Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Four years ago, when Sepet came under fire from Berita Harian, RTM, and even the then Minister of Culture, it was given the Best Asian Film award at the 18th Tokyo International Film Festival.
Then just last year, the 21st TIFF gave Muallaf a Special Mention in the Asian-Middle Eastern section, while here at home, it was facing a possible ban.
Is it any wonder, then, that when they wrote and asked us for Talentime, I was both touched and thrilled?
You may find this hard to believe, but I never ever think about festivals or awards while I'm writing a script or making a film. But given the flak I get back home sometimes, you cannot blame me for feeling at least a little vindicated when foreign festivals like Tokyo seek my permission to celebrate our films.
Allah is indeed great.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
I would call him "a genius", and he would be Tommy Cooper, my favourite comedian of all time.
Right from the moment I first saw him play out a sketch, I believed that if I, as a scriptwriter and a filmmaker were to observe him closely, I might learn something to help me with my craft.
If you're reading this, and you fancy taking up scriptwriting and/or filmmaking one day, try this simple test:
What do you reckon was the biggest lesson in filmmaking I learnt, just by observing the late great Tommy Cooper?
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
It's Vietnamese hot noodle broth with beef or chicken, and it's called the "pho".
No, it's not pronounced "po", or "fo", or even "fur", and it's impossible to learn how to say it, without someone sitting in front of you to instruct the intonations and inflexions. (Yes, there are more than one intonation/inflexion just in that one brief word!)
It's soup is made with home-made beef or chicken stock. No fat or oil is added to that already drawn from the meats.
Herbs and spices include basil leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel seeds, ginger, lemongrass, nutmeg, sawgrass, scallions, shallots, sriracha and star anise.
The noodles or koay teow are immersed shortly before serving the broth, so as to retain the firmness of texture.
Fresh bean sprouts, chilli padi, lime, and fish sauce are served on the side.
Pho is, by any reckoning, humble food.
If you're in Saigon, try it at a small halal restaurant with the inappropriately grand name of "Four Seasons". I did, yesterday.
And it... was... DIVINE!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
It all began in 2006, with the Fajr International Film Festival in Iran. What an experience that was! Tehran was freezing, my skin was so dry that my whole body was itchy, and my poor mother slipped and fell on the sleet-covered sidewalk and cracked her wrist.
On the plus side, I met Abbas Kiarostami, Majid Majidee, and became close friends with Bahman Ghobadi.
Another sunny side to Tehran was meeting a Turkish ulama with whom I shared my experiences on Gubra, and how certain quarters here went up in arms over the idea of a bilal who was very civil towards dogs and prostitutes. His response was, "What kind of Muslims do you have in your country?!"
Then it was Thessaloniki in Greece. This time around, it was my husband who came along. We enjoyed long walks, holding hands, by the Thermikos Bay, and the Greeks took us dining at magnificent restaurants. (Greek salads have no equal on earth.)
Best of all, I got to judge with, and learn from, cinematic luminaries like Fred Roos and Jirzi Menzel.
Next was Berlin. It was freezing again, but thankfully, a lot less dry. And by then, I had already developed such a soft spot for the Berlinale. They had given Mukhsin two prizes the year before, and, as it so happened, just slightly over a week after that memorable, if somewhat traumatic, bout of jury duty in Iran.
And now, Taipei.
I was in Taipei for the Golden Horse Film Festival less than two years ago, when they held a retrospective of my films: Sepet, Gubra, and Mukhsin. It was a charming experience I should never forget.
To start with, each screening was held in a thousand-seater hall, and almost every screening saw a full house. Alhamdulillah.
The programmers had lined up the screenings of my films in the chronological order of Orked's life, starting with Mukhsin, and ending with Gubra. Smart move, I thought.
But the most sensational experience of all happened at the Q&A after a screening of Sepet.
A young man in the audience declared openly, "Hi, I'm from Tainan City, in the south of Taiwan. My friend and I saw Sepet last year and we loved it. He is so sad that he couldn't come, but he asked me to kiss you for him. Would you please let me kiss you?"
