Thursday, October 30, 2014

More Evidence that Elie Wiesel is a Lying, Racist Schmuck

Elie Wiesel hides ethnic cleansing behind a prayer shawl
This ostensible messenger of peace supports an organization that evicts Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.
By Yossi Sarid | Oct. 17, 2014

Much have I learned from gossip columns, which for reasons of propriety are also called “social columns.” Without them how would we know who’s going with whom and for what gain?

Before turning to the news pages, cast an eye on the yellow stuff. It will help you understand how the system works.

The special ads – not those intended to sell chocolate pudding – also provide important information and develop your awareness. According to the numbers, under 10 percent of readers look at them, but that’s a mistake to be corrected.

So last Friday, this paper of all papers carried an ad in Hebrew blessing the “dozens of new families joining the Jewish community in the City of David.” According to the ad, “We salute the Zionist action of those involved; we all share the challenge of strengthening the Jewish presence in Jerusalem. With you we’ll receive the pilgrims who visit over the holiday.”

This is followed by the signatures of people linked to settler group Elad. Some of the names are unfamiliar, but some are astonishing. After all, this organization is notorious for making trouble in the City of Eternal Peace.

I wasn’t surprised to see singer Yehoram Gaon’s name, for example. He sees a flag in every rag and takes every broomstick for a flagpole.

But what are former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, former police chief Shlomo Aharonishki and former Hadassah University Hospital chief Shlomo Mor-Yosef doing there? What’s a former director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, Ilan Cohen, doing there? Maybe they should explain why they’re willing to sponsor people who evict people and take over their homes?

As they say in Isaiah 5:8, “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no room, and ye be made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.”

And who’s their chairman? You’ll never guess. Not casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, not Jewish organization leader Malcolm Hoenlein. Not even U.S. businessman Irving Moskowitz and his wife Cherna.

It’s somebody identified more than anyone with the memory of the Holocaust — a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom — Elie Wiesel. The Nobel Prize Committee in Oslo wrote: “Wiesel is a messenger to mankind; his message is one of peace, atonement and human dignity.”

This is a man expected to show special sensitivity to the suffering of the other, whether in Romania’s Sighetu Marmației, where he’s from, or Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood. This is the man who portrays himself as a friend of Barack Obama, but who lends a hand to those who insult the president publicly.

Before every meeting in Washington, these people prepare another invasion in Jerusalem, sabotaging others’ laborious efforts. Maybe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew why he offered Wiesel Israel’s presidency at the time, but we didn’t.

He’s the man who declared he was keeping himself out of Israeli politics, anointing himself with pure olive oil. Every time he was asked to respond to some injustice in our midst, reminiscent of some injustice far away, he evaded the question.

He of all people burst into one house after another, houses bought in shady deals, fit for the night to be carried out before the sheets and coffee cups have cooled. He of all people is hiding creeping ethnic cleansing behind a prayer shawl.

Of all the organizations in Israel, he chose Elad, the most controversial, a group with no truth, grace or compassion. It’s all too clear why they chose him as chairman, but not at all clear why he agreed.

Wiesel has garnered enormous respect from the Jewish people and Gentile nations for surviving and becoming a mouthpiece for Holocaust victims. How about sharing some of that respect? Won’t you reconsider, identify with them and sign their cursed blessings?

Defend Free Speech, Stop Corporate and Zionist Censorship at our Universities

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai donates $50,000 to Gaza schools

Pakistani teen who won Nobel Peace Prize for education advocacy donates entire sum of World's Children's Prize to UNRWA schools damaged during summer's Gaza war.
Malala Yousafzai ahead of the 2014 World's Children Prize for the Rights of the Child award ceremony
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai addresses a press conference ahead of the 2014 World's Children Prize for the Rights... / Photo by AFP

By Haaretz
Published 19:44 29.10.14

Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for speaking out for girls' right to education, has announced that she is donating the $50,000 she received for winning the World's Children's Prize to rebuild UN schools damaged during the summer's fighting in Gaza.

She said the money would go the United Nations United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, to help rebuild 65 schools damaged during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas.

"Innocent Palestinian children have suffered terribly and for too long," said Yousafzai, who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy efforts in Pakistan. "We must all work to ensure Palestinian boys and girls, and all children everywhere, receive a quality education in a safe environment. Because without education, there will never be peace. Let us stand together for peace and education because together we are more powerful.

Pierre Krahenbuhl, the commissioner general of UNRWA, said the recognition of someone who has "campaigned so valiantly for the essential right of a child to receive an education" will lift the spirits of the 250,000 Gazans who attend the UNRWA schools and the 9,000 people who teach there.

UNRWA shares with you the profound belief in the importance of education as a means to lift young girls and boys out of isolation, exclusion or oppression," said Krahenbuhl. "Acquiring skills and knowledge to improve prospects for the future is profoundly engrained in the Palestinian consciousness."


Monday, October 27, 2014

Minority Life in Israel

from NYT International edition

My mother, Zakia, was so proud that my sister and I spoke better Hebrew than Arabic. Osman, my father, believed that by achieving the highest levels of education, we would one day be treated as equal in our country, Israel. He sincerely believed that Palestinians capable of articulating their narrative would win the hearts and minds of Israeli Jews.

My parents believed in the promise of a democracy that transcends ethnicity. I still retain that dream, but it is tested every time I go home. I am a citizen of Israel, married to an American Jew, yet I am not welcome in Israel. For I am Palestinian.

During a recent visit, my husband breezed through security at Ben-Gurion airport, but our teenage daughter and I — who both have dual citizenship of Israel and Italy — were strip-searched. I’m inured to the procedure: I have to endure it almost every time I enter and leave the country. But our daughter, age 17, sobbed with chagrin. “This place breeds hate everywhere!” she cried.

On the same trip, I attempted to renew her Israeli passport. “She is not Jewish,” an official told me, “and therefore we are not sure she is entitled to citizenship.”

For Israeli Palestinians — and we make up 20 percent of the population — these are ordinary humiliations. But I wonder what my parents, both now dead, would have made of the graffiti that recently appeared on the walls of our family home in Haifa, a mixed city in the north of Israel.

“Death to Arabs,” it read.

During the recent war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, my cousin was walking on the beach near her home, also in Haifa. She overheard a group of Israeli sunbathers casually discussing how the Israeli Army should deal with the residents of Gaza — “Just kill them all,” she heard one say.

“I’ve never felt so scared in my 32 years,” she told me. “I don’t want them to know I’m Palestinian.”

Israel is increasingly becoming a project of ethno-religious purity and exclusion. Religious Zionist and ultra-Orthodox parties occupy 30 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, and are part of the coalition government. Central to their politics is a program of discriminatory legislation, designed to curtail the civil rights of Palestinian Israeli citizens.

Chief among the more than 50 discriminatory Israeli laws documented by Adalah, the Haifa-based Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, is the Law of Return, which automatically guarantees Israeli citizenship for every Jew regardless of birthplace. Often, they are shepherded into settlements in the West Bank (illegal under international law), where they receive government benefits. Palestinian Israeli citizens, meanwhile, are subject to a ban on family reunification: If they marry a fellow Palestinian from the West Bank or Gaza, they are prohibited from living in Israel under the Citizenship and Entry Into Israel Law.

In September, Israel’s Supreme Court dismissed a petition challenging the Admissions Committees Law, which allows communities to reject housing applicants based on “cultural and social suitability” — a legal pretext to deny residency to non-Jews. In practice, even before the law was passed, it was virtually impossible for a Palestinian to buy or rent a home in any majority-Jewish city.

Further ethnic separation is maintained by the education system. Aside from a few mixed schools, most educational institutions in Israel are divided into Arab and Jewish ones. According to Nurit Peled-Elhanan, a Hebrew University professor of sociology who has produced the most comprehensive survey of Israeli public school curriculums, not one positive reference to Palestinians exists in Israeli high school textbooks. Palestinians are described as either “Arab farmers with no nationality” or fearsome “terrorists,” as Professor Peled-Elhanan documented in her book “Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education.”

Israel’s system of segregation has led to a situation where, according to a recent poll, 42 percent of Jews say they have never met a Palestinian.

Historically, ultra-Orthodox Jews did not serve in the armed forces. Today, they do — and serve in every capacity, including in the most important elite Israeli army units, such as the Sayeret Matkal special forces and Unit 8200, whose responsibilities include gathering intelligence on any Palestinian they deem a “security threat.”

Unlike every former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s equivalent of the F.B.I., Yoram Cohen, who today heads the agency, is a religious Jew. That change is typical of Israeli society. The greater integration of ultra-Orthodox Jews clearly offers benefits to Jewish Israelis, but for Palestinian Israeli citizens, it has meant a new, religiously inspired racism, on top of the old secular discrimination.

National leaders proudly promote hate policies. Israel’s foreign minister and the leader of the secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, has championed a call to boycott the businesses of Palestinian citizens of Israel and, ominously, has even sought to make the “transfer” of Palestinians legal. Secretary of State John Kerry has met with Mr. Lieberman — apparently without challenging him on such reprehensible views.

This is the atmosphere in which Israel’s Palestinians live. And there is no redress available to us elsewhere. Our rights and welfare certainly cannot be represented by the Palestinian Authority, whose jurisdiction is limited to partial control of the population of the West Bank. Its president, Mahmoud Abbas, cannot negotiate for us because we are Israeli citizens. Israel, however, prefers not to think of us as such, and thus resorts to all manner of petty aggressions to prove it, like trying to deny my daughter a new passport.

Israel is quick to point out efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state. Yet what truly undermines Israel’s international standing is not its critics, but Israel’s abysmal treatment of its own citizens who are Palestinian. It is little different than other countries that have systematically discriminated against and segregated a whole class of its people based on race, religion and ethnicity.

While Israel (like the United States) claims to abhor racism and human rights violations elsewhere, the country’s political leadership is actively enacting laws that ensure a pervasive institutionalized system of discrimination. What Israel needs, conversely, is a civil rights movement.

Rula Jebreal is a journalist, foreign policy analyst and aut

Saturday, October 25, 2014

More tales of equal rights and justice in the Jews-only democracy of Israel

How Israel forces Bedouins to live in a graveyard

Stephanie Westbrook The Electronic Intifada 24 October 2014

Women gather in the cemetery of al-Araqib as Israeli police raid the village in June. (Keren Manor / ActiveStills)
There is no exit sign off Route 40 for the unpaved road leading to the village of al-Araqib.

Located in the Naqab (Negev) region of present-day Israel, al-Araqib is older than the state itself: its cemetery dates back to 1914. Yet that is not considered significant by the authorities.

Home to a Palestinian Bedouin community, al-Araqib is deemed an “unrecognized village” by Israel.

That gives the authorities an excuse to deprive it and many other Bedouin villages of essential services such as electricity and water.

Acute deprivation

The deprivation is especially acute in al-Araqib. Because their homes have been demolished more than seventy times since 2010, the local Bedouins are forced to live within the confines of the cemetery. Rubble from their old houses has been removed by the authorities but remnants of kitchen and bathroom tiles still litter the ground.

Today, the Bedouins have to rely on a well dug in 1913 for water. “Before, we had electricity and water piped to the houses, but the government destroyed the infrastructure,” said resident Sheikh Sayah al-Turi. “We just want tap water like everyone else.”

By contrast, water is abundant across the road in the Jewish-only settlement of Givot Bar. Lawns are green in this settlement — even though it is located in the desert.

Givot Bar was established ten years ago by the Or Movement.

Along with its partner organization, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the Zionist group is building a network of towns exclusively for Jews. The Or Movement has set the ambitious goal of bringing 600,000 Jews to the Naqab and Galilee regions of present-day Israel by 2020.

Decades of dispossession

To achieve this goal, the two organizations are furthering the decades-old project of dispossessing Palestinians.

The JNF portrays itself as an environmental group dedicated to afforestation. In reality, it is trying to purge Palestine of the trees and crops best suited to its arid landscapes, at the same time ridding the land of its indigenous communities and their agriculture-based economy.

To make way for a eucalyptus plantation it is developing, around 4,500 citrus, fig and olive trees have been uprooted in al-Araqib.

Water for the recently planted eucalyptus trees is taken to the area in tanker trucks. Yet the Israeli authorities have forbidden Bedouins from trucking water in to al-Araqib. Tankers and trucks for carrying water have been confiscated during the demolitions of the village.

“The government says it is illegal to bring water here, but at the same time, they won’t connect us,” al-Turi said.

Discriminatory pricing

Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, implements the official policy of cutting off the water supply to Bedouin communities.

