Pierre Rehov’s new documentary “Suicide Killers” may be too politically incorrect to receive an Academy Award nomination, but that fact should recommend the film to more American viewers.
And certainly, there were more viewers at last night’s screening at the Colorado History Museum than event organizers anticipated. The modest size of the screen in the large hall forced the rows to be tightly-packed, but most guests eagerly pressed in to get a closer look. Reading the frequent subtitles – absolutely essential to absorbing the film’s startling content – presented a minor challenge of tilting heads and craning necks.
I was drawn in to the disturbing images, largely appropriate in their context and level of graphic detail, as well as the powerful interviews. Specifically, the matter-of-fact words of Palestinian jihadists, would-be jihadists, and jihadist sympathizers steeped in their state-sponsored culture of “shaheed” (martyrdom) acted like a jolt to modern and postmodern Western sensibilities.
The religious, political, and social motivations to destroy innocent life for the perceived glory of rewards in the afterlife are, as one Israeli scholar observed, not the creation of despair (the popular depiction in most media). There is something more deeply sinister at work through the systematic indoctrination of a narrow interpretation of Islamic texts.
That being said, moderate Muslims are also given a prominent voice in Rehov’s film. They provide a balance: A well-educated Iranian-born Frenchwoman who recalled the descriptions of Paradise offered by childhood religious teachers as sounding a lot like America; An Arab Israeli citizen who was not once, but twice, nearly a fatal victim of Palestinian suicide bombers – he held a dying woman in his arms; the Palestinian women’s rights activist who chronicles the subjugation so common to her culture; and the young Palestinian man who pleaded in broken English for an end to his culture’s continuing fixation on violent revenge.
Yet the culture is so steeped in hatred and violence, as demonstrated in clips shown from radical Arab television, including a fictional depiction of Jewish rabbis as bloodthirsty child-killers and a CNN-style debate between leading men regarding whether women should stay out of sight in the home or take part in the jihad of suicide bombing like their male counterparts.
And indeed they have. Rehov’s interviews with four Palestinian women imprisoned in Israel for their roles in planning or promoting suicide attacks left me dumbfounded and disturbed. One woman talked most passionately about the ultimate goal to destroy every non-Muslim in the world (I wonder what she thinks of the “two-state solution,” eh?). Equally as disturbing, the interviews with imprisoned men young and old, pledging their commitment to complete a suicide bombing if ever released. They were to a person cold, calculating, calloused, and thoroughly imbued with dogmatic bloodlust in their internal wiring. A screenwriter or novelist looking to sculpt an archetypal villain could find plenty of material.
All in all, the documentary offered a chilling look at Palestinian culture that is largely missed by international reporters in the mainstream media outlets. Americans engaged in a generations-long war with radical Islamofascism cannot afford to be ignorant about what motivates the enemy. Though the film’s conclusion was a bit ambiguous and some of the contrast between Israeli and Palestinian society seemed a little exaggerated, “Suicide Killers” (you can view the trailer and order online here) remains an important film to see.
The presence of the Algerian-born, French-Israeli filmmaker at last night’s screening was positively inspirational. Given current political realities, Pierre Rehov’s courage can scarcely be doubted.
Last night’s screening was sponsored by the Claremont Institute, Action Israel, and Americans Against Terrorism. Many thanks to these groups for introducing Rehov’s work to a Denver audience and, in particular, to Mount Virtus. Please read a little different perspective on the film by Joshua at View from a Height.