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Marc Kornblatt
Writer, Filmmaker, Citizen

“Free Plastilin”

The headline is not a typo. It’s the title of a satirical music video released in Israel during Hanukkah. Produced by a group of young filmmakers, many of them new to the country, “Free Plastilin” offers an apt way to sum up this sorry year.

The music track is sung by a rap duo who pepper their lyrics with topical references ranging from hummus and Hamas to Bloomberg News and the environmentalist Greta Thurnberg. The song’s title conflates the pro-Palestinian movement’s watchwords with Plasticine modeling clay.

Some have found the message ambiguous. Others have told me they can’t stomach gallows humor about the hostages. Many liked the song and enjoyed the dance number at the end. (Full disclosure: I play the Iran UN representative who drinks a cup of Jewish blood and dances in the finale.)

One critique stood out from the rest. It came from a former third grade student of mine in the US. Now college age, she read a New York Times article about my family (see my December 12 Times of Israel post), which apparently led her to “Free Plastilin.”

“I bet the man who carries his children’s body parts in bags through the streets of Gaza, or the child who sobs over the bodies of his mom and dad, or the mother who cradles her lifeless baby wish they could dance and laugh and ponder the ‘complexities’ of this conflict with the lightness that you are able to,” she wrote. “I bet they wish they had the privilege to produce a music video right now…but they are too busy being murdered.”

The young woman jumped in without a formal salutation, and didn’t sign off with her name, but she did introduce herself in the opening paragraph in which she wrote: “I remember your classroom as one that was filled with joy and creativity. You gently nurtured your student’s little souls, with the love and support that all children deserve to be surrounded by.”

She followed that by telling me that she found my Instagram page shocking and “completely devoid of humanity,” adding, “You speak rather nonchalantly of Israel ‘turning Gaza to dust.’  As you make your ‘mockumentaries’ and your ‘dark satire’ music videos, as you voice over videos of your cats, as you dance on stolen land…I must ask what goes through your mind?”

Acknowledging that “the events of October 7 were devastating,” she told me that her “heart breaks for the innocent men, women, and children who were murdered, for the families whose lives will never be the same. To take this pain, though, and weaponize it in an attempt to justify the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents is SHAMEFUL and DISGUSTING. You are kidding yourself if you think the Israeli government’s chief concern is the safe return of hostages. If this was the case, there would have been a targeted and carefully coordinated response, instead there has been only thoughtless brutality, which has resulted in the deaths of those same hostages. The Israeli government does not care about life – not Israeli life, and definitely not Palestinian life.”

Then she informed me that October 7 “did not occur in a vacuum. It is the result of decades of violent occupation, apartheid, and systemic oppression. The blame lies at the feet of the Israeli government.” My former student wrote a good deal more, which I don’t have space to include here.

Against my wife’s entreaties to ignore the message, I devoted an afternoon to crafting a response. After all, I did my best to answer every comment to my December 12 post, which moved people on the right to label me an “obsequious,” “pathetic,” “puppet of Hamas,” and someone on the left to call me a liar.

I told my student that I am deeply saddened by the civilian deaths in Gaza, and I am not a champion of the Israeli government, but I found her critique two-dimensional. “From your message I did not see a deep understanding of the history of the region and what role Palestinians, in particular, and Arab states, in general, have played in bringing us to October 7 and beyond,” I wrote. “You have accused, judged and sentenced me and my new country, placing the blame all on our side. As well-meaning as you may be, you lost me there.”

My former student ended up speaking for the dead of Gaza. “I hope their screams haunt you. I hope their unimaginable pain weighs heavy on your heart and soul.”

I closed my email with an invitation to continue a dialogue, while requesting that she not write back if her only goal was to hurl more invectives. I’m still waiting for her reply.

More than 40 volunteers worked on “Free Plastilin.” They included people born in Israel, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Canada, Italy, and the USA. I wonder what kind of video they and my former student might make together.

About the Author
Filmmaker, playwright, actor, and children's book author Marc Kornblatt is the producer/director of the award-winning documentaries DOSTOEVSKY BEHIND BARS, STILL 60, WHAT I DID IN FIFTH GRADE, and LIFE ON THE LEDGE, among others, and more than 20 web series, including MINUTE MAN, ROCK REGGA, THE NARROW BRIDGE PROJECT, and BLUE & RED, RESPECTFUL ENCOUNTERS OF THE POLITICAL KIND. He and his wife made Aliyah in 2019 and now live in Tel Aviv.
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