April 20, 2011
The real history behind ‘Miral’
If you have driven to Jerusalem, you may have noticed a number of rusted metal hulks by the road as you pass through the Judean hills.
These are the remains of homemade armored supply trucks, left where they were destroyed, to serve as memorials to the convoys that forced their way through Arab blockades to feed the 100,000 Jews of Jerusalem during the siege of 1947-48.
But if you saw the new film “Miral,” you would be led to believe that those wrecks don’t exist — because the siege never happened. Jewish-born director Julian Schnabel and Palestinian screenwriter Rula Jebreal, who is also Schnabel’s girlfriend, wipe it all away. Instead, they provide a panegyric to a hereditary slumlord set in an alternate universe where time runs backward and the siege of Jerusalem never happened.
Palestinians hate to be reminded of that siege. It interferes with their victimization narrative.
It also interferes with the alleged saintliness of “Momma Hind” al-Husseini and her clan of aristocratic thugs. The Husseinis commanded the siege. Their leader was a wanted Nazi war criminal, Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the infamous Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
What Momma Hind did during the war, and whether she supported her relatives’ Nazi stand, is unstated in the film.
Questions on this subject submitted to “Miral’s” publicist remain unanswered. That is to be expected. Producer Harvey Weinstein calls “Miral’s” critics “crazy and wrong.”
For his part, director Schnabel famously calls himself “the closest thing to Picasso.” His colleagues apparently disagree.
The film’s action begins with a historical time wipe.
We see Momma Hind al-Husseini removing a pine tree from a hillside grove and hauling it by truck through open, newly harvested countryside. The date is Christmas 1947, which was already three weeks into the siege, but everything in Jerusalem is peaceful. British troops and armed gangs then shooting up Jewish districts are nowhere to be seen.
That night, Momma Hind attends a gala at the American Colony hotel, hosted by Bertha Spafford, played by notorious anti-Semite Vanessa Redgrave. Spafford thanks Hind for the tree and praises the Husseini family by name. Jerusalem’s Jews, the 70 percent majority, are absent, but Schnabel never provides a reason or acknowledges that they even exist.
After the party, Schnabel adds a time warp.
The film suddenly advances five months, to May 14, 1948. We see archival footage of Israel’s declaration of independence but aren’t told the date. And just as suddenly, it’s back to April 7, five weeks earlier, and we aren’t told that date either.
Schnabel reverses the sequence of events, which is like putting Hiroshima before Pearl Harbor. Apparently, he wanted to give the audience a counterfeit impression that Israel was a sovereign state during the battle/massacre at Deir Yassin, with an organized military.
It wasn’t. In fact, the British still occupied Jerusalem, and Deir Yassin was attacked by untrained, dissident militias acting on their own authority.
In this parallel world, Deir Yassin happened at night. In ours, it happened in the morning. We see Momma Hind taking a quiet, nocturnal stroll, a few hundred yards from the besieged Jewish Quarter, when she stumbles upon a band of pajama-clad children. They tell her that their parents have been massacred by soldiers, who then inexplicably dumped them far behind Arab lines.
Momma Hind takes the children to her mother’s palace. We are told nothing of the source of her vast fortune — centuries of rapacious slum-lording and land-hoarding.
We are also told nothing of the previous day’s battle of Castel, where the Hagana defeated Husseini forces at the choke point on the road to Tel Aviv, nor of the death there of Hind’s cousin Abdel-Kadr, commander of the siege.
Next, we see Momma Hind and her mother serving the orphans a sumptuous picnic lunch. The date is not provided, but if it were six days after Deir Yassin, the kids would have heard a lot of gunfire. Not far away, Husseini family retainers would have been butchering a medical convoy to the Hadassah hospital under a flag of truce, killing 77 doctors, nurses and patients.
We are told nothing of this and other massacres of Jews. This knowledge would interfere with the Palestinian narrative: The siege never happened. The 4,000 Jews killed in the city, and on the roads leading to it, never existed.
Instead, all roads must flow from Deir Yassin, which trumps and eliminates everything Palestinians have ever done to Israelis.
And suddenly it’s 1967, after the Six-Day War, which the film tells us, consists of a sudden Israeli occupation of Jerusalem. We are told nothing of the ferocious Jordanian shelling of the Israeli sector of the city.
To understand the Husseinis, it is necessary to understand who they were, and who they remain — a clan of aristocratic criminals, a racist mafia whose unique mixture of snobbery, robbery, theocracy and murder can be compared only to the Italian Borgias.
For hundreds of years, the Husseinis were the leading effendi, or land-owning clan in Turkish-occupied Jerusalem. These oligarchs owned all of the housing inside the cramped walled city and squeezed the city’s Jews without mercy.
To prevent anyone from moving outside the walls, the Turks locked the gates at night, leaving anyone outside prey to bandits.
After the British arrived in 1917, the effendi families felt their power waning and ordered their followers out to riot and kill.
Hoping to buy them off, the British government appointed the Husseini leader, Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, to the pulpit of Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. From there, he railed against Jews, fomenting riots and massacres whenever he could.
The Mufti eventually fled to Iraq, where he joined a pro-Nazi regime. He then flew to Germany. He recruited the 20,000-man SS Hanzdar Division for the Nazis, who granted him access to Hitler and Himmler as a reward. At his request, Himmler ordered 2,000 Jewish children murdered rather than held for ransom, lest any survive to settle in Palestine.
A subsequent crop of Husseinis included cousin Faisal, the Palestine Authority’s gauleiter in Jerusalem, who said in English that he favored peace with Israel but told Palestinians in Arabic to expect “one Palestine, from the river to the sea.” After his death in 2001, Israeli police discovered that Faisal was also a real-estate swindler.
Rahman al-Qudwa al-Husseini eventually succeeded the Grand Mufti as Palestinian leader. Rahman wasn’t a real Husseini by blood, but both allowed the world to think otherwise. In the West, we knew young Rahman as Yasser Arafat.
Today, the Husseinis maintain the Web site alhusseni.com, honoring their “Lords.” The site is red and black, in Nazi fashion, and decorated with stylized swastikas, which are called the family’s “coat of arms.”
This emblem is actually a modified zawba’a, or cyclone, the symbol of Arab Nazism, still used today by Syrian Nazis. The arms of the cyclone have been twisted into hanzdars, or scimitars, the emblem of the Grand Mufti’s SS Hanzdar division.
On the top right of the page are links to memorial pages honoring Lady Hind, Lord Mohammed Amin, and other Darth Husseinis. On the left is a link called “Jew Watch.” Anyone doubting the racist character of the Husseini family — to this day — should click on it.
And the film “Miral”? Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave it a 17 percent rating — meaning that it should have gone straight to video.
Stan Brin is a 40-year veteran of Jewish journalism and was editor of the Orange County Jewish Heritage. He is currently researching a book on the siege of Jerusalem.