I’ve seen a dead body
not taken by time
but in a second
This week I watched a documentary called “5 broken cameras” from 2012 in a local theater. Before I talk about this, I have to say that now the Corona restrictions are loosened it is nice to meet people again. I know that a lot of people have problems with these restrictions or don’t even believe that Corona is real but please respect the people that take it seriously. I am happy to live in a country where mask mandates are lifted but people still wear them because it is recommended. Another reason I mention this is because of the subject matter of the documentary I want to talk about, it goes about the conflict between the Israeli state and the Palestinians. People that have a problem with Corona restrictions should realize that living in fear in Gaza is a problem, not doing what you want to do to protect vulnerable fellow citizens is NOT a real problem.
The documentary 5 broken cameras is a film about a small town, where people live their lives as good as possible and then they get confronted with Israeli settlers that slowly eat away the farm land they have used for generations. Emad Burnat was one of these farmers that had a chance to film the birth of his latest son and he discovered that he couldn’t let go of the camera. He took it with him wherever he went, also when the villagers started demonstrating against the barriers that were put In front of them. The protest looked no different then any protest you might see in your own country, and were more or less tolerated in the beginning by the occupying forces (I use occupation as a statement, it is heavily debated and in theory you can go both ways but in practice it is clear who is in charge). The reaction of the Israeli forces, they don’t look like police in riot gear, become more extreme the longer these protests go on. That it becomes more extreme you can tell by exceedingly violent methods his 5 consecutive cameras are being destroyed, at the end you see him filming a sniper in the distance aiming at his camera (or him?) before the camera goes black again.
The documentary does a good job showing you what life is in a small village (Bil’in). It is effective in this because it shows normal daily life in between the protest, this normal life is recognizable for most people living in peaceful western countries. The contrast is starkest at the end of the movie when you see his kids in the house being kids and mom and dad doing their thing when someone bangs on the door, when they open it a nervous kid dressed in an Israeli Uniform reads from a form that their house needs to be vacated immediately because of…well you can think of reason why you should be forced out of your house. The last time that happened in the Netherlands, where I am from, was when the Germans invaded in 1940.
Part of the showing of the documentary was a talk about living in in Gaza by a young filmmaker from Gaza, Mohamed Jabaly. He made another documentary about the conflict in Palestine that was also critically acclaimed called “Ambulance”. I remember watching this when it was brought to my attention around 2016 when it came out. I always had an interest in this conflict because it is so polarizing, and when opinions are so strong on opposite sides, they are most of the time also weak in content, truthfulness and full with emotions. I tried to watch Ambulance again but I can only handle so much sadness at a time so I stopped it after 10 minutes. Mohamed Jabaly follows an ambulance crew in 2014 when the conflict escalated again. It more ore less shows the results of bombs falling in a city, it is really strong when you see it, you see people, explosions, wounded and dead people, crying and a lot of confusion. Without the contexts of why this is happening it makes it easier to imagine what it would be like. Without the context it might as well be an earthquake that hit a town somewhere, it is a senseless loss of life but for most westerners perceived as unavoidable, a force of nature: “What can you do?” is what most people think.
The senselessness of the destruction and loss of life what this bombing of Gaza is, is made clearer if you listen or read the testimonies of (former) Israeli soldiers that were once caught in the moment, and did things they now regret. They bombed out of duty for a cause the never critically questioned. We as humans often think that we are in control of our actions but if you look critically back at your own life you realize that rationality and reason play only a marginal role in your decision making. Government officials and other (religious) leaders are not exempt from this human trade and they might look convinced about what they do, and probably believe that they are right but the fact that this particular war is going on for more then 70 years is proof that all these leaders were all wrong especially when they riled up the people they represent. .
A leader is chosen or takes charge because he or she seems capable, but no matter what they are confronted with, they are raised and live within a set of rules and circumstances and within these boundaries they have to sett a direction for that is their task. The circumstances and boundaries are inherited from the past and interpreted by these new leaders. Every time you do this, when someone takes over again and again you dilute that little bit of truth that was in these inherited circumstances. In other words, the more time passes from a so-called origin story, the more that story gets distorted.
This is something that is hard to deny and that is the problem with leaders now days that proclaim to act in the name of their people and their history. They cannot know fully what that history is because it has changed to much over the years. As an example, about the region where Palestine is located, I found a story that in the days before clear nation-states the Jews that lived there changed their religion once they moved to another area and the same goes for the Muslims when they moved to an area where there were more Jews. In one reading of this story, you could say that they all come from the same group of people that has lived there for ages, before these two religions where known, they are more alike then different (aren’t we all). Even under the Ottoman rule the Jews and Muslims lived better with each other than they do now, there are enough stories that they celebrated each other’s holidays together in Jerusalem in peace. These are parts of the story that both sides seem to conveniently forget. I think that only a real leader can turn the tide of history, but as long as I can remember, I only have seen screw ups and losers leading the people that live there, on both sides to be clear. The only solution I see is to make Palestine an Israel into one country and everybody needs to grow up. I know that most people that live there don’t want all this bullshit and that is one thing that I saw throughout the documentary, it was often hard to see who was a Jew and who was a Palestinian if you don’t look at their cloths.
Because I have been in the military myself for several years, I recognize the nervous behavior of some of the inexperienced soldiers that clearly acted out of peer pressure, silent confusion and obedience. It was also not hard to spot the officers who were in charge in the full sense of the word. It is not so hard to let an inexperienced soldier do terrible things:
See also the website of Breaking the silence as one of the many resources. I want to make clear that violence from Palestinian side is not any better and their soldiers are duped into doing terrible things in similar ways. It is for me as someone that speaks English easier to find critical reports from Israelis about Israel than to find critical reports about Palestinians from Palestinians. I also have to admit that it is hard not to sympathize with the underdog, Israel is a rich country with an army that can destroy Palestine whenever it wants to and it plays the sympathy card with effect towards the rest of the world. Maybe the western countries that could force Israel to change their widely condemned stance towards Palestine are still under the influence of the nineteenth century habit of seeing other less white cultures as inferior but then again, most Europeans before ww2 were anti-Semites. Maybe there is still some guilt over what they did to the Jews (maybe it is better these day’s to say “people that identify as Jewish) before and specially during ww2. One fact makes this clearer, the people in Gaza cannot go back to their houses because Israel kicked them out in so called wars of conquest but I, a white guy from Holland can book a ticket to some nice hotel in Tel Aviv and probably visit land that was once worked on by a grandfather from some poor, jobless guy with no future in Gaza. I can go safely to land occupied by Israel while their owners watch me trough a barrier.
A disclaimer before I go on. When I talk about Israel, I mean Israel the state. People can identify with a state but there is not a person or group of persons that is the state. A state is a concept and every person that identifies as an Israeli, in this case, has their own concept of what that state is. Israel has for me also little to do with the Jewish people (they are as diverse as every group of people) though the orthodox Jewish people are a big part of the problem but so do all the other orthodox/extremist people and groups that take part in this conflict. You see that also with the leaders that represent the inhabitants of Gaza, those leaders are as far from the shopkeepers and taxi drivers that live in the city as you can imagine. These leaders are trusted forwards and upwards because they could express their ideas better, had charisma, where respected by many and so on, it works like that in most situations. These are trades that are not found in everyone so the people that are “chosen” to represent are by definition already living on the outskirts of the society and not as equals. There are not many people that can resist the temptation to believe that their exception is the same as being better in the sense that they are higher instead of that they walk in front, and this will make the gap bigger and bigger between what the people want (peace and quiet) and what their representatives want, and they want more than peace and quiet. Most wars are not fought because a million people all at the same time decided to go to war, someone stirred the pot.
As I have written before I have not taken the time to see what Palestinian critiques have to say for or against the war and I am not interested in Israeli that defend the occupation of foreign land. I am not religious so I have no patience listening to reasons lifted from a book that is written ages ago. Like in the documentary I see people dying for no good reason and that needs to be stopped. That someone has a certain religion should not be important when it involves the way you live together with strangers and your neighbors, it makes common sense to me as an atheist that you don’t deny your neighbors the space and food they need to live, there is simply no reason to do that. What I write here are just my thought in an attempt to organize them and hopefully it paves the way for me to write more clearly about what happens in Palestine. I can recommend doing your own research but I have a few links to YouTube videos with different lectures and interviews that I have used to refresh and update my opinion of the whole situation. But try to watch 5 broken cameras, it makes it all much clearer on an emotional level then all these intellectuals can ever do if you don’t have the patience for them.
The first one is a talk between Noam Chomsky, always a good critical voice and Ilan Pappe a well know Israeli historian who is critical about Israel.
Good interview with Ilan Pappe.
The next video is a lecture from Norman Finkelstein, the lecture starts around 10 minutes.
I looked up some histories of the Palestinian state and the origin of the Israeli state. If you do this on YouTube you get bombarded with results but it is hard to find a telling of the history that is unbiased. Before I watch a video, I do some research on who made it or has put it on YouTube, if you do this you will find out soon what kind of agenda the person or institution has that posted it.
The next video is from the “green brothers” on their Crash Course channel. They do a good job in my opinion. This video will also show the devastating results of colonialism in the region especially the decisions the British made, talk about hubris.