Religious Left Editor: “Avatar” Illustrates Israeli Oppression – by Mark D. Tooley


James Wall edited the Christian Century magazine for 27 years and remains as contributing editor.  His brand of left-leaning politics and theology helped drive the once influential magazine, for which Reinhold Neibuhr once wrote, into near oblivion, from which it has barely recovered.

But Wall is unrepentant, and now he has blogged that the new science fiction movie Avatar is a metaphor for ostensible Israeli oppression of Palestinians, as well as American imperialism overall.   Understandably, “Friends of Sabeel – North America,” which organizes anti-Israel opinion among church groups, is spotlighting Wall’s analysis.

Wall was delighted that the Obama family viewed “Avatar” on New Year’s Eve and excitedly hopes the film can be screened in the White House as a “teachable moment.”   A frequent visitor to the Middle East, Wall is himself a die-hard critic of Israel and embodies the Religious Left’s 40 year old hostility to Israel.  He often editorialized against Christian support for Israel while Christian Century editor but now must rely on his blog and further broadcasts by kindred spirits like Sabeel.

Avatar, of course is a futuristic fantasy in which wicked, American-like mercenaries invade a bucolic and distant moon of serene aliens so as to despoil them of their coveted natural resources.  It is a science fiction version of “Dancing with Wolves,” in which natives are primitive but noble, while the technologically more advanced American invaders are vulgar, violent and materialistic.  The Kevin Costner-like character is a former Marine dispatched initially by the evil American corporation duplicitously to befriend and inveigle the native aliens.  Instead, he falls in love with the aliens and leads them, with their alien bows and arrows, allied with an aroused animal kingdom, and guided by a pagan Mother Deity, into successful resistance against the attacking Americans.

Naturally, an old-time Religious Left icon like James Wall would joyfully discern political metaphors in a film whose audience cheers for resisting natives against invading Americans.  The native aliens could be Vietnamese, or Iraqis, or virtually any favored Third World victim group of American imperialism.  But Wall preferred to imagine that “Avatar” illustrates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“What viewers of Avatar discover is that the film immediately suggests the oppression of Native Americans by the U.S. government, because the Na’vi [the alien natives] and the land on which they live share a spiritual bond,” Wall opined.  “The film also evokes the Vietnam War because the setting of the military struggle is a lush jungle.  Gaza, Afghanistan and its neighbor Pakistan, are mountainous; there are no jungles. The dominant indigenous religion of Gaza and Af-Pak is Muslim, but like the Na’vi, the inhabitants live on land the outside invaders wish to control.”

Most Avatar viewers will be young people, Wall enthused, so it is an “incredible Teaching Moment” to shape impressionable minds.  Indeed, it presents a “ built-in audience in which the way has been prepared to consider the foolishness of following the path to destruction which the military-industrial complex insists is necessary for human survival.”  Wall was so excited that he suggested that any preacher wanting to affect young parishioners should stop reading Wall’s Christian Century and instead “race” to see Avatar. After all, “God works in mysterious ways.  Why not through Avatar?”

Wall regretted that Obama is “already on the steady downward slope left to him by the Bush war-mongers” and “has to talk tough on terror to keep the Dick Cheney crowd at bay.”   He hoped that a “progressive” would get Wall’s own musings to Obama to alert him to Avatar’s rich potential.   After all, the “well-trained” Mainstream Media is so “fearful of Cheney and his neo-con gang to see anything in Avatar except an exciting sci-fi love story in the jungle which ends in a video game-like battle in the jungle.”

Tragically, the “political parallels to Gaza, Afghanistan and Pakistan were ignored,” Wall regretted of most film reviewers, who even spiked the revealing comment by one American commander who nastily refers to the alien natives as “terrorists” and urges his invading force to fight “terror” with “terror.”  Wall is praying that Avatar creator James Cameron’s “vision” will help further persuade a “public that knows these invasions are not really in our national best interests.”  And he assumed that “anyone with the slightest willingness to view our three current wars (Af-Pak directly, Gaza through our Israeli surrogates) will not miss Cameron’s vision.” Wall even hoped that Cameron, if he gets an Academy Award, might “startle America with an anti-colonial jeremiad.”

