Chayim Yavin filming
Yoman Masa on location
in the West Bank
(credit: Channel 2)
The Walter Cronkite of Israeli TV news is about to deliver a bombshell to his listeners who’re used to his being the very picture of objectivity as he delivers the evening news each night. Chaim Yavin has been the cool, calm, dispassionate voice of broadcast news for every Israeli for forty years.
The New York Times reports that Yavin has written, directed, produced and filmed his own documentary on the impact of of the Occupied Territories on Israeli politics and society. And it’s not a pretty picture. Steven Erlanger writes:
Now 72, Mr. Yavin, known here as "Mr. TV," is about to deliver a documentary about Israel’s settlements in the West Bank that is pessimistic, angry and intensely personal.
"Since 1967, we have
been brutal conquerors, occupiers, suppressing another people," he says in the documentary, Yoman Masa, ("Diary of a Journey")…
In talking of the headlong Israeli rush (by both Labor and Likud) to build settlements and infrastructure to support them, Yavin notes sardonically: "This merrymaking will never be stopped."
Erlanger describes a scene from the film:
He films a soldier who complains that the settlers keep pressing him to shoot Palestinian children. When a settler tells him that if the army can keep the peace, "Muhammad" will make the Israelis coffee, Mr. Yavin retorts, "I’m not willing to rule another people, not willing for ‘Muhammad’ to make me coffee."
"I call it a Greek tragedy, because I don’t see any solution," he said. "The settlers are so strong. In a way, they run the country, or run the agenda of the country."
"I don’t see anyone undoing what they’ve done…"
Tom Segev in Haaretz probes Yavin’s personal motives in making the film:
"I cannot really do anything to relieve this misery,
other than to document it, so that neither I nor those like me will be able to say that we saw nothing, heard nothing, knew nothing," he says in the film, and in response to a question asserts: "I did not move left. The country moved right."
Segev then makes this powerful and astonishing statement about Yoman Masa:
Yavin portrays the settlers as members of a fanatic, insane, racist, despicable, violent and dangerous sect – more infuriating and despairing than they have ever been seen in an Israeli film.
When The Times’s Erlanger asks Yavin if he sees himself as a successor to Walter Cronkite, whose famous turning against the Vietnam War before the eyes of the American listening public helped seal Lyndon Johnson’s fate–Yavin waves off the analogy perhaps a bit too energetically:
"Who am I?" he asked. "I don’t think I can move things. I don’t
pretend to have solutions. It takes more than another book or film or series to make this change. You need something more cataclysmic. I hate to say ‘Yom Kippur’ " – the surprise attack by Arab armies against
Israel in 1973 – "but some trauma to hammer this into the minds of people, to gather ourselves and take ourselves in our own hands and decide the boundaries of Israeli power."
With the Gaza pullout, he feels some change in the air. But he is not optimistic. "If the Israeli citizen knows he’ll really get peace with the Palestinians -like the U.S. and Canada – he’d give up half of Jerusalem," he said.
"But there is such an abyss between Israelis and Palestinians, and this distrust is so big, on both sides." Mr. Yavin trailed off, then asked, "Is Israel really and sincerely doing its best to compromise?"
Yavin is so pessimistic and fatalistic about Israel’s ability to free itself from the morass into which it has sunk–that he’s admitting that only a deep internal tragedy or powerful external force can shake Israelis out of this stupor. This is deeply depressing stuff.