The audience roared with wild laughter. Then, just as suddenly, it fell silent, waiting for a response from me. But I was gobsmacked!
First of all, I kept thinking, "How on earth did they get to see Sepet in Tainan?" And secondly, how the hell do you say "No" to a guy who was obviously very shy, but had somehow mustered enough courage to make such an earnest request, in front of 999 people?
After a long, uncomfortable spell of pin-drop silence, I cleared my throat nervously and mumbled into the microphone, "Ok... but can it wait until we're outside?" I swear the hall then literally shook with the thunderous applause and foot-stomping that ensued.
Sigh. Unforgettable city, Taipei.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Anyone who has ever clicked on the profile button of this blog would be familiar with the eclectic nature of my top 10 favourite films. And while some may note the presence of what certain people refer to as "arthouse films", others may wonder what films like Raj Kapoor's "Bobby" are doing there.
Closer to the truth would be those who notice the one constant factor in my choice of favourite films: Sentimentality. And that would explain the nature of my own films which, unfortunately, has been the reason why some people disapprove of them so.
Towards the end of 2002, I stumbled upon a Japanese film called "Tasogare Seibei" (Twilight Samurai), written and directed by an old man named Yoji Yamada. So taken was I with the simplicity of the story, and the basic yet deep and humble emotions that dwelled within it, that I hungrily found out as much as I could about Yamada-san's body of work.
I remember Encik Hassan Muthalib, one of my three gurus of filmmaking, telling me to look out for the Tora-san series. Yamada-san had made 48 films in the series, apparently, so I searched everywhere I could -- in Singapore, Hong Kong, and France -- for the very first one.
Happily, I found a dvd copy of it in Hong Kong. It was the last on the shelf, and it was entitled "Otoko wa Tsuraiyo" (It's Hard Being A Man).
The film opened with a square-faced man in his late thirties, roaming around the Japanese countryside, with his voice narrating his plight. He had left home as a teenager after getting into a fight with his father, his head bloodied as a result of it. He had left behind a younger sister named Sakura, now living with some relatives after their parents had died. It was spring now, and watching the Sakura flowers falling made him think about going home. He sang a song, and in it, apologised to Sakura for having been such an unreliable brother to her.
It all sounds terribly melodramatic, obviously, and in a way it was, but as you can see from the third video above, the film offers laughter as well as tears. There are no heroes in the story, and neither are there villains. Every character on screen is capable of both heroism and villainy.
In other words, they are just like you and me.
I have since watched 30 of the 48 in the Tora-san series. Sometimes you get mad at his rude, calloused ways, but sometimes you can't help but admire his kindness and courage in the face of adversity.
In the end, Tora-san was just a man. Worthy of scorn, worthy of admiration, and most of all, worthy of our love and compassion.
On August 4, 1996, the main actor of the Tora-san series, Kiyoshi Atsumi, died, after two years of battling pulmonary tuberculosis. Thus ended the world's longest movie series, in the history of cinema.
Recently I saw the 48th installation, the last in the series, and Atsumi-san clearly looked weak, despite the laughter and bravado so characteristic of Tora-san.
At the end of the film, when the credits rolled, I wept and wept. I realised then that it wasn't just Tora-san I was weeping for. It was for every man I had ever known and learned to love -- my father, my husband, my brother, nephews, and even my friends.
I wept recognising that no one was perfect, and that if we expected to be loved for all our imperfections, why are we so reluctant to accept and forgive the imperfections of others?
("Otoko wa Tsuraiyo" is now officially my number one favourite film of all time.)
Thursday, June 4, 2009
While looking at locations for "Wasurenagusa" and meeting with investors in Japan a couple of months ago, I asked our Executive Producer, Kousuke Ono, to take us to Ozu's grave.
So off we went, the four of us. Sharifah Amani (who is to play the lead character Inom), Kiki (the producer who will also play Yukiko), Ono-san himself, and I.
We took a long train ride from Tokyo to Kita-Kamakura station, walked to Engaku Temple at the edge of it, and climbed steep paths and steps to the tomb of one of my favorite filmmakers of all time.
