The Turkish film “Kurtlar Vadisi: Filistin”—“Valley of the Wolves—Palestine”— opened yesterday in Turkey. Based on the immensely popular television series “Valley of the Wolves”, the film is a response to the May 2010 Israeli attack on the Turkish-led humanitarian aid flotilla en route to Gaza, which resulted in the murder of nine Turkish activists.
The New York Times points out that the TV series “has portrayed Israelis as baby-killers and human organ thieves. Israel has criticized the series as viciously anti-Semitic fiction”. Perhaps Israel should direct similar criticism at the Times for publishing articles with titles like “Gazan Mother and 4 Children Killed” and “Israeli Shells Kill 40 at Gaza U.N. School”, and for describing Israel as a “nexus” of global organ trafficking.
I watched “Valley of the Wolves—Palestine” at a crowded cinema in a town in southwest Turkey last night. It is an action film and the plot is straightforward: three Turkish agents, led by Polat Alemdar, travel to Israel to pursue the demise of Moshe Ben Eliezer, the fictional Israeli commander who masterminded the flotilla raid.
During the first scene in Jerusalem, Alemdar is asked by an Israeli soldier why he came to Israel and is told “I didn’t come to Israel; I came to Palestine”. A battle ensues and the Turks down an array of soldiers, escaping afterward to the home of a Palestinian named Abdullah with a shell-shocked Jewish American tour guide named Simone in tow. (She happens to speak fluent Turkish, as do all of the Israeli and Palestinian characters in the film.)
Until now ignorant of the Palestinian reality, Simone is a caricature of discomfort and fear in her new surroundings, and refuses to eat or to wear the Palestinian dress offered her by her female hosts. Reality starts to sink in when Abdullah’s wheelchair-bound son warns her not to go outside because “they will beat you”. She asks why such a thing would happen and learns that the disabled child had functioned as an Israeli target on the way home from school.
The Turkish agents resume their mission along with Abdullah, causing numerous headaches for Israeli security forces in between chasing Ben Eliezer. Simone is left at the house, where she swiftly and in the most clichéd manner comes to realize Palestinian humanity and dons the outfit she had previously rejected. Ben Eliezer and his gang subsequently descend upon the neighborhood, remove Simone and the other women and children from the house, and bulldoze it on top of the young boy, whom the Israelis have deliberately left on the floor of the living room.
Simone’s capture provides her with the opportunity to inform Ben Eliezer that he is not a true Jew and that he is an embarrassment to the Jewish religion. Israel’s insistence on the film’s anti-Semitism might meanwhile have more traction if Israel was not in fact known for bulldozing houses atop disabled Palestinians.
Ben Eliezer is killed by Alemdar in the film’s final scene in Gaza, where the Turks and Abdullah have succeeded in distributing to the Palestinians weapons raided from an Israeli stockpile. An Israeli tank is vanquished, and soldiers are shot as they descend on ropes from helicopters—the opposite, of course, of what happened in the flotilla raid. The symbolism is transparent and the film lacks substance. But it’s not anti-Semitic.
The New York Times proclaims its concern that “Anti-Israel Film Disturbs Turkey’s Holocaust Day”. Translation: “Valley of the Wolves” premiered the day after Turkey’s first officially sanctioned participation in International Holocaust Remembrance Day. No matter that the film release also very nearly coincided with the release of the first part of the Israeli Turkel Commission’s report on the flotilla attack, according to which Israeli commandos who murder humanitarian activists are merely acting in self-defense, or that the Jewish community and Chief Rabbinate of Turkey joined the rest of the country in condemning the attack last year.
Israel is perhaps not used to being the bad guy in movies. One way of deterring Turkish scenarists in the future might be to ensure that the Israeli response to the next Turkish-led flotilla—which according to the humanitarian organization IHH will sail on the one-year anniversary of the attack—is not blockbuster-worthy.