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Friday, 6 September, 2002, 03:49 GMT 04:49 UK
Kaufman pessimistic over Israel's future
Gerald Kaufman - an outspoken critic of Ariel Sharon's policies - revokes his public vow never to return to Israel for a new BBC documentary, and finds less reason for optimism than ever before.

Gerald Kaufman MP

Cole Porter, in his rueful song Just One of Those Things, wrote of a love affair that was "too hot not to cool down".

I fell in love with the land of Israel when I first visited it more than 40 years ago. I fell in love with the land itself, with its ancient buildings and modern idealism.

Like any lover, I was at first blind to its faults.

I made close friends there, who remain friends to this day. I got to know many of its leading politicians, with whom I was on cordial and friendly terms.

I have met all but one of its prime ministers, as well as leading cultural figures. For years I was besotted with the place, and automatically supported it when, all too frequently, it had to go to war.

My film The End of an Affair tells of my infatuation with Israel, and how disillusion cooled down that infatuation. Working with the highly professional producer Charlotte Metcalf and a team of Israelis, I visited many of the places in Israel which had meant much to me.

Gerald Kaufman in Israel
Kaufman: Disillusioned with Israel
I conversed with some of the people I have known over the years and met others for the first time. While I have my own distinctive views about Israel, I took care to talk not only to people who share my views but others who differ diametrically with my approach.

So I spoke to the former Labour Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, who made an offer of shared sovereignty of Jerusalem with the Palestinians, and with Ehud Olmert, the right-wing Likud Mayor of Jerusalem, who rules out any concession whatever to the Palestinians on Jerusalem.

Mayor Olmert told me: "We will not agree to any political compromise on the status of the city as a one united city.

"I do not believe that dividing the city of Jerusalem will bring peace."


I also spoke to a fundamentalist Israeli settler in the Palestinian occupied territories who said that she intended to stay and that if the Palestinians did not like Israeli rule they could leave.

And also to Kali, a member of a kibbutz that is also situated in occupied territories, but who said she would be willing to leave her kibbutz if that would help bring peace.

Kali said: "Better peace than a piece of land, it's not an empty proverb, it's something that I believe in very much."

The result is not a conventional documentary, but more an evocation of feelings and emotions.

By coincidence, about which the BBC were unaware when they scheduled the date for its broadcast, The End of an Affair will be shown during the Jewish New Year, a time when observant Jews assess their actions over the previous twelve months.

Hope and tragedy

I hope that my thoughts and the pictures accompanying them will enable others, Jews and non-Jews, to assess their own approach to Israel, its hopes and its tragedies.

Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert
Mayor Olmert opposes dividing Jerusalem
Visually Israel is one of the most striking localities in the world, and Metcalf and her crew have made a wonderful job of depicting places ranging from remote landscapes to ancient ruins - together with the vibrant if sometimes messy society of the 21st Century.

In terms of arguments and differing points of view, the film certainly confirms the wry joke that where there are two Israelis there are at least three opinions.

How did I feel at the end of my visit to make the film, the most recent of dozens of trips I have made to Israel over the years? Am I comfortable with those feelings, or, to quote another sadder-but-wiser popular song, am I influenced by the emotion that "when a lovely flame dies smoke gets in your eyes"?

There is certainly more than enough smoke in Israel today, literally so in terms of explosions perpetrated by Palestinian terrorist suicide bombers and demolitions by Israeli troops.

And am I right or wrong about how I feel? I hope The End of an Affair will give viewers an opportunity to make up their own minds.

See also:

15 Mar 02 | Politics
17 Apr 02 | Politics
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