Written on his tombstone was the Chinese character "Wu" ("Mu" in Japanese).
In my opinion, along with the term "Zen", "Wu" is perhaps one of the most frequently misunderstood words in history. It literally means "Nothing", and herein lies the first hint of its hidden meaning.
No one is truly able to understand Nothingness or the figure Zero, any more than they can comprehend the concept of Infinity.
So what does it mean when we say a Thing is in a state of Nothingness? How can Nothing (No Thing) ever be a Thing at the same time?
Perhaps, and I stress perhaps, it has something to do with Lao Tzu's concept of emptiness.
"The True Way is empty
yet it fills every vessel with endless supply
The True Way is hidden
yet it shines in every corner of the universe"
Five times a day, a Muslim is asked to face what some people would describe as The True Way.
He begins by standing upright.
At some point, he lowers his head and torso and bows.
A little later, he finds himself at an even lower position, kneeling and pressing his forehead against the ground.
All the while, as he reduces himself physically, he expresses obeisance and utters words that concede absolute subservience to a Greater Power.
In other words, he drops all manners of arrogance, and sheds any belief of self-importance.
Is he, in fact, approaching the state of Nothingness?
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Why do I love this deceptively simple poem by William Carlos Williams? Would anyone care to explain?
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
At 3pm this Saturday May 23, inshaallah FINAS will be screening our film Talentime at Pawagam Mini P.Ramlee, followed by a Q&A with the audience. On the panel will be Dr Wan Zawawi, Mahesh Jugal Kishor, and I.
See you there, maybe?
Monday, May 18, 2009
( The article below was lifted from Today, the Singaporean daily paper. Look it up here: http://www.todayonline.com/articles/320449.asp )
Monday, May 18, 2009.
Go, Yasmin, go! Malaysian director tackles Singaporean teen triathlete’s tragic death for new film. ~ Mayo Martin in Cannes
Yasmin Ahmad’s new film will soon be up and running. And it’s based on one of the biggest tragedies to have hit Singapore sport, involving triathlete Thaddeus Cheong.
Yasmin, the Malaysian director of award-winning films like Muallaf and the TV commercials for the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports — Eulogy and Red Shoes — is currently writing the script for "Go, Thaddeus!"
In June 2007, the 17-year-old Cheong, a Raffles Junior College student, collapsed at the finish line during a selection race for the South-east Asian Games triathlon event. He died soon after.
"Go, Thaddeus!" will be based on the book "Running The Full Distance: Thaddeus Cheong", written by the late athlete’s aunt, Belinda Wee.
It is set to be released in Singapore and Malaysia in August next year as a lead up to the Singapore Youth Olympics.
Coming on board as producer is Thomas Chia, director of independent movie distributor Lighthouse Pictures. The first-time feature-length producer told Today at the Cannes Film Festival that Wee had contacted Yasmin through him.
Chia, a personal friend of the director and distributor of her films, said: “(Wee) sent me the book, I finished it in four hours and cried my eyes out. I knew Yasmin would be interested in something like this.”
He added: “I saw this project as viable because it’s for the Youth Olympics, it’s a real story of a national hero, and Belinda went all out to get all the government agencies to be involved.” One of the film’s earliest supporters is the Singapore Sports Council.
The 15-day shoot for "Go, Thaddeus!" commences in February next year, with an estimated budget of somewhere between $700,000 to $1.2 million. Actors have yet to be cast, but Chia revealed that the short list for one of the lead roles includes a Singapore TV and movie actress, and that Yasmin “has been speaking to one of the biggest actresses in Malaysia. And she’s Chinese”.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
What happened to Gubra has been happening to SellOut!
People wanting to buy tickets were told there were none left and that it was a full house, when in actual fact the hall was half empty. Don't ask me why they're doing it, but apparently some of them do.
So if you feel like supporting an internationally-acclaimed Malaysian comedy that was a hit in Italy, do the right thing. Insist, insist, insist they sell you the ticket you want to buy.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
My husband often said to me, "You have it easy. All you do is make entertaining commercials that don't require direct, hard selling of a product's benefits."
He was right, of course, although I often argued that making my kind of commercials wasn't as easy as it seemed.
That's why I grabbed the chance to make this product benefit riddled spot for my favourite airline in the world.
Admittedly, it wasn't an easy task, but it was one that I enjoyed immensely.
I hope you enjoy watching it.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
This morning, I received a heartbreaking email which brought tears to my eyes.
Entitled "Puppy Murderer", it read as follows:
"6 month puppy, strangled because it entered a neighbour's house and into prayer area. Story: Langkawi. Owner of dog Muslim. Neighbour Malay. Puppy gets loose and enters neighbour's house. Neighbour takes a noose and strangles dog to death. Rescuers arrive in time to bury the dog and get profanities shouted at them by puppy murderer. We need to do some justice for the dog and educate these people. We are awaiting more news about this incident - please contact me, Sherrina K, at 012 202 6384."
Recently, I received a long comment on my SPCA video, which Lembaga Penapisan Filem refused to let us run, without some drastic changes. The irate commenter said that I was making a big deal out of nothing, and that there were more pressing issues at hand.
Well, to that commenter, I submit that yesterday, while that self-righteous neighbour tied that noose around that puppy's neck and tightened it, nothing mattered more to that innocent, helpless creature of God than to have a kind hand intervene and loosen that rope, so it could run home again, into the arms of the people who loved it.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
It's been a bit crazy.
In the last four weeks, I've shot 14 commercials for Earth Hour, one for AirAsia, and just last week, one for the Singapore government.
And in between, I attended one meet-and-greet session for the second release of "Muallaf" in Singapore, and two pre-release screenings of "Talentime".
The picture you see above was taken at the Q&A session following a press screening of "Talentime" at Cineleisure, The Curve.
Yes, it's been crazy. And I'm deliriously happy. Alhamdulillah.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
I'm in Singapore, so I might drop by later to see if everything's alright.
Inshaallah, I'll be there this Saturday afternoon to watch the 3:30pm with the audience.
So, my darling Singaporeans, see you there!
I chanced upon this website ~
~ and discovered that all of two years ago, our film "Mukhsin" had won two of these awards, including the Best Feature Film, from the international jury of that festival.
What I would like to know is, who's got the trophies?
I mean, sure, perhaps it's not as prestigious a festival as the Berlinale, but hey, "Mukhsin" already HAD won two prizes at the Berlinale. Besides, I'm not one to dismiss any blessing the Lord presents to me, however small it may seem to others.
So please, if anyone out there knows where these trophies are (someone from Grand Brilliance perhaps, or maybe they're still with the festival organisers?), please at least let me have a look at them.
These Olympia trophies would make the number of international awards won by "Mukhsin" total up to eight. (Oh, but none in Malaysia, though... ahem!)
Sunday, March 1, 2009
You can read all about it here: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/info/festival/awards/4.html
"Co-organised with SIGNIS Hong Kong, it is a salute to films that fully express social and humanitarian concerns, as well as spiritual and artistic values."
No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti (Taiwan)
Somewhere I Have Never Travelled (Taiwan)
Lonely Tunes of Tehran (Iran)
Deep in the Valley (Japan)
Treeless Mountain (Korea)
The Blue Bird (Japan)
Once Upon a Time in Rio (Brazil)
Vaclav (Czech Republic)
The Rainbow Troops (Indonesia)
Mid August Lunch (Italy)
Quiet Chaos (Italy)
As always, we're not really expecting to win, but very grateful to be nominated at all, amidst what looks like really, really tough competition.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
This little big film absolutely threw me for six.
I'm not a fan of Colin "see-how-good-I-look-when-I-brood" Farrell. And with very few exceptions from Hitchcock and Kitano, crime thrillers usually thrill me about as much as a plate of boiled fish.
But right from the word "Go", this small story, set in the small Belgian town of Bruge, shook me to my foundation.
As a writer of screenplays, I marvelled at the deftness with which Martin McDonagh roused every human emotion possible to make me sympathise with, believe it or not, three MURDERERS, making me laugh and cry with each character, all the way, right until the very end.
