The Tinderbox review – a thoughtful contribution to the Israel/Palestine debate | Movies


Gillian Mosely’s thoughtful movie about Israel/Palestine raises important issues and discusses the historical background going back to the British mandate after the first world war – it’s surprising how many British parliamentarians still behave as if all this has nothing to do with them. Above all, Mosely emphasises that eternal liberal imperative: that everyone involved should simply keep talking.

The film avowedly comes from the director’s own perspective: having grown up in a Jewish and pro-Zionist family in Britain, she has come to question it all and sympathise with the Palestinians. And if we feel that for all this film’s supposed evenhandedness she is indeed doing exactly this – favouring the Palestinian side – well, perhaps that is inevitably part of the peace process. If the status quo is to be changed then it is the overdogs who have to give ground.

Sometimes I felt that her commentary comes dangerously close to faux-naïf: discussing the biblical justification for the Jewish homeland in Israel, she intones: “That is what many Jews – including me – were raised to believe. But is it true?” Oddly, despite Mosely’s emphasis on her own personal story (which is what we are invited to accept gives a particular emotional or moral authority to her criticisms of Israel) she does not actually interview any of her own Jewish family or friends. Instead, Mosely ranges far afield in Israel and Palestine, interviewing Jews and Palestinians of differing views and does so with scrupulous sympathy and fairness.

What her film gets right is the importance of the friendship between Jews and Palestinians which does actually exist, ignored by the news media who see things in black and white. Her best interview is with the Israeli heavy metal band Orphaned Land who have Jews and Palestinians in their lineup. Just as there is such a thing as cultural soft power, there could also be soft reconciliation, soft dialogue. As to the subject of antisemitism under the guise of anti-Zionism, this is raised just once in this film: with a closeup of the nauseating swastika-equals-Star-of-David banner that still gets hoisted at demonstrations.

Maybe the title itself is optimistic. Some would say the spark has already ignited and Israel/Palestine is a state of continual explosion. But this is a valuable contribution to the debate.

The Tinderbox is released on 25 March in cinemas.

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