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“I didn’t come to Israel - I came to Palestine!”

Every country has its cinematic bad guy. For the Turks, it’s us

Poster for "Valley of the Wolves: Palestine"

Just a few days after the Turkel committee cleared the IDF of any wrongdoings during its raid of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara, the most expensive Turkish film ever made hit the theaters across Turkey and the rest of Europe.

The film, “Valley of the Wolves: Palestine”, is the second in a series of movies depicting the dashing Polat Alemdar taking on bad guys – and winning. The movies are based on a very successful TV series, which in the past have caused much tension in the already-strained relations between Turkey and Israel.

Israeli officials have said the films are not only anti-Israel, but anti-semitic as well. The first movie, “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq”, even featured a Jewish doctor harvesting organs from dead Iraqis. The doctor was played by no other than Gary Busey.

The new movie depicts Alemdar coming to Israel to avenge the death of his fellow Turks on the Mavi Marmara. Lots of blood, lots of violence and lots of preaching. One thing that really got Israelis going was the production’s decision to release the film on January 27, the international Holocaust Day.

Some of the exchanges are classic. For example, when Polat is asked by an Israeli soldier what brings him to Israel, he answers “I didn’t come to Israel – I came to Palestine!”. Or when he confronts his nemesis who tells him he won’t escape the Promised Land, Alemdar answers “I don’t know which land was promised, but I promise you its graves!” Take a look at the preview.

As I watched, I felt something familiar. That feeling you get when the good guy gets the bad guy. And I remembered another movie, from the 80’s, that always brought those feelings home. It was Rambo. It was just before the end of the Cold War, and Stallone was killing Vietnamese and other Communist scum by the dozen.

Israelis are the Turk’s “bad guys” these days. As a young adolescent growing up in Israel and America, the dirty “commies” were my bad guys back then. And they could be depicted in any fashion. Any commie was the filth of the earth, and they all deserved to die. And I remember watching Rambo shooting guys, and stabbing them and choking them slowly. And I remember smiling when he did it. I liked it when he won. When he got the bad guy.

Now I know how the Turks feel when they watch Polat kick some Israeli ass.

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    1. Ben Israel

      I’m sorry , but I don’t understand the point of your column. Turks got their kicks out of killing Armenians and Kurds in the past, so now they want to kill Jews for a little variety? They are hardly the first. Or are we supposed to “understand” them because of the flotilla?

      Reply to Comment
    2. @Ben Israel – Yawn.

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    3. Didn’t the Commies first torture the shit out of Rambo before he killed them all? Anyhow, the joke’s on them. Vietnam may be technically Communist but they are busy, busy bees providing the cheap manpower and lax labor and environmental standards behind the production of such beloved brands as Converse, North Face, Adidas, Nike etc. Vietnam is the handmaiden of bourgeois capitalism. Despite Rambo being a fictitious character, the US really actually did win the Vietnam war! It’s a beautiful country, the people are awesome, everyone should visit.

      OK back to the post – this genre of film is not that atypical – it reminds me of 1990’s “International Guerillas” where brave Muslims do battle with Salman Rusdie and his Israeli bodyguards. Featuring song and dance numbers and the heroes at one point wearing Batman outfits, this movie was ridiculous. When Canada banned it, I immediately got a bootleg copy from my Pakistani neighbor and we watched it together. Man did we laugh our asses off.

      Kurtlar Vadisi Filistin may have a higher budget but it seems equally ridiculous. I’m gonna download it now! Maybe I’ll do a kill count video too while sipping Arak.

      Lots of Arak.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ilana Sebba

      Sorry but I did not understand the point of this column either –

      Also, you mention the other movie depicting a jewish doctor harvesting organs from dead iraquis. How do you feel about that?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Igor

      Guys, a crap movie is a crap movie, nothing more. Don’t look for ideas.
      And it doesn’t really matter whether the bad guys are Germans, Russians, Chinese, Israelis or Americans.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Mati Bloch

      Sorry, I did not get the point of your coloumn either.
      Why don’t you state the obvious first:
      This movie is Propaganda. The zealous religious regime in Turkey breeds this kind of slanted hate mail. We, Israelis, are the victims of this treatment, but somehow you, Ami Kaufman, miss the elelphant.

      Reply to Comment
    7. There is a difference between not understanding and disagreeing, Mati.

      Ami’s point is a subtle one about the universal tendency to dehumanize and demonize.

      Reply to Comment
    8. I just watched Kurtlar Vadisi Irak where, in a sub-plot, Gary Busey played a Jewish Doctor harvesting organs from Iraqis and shipping them off to wealthy clients around the world. Gary Busey is perhaps the least Jewish looking actor since perhaps Paul Newman played Ari Ben Canaan in Exodus. Although even that comparison seems a tad, uhm, intellectually challenged. The movie was complete crap of course. Hilarious crap. Weren’t we friends with Turkey in 2006? I wonder what lessons we can learn from this popular series? In the meantime, I will try and get my hands on Kurtlar Vadisi Filistin – it just came out so it’s not that easy. I can’t wait, judging from the trailer, it’s going to be a craptastic!

