“Blood And Tears” Gives New Insights Into MidEast Conflict
By Tim Bristow

On January 26, 2005 American University played host to producer/director Isadore Romarin as he aired his landmark film “Blood and Tears” to a crowded auditorium at American University’s School of International Service. Dean Louis Goodman of American University’s School of International Service hosted the event and invited two prominent speakers to a post-screening panel and discussion - American University’s own Ibn Khaldun Chair, Dr. Akbar Ahmed and Dr. Walter Reich, the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior, and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The George Washington University to answer questions about the situation in the Middle-East and the ramifications of the ongoing peace process.

The film, shown to a packed hall, narrated the history surrounding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict up to the present day and gave a good sense of the complexities of the issues involved. Through interviews with many leaders from both sides including Palestinian negotiator Saeed Erekat, the late Yassar Arafat, Israeli Knesset members Vinyamin Netanyahu and Yossi Beilin and several Hamas leaders, the film presented a very wide-ranging account of the conflict but remained neutral throughout. The title of the film, taken from Yitzhak Rabin’s remarks at Camp David, is a most appropriate description of the intensity, violence and hatred that have pervaded in the region for far too long.

The hopes and fears of all sides to the conflict are well documented by Mr. Rosmarin as his unfaltering lens casts a dispassionate glance at the heartfelt pleas of a region torn by the most divisive of human emotions. Rabin’s words echo in the conscience and serve as a powerful reminder that dialogue has never been more important nor more seriously lacking in the search for a peaceful solution. The post-film discussion was spirited and occasionally, highly charged, focusing on the Peace Process and the ramifications of the conflict both regionally and throughout the world. Dr. Akbar Ahmed, focusing mainly on the religious aspects of the conflict, spoke at length on the need for dialogue between Muslims and Jews and described the conflict as ‘atavistic.’ He argued for the need to convert the present paradigm “Blood and Tears” into a new paradigm based on “compassion and wisdom.”

He went on to portray the relationship between Islam, Judaism and Christianity as that of three sisters; they may not always agree with each other but they still feel a certain familial love for each other. In an analogy drawn from the story of Abraham, the spiritual father of all three religions, he narrated the story of Abraham’s two sons Isaac and Ishmael, and the fact that the two brothers were estranged throughout most of their lives. This story has become an analogy of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for many people in which both brothers are symbolic of both peoples and their estrangement has become the reality of today. However, the real story is not being told. In the Abrahamic tradition, the two brothers were reconciled at the death of their father. The symbolism is unmistakable, that the final chapter of this devastating conflict will be one of peace and reconciliation.

Continuing on the theme of hope, Dr. Reich reiterated Ahmed’s call for dialogue expressing his concern that every person in every conflict must “see that there is reason for sympathy for the other side.” Ahmed’s earnest call for “a change of heart” in the film was echoed by Reich who emphasized that such a change was both a statement of faith and a statement of fear since it is harder to accept hostile views than it is to rebuff them. Isadore Rosmarin spoke about the making of the film and of the problems that he encountered in its production. He said that the film offered no explanations of the conflict but instead presented a detailed chronology of events that would allow viewers to form their own opinions as to the solutions.

Among the distinguished guests in attendance were former Congressman Walter Fountroy, civil rights activist and former associate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Congressional candidate Chuck Floyd and Reverend Michael Jenkins of the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace. “Blood and Tears” is an exceptional addition to the growing number of documentaries on this ill-fated region but one that is noteworthy as a result of its producer’s attempts to instill the heartbreak, sorrow but also the hope that is the soul of these war-torn lands. The ensuing discussion was typical of American University’s multi-cultural campus with a highly international audience and numerous scholars of distinction, a potent reflection of how great minds working together can prove that tolerance and acceptance are more prominent features of the human race than prejudice, fanaticism and violence.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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