In the Israeli blogosphere you rarely get the feeling that everyone is listening and no one is talking, and that's the case today with the debut of a short film called “Closed Zone.” A 90-second animated film about the sealed Gaza border crossings, “Closed Zone” already has 31,600 hits and 200 text comments on YouTube, and counting.
Checkpoint Jerusalem's Dion Nissenbaum offers context and a description of the film, explaining that “Closed Zone” was created for the Israeli non-profit Gisha, which works to protect the freedom of movement for the 1.4 million residents of the Gaza Strip.
In their report on the closure of the Gaza crossings, in effect for the past 18 months, Gisha writes:
Gisha's position is that the closure is illegal because it punishes civilians in the Gaza Strip for acts they did not commit and for political circumstances beyond their control. The closure inflicts harm to the civilian population and civilian institutions by blocking the passage of goods necessary for health, well-being, and economic life.
“Closed Zone‘s” creator is Yoni Goodman. Goodman is best known for his role as Director of Animation for “Waltz with Bashir,” winner of Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes Award and widely believed to be the front runner for the same category at the 2009 Academy Awards. (Japan's “Departures” won instead.)
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post at the time of the “Closed Zone‘s” release, Goodman explains:
“I hate Hamas. They're out to kill us. Of course they are my enemies. I feel sorry for the Palestinian citizens who want to live their lives… People don't like to hear that Palestinians are real people. People prefer to think of them as evil, that they're all Hamas. It's easier to say, ‘let's punish them, let's kill them all.’ It's a lot harder to regard them as ordinary people who want peace.
In the companion video “Closed Zones: Behind the Scenes,” Goodman emphasizes:
The war made this project a mission for me. The character is a kid, he is kind of a kid and kind of an adult, a bit Arab and a bit Jewish, something that everyone can connect to. It is important not to turn this into a stereotypical film.
Gisha Executive Director Sari Bashi adds:
We chose the medium of animation to try to get viewers to recognize the humanity of the residents of Gaza. It is increasingly difficult to remind people that residents of the Gaza Strip are human beings who wish to raise children, to earn a living, to realize their dreams, both small and large.
The release of “Closed Zone” coincides with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first trip to the Middle East, where she announced the United States’ pledge of $900 million to help rebuild the Gaza Strip after this winter's war with Israel. This amount will be significantly bolstered by the $5 billion raised by donors at this week's conference in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt.
But Israel will have the final say in whether to open the border crossings to commercial and civilian traffic. Support of the international community will be sought to ensure needs are met on both sides of the border. Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert affirms:
With supplies like concrete, with steel, unfortunately you could have a situation where that is diverted by Hamas, and instead of helping people to rebuild houses, they'll be building underground bunkers for their own military machine. So I think we in the international community have to find mechanisms to make sure that aid for the people of Gaza is precisely that.