Unfortunate Sound Bite

Friday, August 12, 2005

Unfortunate Sound Bite

An interesting commentary on the idiosyncracies of news editors: when I picked up the Dutch paper de Volkskrant on the train to Paris the other day, the top headline on the front page caught my eye; but when I went onto the Internet to try to find English-languge coverage of the same story, it was almost impossible to find any news outlet in the world that had covered the story at all.

Unfortunately, the one source I did find came up with the obvious, somewhat out-of-context, quotation to use as a headline:
"Anne Could Have Been a Palestinian Girl"
It's really too bad. The story is about a play about Anne Frank at the Akko Festival in Israel. The play is in Arabic, with a Jewish director and a Druze actress as Anne. Unfortunately, the headline, which is from something the actress did say, is just inflammatory (as witness the ferocious commentary the story elicited on the website I linked to).

In fact, what the actress and others involved with the play have to say about it is quite interesting, which is why I read all the way through the Volkskrant article and looked for more information on the Web. Indeed, the fact that the actress is Druze--and the Volkskrant story says that the director looked for three years for an actress who was willing to play Anne in Arabic--is an interesting angle to the situation. But according to the Dutch story, the Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot also led with the "Anne could have been Palestinian" snippet, ensuring that the heat would be much greater than the light. Not surprising, I suppose, given that the English site I linked to is the English version of Yediot Ahronot.

Besides the quotations in the English page I linked to, here are some other tidbits from the Volkskrant story (registration required):

"Almost no one realizes that we are trying to bring Israeli Arabs in contact with history [says Anat Hadid, the actress]. In Jewish schools, reading about Anne Frank is virtually mandatory. In Israeli theaters, we see a new retelling of the Anne Frank story every five years, but always in Hebrew. [Israeli] Arabs know almost nothing--some secretly believe that the persecution of Jews is a lie."...

Anat Hadid portrays with flair some of the fantasies that Anne entrusted to her diary. But, in the end, seriousness breaks into her daydreams. "Why are people so stupid that they keep doing nothing but make war? Why isn't all that money spent on feeding the hungry in this world?" In fact, this is when the word intifada makes its appearance--no, that doesn't mean just mean the Palestinian intifada. "Look at Africa; what has the world learned in the last 60 years?" The voice of the train station announcer comes in: "To Haifa, Netanya, Tel Aviv, now boarding."

Naturally, that refers to the train that took Anne away to the death camps. But there is more, says Liat Ozeny [the director].

"On Sunday, the trains here all always packed, because soldiers are returning to their barracks after Shabbat. Everyone stands pressed against each other, and it is suffocating. Always, someone says, 'I can't get any air, it's just like the Holocaust in here.'"

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