A Contemporary Screenplay: Scenes From Israel
Pitch-black screen fades to dark, grainy image of a one-story building surrounded by a 12-foot high fence topped with razor-sharp concertina wire. From time to time, light flashes from the surfaces of the razor barbs, leaving an eerie afterglow that fades back into the grainy darkness.
Front and center, a silhouette rises from the bottom of the screen. It appears to be a man, shrouded in black, crouching in the shadows. In the background, against the still of the night, footsteps emanating from the left and the right grow steadily louder. The crouched figure moves through the shadows to the right as a man emerges from the gloom near the fence. The man appears to be an armed soldier, his rifle slung at the ready under his right arm.
The soldier pauses to listen for the approaching footsteps from the other direction. As he leans forward, straining to see through the gloom, the figure hidden in the shadows behind him glides forward, reaches around the soldier’s head with his left arm, and smoothly slits his throat with a black-bladed knife held in his right hand.
At the same moment sound and motion from the left of the screen draw attention to a dimly perceived image of another soldier crumpled to the ground with a crouched figure fading back into the shadows out of view.
The silence is suddenly interrupted by a loud metallic snap from right center.
Zoom in to a crouched figure cutting links in the wire fence. Within a few seconds, he is joined by a second figure. In moments they dart through an opening just large enough to allow the passage of a crouched man.
Pan to the building door, offset to the right side. One of the intruders is standing before the spy hole. He is now wearing the outer jacket and hat of one of the downed soldiers. He raps sharply on the door. The sound is loud and startling in the still night. Somewhere in the distance a dog barks, and then another, and another, until a cacophony of barking rises in the background. A distant human shout rings out, and the barking ceases as rapidly as it had started.
The door opens a crack. There is no light behind the door. The disguised figure before the door jerks it open suddenly, pulling out the man inside by his grip on the door handle. Before he can utter a cry, the second intruder slits his throat.
The two intruders are joined by three others who distribute themselves between the door and the fence opening. On the outside of the fence, several more figures can be seen dimly forming a line into the shadows beyond. Two men enter the building, and shortly begin to hand out weapons and boxes which are passed from man to man, through the fence into the shadows beyond.
Close-up, left shoulder of one of the men directing the operation. Pan down to his left hand: He is missing the little finger.
Flash to left profile of man in charge. Zoom in to his left cheek to show an angry vertical scar.
Zoom to wide shot as intruders slip back through fence and fade into the darkness.
Pan across the empty scene, with the sprawled bodies of three soldiers. In the distance a lone dog howls plaintively.
Fade to black.
In quick succession flash from scene to scene, pausing only a few seconds at each:
* The back of a man in a room before a table. He appears to be making a bomb. Another figure in the room lays his left hand on the man’s shoulder. The hand is missing the little finger.
* Seen from their backs, men are passing through a small room. A man whose face remains concealed by the men passing before him passes out belts of ammunition. Another man stands in the shadows behind him. Briefly we see his left cheek with an angry vertical scar.
* Men are undergoing some kind of military training in a nondescript desert setting – it could be anywhere. Briefly, through a cloud of dust, we see two men in discussion. One has no little finger on his left hand, the other a vertical scar on his left cheek.
* Over the left shoulder of a man at a desk, we see him sign several invoices. His cheek holds a vertical scar.
* Several men are loading into a pickup, obviously preparing for some kind of military action. Their leader is missing the little finger on his left hand.
In quick succession flash from scene to scene, pausing only a few seconds at each:
* Long shot of a bridge. A yellow bus crosses. It is clearly marked “school.” The bridge blows up as the bus reaches the middle. We see a watching man in silhouette. He has a vertical scar on his left cheek.
* People are entering some kind of church. We are too close to see what kind. Two men dressed just like the churchgoers suddenly reveal automatic weapons and open fire. One of the men is missing the little finger on his left hand.
* Twenty or so people are sitting at a formal dinner table. Something crashes through a window and explodes. Briefly in the flash we see a cheek with a vertical scar.
* In a darkened house, we dimly see figures flitting from room to room. In each room there is a brief flash, but no sound. We flash to one room to see a sleeping woman shot with a silenced pistol. The shooter is missing a little finger.
Wide shot of a well-appointed office. A seal on the wall indicates “Homeland Security.”
A man at an expensive desk is being briefed by a person with his back to us.
Following appropriate dialogue and interaction revealing the identity of the militants, including unassailable evidence concerning the who and what of these incidents, the Homeland leadership authorizes action against the militants, but directs that if at all possible, the man with the scar should be taken alive.
It turns out that these people are part of a larger group from across the border, a group that views them heroically, and willingly hides them within their own ranks and neighborhoods. In attempting to root out the militants, Homeland Security forces cross the border. In the resultant fighting, many so-called civilians are also wounded and killed, although the Homeland Security forces go out of their way to limit such losses.
The world that silently watched the carnage inside the Homeland, reacts with moral outrage against Homeland incursions outside its borders.
Finally, Homeland Security forces kill the man with the missing finger, and surround the man with the scar in a heavily fortified building just over the border. Although it would be easy to take out the entire area from the air, the Homeland Security director decides to wait out the situation hoping that the ringleader can be captured and dealt with according to conventional law.
Homeland Security forces destroy a phalanx of militants in another compound. As always, they do whatever they can to limit civilian casualties. Nevertheless, Scarface cries massacre, and the world believes him. When the compound eventually is inspected by third parties, they discover the lie, but the outrage continues unabated.
Under pressure from his closest allies, the Homeland Security Director eventually lets the man with the scar go, after he promises to do whatever possible to reign in the active militants, even though he has unassailable proof of the man’s complicity in everything that has happened.
Meanwhile, Homeland’s closest ally is waging its own “War Against Terror,” in a no-holds-barred campaign across the world, under the banner of: “If you’re not with us, you’re with them!” The enemies of this ally are rallying to the cause of Scarface, supplying him and his minions with money and weapons. People in the Homeland are increasingly afraid to go outside, assemble in public places, and send their children to school, as attack after attack directed by Scarface nearly brings them to their knees.
When the Homeland Security Director complains to his allies that they are preventing him from doing exactly what they are doing for themselves, he is ignored. They explain to him that he is refusing to see the larger picture, and that he must work within the framework set by his allies.
And: Oh by the way, they really feel bad about the rising toll of Homeland civilian casualties, but they are a small price to pay for the security of the allies.
Repeat Scene I with one change: The man with the missing little finger is replaced with a ten-fingered man. He has a v-notch missing from his right ear.
CAST OF CHARACTERS (just in case you missed the point!)
Missing Finger – Atef Abayat, senior Tanzim operative.
Scarface – Yasser Arafat.
Homeland Security Director – Ariel Sharon.
Closest Ally – United States.
Allies – Great Britain, France, Germany, etc.
Enemies of Closest Ally – Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, etc.
Extras – Tanzim, the armed wing of the PLO; Force 17, the Tanzim Presidential Guard; Israeli Army; Israeli citizens; you and me.
Robert G. Williscroft is DefenseWatch Navy Editor