hard core stance by her Birthright guides and that she comes from a more left perspective.  Her views by the end are different than going in, as she comes out with a greater understanding of the situation in Israel.  It’s actually quite a positive depiction of Israel.

Green begins to dissect and attack the work at hand, and as usual throws out factually incorrect statements that simple Google searches debunk.  His first issue is Glidden’s commentary on the Iraqi educational system is this panel.

Green has this to say:

Really, was it that solid in education? Saddam lived and died a Muslim, holding a Koran at his trial, and his government run universities would most likely have incorporated the Religion of Peace and anti-Israelist education into their curriculum (one of the other panels at the political cartoon site says the colleges were free, which sounds vaguely similar to the notions some communists/marxists/socialists have of how to do things). I’m not sure you can call that solid stuff. Nor can a religion/education/political system that calls for jihad, oppression of women, and considers Jews “sons of apes and pigs” be something to learn from. And why do I get the vibe these refugees wouldn’t give a crap about how Saddam fired scud missiles at Israel back in 1991, causing plenty of people, myself included, to have to hide in airtight rooms?

A simple search online actually reveals the facts.  According to UNESCO prior to the 1991 Gulf War ” Iraq had one of the best educational performances in the region. Primary school Gross Enrollment Rate was 100% and literacy levels were high.”  Since the war with Iran and especially after the 1991 Gulf War, education has slid and declined.  However, they are still considered an educated populace.

Green also shows his blind hatred of any sort of left philosophy calling the Iraq free college education “vaguely similar to the notions some communists/marxists/socialists have of how to do things.”  I guess Green also is against the free primary education here in the United States.  I do wonder if hey actually thinks through his hypocrisy or just slings out the bullshit without even thinking.  Free education exists in many countries throughout the world and in non-communist/marxist/socialist nations like Australia and Brazil.  In Australia and Brazil that does include college education.  But again, a simple Google search would have allowed Green to do real journalism.  Not the “would-be” type he practices.

But really Green’s blind hatred for Iraq and Iraqi’s is present in this telling line:

And why do I get the vibe these refugees wouldn’t give a crap about how Saddam fired scud missiles at Israel back in 1991, causing plenty of people, myself included, to have to hide in airtight rooms?

His criticism as shown in that quote has nothing to do with facts or the story as presented, it’s his absolute hatred for Iraqis.  Green seems to forget back in 1991 there was a war that raged in the Gulf that forced allies to band together a remove Saddam from the invaded Kuwait.  Those attacks were part of that war.  That’s just a fact.  I’m sorry he needed to hide in an airtight room as the allies bombed Iraq as well.

But lets continue to dissect and disarm Green’s fantasy land attack.  He then goes on in his rant of a blog post calling the web comic “propaganda” citing this panel.

Green has this to say:

So the woman drawn in the panel blames America for her misfortunes, not Saddam for the oppression, nor the terrorists who went on a rampage after the US raid. Perhaps she might want to consider that nearly a decade ago, when the raid took place, there were terrorists going through Syria to get to Iraq, and Syria helped and encouraged many to do so. But she probably won’t. The 7th panel at the political cartoon site has the interviewee saying, “America set fire to my country and we lost everything”. Not exactly. There is a legitimate case that could be made that the US military didn’t do a good enough job at defeating the invading terrorists properly at the beginning, and this is what led to their misfortunes. But it appears she’s only blaming America for invading in the first place, and not the jihadists who crossed through Syria into Iraq. What, they don’t have any responsibility?

What Green leaves out is this panel:

Clearly there are Iraqis who have no problem with America, especially if they’re moving here or receiving their education from American universities as this web comic tells.  The above is an absolute misrepresentation of what’s presented by leaving out further panels.

But again Green shows off his hypocrisy.  He rages against, and clearly hates Iraqis for their attack against Israel as part of the 1991 Gulf War.  But when an Iraqi shows distrust and dislikes the United States for bombing their country, that’s not ok.  Pretty sure there’s something up with that logic there.

But he seems to be mixing up what people are talking about.  In his “logical” response about someone’s dislike of the United States due to the second Gulf War, Green takes a divergent discussion bringing up terrorists and jihadists invading from Syria.  One has nothing to do with the other.  This next part is brilliance by Green:

“America set fire to my country and we lost everything”. Not exactly.

So were you there Avi?  Did you see the bombs fall?  It’s kind of hard to say that this didn’t occur.  We bombed that country, infrastructure was destroyed, people lost lives, it happened.  How did it “not exactly” happen?  Because we didn’t do a good enough job of beating the shit out of the nation.  Green goes on “There is a legitimate case that could be made that the US military didn’t do a good enough job at defeating the invading terrorists properly at the beginning, and this is what led to their misfortunes.”  Green actually advocates for blowing more things up.  So I guess his “not exactly” was more in reference to the refugee’s statement of “lost everything” and the United States military could have actually destroyed more.

Green then takes issue with an article by Comic Beat on this work by Glidden:

Glidden is definitely following in the footsteps of the incomparable Joe Sacco in becoming a graphic reporter on the trouble spots of the world. While there’s only one Sacco, Glidden is finding her own place in the field with her work.

Avi spends the rest of the post beating up on Sacco who at times does take a side in his “graphic reporting.”  While the Comic Beat is just stating the fact that like Sacco, Glidden is using graphic novels as a way to report and depict real world events, Green takes it more personal (he really hates Sacco) as if Glidden has the same stances or beliefs as Sacco:

When they start comparisons with a foul fiend like Sacco, something is wrong.


And back to Glidden now, it’s tragic that the artform of comics is being abused by such loathsome people to attack Israel and America. I wonder if her next destination will be to attack the Israeli army (which I served in when I was 19-21, even if it was only in supplies duties)? She is just as bad news as Sacco.

Say what you will about Sacco’s work, the only comparison that two have is they both cover the Middle East and both use graphic journalism to tell their tales.  Their view points are divergent.  But again, Green’s attacks on Sacco are telling.  Green clearly has issues with free speech and viewpoints that aren’t his own.

Green is a Zionist, he doesn’t believe that people called “Palestinian” exist.  When that’s the viewpoint you take, it’s hard to hear the opinion, take or viewpoint of anyone else.  And as long as Green presents misleading statements, lies stated as facts and uncalled for attacks, I’ll be here to call his bullshit.

Review – How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less

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How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or LessVertigo has been on a kick lately of graphic novels taking on real world topics and stories.  The latest is Sarah Glidden‘s How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less.  The story cover’s Glidden’s Birthright Israel trip and her struggle to understand the Israeli/Palestinian conflict along with her own Judaism.

Glidden, a progressive American Jew who is sharply critical of Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Occupied Territories, went on an all-expense-paid “birthright” trip to Israel in an attempt to discover some grand truths at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This graphic memoir tells the touching and often funny story of her utter failure to do so. As the tour group moves from the Golan Heights to Tel Aviv, Glidden’s struggles with propaganda and perspective lead only to a morass of deepening questions and self-doubt. Her neurotic need for objective truths and struggle to reconcile historical perspectives is hugely gratifying for the reader. This is especially true when the group visits Masada, the site of an epic confrontation between a sect of Jewish rebels and a Roman siege army that culminated in mass suicide. Gruesome fanaticism or a stirring clarion call for the burgeoning Zionism movement? You be the judge. As befits a travelogue, Glidden’s drawings have the look of something jotted down on the fly; if it weren’t for a haircut here or a pair of glasses there, many of the characters would be indistinguishable. Yet the simplicity of the drawing is offset by bright, delicate watercolors that belie our heroine’s unresolved struggle with history and heritage.

The story is interesting in that it’s not only an introspective look, but lays out the conflict, key events and locations for those not familiar, and in a way takes a shot at the liberal left.

Glidden has to come to terms with her faith, her fellow people and how that jives with her own political views.  She even shows her own fault and prejudice she herself holds.  Throughout the story she also shows different views of those living on the front lives through her interactions with various Israeli’s she meets.

She also subtly shows the hypocrisy of so many involved not just in the conflict, but also those who sit on political side lines and throw out views without living in this world or growing up in either of the faith’s involved.

The book had me asking my own beliefs having been raised Jewish and no longer practicing and I came out thinking through the prejudices I hold and my own views on the conflict and it’s resolution.  I felt like in the end I myself had a better understanding of my own faith, the history and political landscape.  This graphic novel is an education as well as a tale.

I can’t praise it enough and just think it’s flawless in it’s story telling, narrative and art.  It’s honest in it’s views and finds fault within it’s characters on all sides bringing an even handed view to the conflict.  This is an absolute purchase and read.

Read more

AIPAC and the Israel Lobby: A Graphic Retrospective

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We came across this post from Religion DispatchesAIPAC and the Israel Lobby: A Graphic Retrospective is the latest journalistic entry from Dan Archer who tells his stories through comics.

Archer also co-teaches a graphic novel course at Stanford University and was recently named a Knight Fellow in Journalism. You can check out more of his work at Archcomix.com.

Click here to read AIPAC and the Israel Lobby: A Graphic Retrospective.

Controversy Over Footnotes in Gaza

We figured that Joe Sacco’s latest graphic noverl Footnotes in Gaza would have it’s detractors.  But the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has issue has issues not only with Sacco’s work but also the New York Times review of the graphic novel.

CAMERA accuses both Sacco and reviewer Patrick Cockburn of anti-Israel bias and “antagonism towards Israel.”  They go on to question the Times’s stance since it both ok’ed the review and Cockburn’s writing of it.

Sacco has admitted his sympathy for Palestinians and his attempt to show their side of the issue.  CAMERA doesn’t quite make the case of Cockburns’ bias (only poor writing).  CAMERA then goes onto praising the Wall Street Journal’s review as more balanced.

From their website CAMERA is described as:

Founded in 1982, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America is a media-monitoring, research and membership organization devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East. CAMERA fosters rigorous reporting, while educating news consumers about Middle East issues and the role of the media. Because public opinion ultimately shapes public policy, distorted news coverage that misleads the public can be detrimental to sound policymaking. A non-partisan organization, CAMERA takes no position with regard to American or Israeli political issues or with regard to ultimate solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

As we’re fairly new to Sacco’s work we have all of his graphic novels on order or in our hands to read and will be providing our review of both his work on issues in the Middle East as well as his coverage of the Bosnian war.

Footnotes in Gaza

Maltese-born US journalist Joe Sacco is a graphic novelist we’ve covered in the past.  He covers real world issues in graphic novel form, a new form of gonzo-journalism.

Sacco depicted his travels and encounters with Palestinians and several Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank during the mid-1990s in his appropriately named PalestineFootnotes from GazaThe graphic novel won numerous awards.  Sacco has also won international critical acclaim with his Safe Area Goražde, a similarly pictorial account his experiences in the troubled Balkans during the Bosnian conflict.  That also won awards.

The artist’s latest book, Footnotes in Gaza, chronicles two episodes in 1956 in which a U.N. report filed Dec. 15, 1956 says a total of 386 civilians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers.  Sacco said the events have been “virtually airbrushed from history because they have been ignored by the mainstream media.”

Israeli historians dispute the events claiming the totals are exaggerations.  Meir Pail, a leading Israeli military historian and leftist politician has said:

It’s a big exaggeration.  There was never a killing of such a degree. Nobody was murdered. I was there. I don’t know of any massacre.

Sacco’s has been accused of a bias for the Palestinian cause.  Jose Alaniz, from the University of Washington’s Department of Comparative Literature says Sacco uses techniques to manipulate the readers such as angling Israeli soldiers in certain ways in the artwork.

Sacco at least admits he takes sides:

I don’t believe in objectivity as it’s practiced in American journalism. I’m not anti-Israeli … It’s just I very much believe in getting across the Palestinian point of view.

Sacco has his admirers too.  Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman, who directed the 2008 Golden Globe winning cartoon ocumentary Waltz for Bashir.

Whenever I’m asked about animation that influences me, I would say it’s more graphic novels. A tremendous influence on me has been Sacco’s ‘Palestine,’ his work on Bosnia and then Art peigelman’s ‘Maus,'” he said in a telephone interview.

His work quite simply reflects reality.

We’ll have a review of numerous works by Sacco in the upcoming weeks.

Journalist to Take on Immigration Through Comics

Malta Today has an article about Maltese-born US journalist Joe Sacco.  Sacco is best known for his take on such issues and the Middle East Peace Process and the Bosnian war using the comic book format.  He has turned his attention towards immigration as the topic for an upcoming publication.

In an interview with The Observer (UK), Sacco revealed that he is currently working on “a 48-page comic for the Virginia Quarterly Review about African migrants who attempt to get into Europe via Malta.”

Sacco was born in Hal Kirkop in 1960, but emigrated to Australia as a child and later to the United States.  He is the author of a number of critically acclaimed political comic-books.

Palestine, which was published in 1996, is arguably the most successful of his career. It has been described by leading orientalist Edward Said as:

A political and aesthetic work of extraordinary originality.

Sacco depicted his travels and encounters with Palestinians and several Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank during the mid-1990s.  These interactions make up the strips that is Palestine.  The publication won an American Book Award in 1996 and was serialised as a comic book from 1993 to 2001 and then published in several collections.

Sacco has also won international critical acclaim with his Safe Area Goražde, a similarly pictorial account his experiences in the troubled Balkans during the Bosnian conflict. Safe Area Goražde won the Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel in 2001.

Joe Sacco earned a Guggenheim fellowship for his work, which has helped him finance future projects – including his ongoing work on immigration through Malta, as well as a simultaneous project depicting life in Camden, New Jersey – America’s poorest town.

Comic Journalism has become an increasingly popular form of story telling spanning such topics as travels of the authors, personal biographies and recent events such as the 2008 Presidential election.

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