Omar: personification of the Palestinian tragedy

Film review by Gilad Atzmon

Gilad Atzmon writes:

One of the most important Palestinian feature films ever, Omar is, to date, the deepest expose of the diabolical nature of the Israeli occupation and the inhuman situation imposed on Palestinians by the Jewish state. It also throws light on the tragic and depressing Palestinian struggle against a sophisticated, demonic enemy – an ongoing battle that so far has led nowhere.

Palestinian director Hany Abu Assad’s latest film centres on Omar (Adam Bakri), a young freedom fighter in an impossible yet common Palestinian dilemma, caught in a devastating triangle between his patriotic commitment, romance and the omnipresent Jewish state. This is a brutal, Orwellian, Big Brother state that sees everything, knows everything, sets people against each other and controls everything through a network of collaborators, even within the resistance.

Once captured by the Israeli army and subjected to horrendous physical and mental torture by Israeli intelligence, Omar is placed in a hellish scenario. He eventually manages to buy the Israelis’ trust by letting them believe that he is willing to cooperate. At that moment Omar pretty much seals his fate. He is destined to lose everything.

Though we, comfortable in our cinema seats, know that Omar never compromised his commitment to his people, one by one the Palestinians around him are led to believe that he is a traitor and turn their backs on him. Losing the love of his life to his friend – clearly a collaborator – he is ostracized by fellow warriors and their families. Omar, a Palestinian patriot, becomes a pawn in an evil Israeli game. As his situation deteriorates and his tragedy unfolds before our eyes, he remains aware of it all, and we, who witness this emerging tragedy, also can see no way out.

Agent Rami (Waleed Zuaiter), the veritable “good cop”, is the Israeli intelligence operative who recruits Omar. He appears to be humane – he never uses physical pressure – he also has his own family matters to handle – wife, kid etc. But all those “humane” symptoms are there to cover a deeply sinister and hideous character. Rami is in fact a cold blooded Israeli monster who shatters the lives of others on a mass scale. He systematically turns empathy and human affection into highly functional instruments of total abuse.

One hardly needs to say that Rami, like Omar, is a symbol of his people and, indeed, there is a clear cultural and ideological continuum between Rami, Israeli President Shimon Peres and the entire Jewish left. I refer here to the deceitful nature embedded in contemporary Jewish political culture, the deliberate use of empathy and humanism to conceal a sinister, self-centric agenda that cares only for the members of the tribe.

At the start of this film we meet a young, handsome and joyful Palestinian patriot who leaps over the gigantic Israeli Wall and who, against all odds, lays claim to his land. Ninety minutes later, the same man is a defeated soul. Physically and mentally tortured, Omar simply can no longer climb the wall and bridge the divide imposed on his people by the Jewish state.

By the end of the film, Omar, like Palestine itself, is a tormented and defeated soul. For him, there is no hope but martyrdom.

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