Meanwhile, as Avatar unfolds as a “Teaching Moment,” there are other marvelous events breaking forth, Wall rejoiced.  Over 1300 anti-Israel activists from around the world descended on Cairo, Egypt, over New Year’s to march into Gaza in protest against Israel’s “destruction” after its “23-day military invasion of Gaza one year ago.”  Of course Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as a “US-Israeli tool, doing their bidding instead of supporting the Palestinians,” refused to let the marchers into Gaza.   Eventually a small delegation was permitted to visit Gaza, while the hundreds of others will, Wall approvingly surmised, return home and angrily accelerate their anti-Israel pressure campaign.

“The times, they are a’changing, and we have to believe Barack Obama knows this,” Wall smilingly concluded.  “Obama has seen the movie [Avatar]. He also knows the right thing to do in Gaza, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is time to rally the public to make this consummate politician do what he knows, deep down, is the right thing to do.”

Probably the early writers and editors of Wall’s Christian Century, like Reinhold Neibuhr, would not have attached their loftiest political hopes to the perceived political metaphors of a science fiction thriller about translucent blue aliens.  Maybe Wall’s fawning review of Avatar and dreams of a nation-changing White House film premier is itself a metaphor for the Religious Left’s intellectual and spiritual implosion.

  • Richard G.

    I don't know about Israeli oppression. I think that's kind of a stretch. Maybe there's some room for that in the sequel. Speaking of which! I found a cool site that has a bunch of info on Avatar 2's release!

  • Joe Smith

    It is impossible for Israel to oppress the Palestinian people . There are no Paletinian people are more accurately known as the Fakestinians. Israelis are much too kind and soft in dealing with these evil baby /child murdering trespassers.

  • AndrewJ

    I think Josh Schrei's and my suggestions at the huffingtonpost were better fit for Avatar than Jame Wall's.

  • dogwithoutslippers

    It is entertainment and if Wall thinks people are going to study it like a lesson he is just one big idiot!

  • seels4truth

    Maybe Wall can try to explain this: since 2005 over 20,000 Sudanese refugees have been allowed to seek refuge in Israel. They are not Jewish and they are not white. They are also not sworn to kill Jews. Israel does NOT want Gaza. In fact, neither does Egypt. What Israel wants is peace. It NEEDS to control Gaza because the Gazan Arabs refuse to accept Israel's existence. They have been brainwashed by the UN and the other Arab countries that remaining in squalor is for the greater good as a public relations tool. They allow for Hamas to rule and they educate their children to hate Jews. Arafag (an Egyptian) was offered pretty much all that he asked for but rejected it. Leftists have excused away arafag's rejection as righteous because the plan offered was not really that good. When Gaza was handed over to the Arabs there was an excellent opportunity to prove their desire for peace. Nope! Not happening. The Arabs are refusing to negotiate until Israel cedes all of Judea and Samaria they still control. Houses are a threat to peace while Arabs build illegal house after illegal house. Wall is a fool. Yes, the movie's politics were definitely anti-American imperialism but to tsretch it into Gaza is ludicrous. Gaza has zero to offer Israel unless the Gazans choose to live in peace alongside Israel. Then, and only then, would Israel and Gazans be able to work together.

  • RightBlogger

    We can hope & pray that the millions of kids that are descending on and viewing Avatar will appreciate the sci-fi of it all and NOT try to extrapolate political meanings beyond the story narrative itself. I just knew there was a reason that I wan't going to waste one thin dime of this cinematic piece of propoganda!

  • want my money back

    Avatar has beautiful scenery, and is a testament to what special effects are possible in 2009. However it also a testament to left wing politics in Hollywood. They can't find bad guys from the ranks of politically correct groups such as Moslems, or anti-American countries like Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, etc. In fact, the only bad guys they can find are – you guessed it – us!