Not since Almodovar's "Talk To Her" and Neil Jordan's "Mona Lisa" did I sit back after watching a film and thought, "Damn, I wish I had written that script!"
I rank this head and shoulders above all other films I've seen this year and most of last year, including, yes, the much lauded "Slumdogs".
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
On the 29th of December, 2008, my crew and I shot this commercial in Ipoh. It was a one-day shoot, alhamdulillah.
I had written a script, based on the true story of Encik Shahrul's family, or more specifically, of his youngest child, Adlan.
Adlan was an extreme autistic who, for 7 years, behaved like he was trapped in a bubble, unable to communicate with the outside world, and vice versa.
What finally brought him out of that state is shown in the commercial you see here.
The dog is the most misunderstood animal in this country. Its haters, I'm sad to say, are largely Malays who often don't even know the difference between "haram" and "najis", let alone the finer points and different degrees of najis.
With this little film, I urge my people to read more about the true Islamic rules concerning this beautiful creature of God, and to please refrain from being cruel to it.
Let's do this for Allah.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Inshaallah, come February the 26th, something which almost never happens, will happen.
It's called a "re-release", and it's scheduled to take place at the Cathay Causeway Point cinema.
As some of you may know, our film was severely maligned by one local journalist who could not tell the difference between Quranic and Biblical verses, but never bothered to find out, and went on to accuse me of being a religious pluralist.
Consequently, there was a sort of cyberspace persecution, where bloggers and forumers who had never even seen the film embarked upon a blind crusade to send me to hell. And to think that they were attacking the very same film which made many people in Japan and Singapore, both Muslims and non-Muslims, look up the Holy Quran and later confess how they found it beautiful.
Perhaps that's why the mere thought of "Muallaf" resurfacing, despite all those attempts to suppress it, now moves me so deeply.
"If Allah helps you, none can overcome you. If He forsakes you, who is there, after that, that can help you? In Allah, then, let believers put their trust." - Al-Imran, 3:160.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
We didn't want to complicate things by opening it to the public. Handling cash is dicey. So we decided to keep it simple by inviting a select group of corporations to donate and attend the very first theatrical screening of our new film "Talentime".
It's a 320-seater cinema hall, but we didn't really care if only 7 people turned up, as long as they brought cheques with them. The corporations we invited were given no "minimum amount" instructions, and were told they could send up to 30 or 40 people.
Response has been good, alhamdulillah.
We saw the print yesterday at a local colour lab studio and it looked beautiful, thank God. Jaclyn Victor's performance was particularly outstanding on big screen. That girl can go far, inshaallah.
My producer and I will most likely be sitting at the back of the hall, anxiously watching the audience reactions throughout our 1 hour 57 minute film.
The seats are almost fully taken, with some room to spare for our main cast. Jac, Mahesh, Kahoe, Pamela, Elza, Kak Azean, and Ida Nerina might come. Mohd Syafie, unfortunately, is in Sarawak at a shoot.
May Allah guide us in making things run smoothly tonight. Ameen, ya rabbal aalameen.
(ps: "Talentime" is scheduled for general theatrical release on March 26th, 2009. "Muallaf" will be back, by popular demand, in Singapore, from February 26th.)
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
"Muallaf" is at Lembaga Penapisan Filem. Apparently, the verdict will be announced tomorrow.
Fendi Harjoh, the producer for "Talentime", delivered the print to them and asked that it be given at least a temporary stamp of approval, if not a full one.
He also asked that they got onto it immediately as each single day of delay would mean a delay in the delivery of much needed medicine and medical equipment to Gaza.
Inshaallah, the private corporate screening of "Muallaf" will be held next week, at Cineleisure, The Curve.
Please pray that it'll happen sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, we had a photo shoot of our main actors yesterday at Studio DL. Faiz Akbar is designing the poster, and David Lok is the photographer.
The picture above is NOT the "Talentime" poster. It was just something we were trying out.
Aren't my babies beautiful?
Sunday, January 11, 2009
An important article about the lies the Western and Israeli media tells about Gaza, written by an Israeli journalist.
