What we all know about the Middle East situation is that there is more than one point of view. Anybody’s who been living in the United States understands our country’s traditional allegiance to Israel . But there’s another side to the story: the Palestinians. “Miral,” based on a true story, will tug at your sense of helplessness over a dispute that’s been going on since….well, Sarah and Hagar.
1947. The country of Israel is carved out by U.N. resolution, by concession of the British, formerly the occupiers of Palestine, but as in Joshua’s biblical mandate, Israel operates on the “holy war” mindset that it is their God-given destiny to inherit the land of Canaan, never mind who might now be living in it. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the world seems to want to give Jews the world over someplace safe to be. They start out having to fight to defend their right to be there, and they’ve been fighting ever since.
1967. The Six-Day War. Israel not only defeats the Arab coalition, they occupy Gaza Strip and the West Bank as “buffer zones,” which displaces many Palestinian civilians, but their side lost the war, so they don’t get a say.
1987 Israel and Palestine agree to recognize each other’s right to exist, but the treaty is never really enforced. Israel continues expanding unauthorized settlements in occupied territories. There are now generations of Palestinians who have never known anything but occupation and displacement. And we wonder why this pressure cooker incubates terrorists?
“Miral” is the personal story of a girl who grew up in an orphanage, establishing the back story of how the orphanage was founded, and how it was that she wound up with an absent mother, and a father who came to visit her on weekends. Of course, anyone who’s as good-looking as Freida Pinto is going to attract plenty of attention. (Never mind that she’s actually Indian, not Palestinian. Does anyone else suspect a bit of implied racism, that we stupid Caucasians can’t tell the difference, anyway?)
“Miral” (Pinto) is the name of a wild red flower that grows plentifully on the side of the road. In other words, her story is supposed to be typical, but this character, of course, is anything but typical. Aside from being a world-class beauty, she is so intelligent she easily converses in several languages, and earns a college scholarship which takes her away from all the madness, and prevents her from prematurely perishing as one of those anonymous suicide bombers with explosives on her back and revenge gutting her soul. Yes, of course, the Palestinians can tell stories about Jewish oppression and aggression, but do you suppose there’s an Israeli family there that doesn’t have its own horror stories? How about the Irish? Serbs? Shiite? Armenians? Hutu? Apache? Mayan? Aboriginals? This list could go on forever. And probably will. But “Miral” is just one story, just one point of view. As such, it is by definition not a complete picture. But then, maybe that belongs only to the God in whose name everyone slays the infidel. Or wishes they could.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas