Too Fast, Too Furious

A Pair of Documentaries Grapple With Fanaticism and Forgiveness

He found three former Basiji living in exile in Germany, for example. The Basiji were Iranian boys as young as 11 or 12 recruited into suicide units during the Iran-Iraq war. Tens of thousands of them died walking as human waves straight into the line of fire or clearing minefields with their bodies. Ziv considers them the prototype of the new "human weapon" bred in a culture of martyrdom. The wife of a Hezbollah suicide bomber remembers her concern that her husband was taking his time about deciding to die. She hadn't expected the marriage to last for five years. In the background, their son watches a videotape of Dad's "mission," the explosion as he blows himself up inside an Israeli army convoy.

Ziv wants to show that it isn't just a Middle East phenomenon, but "a powerful weapon of the poor" (among the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, for example) or the desperate (kamikaze pilots). Only in the poorest, most desperate corners of the Middle East, however, does it seem to be so everyday. Ziv acquired a Hamas tape, for example, of a girls' choir in the West Bank singing the praises of jihad.

"The danger in suicide bombing is not the amount of people it kills," says Ziv. "It's the psychological waves it spreads around, and I think Israel is quite a horrible laboratory for that."

Unique work of conscience: filmmaker Gerstel forgave "her" terrorist.
photo: Richard Mitchell
Unique work of conscience: filmmaker Gerstel forgave "her" terrorist.

Gerstel finds herself feeling very pessimistic. Her film includes some footage from a play about truth and reconciliation staged outdoors in Tel Aviv by the Arab-Hebrew Theater. "It started in October 2000, but couldn't go on running because the objections were so strong," says Gerstel. Indeed, a fight broke out the day she filmed it. "This is how I realized that we are so far away from reconciliation. As one Palestinian, one of the actors, told me, 'We are not at the truth stage yet. How can we reconcile?' "

Related Article:
J. Hoberman's review of My Terrorist and Human Weapon

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