Mekorot recently came under fire from a committee headed by Ram Belinkov, a former Israeli interior minister. Belinkov’s committee found that Mekorot was inflating its costs.

The Israeli business press has reported that while Mekorot has repeatedly called for rate hikes, the company was actually raking in “excessively high profits.”

Mekorot was also among the state-owned companies included in a $4 billion privatization plan approved by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government earlier this month.

A price list issued by the Israeli Water Authority in 2012 showed that “individual users” who bought water directly from Mekorot rather than through a local administration were subjected to a 67 percent rate hike. Most of these “individual users” lived in Palestinian villages that Israel has refused to recognize.

“Driving us from our land”

“There is a troika of Israeli entities working to drive us from our land: the state, Mekorot and the Jewish National Fund,” said al-Turi.

Mekorot’s involvement in the ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine has not prevented it from striking international deals. It has, for example, signed a cooperation agreement with Acea, Italy’s largest water company, in which the City of Rome has a 51 percent stake.

This writer recently visited al-Araqib — as well as Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank — with an Italian delegation of activists organizing against water privatization. The intention of the trip, sponsored by the Beyond Walls project, was to gain first-hand knowledge of Mekorot’s activities in order to assist the campaign against its agreement with Acea.

The villagers of al-Araqib deeply impressed us with their defiance of Israeli apartheid.

They have refused to sell one centimeter of land to the Israeli authorities. They have also rebuilt their village after each demolition.

And some of the olive trees that were cut rather than completely uprooted are sprouting new growth.

“This is very symbolic for us,” said Aziz al-Turi, the son of Sheikh Sayah al-Turi.

Even though it is a quasi-governmental Israeli agency, the Jewish National Fund is registered as a charity in many countries. Donations to it are therefore tax-deductible.

Aziz al-Turi, a father of five, underscored the hypocrisy of that status when he told The Electronic Intifada that “supporting the JNF is killing me and my family.”

Israel plans to present itself as an innovative and environmentally progressive country by celebrating its “water conservation” projects at the Expo 2015 in Milan.

The criminal behavior of Israel and its allies in al-Araqib prove that it is anything but progressive.

Stephanie Westbrook is a US citizen based in Rome, Italy. Her articles have been published by Common Dreams, Counterpunch, The Electronic Intifada, In These Times and Z Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @stephinrome.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Dispatch From Guerrero The Real Criminals

OCTOBER 23, 2014

Shops are closed, with metal shutters pulled tight over the storefronts. Government employees have be18. en given the day off and warned to stay inside. Schools are out for the day, to the delight of the children. The new car agency has even removed the models from the show floor.

Acapulco, the Pearl of the Pacific, looks like it’s in hurricane mode. But there was no hurricane Friday. The government ordered the city lockdown to scare people off the march. Despite the campaign to create fear among the local population, close to ten thousand people marched to demand the safe return of 43 education students, forcibly disappeared by local police on Sept. 26 in the nearby city of Iguala .

Acapulco is the most violent city in the nation, and murder and extortion are everyday events. One resident who defied official warnings and joined the march told me, “You’ve seen those movies about the gangster days and Al Capone, with shoot-outs in the street and pay-offs to the cops? That’s us. I used to think that only happened in movies.”

But in a city where violence has become commonplace, for the city government the presence of citizens demonstrating for justice was the main threat to be reckoned with.

“Due to the protest, municipal authorities decided to suspend work and close offices, to avoid exposing personnel,” read the local Novedades Acapulconewspaper Friday. Municipal spokesperson Ricardo Castillo made the rounds of radio and television stations warning residents to remain inside their homes because of the possibility of violence.

“This is a peaceful march. Walk in your contingent, everyone behind the front banner. Men line up on the outside, women inside.” March organizers gave specific instructions to the thousands of teachers, students, local residents and regional grassroots organizations, including indigenous community police. The protesters followed them to the letter and despite high emotions at the assassinations and disappearance of the students, the march proceeded without incident. Even the graffiti was reserved for OXXO stores and politicians’ propaganda.

Two demands dominated the march: safe return of the missing students, and the resignation of the state governor, Angel Aguirre. Aguirre is blamed for the impunity that characterizes the state, a “cemetery of organized crime”, where the surrounding hills hide hundreds of bodies and body parts in mass graves. Members of the criminal gang, Guerreros Unidos, implicated in the disappearances originally led investigators to the supposed grave of the students, but the Attorney General announced this week that the semi-burned bodies are not those of the students. The fact that everyone has forgotten to even ask whose bodies were in the graves gives an idea of how “normal” mass graves and unidentified bodies have become in this part of the country.

