Udi Aloni′s ″Junction 48″

Other or brother?

The winner of the Audience Award at last year′s Berlinale film festival is a story from Lod — or Ludd, as it′s pronounced in Arabic — a small town with a mixed Jewish-Arab population just a few kilometres away from Tel-Aviv, where Kareem and his girlfriend Manar use music to fight both the discrimination by the State of Israel and the violent patriarchal conservatism in their own community. Daniel Tkatch caught up with its director, Udi Aloni

"Ana mish politi (I′m not political),” sings Kareem, a young Palestinian rapper from a stage, improvised on the ruins of his friend′s house, which Israeli bulldozers flattened to make space for the planned Museum of Coexistence. Yet ″Junction 48″ is a political film, that does not content itself simply with pointing fingers.

Udi Aloni: Kareem′s outcry “I′m not political” is about the unaccomplishable wish not to be political. ″I don′t want to be political, but they just destroyed my friend′s house with a bulldozer because he′s an Arab. I′m not political, but my girlfriend′s conservative family doesn′t let me see her.″ It is the longing for an impossible normality. And it is also what makes this film so universal.

You are often heard promoting ′binationalism′ as an alternative to the ongoing stalemate between the aspired two-state solution and the one-state reality? But is this solution at all realistic?

Aloni: I would jump on any solution that would end the current atrocities. Were anybody to make the two-state solution possible, I might support it. But, for now, it is the two-state solution that is the most unrealistic dream. For me, binationalism is primarily a cultural notion. It means keeping one′s particularity — whether Jewish or Palestinian. It is based on the concept of community and of difference, both between communities and within them. My friend and teacher, the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish expressed this idea well, writing: ″Let us go together in two separate paths / Let us go together / and let us be kind.″

Europeans too should abandon this fiction of two states, yet their leaders seem reluctant to understand how we, the Israelis and the Palestinians, are entangled with each other. My recommendation is this: first of all, see the situation as it really is. See, for example, what it means to be a Palestinian citizen of Israel.

In my meetings with Europeans, they often tell me: ″Bring us a Palestinian and an Israeli.″ I say: ″Fine, but what if the Palestinian is, at the same time, a citizen of Israel?″ Tamer, as well as many other so-called ′Israeli arabs′, have families in Gaza and Ramallah, in Sabra and Shatila. The traditional setting of Israelis and Palestinians living under full occupation is a dangerous normalisation. I′m against that. That is also why, in my opinion, the binational opportunity is the only way to survive this place. The flip-side is Netanyahu′s paranoia and an ever-tighter enclosure. Gaza is already the biggest ghetto in the Middle East. Soon enough, Israel itself might become an even bigger ghetto. One often hears that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East. It might be true, but only for the Jews.

What is the role of art in this? And how do you see your political role as a film-maker?

Aloni: Art is a possibility to open possibilities. Unfortunately, or maybe even fortunately, we′re not going to change the world through art. But we can offer a different perspective. The statement of the film is in its performative act. After all, it was an opportunity for Tamer, myself and the entire crew — a mix of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs — to function and work together.

In a way, we have created our own Noah′s Ark. At some point, the Flood in the region will be over: the craziness of the Israeli government with its hyper-vanity, IS′ fundamentalism in the void left by colonialism, etc. All this cannot continue for too long; it will fail. The question is: when it ends, what will be waiting there? My hope is that it will be a community similar to our ark.

But for now, the situation can be described by a well-known line from the Communist Manifesto: a spectre is haunting the region — the spectre of binationalism. And all the powers there have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre.

The most refreshing thing about your film is, perhaps, that it couldn′t care less about political correctness.

Cinema poster advertising Udi Aloni's "Junction 48"
Junction 48 is the love story of two young Palestinian hip-hop artists who use their music to fight against both the external oppression of Israeli society and the internal repression of their own crime-ridden, conservative community. It depicts a new generation of young Arabs who seek normality through their love and music – and against all odds

Aloni: We have the most racist jokes about each other, Tamer and myself. What could be funnier than that? After all, we know that it comes from our universality, from our common fight, both against the Israeli occupation and against honour killings of Palestinian women by their own community.

People often find this complexity hard to handle. When I say that I fight for Palestinians, people react with: ″Here′s a self-hating Jew.″ But for me, the only way I can practice my Jewishness is to be in total solidarity with the Palestinians.

One should leave the narrative of the Other and be Br-other! It is an entirely different stance. Curiously, this other-brother wordplay works even better in Hebrew, where ″other″ (akher) has ″brother″ (akh) in it.

Was it a conscious decision not to try to present the complexity of the political situation and not to underline the fundamental victimhood of Palestinians?

Aloni: In the big fight between Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek, I take Zizek′s side. Chomsky thinks that if you just show people the truth, they will choose the right way. It′s a typical liberal understanding.

According to Zizek, trauma or ideology will always block your view. When you look at the sun, you go blind. Hence, it would be futile to simply show the truth of occupation. I feel I can only change something by deconstructing the very ideology that prevents people from seeing the truth.

That′s why I would be happy if your readers didn′t focus only on my radical political statements, but let the film speak for itself, get under their skin, see its dream.

Both Zizek and the French philosopher Alain Badiou get a special thank you. What was their role in the film?

Aloni: These were just my personal thanks. I feel I owe them a lot. Both of them adored the film, which was a bit of a surprise to me, actually. I thought that I had finally made a film that says “Fuck you, philosophers!”

People often make a distinction between intellectual films and films ′about life′. But, in Judaism for example, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge have the same roots. And this is perhaps my first film, in which I could finally put the two together.

Both the philosophical ideas and the ruling ideology are there — they function in the film without being seen. If I did well as a director, the viewer will not feel either, while being in the very midst of it. A good film is like a homoeopathic medicine: it remembers its active ingredients without actually containing them.

Interview conducted by Daniel Tkatch

© Qantara.de 2017

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