Brian Lehrer finds ‘5 Broken Cameras’ ‘extremely shocking’ and wonders if Palestinians have abandoned two-state solution

on 30 Comments

Another important moment brought about by the Oscar nomination of the great documentary, “5 Broken Cameras”: this morning Brian Lehrer of WNYC interviewed the filmmakers Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi for 20 minutes. Lehrer is generally a reflexive supporter of Israel; he rarely gives a platform to the Palestinian view. Today he confessed he was shocked by the movie and was all ears to a Palestinian.

Lehrer asked vital questions about the occupation that all Americans should be asking. He asked Burnat to describe Bil’in, he marveled that the settlement built atop Bil’in’s land and olive trees is highrises. And in his way, he eulogized the great Palestinian activist Bassem Abu Rahmah, whom the film celebrates, in this earnest question:

Emad– the film repeatedly shows you and other people from Bil’in being shot. Or otherwise roughed up by Israeli security forces. It’s extremely shocking to watch some of this. You even record the killing of one of your friends, because you happened to be shooting. What kind of historical document do you think you have here?

Then there’s this, a genuinely open moment:

Does your experience in Bil’in leave you with any kind of political solutions in mind? Is it still Oslo/Camp David style, two-state solution, and you just have to wait for it– or is it something else now, or don’t you even think about it at that level one way or another?

Burnat says in essence that the peace process is dead, and the dream of a Palestinian state has also died.

Beautiful. An empowered American Jewish media host gives a forum to a Palestinian to describe actual Palestinian conditions (as northern reporters once allowed blacks to narrate the experience of Jim Crow). It’s what we’ve always pushed for. And yes, safe in America but holding on to the belief in the need for a Jewish state, over there, Lehrer tries to derive hope from the Yair Lapid surge in the recent election, the Obama visit, and the fact that Israelis participate in the demonstrations in Bil’in; but in this case he is a journalist, and defers to the man on whose land this dream is being built.

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30 Responses

  1. DICKERSON3870
    February 11, 2013, 2:28 pm

    RE: “Burnat says in essence that the peace process is dead, and the dream of a Palestinian state has also died.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Elliott Abrams convinced me several years ago* to give up on the “two-state solution”.

    *FROM ELLIOTT ABRAMS, The Washington (Neocon) Post, 04/08/09:

    [EXCERPT] . . . Is current and recent settlement construction creating insurmountable barriers to peace? A simple test shows that it is not. Ten years ago, in the Camp David talks, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat approximately 94 percent of the West Bank, with a land swap to make up half of the 6 percent Israel would keep. According to news reports, just three months ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered 93 percent, with a one-to-one land swap. In the end, under the January 2009 offer, Palestinians would have received an area equal to 98 to 98.5 percent of the West Bank (depending on which press report you read), while 10 years ago they were offered 97 percent. Ten years of settlement activity would have resulted in a larger area for the Palestinian state. . .

    SOURCE –

    P.S. Elliott Abrams has totally convinced me [by the sheer power of his (il)logic and his very impressive math skills] to wholeheartedly support the Israeli settlement project in the West Bank.
    As I understand it, the ‘Abrams Principle’ stands for the proposition that more Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank will result in a larger area for the Palestinian state. That’s why I say: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” with the settlement actvity; so as to result in the largest Palestinian state possible (from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River), no matter what that state is called. Fiat justitia! ( “Let Justice Be Done!” )

    P.P.S. According to a recent EU Briefing Paper (EU Trade with Israeli Settlements, Version 2: Published August 2012), “[t]he total area controlled by settlements is around 43 per cent of the West Bank.” The Briefing Paper further explains that “[w]hile fenced or patrolled areas of settlements cover three per cent of the West Bank, 43 per cent of the West Bank is off-limits for Palestinian use because of its allocation to the settlements’ local and regional councils, according to UN OCHA OPT (January 2012) factsheet ‘The Humanitarian Impact of Israeli Settlement Policies’ .”
    SOURCE [EU Trade with Israeli Settlements (PDF)] –

  2. Citizen
    February 11, 2013, 2:45 pm

    And to think insider Brian Lehrer merely has to go online and google the situation…. shocking he’s shocked, if he actually was. Another bubble boy negatively impacting the rest of us who are outside the system, both here and abroad.

    I found it incredible that he was shocked, just shocked by what the film makers had to say–can you get more inside the mainstream media than he is? And he’s a journalist with tons of connections:

    So much for PBS.