  • seek

    Art always will lend itself to differing interpretations — that's been a fact for thousands of years. But seeing “Avatar” as an allegory of Israeli “oppression” of Palestinians is a stretch and a half, even for the Religious Left. If nothing else, sit back and enjoy the astonishing spectacle. Film, even poltiical film, is art, not a PAC or a political party.

    James Cameron, remember, is the same fellow who made “True Lies” (1994), the greatest James Bond movie never to feature James Bond. Get a grip, ideologues.

  • USMCSniper

    Avatar is nothing more than the raving rantings of a Liberal/Communist James Cameron, who he himself has stated how “greed and Capitalism tends to destroy the environment.”

    To all those Liberals out there who state that they do not embrace Communism, then you shouldn't be embracing the lies of Communism, and the exagerations that this man, among some others is trying to indoctrinate into our young and old alike.

    Prompted by NBC's Meredith Vieira, on Monday's Today show, Avatar director James Cameron revealed the leftist undertones in his new blockbuster as he told the Today co-anchor the plot centers on how capitalist greed and imperialism “tends to destroy the environment…” and how the human characters in the sci-fi flick “are doing the same thing on another pristine planet that we've done on earth.”

    Big Hollywood's John Nolte reports, in his review of the film, “Avatar is a thinly disguised, heavy-handed and simplistic sci-fi fantasy/allegory critical of America from our founding straight through to the Iraq War,” in which the human characters want to “strip mine” the alien planet for its resources.

  • USMCpolelicker

    is he wrong? history and the state of the world around us shows that he is not. As many of “you people” like to point out: capitalism won = socialism lost. Yet the world around us is a giant mess: unemployment, malnutrition, poor levels of education and health, pollution, etc..

    Unregulated markets have made the american people: fat, lazy, arrogant, selfish, ignorant and in debt.



    Avatar is a terrible movie, don't waste your $.

  • USMCSniper

    You say : “Unregulated markets have made the american people: fat, lazy, arrogant, selfish, ignorant and in debt.” Time for some remedial education for you “knobgobbler” or “USMC polelicker” or whatever deviant name you choose to describe your lifestyle.

    Progressive education at all levels is what has made many of the American people intellectually lazy and incapable of objective linear thinking, arrogant with an inflated opinion of themselves at a personal level, ignorant of history and science, and allowed the government to pile up a massive 14 trillion dollar debt based on entitilements to those who are in most cases unwilling to provide for themselves.

    As for any attacks on Capitalism – two books you should read (1) The Black Book of Communism which documents the 150 million corpses as a legacy to socialism- and (2) Philosophy: Who Needs It? which should serve as intellectual therapy to someone like you who is to stupid atthis moment to event suspect he is stupid!

  • armaros

    If anybody sees Arabs under the peace/love-nature tuned sexy and sexual super evolved beings able to telepathically call upon animals and each other, they should go to Gaza and spend the EID slaughter with Hamas

    And never come back….

  • USMCfudgepackr

    wow, you just proved my point… anyone who sees the world in such black and white terms has to be a moron.

    yes Staling, Mao and all those other dictators killed a lot of people but so did Pinochet, Stroessner, Banzer, Videla, Suharto, Francisco Franco, Oliveira, Ozal and the hundreds of other right wing dictators who assumed power with help of the CIA and the backing U.S.-based corporations. I forget you right wingos like to deny the fact that hitler and mussolini were in fact ultra right leaders ( who had socialists sent to extermination camps and forced labor cams, many of which also happened to be jewish) so I didn't include them, but you know the truth so what the hell.
    Tell me, USMCS*sswiper, where no lives taken during the war for independence in the U.S.?, weren't collaborators of the British also killed and imprisoned as traitors? Were the founding fathers saints and angels who never hurt a fly? What about all the civilians who have died under the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan? Should GW Bush and Obama and capitalism also be held accountable for those deaths?