NEARLY SEVENTY YEARS ago, in the course of World War II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of Leningrad. For more than a thousand days, a gang of extremists called "the Red Army" held the millions of the town's inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population centers. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and shell the population and to impose a total blockade, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands.
Some time before that, a similar crime was committed in England. The Churchill gang hid among the population of London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human shield. The Germans were compelled to send their Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins. They called it the Blitz.
This is the description that would now appear in the history books – if the Germans had won the war.
Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our media, which are being repeated ad nauseam: the Hamas terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as "hostages" and exploit the women and children as "human shields", they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured.
IN THIS WAR, as in any modern war, propaganda plays a major role. The disparity between the forces, between the Israeli army - with its airplanes, gunships, drones, warships, artillery and tanks - and the few thousand lightly armed Hamas fighters, is one to a thousand, perhaps one to a million. In the political arena the gap between them is even wider. But in the propaganda war, the gap is almost infinite.
Almost all the Western media initially repeated the official Israeli propaganda line. They almost entirely ignored the Palestinian side of the story, not to mention the daily demonstrations of the Israeli peace camp. The rationale of the Israeli government ("The state must defend its citizens against the Qassam rockets") has been accepted as the whole truth. The view from the other side, that the Qassams are a retaliation for the siege that starves the one and a half million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, was not mentioned at all.
Only when the horrible scenes from Gaza started to appear on Western TV screens, did world public opinion gradually begin to change.
True, Western and Israeli TV channels showed only a tiny fraction of the dreadful events that appear 24 hours every day on Aljazeera's Arabic channel, but one picture of a dead baby in the arms of its terrified father is more powerful than a thousand elegantly constructed sentences from the Israeli army spokesman. And that is what is decisive, in the end.
War – every war – is the realm of lies. Whether called propaganda or psychological warfare, everybody accepts that it is right to lie for one's country. Anyone who speaks the truth runs the risk of being branded a traitor.
The trouble is that propaganda is most convincing for the propagandist himself. And after you convince yourself that a lie is the truth and falsification reality, you can no longer make rational decisions.
An example of this process surrounds the most shocking atrocity of this war so far: the shelling of the UN Fakhura school in Jabaliya refugee camp.
Immediately after the incident became known throughout the world, the army "revealed" that Hamas fighters had been firing mortars from near the school entrance. As proof they released an aerial photo which indeed showed the school and the mortar. But within a short time the official army liar had to admit that the photo was more than a year old. In brief: a falsification.
Later the official liar claimed that "our soldiers were shot at from inside the school". Barely a day passed before the army had to admit to UN personnel that that was a lie, too. Nobody had shot from inside the school, no Hamas fighters were inside the school, which was full of terrified refugees.
But the admission made hardly any difference anymore. By that time, the Israeli public was completely convinced that "they shot from inside the school", and TV announcers stated this as a simple fact.
So it went with the other atrocities. Every baby metamorphosed, in the act of dying, into a Hamas terrorist. Every bombed mosque instantly became a Hamas base, every apartment building an arms cache, every school a terror command post, every civilian government building a "symbol of Hamas rule". Thus the Israeli army retained its purity as the "most moral army in the world".
THE TRUTH is that the atrocities are a direct result of the war plan. This reflects the personality of Ehud Barak – a man whose way of thinking and actions are clear evidence of what is called "moral insanity", a sociopathic disorder.
The real aim (apart from gaining seats in the coming elections) is to terminate the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In the imagination of the planners, Hamas is an invader which has gained control of a foreign country. The reality is, of course, entirely different.
The Hamas movement won the majority of the votes in the eminently democratic elections that took place in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It won because the Palestinians had come to the conclusion that Fatah's peaceful approach had gained precisely nothing from Israel - neither a freeze of the settlements, nor release of the prisoners, nor any significant steps toward ending the occupation and creating the Palestinian state. Hamas is deeply rooted in the population – not only as a resistance movement fighting the foreign occupier, like the Irgun and the Stern Group in the past – but also as a political and religious body that provides social, educational and medical services.
From the point of view of the population, the Hamas fighters are not a foreign body, but the sons of every family in the Strip and the other Palestinian regions. They do not "hide behind the population", the population views them as their only defenders.
Therefore, the whole operation is based on erroneous assumptions. Turning life into living hell does not cause the population to rise up against Hamas, but on the contrary, it unites behind Hamas and reinforces its determination not to surrender. The population of Leningrad did not rise up against Stalin, any more than the Londoners rose up against Churchill.
He who gives the order for such a war with such methods in a densely populated area knows that it will cause dreadful slaughter of civilians. Apparently that did not touch him. Or he believed that "they will change their ways" and "it will sear their consciousness", so that in future they will not dare to resist Israel.
A top priority for the planners was the need to minimize casualties among the soldiers, knowing that the mood of a large part of the pro-war public would change if reports of such casualties came in. That is what happened in Lebanon Wars I and II.
This consideration played an especially important role because the entire war is a part of the election campaign. Ehud Barak, who gained in the polls in the first days of the war, knew that his ratings would collapse if pictures of dead soldiers filled the TV screens.
Therefore, a new doctrine was applied: to avoid losses among our soldiers by the total destruction of everything in their path. The planners were not only ready to kill 80 Palestinians to save one Israeli soldier, as has happened, but also 800. The avoidance of casualties on our side is the overriding commandment, which is causing record numbers of civilian casualties on the other side.
That means the conscious choice of an especially cruel kind of warfare – and that has been its Achilles heel.
A person without imagination, like Barak (his election slogan: "Not a Nice Guy, but a Leader") cannot imagine how decent people around the world react to actions like the killing of whole extended families, the destruction of houses over the heads of their inhabitants, the rows of boys and girls in white shrouds ready for burial, the reports about people bleeding to death over days because ambulances are not allowed to reach them, the killing of doctors and medics on their way to save lives, the killing of UN drivers bringing in food. The pictures of the hospitals, with the dead, the dying and the injured lying together on the floor for lack of space, have shocked the world. No argument has any force next to an image of a wounded little girl lying on the floor, twisting with pain and crying out: "Mama! Mama!"
The planners thought that they could stop the world from seeing these images by forcibly preventing press coverage. The Israeli journalists, to their shame, agreed to be satisfied with the reports and photos provided by the Army Spokesman, as if they were authentic news, while they themselves remained miles away from the events. Foreign journalists were not allowed in either, until they protested and were taken for quick tours in selected and supervised groups. But in a modern war, such a sterile manufactured view cannot completely exclude all others – the cameras are inside the strip, in the middle of the hell, and cannot be controlled. Aljazeera broadcasts the pictures around the clock and reaches every home.
THE BATTLE for the TV screen is one of the decisive battles of the war. Hundreds of millions of Arabs from Mauritania to Iraq, more than a billion Muslims from Nigeria to Indonesia see the pictures and are horrified. This has a strong impact on the war. Many of the viewers see the rulers of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as collaborators with Israel in carrying out these atrocities against their Palestinian brothers.
The security services of the Arab regimes are registering a dangerous ferment among the peoples. Hosny Mubarak, the most exposed Arab leader because of his closing of the Rafah crossing in the face of terrified refugees, started to pressure the decision-makers in Washington, who until that time had blocked all calls for a cease-fire. These began to understand the menace to vital American interests in the Arab world and suddenly changed their attitude – causing consternation among the complacent Israeli diplomats.
People with moral insanity cannot really understand the motives of normal people and must guess their reactions. "How many divisions has the Pope?" Stalin sneered. "How many divisions have people of conscience?" Ehud Barak may well be asking.
As it turns out, they do have some. Not numerous. Not very quick to react. Not very strong and organized. But at a certain moment, when the atrocities overflow and masses of protesters come together, that can decide a war.
THE FAILURE to grasp the nature of Hamas has caused a failure to grasp the predictable results. Not only is Israel unable to win the war, Hamas cannot lose it.
Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win. The Hamas fighters would be seen as the paragons of the Arab nation, the heroes of the Palestinian people, models for emulation by every youngster in the Arab world. The West Bank would fall into the hands of Hamas like a ripe fruit, Fatah would drown in a sea of contempt, the Arab regimes would be threatened with collapse.