      Reply to Comment
    9. sergio

      The propaganda in American film always depicts the Arab as bloodthirsty terrorists after Americans or Americans and Israelis.

      It’s complete Neocon/Israei Lobby propaganda against Islam and no one bats an eyelash

      Good to see Israeli soldiers on the receiving end for once

      Reply to Comment
    10. Roger

      As I speak no Hebrew and haven’t been to Israel since the 1990s, here is a genuine question: are there any equivalent Israeli movies or TV shows where it is evil Muslim terrorists who get slaughtered?

      And re Rambo one thing that strikes me is that Ami had to go back a very long way for that example – half a lifetime for me, probably a whole lifetime for some of you guys.

      In fact after the fall of the Berlin Wall the popular Western media really had no one left to systematically demonise.

      Sure, mad Islamic types did make the odd appearance in 90s movies like True Lies but since 9.11 they have mysteriously disappeared to the extent of being replaced by neo-nazis played by British actors (the one stereotype everyone can still hate) in film adaptations of books like The Sum of all Fears that were undiplomatic enough to have Arab villains.

      In fact the more Middle Eastern countries America finds itself at war with the more positive the western media’s depiction of ‘the Arab’ seems to become…

      Reply to Comment
    11. Ben Israel

      There are plenty of films with dead Jews in them, just look on YOUTUBE or other sites. You can see piles and piles of them. Enjoy yourself.
      I would be interested to know what country you are from so we can suggest seeing your nationality get it for a change.

      I have not watched Israel television for years but as I recall, the Arab-Israeli conflict is not shown at all in fiction. It is also pretty much verboten to satirize Arabs…rather it is religious Jews who get satirized. I think you would like Israeli films and TV, they generally only make (certain types of) Jews look bad. The people who make Israeli TV and films have pretty much the same political ideology as “972”.

      Reply to Comment
    12. richard Allen

      Once I saw this Tollywood (Tamil version of Bollywood) film where the hero was facing three bad guys, and he only had one bullet left in his gun and a knife, so he shot the gun, and then threw the knife at the bullet and it sliced the bullet in two in midair, and then the two bullets halves diverged and killed the two bad guys on each side and then the knife kept going and killed the bad guy in the middle. It was the coolest thing ever.

      Reply to Comment
    13. ” The people who make Israeli TV and films have pretty much the same political ideology as “972″. ”

      then make your own Ben Israel , whats stopping you ?

      Reply to Comment
    14. @Richard – if you ever come across a clip of that, I have to see it! 🙂

      Reply to Comment
    15. Roger, you ask an interesting question. We don’t really have action hero films in Israel, so there is no generic ‘enemy’. Actually, I can’t think of any Israeli film that outright demonizes Arabs. Ami, can you think of any?

      Reply to Comment
    16. I can’t think of any either.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Roger


      Which raises a whole bunch of supplementary questions about Israeli popular culture in general.

      Does ‘the situation’ really not feature in TV drama or fiction at all?

      Are there really no TV series or trashy novels about heroic IDF commandos or Mossad agents>

      What happens in soap operas when teenage characters reach conscription age – do they just disappear and come back a year or two later?

      Are TV police procedurals rigidly segregated so that Jewish detectives only chase Jewish murderers of Jewish victims?

      I understand there is a state-funded Arab TV station – how is the occupation, discrimination etc reflected on that?

      I am not really expecting answers (although if you know of any English language books or articles covering any of these questions I’d be grateful) – the underlying point here is that even westerners like myself who are closely engaged with the Israel/Palestine conflict and can debate for hours about the Balfour Declaration or the Peel Commission or the various UN resolutions, often know very little about the society you live in and how the political divisions are reflected and generated in daily life.

      Reply to Comment
    18. richard Allen

      I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with an “Evil Arab” in Israeli pop culture, and I too am largely drawing a blank. The closest I can come up with is the gay Arab’s brother-in-law in the not that great film The Bubble, and he was evil in a very specific-to-the-character way, not as generic “BAD ARAB,” so that doesn’t even really count.

      Reply to Comment
    19. @Roger – excellent questions. The “situation” doesn’t always come up in Israeli TV. Maybe living in denial?
      But you raise many interesting points. Might even be something I’ll want to write about in the future. Thanks 🙂

      Reply to Comment
    20. ChicagoMonster

      Roger, while I find your posts to be quite logical, I’ll have to disagree with you…today, ESPECIALLY after 9/11, Islamophobia and rabid anti-Arab propaganda is everywhere. Hell, it’s been in American media for decades, characterizing Arabs as psychos, lazy, stupid, savage, anything in the book going back to the Indy Jones movies to today in 24, Iron Man, or any number of other Hollywood productions.

      It is strange, however, that we see movies about CIA operatives gone rogue (The Jason Bourne trilogy), MI6 agents gone rogue (Casino Royale), video games about NSA operatives going off the deep end (Splinter Cell: Double Agent/SC: Conviction), but never a thing about Mossad or IDF troops. Interesting, indeed.

      Reply to Comment
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