    • Djinn
      February 17, 2013, 9:08 pm

      Any journalist who is shocked by the film should quit their job.

  3. justicewillprevail
    February 11, 2013, 3:18 pm

    Nobody in their right mind (ie unaffected by decades of zio brainwashing) could fail to be horrified by 5 Broken Cameras and the ugly attitudes and actions it documents. That is the simple reason why Israel and its foreign agents fight so hard and so relentlessly to stop the facts being presented fairly to the American and European public. No amount of blustering, lying propaganda can counter the simple demonstration of the truth, and they know it.

  4. seafoid
    February 11, 2013, 3:46 pm

    The 2 SS is dead. It died a long time ago for Israelis. They talked themselves into believing it doesn’t matter. They think the world shares their Weltanschauung. But we don’t speak Hebrew….Israel’s ambassadors work on the front linesof hasbara and they know the war is being lost.

    • Woody Tanaka
      February 11, 2013, 5:56 pm

      I think the one thing that the Internet has done is to provide a basis to examine the reality of the situation there for those who are not on the scene, without having to put up with the media filter. When you have a media like we have in the US, which consist, on the whole, of donkey fellators, being able to get another perspective is often surest path to question the story we are all being fed.

      • W.Jones
        February 11, 2013, 7:51 pm

        Good point. Personally though the way I found out about it was not online media.

        I had for a long time assumed it was about Muslim terraists fighting against democracy, based on hearing about Sueside bahmers in the overly simplistic news. It was only after I heard a presentation by Quaker volunteers at a Quaker meeting that I found out what was going on. Especially impressive was that there were villages that didn’t even have Muslims or bahmers and were being treated like caged wild animals without a catch and release program.

        This fact and firsthand experience by Christian pacifist charity workers was surprising for me, and was a pretty good clue to what was going on.

      • seafoid
        February 12, 2013, 1:24 am

        I think it is as simple as how to write a story. The israelis have been writing their narrative in the west bank for 2 generations and they never thought about a credible ending. And they didn’t just kill the 2 SS. All of their memes got caught in the crossfire.

  5. Newclench
    February 11, 2013, 4:12 pm

    This is evidence that documents like 5 Cameras do a wonderful job of penetrating minds. Something about the nature of this discourse needs to be understood and replicated. Really heartwarming to see Lehrer show this openness.

  6. W.Jones
    February 11, 2013, 5:11 pm

    “Lehrer tries to derive hope from the Yair Lapid surge in the recent election, the Obama visit…”
    The Social protests and Lapid were loud and clear in their rejection of helping Palestinians. How is that helpful? “Casual racist” white southerners are more open minded about blacks.

    And the Obama visit to what CUFI calls “Jerusalem DC”? Someone please tell me how that is hopeful? Because his visits with Israeli leaders in DC have been? Or perhaps instead he will direct his appeals to the public there? Perhaps at best they will see someone who is of African background with some authority.

  7. David Samel
    February 11, 2013, 5:52 pm

    My impression of Lehrer is that he is a very bright guy who simply has never questioned the assumptions about the situation he absorbed decades ago. He rarely discusses I/P but when he does, it is quite irritating to hear someone be so articulate and ignorant at the same time. If this movie wakes him up a little, better late than never and better a little than not at all, but it’s about time for a little awareness. His optimism about Lapid certainly is not encouraging of real enlightenment.

    • Philip Weiss
      February 11, 2013, 6:26 pm

      Agreed, David, and I think we know where he got those assumptions, inside a liberal Jewish community that he has not challenged. He’s a communitarian, I sense.

      • ritzl
        February 12, 2013, 10:36 pm

        @PW and DS You both agree that Lehrer is a very bright guy. It is hard to understand how a “very bright guy,” in media, is able (I was going to say “prone” instead of “able”) to ignore what is going on in Palestine at this point in time.

        I would quibble with the “aware” concept, and instead call it deliberate ignorance, or maybe in a lighter, less pejorative sense, denial.

        Phil speaks of “communitarian” beliefs, which I take to be enforced common outlook. A disregard for external input. So be it.

        I don’t believe that anyone in the Jewish community is unaware of what’s going on in Palestine and Israel. If it was only that, then publicity would be the simple, singular solution. It’s not.

        So my question is, what motivated Lehrer? It’s incomprehensible that it was simply becoming “aware.” Too much info is out there. Is it that there is a turning point, a REAL turning point (as opposed to the Beinart half-measures), filtering up within the US Jewish community, that this situation cannot be ignored (especially in “communitarian” terms) any longer?