The false warnings of violent protest are just the latest in years, if not decades, of government efforts to criminalize the students of the rural teaching college, Ayotzinapa. Casting a permanent image of dangerous youth threatening law-abiding citizens is part of a strategy to isolate the students.

Now they are the victims of police who opened fire leaving three students dead and abducting and disappearing 43 with the participation of Guerreros Unidos, an organized crime gang, But still, the press and government officials continue to paint the young people as the problem. Within local society, residents have grown so used to media and politicians’ harangues against the students for commandeering buses and blocking roads, that many will tell you privately that they believe the dead and missing got what they deserved.

But thousands more don’t agree. The movement to support the students and hold all levels of government accountable for the crime is growing. As the federal government insists that organized crime is behind the disappearance with just a few corrupt politicians, at the march not one of the chants or slogans or demands was directed at organized crime. All laid responsibility at the feet of the government, primarily the state government.

First, because citizens can’t make demands of organized crime. Criminals are criminals. It is the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens, which in Guerrero is clearly not happening. Second, because the protesters view the drug cartels and the state as partners.

“Sicarios, policia–la misma porquería” read one sign. (Hit men, police–the same trash”). The mayor of Iguala implicated in the attack on the students of Ayotzinapa has vanished after being allowed to take a leave of absence. He allegedly has close ties through his wife and friends to the local crime gang. He is accused of knocking off people who cross him, notably grassroots leader Arturo Hernandez Cardona two years ago who he is said to have murdered in person.

This also is not the first time that the governments’ hostility toward the Ayotzinapa college has led to violence. In 2011 police assassinated two students at a roadblock in a crime for which no one was held accountable.

The media and political push to blame the victims is particularly surreal when compared to the attitude of the state towards the real criminals. The state Congress decided yesterday–three weeks after the crime–to withdraw immunity for the mayor, José Luis Abarca. It’s not even clear if the federal government has issued an arrest order for him despite his obvious involvement in the crime from the outset.

Now Abarca is long gone, on the lam with a 21-day lead on police who apparently have little interest in capturing him. One can’t help but doubt that justice will prevail.

Laura Carlsen is director of the Americas Program.

Intent on Defying an All-Seeing Eye


‘Citizenfour,’ a Documentary About Edward J. Snowden NYT Critics' Pick
By A. O. SCOTT OCT. 23, 2014

Edward J. Snowden in the documentary “Citizenfour.” Credit Radius-TWC

There are two ways to look at “Citizenfour,” Laura Poitras’s documentary about Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose revelations of widespread surveillance launched a hundred Op-Ed columns a year ago. The first and most obvious is as a piece of advocacy journalism, a goad to further argument about how security and transparency should be balanced in a democracy, about how governments abuse technology, about how official secrets are kept and exposed. The second is as a movie, an elegant and intelligent contribution to the flourishing genre of dystopian allegory

CitizenfourOCT. 24, 2014
Edward J. Snowden with the journalist Glenn Greenwald in the documentary The Documentary ‘Citizenfour’ Raises Political QuestionsOCT. 17, 2014
Those who regard Mr. Snowden as an unambiguous hero, risking his freedom and comfort to expose abuses of power, will find much to agree with in Ms. Poitras’s presentation of his actions. This film is an authorized portrait, made at its subject’s invitation. In 2013, Mr. Snowden, using encrypted email under the alias “citizen four,” contacted Ms. Poitras and the journalist Glenn Greenwald, inviting them to meet him in Hong Kong, where he would share what he had learned about the N.S.A.’s capacity to intercept data from the phone calls, emails and web wanderings of American citizens. When asked why he had chosen her, Mr. Snowden, his identity still electronically shrouded, replied that she had selected herself, based on her previous work as a journalist and filmmaker, including a short documentary about William Binney, an N.S.A. whistle-blower who also appears in “Citizenfour.”