    Just because people who claimed to follow the Marx's critique of capitalism killed people, does not mean he was wrong when it came to the failures of capitalism. Do you really think he was wrong with his dialectical and materialist view of history? You can't tell me with a straight face that history has not been determined by struggles between classes.

    I don't think everything he said was true either, have you even read him by the way? But I do believe one must learn from all points of view, and capitalism is far from being perfect and the only way of doing things (see modern day social democracies like Norway, Sweden, Germany). There has to be something better than what we have now, and I doubt it's letting big business do whatever the f*ck it wants while the rest of us wait for the wealth to trickle down. You know that is b*llsh*t.

    By the way, as a former USMCpipereceiver you pretty much benefit or benefitted from so-called “socialized medicine” (government run and publicly-funded health care) as do all active and retired army/navy/air force. I wonder what it would be like if soldiers had to fend for themselves with their low wages and pay the $300 – $500 a month that some private insurers demand for health care, not to mention that most of them would not even be accepted because of being considered “high risk”. That would be another step towards complete unregulated capitalism.

  • ando

    Yeah !!! 1.6 Billion people are being bullied by a 7 million Jewish people including women, children and men. The 1.6 billion has to undergo soooo much that they come from distant lands to fight the zionists…………..

  • ando

    Yeah !!! 1.6 Billion Muslims people are being bullied by a 7 million Jewish people including women, children and men. The 1.6 billion Muslims has to undergo soooo much that they come from distant lands to fight the zionists…………..

  • Diana

    Wow… what a messed up interpretation. I loved the movie and I loved the message behind it, but to interpret it as such is absurd beyond words demonstrating the idea of living in la-la land and seeing things in black and white..never really thinking. But, fine, if we are going to play with this interpretation, I'd say it's the other way around:

    1) Anyone who truly wanted peace with Israel got peace. Look at Egypt and Jordan. Look at the people Israel accepts, refugees from Darfur is one example. Look at the aid Israel sends. It sacrificed/s so much for peace.
    2) Israel is a tiny, tiny country, surrounded by enemies. The Hamas CHARTER states the mission to destroy Israel… which only means one thing: that is its goal.
    3) Since Hamas is the government, Israel should not be seen or interpreted as the government of Palestinians. Palestinians have their own authority. Of course, anyone who knows history should know also that the majority of Palestinians are Jordanians — and that Jordan is the one who refused to take them back.
    4) There is absolutely nothing Israel wants in Gaza. Israel made the desert bloom on its own land. It does not need any more. It only needs security, being paranoid after 60 years of non-stop attacks upon it… and it is criticized every time it strikes back. Israel only wants peace and its army, believe it or not, is the most humane army in the world.
    5) Look at the size of Israel, and look at all the Arab countries. Arab countries do not aid or accept the Palestinians and yet have the gall to say Israel is careless. Arab countries, with all their land, with all their people, how can they believe Israel is stealing Arab land? Okay, okay. Let's assume that Israel IS on Arab land (although that's prepostrous too). Even so, why can't Jews have a tiny sliver of land? Is Israel really that much of a threat? Is Israel doing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians? No. Palestinian population has grown exponentially. Arab lands have so much more space. Why should Israel, in exchange for Hamas taking off "our mission is to destroy Israel" from their charter, unquestioningly accept millions of Palestinians as Israeli citizens and release 100 Palestinian prisoners for 1 Israeli soldier?

    Anyway, great movie. I recommend it for its messages. Great movie for kids I think, but probably over 12 years of age. However, I am seriously insulted by such retarded and harebrained interpretations.

  • 4 Slice Toaster

    This is brilliant, thank you! :)

  • Bobby Seiber

    Sweet Details I love some of the articles which have been written, and especially the comments posted! I will come back!

  • Krissy Mccleaf

    great post man i’ll be sure to check back. btw i found a sweet place you can watch it online!