        If so, this is a major tipping point. Can you all explain the disconnect between “awareness” and “ignorance” further? It’s not very clear how this works, to me at least.

        Believe it or not, this is a hopeful comment.

      • David Samel
        February 13, 2013, 6:39 pm

        ritzl, I have known so many bright, decent people who have a moral blindness about this issue – your “deliberate ignorance” and “denial” are appropriate terms. I was one myself. While the last several decades of occupation and drift into right-wing lunacy has made the situation far worse, most of my present fundamental beliefs were just as applicable in 1975 as they are today. I just didn’t see it that way. I was never a raving Zionist but I generally accepted the prevailing myths about who wore the white hats and who wore black. I’m no psychologist or social scientist, but we all absorb our core beliefs at an early age, and it’s hard to shed them. Most of us become “liberals” or “conservatives” as youths and toe the line on almost every issue for the rest of our lives. I am not surprised that more people, and yes I am talking mostly about fellow Jews, have not made the same journey I have. And there are no doubt other core beliefs that I have stubbornly clung to when I should have been questioning them.

        I do disagree with you that “it’s incomprehensible that it was simply becoming ‘aware’.” I suspect that Lehrer was exposed to movie-length unpleasantness of a type that he has avoided for many years and that he truly was surprised. Look at the segment linked by iResist on Rick Steves. Steves is a genuinely decent, liberal guy who was stunned in 2012 by new exposure to the situation. “I was duped,” he says.

        Does this represent a change in Lehrer? I doubt it. My guess is that this is a little speed bump on his road to never-ending bias toward Israel. But who knows? I’m just guessing.

      • ritzl
        February 17, 2013, 7:44 pm

        @David Samel Thanks for explaining, David. I was hoping either you or Phil would. Lehrer’s seeming “out of the blue” awakening needed deeper explanation and/or understanding because without that deeper explanation, people like me/”outsiders” (on this and any issue) tend to throw perceptual attribution darts at what seems to be a closed and impenetrable system of belief and/or thought (Phil’s “communitarian”).

        And forgive me, too, I get a couple of glasses of wine in me at the end of a long frustrating day, and I go all definitive/absolutist.

        Lehrer’s awakening is hard to understand to those of us that haven’t been immersed in your culture from early on. But I know from my own path in this (my profile) that the “joy” (finally!!!) of Israel is almost uterine in its embrace. It took me a few years to open my ears, and that was only from starting at age 21 in terms of what Israel meant in general terms (i.e. that the world is becoming a better place; embrace it!). For Jews, growing up in this environment of “joy” it’s hard to imagine what it takes to be able to look outside (or the courage it takes to look outside) that environment. This is why this site and you all have my utmost respect.

        What I find most important, though, is that you all are presenting a choice to the Lehrer’s of the world. Whether he will “change” is really beside the point, to me. What is important is that presented a well-articulated (and no less important, a well-articulated, “insider” choice) what will he (and others like him) choose? From there the fault/discussion lines can be drawn and expanded upon.

        Again, thanks for the explanation. Much appreciated. I think it helps further the conversation both inside and outside the Jewish community.

  8. Mayhem
    February 12, 2013, 2:31 am

    I understand that 5 Broken Cameras is a very biased and openly pro-Palestinian film. Having an Israeli Jew as a co-director is crucial to its success; a token Jewish or Israeli activist deemed to “represent” the Israeli side, who actually turns out to be more even more pro-Palestinian than most anti-Israel Palestinians, is very helpful for the cause. The trick helps to dupe people in the audience by convincing them that everyone, Arabs and Jews alike, are united in condemning Israel.

    As propaganda the film has three defining characteristics:

    1. It takes a microscopic view of a very much wider issue. 5 Broken Cameras focuses on the West Bank town of Bilin, where the local population, supported by a steady flow of international supporters, has been demonstrating for years on a weekly basis against the Israeli occupation. They do so allegedly in a supposedly “non-violent” manner by throwing hundreds of rocks and bricks on Israeli jeeps! It focuses entirely on a bunch of Palestinian villagers without providing any information that would explain the context in which to place their struggle. This leaves the uninformed person to conclude that Israel is persecuting innocent Palestinian civilians for no other reason than sheer cruelty. And that is of course the entire purpose of the film. A more objective film would have presented the macroscopic view of the conflict as opposed to only one of its tiny components.
    2. It uses de-contextualization to isolate the viewer from the larger picture. No one explains in the film why the security barrier came up in the first place (in the wake of the murderous second intifada in 2000 which killed 1,000 innocent Israeli civilians and left more than 3,000 maimed for life), or why Israel came to occupy the West Bank (because it was attacked by Jordan, Egypt and Syria in 1967 and ended up with this territory in the process of defending itself against Arab aggression), or why it is still there 25 years later (because the Arabs first, and the Palestinians later have systematically rejected all peace offers made by Israel to relinquish the West Bank in exchange for peace). Viewed from that perspective, the true intent of the film and its sheer hypocrisy are immediately evident. The de-contextualization of the film is deliberate.
    3. It exploits heavily manipulative emotional content to better rile viewers against Israel This is the pro-Palestinian films’ classical trademark: focus on a few figures and induce viewers to identify with them emotionally. The result is entirely predictable. By the time the film is over, people are inevitably so riled up against Israel and the IDF that they are furious at the Jewish State for having the audacity to defend itself.

    (adapted from an article by By J.J Surbeck in the SAN DIEGO JEWISH WORLD
    June 28, 2012)

    • Annie Robbins
      February 12, 2013, 2:43 pm

      It focuses entirely on a bunch of Palestinian villagers without providing any information that would explain the context in which to place their struggle. This leaves the uninformed person to conclude that Israel is persecuting innocent Palestinian civilians for no other reason than sheer cruelty.

      obviously this reviewer didn’t see the film. the documentary fills in lots of context regarding the colonization of their land. no one thinks this is going on just because israelis are cruel. greed is also a factor in theft y’know.

      also, the author J.J. Surbeck is Executive Director of T.E.A.M. (Training and Education About the Middle East)
      he’s specializes in propaganda!

      T.E.A.M. decided early on to focus on training, which is offered both to its own active volunteers and to members of the public who wish to learn more:

      T.E.A.M. active volunteers, i.e. its speakers, media monitors and engagement facilitators, are invited to attend the 6-class training series developed for their benefit. No one, even with the best of intentions, can present an objective and balanced picture of the conflict without a solid knowledge of all the facts involved.
      Plans are under way to facilitate training seminars for media monitors, with material specially created by CAMERA.
      Anyone in the public who is interested to hear a more factual description of the conflict is welcome to ask T.E.A.M. to set up an in-depth training session.

      • piotr
        February 18, 2013, 9:18 am

        The context has limited value because there is always a larger context. Sometimes you have to judge the situation for itself. What possibly can justify sadistic persecution of civilians, innocent or not?

        It is like the issue of torture. One construes an imaginary ticking bomb scenario when mistreatment of a single vile person saves thousands of innocent. And then an innocent sickly taxi driver is killed by 5 days of constant beating and tormenting (the only “rests” by hanging from the ceiling). If you allow for evil in a “proper context” it consumes the perpetrators (including those who plan and justify).

    • seafoid
      February 12, 2013, 4:31 pm

      I wonder how many San Diego jews under 50 believe such crap .

      • Cliff
        February 17, 2013, 8:27 pm

        Most likely.

        No different from White nationalists/KKK/skin-heads/Neo-Nazis who want a ‘racially’ White America.

    • ritzl
      February 12, 2013, 10:49 pm

      Jesus Christ, you gotta be kidding me. “A microscopic view of a much wider issue…”

      Just the opposite. “Five Broken Cameras” is a completely and congruently generalizable sample of the effect of the Israeli Occupation on Palestinians. What was caught on tape in this particular circumstance(s) happens daily elsewhere. This is what is, everywhere in Palestine. Literally shot at or dead for seeking water to make your crops grow. To feed your family using your own land. There’s no context anymore, other than that.

      When people see it they are Repulsed. Everyone. Even Israelis.

    • Cliff
      February 17, 2013, 8:26 pm


      Pathetic hasbara talking points.

      Here’s a quick effective counter.

      No one cares about demonizing Israel. Israel demonizes itself by being Israel. Zionism is inherently illegitimate and destabilizing.

      The ‘context’ of the 67′ War is irrelevant because Israel is colonizing the West Bank and E. Jerusalem (and Gaza previously). Israel’s population is more unsafe among a hostile indigenous population whose society was destroyed by Zionism. Yet, Israel continues to expand into Palestinian territory. So whatever ‘other side’ (Zionist) to the story can be gleaned by knowing this all-knowing true story about the 67′ War is irrelevant regardless of it’s supposed revelatory value.

