Epic blockbuster World War Z provides a thrilling take on the classic zombie apocalypse scenario on a global scale. And a thinly-veiled jab at Israel’s handling of the Palestinian situation.
The film chronicles the incredible journey of former United Nations operative Gerry Lane in world consumed by a zombie outbreak. A peaceful morning commute with his family in Philadelphia quickly turns nasty when a rapidly-spreading group of frenzied people begins attacking bystanders, their ranks swelling with each new victim. After securing a safe evacuation for himself and his family because of his personal connection with the Deputy Secretary of the United Nations, Lane is tasked by the remnants of the United States Navy to seek out the root cause of the zombie scourge. He must then travel the world looking for answers, before the whole world succumbs to the plague.
Where this rip-roaring fictional tale takes a page out of current events is in its portayal of Israel. After intercepting global transmissions early on in the outbreak, Israeli officials decide to build a massive wall enclosing their country off from the rest of the world. They find their solution to the crisis by literally walling-out the zombies, an obvious (and quite possibly offensive) comparison to Palestinians. The Israeli Defense Forces’ smug hubris proves to be their undoing, however, when the zombies pile against the wall in sufficient numbers to scale each other to reach the top, spilling over into a panicked and doomed Jerusalem.
This brutal depiction of the perceived failure of the Israeli government and military’s plan to keep external aggressions at bay is short-sighted. What any critic must first understand about the tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Territories is the nature of the the relationship between the two. Picture this: Two remarkably similar people sitting on the floor, back to back, hating each other in an openly passive-aggressive manner, elbowing each other in the kidney every so often. These elbowings escalate to shanking with a sharp object, and one of the two, sick of getting shanked, puts up a wall. Now, the other keeps insisting on attempting to shank the former, and the former absent-mindedly beats his neighbor over the head with a club in retaliation. As the skirmishes continue, the proportions are completely lost on either sides, to a point where the true reasons for the fighting are all but forgotten.
And throughout this whole conflict, not once did the two neighbors deign to turn around and truly face each other, save for one close call in the mid-to-late 90’s. The big issue: neither side can really be trusted to keep their hands to themselves. Israel is faced with a neighbor who has no intention of being nice about sharing borders, and who will spare no effort to be rid of the former. The Palestinian Territories are faced with a self-inflicted prejudice where the violent and brainwashed masses in Gaza (being the ones who draw the most media attention to themselves) are taken to be representative of the whole Palestinian population, creating an atmosphere of rejection and resentment in the Israeli population. The existence of a wall is a necessity to keep out physical aggression on the larger Israeli population, be it Christian, Muslim, or Jewish; and it has so far been the only solution to prevent the mass murder or innocent civilians.
It is excessively easy to criticize Israel’s foreign policy towards the Palestinian Territories from the perspective of someone whose life is not in any way threatened by the implications a more laxist policy. It is more difficult, but infinitely more useful, to present a viable and functional alternative policy and defend that argument. Rather than sumgly parodize Israel’s Palestinian conundrum, World War Z would have done well to present a more accurate parallel.
Alon Starkman grew up in Israel and has extensive intelligence experience in the region. Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx