Monday, April 13, 2020


The history of attempts for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and a two-state solution have been characterized by polarization and extremist violence on both sides. Yaron Zilberman’s Incitement, now being streamed at Film Forum, reconstructs the assassination of Yizhak Rabin by Yigal Amir (Yehuda Nahari Halevi), an Israeli law student and religious scholar. Amir had been influenced by “the law of the informer and the pursuer” which derives from Maimonides and argues that “he who kills a traitor shall be rewarded.” The traitor in this case is the Israeli prime minister who's portrayed wrapped in the Arab headdress of the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, at increasingly violent right wing rallies. Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu both make cameo appearances in a movie set against the 61-59 Knesset vote in favor of the Oslo II peace accord on October 6, 1995.  “Democracy is the will of the people, but what is the people compared to God?” Amir asks shortly before he commits the murder on November 4th.  Incitement intersperses real life footage with acting, but it’s neither documentary nor cinema verité. In a way the hybrid style is a metaphor for a society struggling between a secular and religious identity. Amir is portrayed as a troubled personality, a Yemenite Jew spurned by the dominant Ashkenazi world. He also suffers from a conflicted oedipal relationship with his radical mother and peace loving and religious father, but the backstory often feels contrived, precisely because it’s juxtaposed to the footage of larger than life historical figures like Rabin who upstage the film's domestic subplot. One thing the film does underscore is how different Israel has become almost 25 years later and how far the country has moved from that hopeful era when peace still seemed  an attainable possibility.

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