Directed by Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan (2018)
Featured in the Boston Jewish Film Festival’s Summer Cinemateque
This eye-opening film by Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan tells the story of Israel and the PLO’s peace negotiations in Norway during the early to late 1990s. It integrates historic footage, film actors reenacting the talks, and recent interviews with the real-life participants, such as Israel’s then foreign minister Shimon Peres and the PLO’s chief negotiator Abu Ala. The interviewees’ passion for their experience hammering out acceptable terms of peace is palpable, as is their current sadness for the accords’ ultimate failure. The film’s structure also includes voice-over readings from the politicians’ diaries, adding a thoughtful, personal touch to the documentary.
The story of the Oslo accords involves the complicated history of Israel vs. the Palestinians—seen differently from each side—which many Americans will need to follow-up on after seeing this movie. But the history isn’t essential to gaining the filmmakers’ two main points about the experience of the accords. First, when rounds of negotiations take place between countries that are archenemies, it is individuals, not nations, who interact during those countless days of talks. A strange, inarticulate “humanization” of the mutual hatred takes place, as the participants slowly learn about each others’ families and personal lives. Nevertheless, as one interviewee reflects, “It’s impossible to translate this humanization to the public.” And so, the several stages of the Oslo peace agreements meet with virulent controversy from conservatives on both sides, with more violence breaking out, including the Hebron mosque massacre and Rabin’s assassination.
The movie makers’ second emphasis is the effect of Netanyahu’s intolerant political platform that precludes any chance of peace during his leadership. The film’s footage of his vitriolic speeches over the years portrays him as a demagogue. The audience, having experienced the “human side” of the talks, feels sickened at his destructive force. Like the negotiators, we have come through the years of talks believing both sides of the conflict can achieve better understanding and coexistence in the future.
The Oslo Diaries is moving. It shows us—again, through our own involvement in the talks—how hatred can slowly dissolve through rounds of communication between mutually trusting, respecting people. But, if politicians not involved in the “humanizing, peace-seeking component” deliver thundering speeches to the contrary that sway the less-informed public, then nothing toward neighborly peace can be achieved. The movie makes you wonder: What if Netanyahu had participated in the years of talks?The film more or less ends with Rabin’s assassination by a Jewish extremist and Netanyahu spewing from the podium anti-Palestinian slogans. The audience leaves the theater feeling the defeat, as well as the sad truth that diametric forces are always present in societies, ensuring that wars and violence will never end. Who will watch this movie? It’s doubtful those who could benefit from its message about the power of negotiations for world peace. In the meantime, generations keep passing.