Israeli director Gidi Dar’s son has just been called up to the army reserves. Dar, whose 2021 movie “Legends of Destruction” warned about the dangers of in-fighting in modern-day Israel by recounting the Biblical-era story of the destruction of the Jewish temple, is angry. Angry at his government, which he does not trust. Angry at the failure of intelligence that led to the staggering toll of 1,000 dead in Israel on Saturday. And angry that a two-state solution seems an ever-distant chimera, replaced by the need to eradicate Hamas.
I called Dar at his home on the Mediterranean coastal town of Atlit to get a sense of how even progressive Israelis are feeling at a moment as raw as any in memory.
SW: What is the mood on the ground in Israel?
GD: I’m talking to friends, people everywhere have connections to people who’ve been kidnapped or are dead.
The strength of this nation is its spirit. Over the past nine months our country has become divided. There is a scene in my movie in which Vespasian’s generals urge him to finish off the Jews, because the time is ripe, they are in a civil war, they are killing each other other. Vespasian answers: ‘Why hurry? They are doing our job for us. Once we near Jerusalem they will unite.’ I thought Iran and Hamas saw “Legend of Destruction,” but apparently not. Otherwise they would have waited and let us fight each other.
But now they have united us back. The way I see it, it’s an internal question. When we are not united, we cannot survive.
SW: Do you feel supported by world opinion?
GD: Right now, world opinion is with us because we are clearly the victim. But probably, when we actually do fight back and make them pay, the world will turn against us again. We need to finish this problem with Hamas and be determined, no matter what the rest of the world says. If we don’t do it now, we should close this country.
We live in the roughest neighborhood in the world. Look at how the Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Syria, Gaza and Iran behave. We are now forced to play by the neighborhood codes. Like when you are a newbie in jail — if you don’t show your strength, you will be fish food in no time.
Had we been tougher before with Hamas, we would not have been in this situation now.
We all got used to Hamas’ terror attacks and missiles towards our civilians, and the “concept” was trying to contain and manage this ongoing crisis over many years. That they attack and we sit quietly and bomb them a little bit back. The Talmud says that he who is compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate. Now we have to be cruel.
SW: Do you really believe that is a path? Is that not your pain speaking?
GD: Don’t forget that we disengaged and pulled back all troops and Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Believe me hardly any Israelis want to reconquer the Gaza Strip.
However, how many missiles would you accept on New York before you retaliate? I say one. How many Americans civilians brutally slaughtered would you accept before you wipe out your enemy? We have 1,000 and counting. This is the equivalent to 40,000 Americans dead in seven hours.