If the war ends with Hamas still standing, bloodied but unvanquished, in the face of the mighty Israeli military machine, it will look like a fantastic victory, a victory of mind over matter.
What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet.
In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel.
(Uri Avnery is an Israeli journalist, peace activist, former member of the Knesset, and leader of Gush Shalom. He is a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN).)
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
At around 5:50am this morning of January the 8th, 2009, I sent a message to Dr Jemilah:
"Salaam, my love. Hope all's well with you. We're in the midst of organising a charity screening of 'Muallaf' to garner corporate donations for Mercy. Doa for us, ok?"
Her response came in less than a minute:
"Alhamdulillah. I am fine. Spent some time with Palestinian kids transferred to Cairo for treatment. They were crying and wanting to go home! They don't realise their homes have been blown apart. So very sad. Getting the second consignment ready to go again. Take care. Salaam to all and thank everyone for their generosity and doas."
So far, AirAsia, the New Straits Times, TV3, Alliance Cosmetics (Silky Girl), AddAudio and McCann-Ericson have said YES to block-booking seats for the screening. I thank them for their generosity. Heads of corporations reading this are welcome to do the same.
We should be sending the "Muallaf" print to Lembaga Penapisan Filem next week, inshaallah. We are asking them not to make any cuts.
According to a recent report, about a third of those killed in Gaza have been children. Those children are now safe with Allah. Let's try and help the ones left behind wounded and homeless.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Apart from the brief feature of Dr Jemilah in the video above, I also received another sms from her, after I told her that I was to be phone-interviewed, live, on Astro last night.
"Allahu Akbar (God is great). Please thank Malaysians for their support. After I wrote to you, the bombs stopped. I am now crossing into the border. Doa for me. Love u."
I sms'd Dr Jem, enquiring about her current state of affairs, and got this reply:
"Alhamdulillah (Praise the Lord). Nothing short of a miracle and Allah's love and mercy for us. We managed to transfer 50 tons of supplies. Many people waited for days, but we sailed through. Alhamdulillah. How was your TV thing? To be honest, it's been very slow on the fund-raising side from HQ."
Understandably, many of you out there are young and don't yet have a steady income. And you probably feel helpless about it all. Don't worry. You can do what a group of us did when we were studying in England: collect small amounts from as many people as possible, then ask someone with a bank account to make out a cheque. As Dr Jemilah often says, "No amount is too small, and will be gratefully received."
And who knows, the 10 ringgit that you gather may seem small, but by God's will, it could translate into some suture (medical sewing) which would stop a child from bleeding to death.
( Please make cheques payable to MERCY MALAYSIA. CIMB account number: 1424-000-6561053. For more information, please contact 03-2273 3999. )
Sunday, January 4, 2009
IMPORTANT! Please watch these, or go straight to the end of the posting to find out how you can help.
Chomsky, Solomom, Ackerman, and many others. Even the Jews are speaking out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
For God's sake, and for the sake of thousands of broken children, please post these videos on your blogs and pass them around.
( I just received an sms from Dr Jemilah of Mercy Malaysia. It went like this: "Salaam, Min. As I write this, in the last 15 minutes more than 20 bombs have fallen on Gaza, within the distance I can hear them. We are about 2 km from Palestine, and it is a case of so near and yet so far. Our five trucks are loaded with USD100,000 worth of valuable medicine, surgical sets, and disposable items, including syringes, intravenous infusions and bandages. We will wait till the bombings stop, and once the gate opens, we will try to push the goods through. While the Egyptian border has thankfully allowed aid to go through, the challenge is to wait for trucks from the Palestine side to come and collect the goods. For the past day, they have not been able to collect even life saving goods as Israel continues with land and air assaults. We will try our best and stay till we can assure our aid goes through. Many people have been kind to us here and we ask for your continued support and prayers." )
Once again, I urge you to contact Mercy Malaysia at 03-2273 3999, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org and find out how best you can help raise funds for medical aid that can help save the lives of wounded children in Gaza.