Communication between Edward J. Snowden and the director Laura Poitras in the documentary "Citizenfour." Credit Radius-TWC
And “Citizenfour,” much of which consists of conversations between Mr. Snowden and Mr. Greenwald, emphasizes his bravery and his idealism, and the malignancy of the forces ranged against him. This is obviously a partial, partisan view, and several journalists on the national security and technology beats — among them Fred Kaplan at Slate and Michael Cohen (formerly of The Guardian) at The Daily Beast — have pointed out omissions and simplifications. Those criticisms, and George Packer’s long, respectful and skeptical profile of Ms. Poitras in a recent issue of The New Yorker, express the desire for a middle ground, a balance between the public right to know and the government’s need to collect intelligence in the fight against global terrorism.

Fair enough, I guess. Such balance may be a journalistic shibboleth; it is not necessarily a cinematic virtue. “The Fifth Estate,” last year’s nondocumentary attempt to tell the story of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, bogged down in the pursuit of sensible moderation, losing the chance to write history in lightning.

“Citizenfour,” happily, suffers no such fate. Cinema, even in the service of journalism, is always more than reporting, and focusing on what Ms. Poitras’s film is about risks ignoring what it is. It’s a tense and frightening thriller that blends the brisk globe-trotting of the “Bourne” movies with the spooky, atmospheric effects of a Japanese horror film. And it is also a primal political fable for the digital age, a real-time tableau of the confrontation between the individual and the state.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
Mr. Snowden’s face is by now well known — it has been printed on demonstrators’ masks and stylized posters — but when he first encounters Ms. Poitras and her camera, he is anonymous and invisible, a nervous young man in a Hong Kong hotel room. He is shy, pale and serious, explaining his actions and motives in a mixture of technical jargon and lofty moral rhetoric. While he seems almost naïve about the machinery of celebrity that is about to catch him in its gears, he is adamant in his desire to take public responsibility for his actions, partly to protect others who might be blamed. At the same time, he defers to Mr. Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, a reporter for The Guardian, about when, how and how much of the information he is passing on will be shared with their readers.

Maybe some of this is ordinary-guy shtick, but it hardly matters. What makes Mr. Snowden fascinating — a great movie character, whatever you think of his cause — is the combination of diffidence, resolve and unpretentious intelligence that makes him so familiar. Slightly hipsterish, vaguely nerdy, with a trace of the coastal South in his voice (he was born in North Carolina and grew up mostly in Maryland), he is someone you might have seen at Starbucks or college or Bonnaroo. One of us, you might say.

But if he is us, then who is them? The officials from the Obama and George W. Bush administrations who have defended the N.S.A. in court, before Congress and on television, promising that the rule of law and the rights of citizens are being respected, even as the bad guys are being chased down and spied upon? Those presidents themselves, who preach liberty even as they expand the prerogatives of the executive branch? The telecommunications executives who collude in the collection of data?

All of the above, but maybe also not quite any of them. Plenty of movies have tried to imagine the contours of state power, but “Citizenfour” stands alone in evoking the modern state as an unseen, ubiquitous presence, an abstraction with enormous coercive resources at its disposal. To some extent, Ms. Poitras and Mr. Greenwald are engaged in a theoretical inquiry, a kind of speculative mapping, of the shape and reach of this mysterious entity. That is not to say that the United States government’s data collection program is not real, but rather that its extent and implications are only beginning to be understood.

Mr. Greenwald, a prolific writer and prodigious talker (in Portuguese, too!), has made his case against secrecy and surveillance in numerous articles, blog posts, books and television appearances. Ms. Poitras, who does not appear on camera in her film and speaks only when reading Mr. Snowden’s emails to her, pursues a slightly different project. She deploys the tools of her trade — spooky music and fluid editing, subtle camera movements and suggestive compositions — to try to coax a specter into view.

It is everywhere and nowhere, the leviathan whose belly is our native atmosphere. Mr. Snowden, unplugging the telephone in his room, hiding under a blanket when typing on his laptop, looking mildly panicked when a fire alarm is tested on his floor, can seem paranoid. He can also seem to be practicing a kind of avant-garde common sense. It’s hard to tell the difference, and thinking about the issues Ms. Poitras raises can induce a kind of epistemological vertigo. What do we know about what is known about us? Who knows it? Can we trust them? These questions are terrifying, and so is “Citizenfour.”

“Citizenfour” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Not because of the nightmarish spectacle of unchecked state power, but because of the s