      Palestinians shouldn’t be pro-Israel. Just like Native Americans shouldn’t be pro-American. So to say ‘anti-Israel’ Palestinians or Israeli Arabs is a narcissistic and ethnocentric absurdity. No one should be pro-Israel, outside of Jewish colonists and their supporters. Being anti-Israel is a moral imperative because being anti-Israel means being anti-imperialist and anti-colonialism.

      Israel is not ‘defending itself’ by destroying Gazan civilian life and civilian infrastructure or expanding Jewish colonies or killing Palestinian children on a whim or stealing Palestinian water or imprisoning Palestinian activists on trumped up charges or witholding Palestinian tax revenue.

      5 Broken Cameras isn’t Exodus. It’s not fiction. It’s real life. And anyone on the ground, who isn’t a Jewish settler/colonist or their supporters can see 5 Broken Cameras happening in real-time.

  9. Citizen
    February 12, 2013, 8:33 am

    How is it that “a very bright guy” never questioned assumptions he learned growing up in any sort of community? I think questioning assumptions is a sign of brightness, most especially if those assumptions are those one holds dear. It’s also a sign of mental integrity, a quality important to moral and ethical integrity.

    • David Samel
      February 12, 2013, 10:49 am

      Citizen, Mearsheimer and Walt’s book features a great quote from Bertrand Russell: “In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” I think it’s great advice but all of us fall short of applying it all the time. Your sentiments are identical to Russell’s. I say Lehrer is a very bright guy because I have heard him be impressive on innumerable other subjects. But he has been very disappointing on this. It doesn’t mean he’s not bright, but only that he has been very reluctant to question his assumptions on this particular subject.

      • Chu
        February 12, 2013, 3:02 pm


        Kind of like Anthony Weiner was bright on some things? I see a pattern here. Zionism can often turn intelligent people into boobs.
        But it’s also their hypocrisy, whether it’s disguised as ignorance or not toward I/P.

  10. Chu
    February 12, 2013, 12:16 pm

    He was probably afraid of Ed Koch. I stopped listening to
    Lehrer 4 years ago when I started realizing that valid news was
    coming out about Israel and it wars (maybe Cast Lead or Lebannon) and all he talked about was other topics. He has an hour to
    touch on these topics each morning.
    So, this may be the canary in the coal mine whistling dixie. I hope so.

  11. iResistDe4iAm
    February 12, 2013, 9:40 pm

    Another fleeting glimpse of conscience … on the way to the ‘helicopter on the roof’ moment.

    Brian Lehrer finds ‘5 Broken Cameras’ ‘extremely shocking’ and wonders if Palestinians have abandoned two-state solution (February 2013)

    Right wing crazies — Remnick brings the curtain down on Zionism (January 2013)

    ’60 Minutes’ profiles Palestinian Christians, Michael Oren falls on his face (April 2012)

    ‘I’ve been duped’ — America’s travel guide Rick Steves says our media black out the brutal occupation (April 2012)

    Settlement fatigue – Four decades is enough. If Israel wants peace, it must stop building in the occupied territories (LA Times, November 2010)

    Fox News covers Bil’in protest with shocking video and inane commentary (July 2009)


  12. chris o
    February 13, 2013, 3:07 am

    I heard a similar segment on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. I am not sure if Neal Conan is Jewish but I think so. He’s not perfect, but like Brian Lehrer, a generally very good journalist and radio interviewer. The Academy Award nomination has led to this rare, sympathetic exposure.

  13. Henry Norr
    February 14, 2013, 6:27 pm

    Still more sympathetic discussion of ‘5 Broken Cameras’ on NPR: on today’s (Thursday, Feb. 14) ‘Talk fo the Nation,’ Neal Conan talks with film critic Bob Mondello about the Oscar-nominated documentaries.

    (This is different from the Feb. 6 ‘Talk f the Nation’ segment Chris O. linked to yesterday.)

    Starting at about 7 minutes, 10 seconds into this segment, Mondello says “It’s a really, sort of wrenching picture about that, the whole dispute over the settlements, that are, in the eyes of the Palestinians, are encroaching on their land and basically taking it over. It’s a very powerful documentary – it would be hard to watch this and not be sort of enraged at what’s happening there and the powerlessness of the people who are, you know – like this guy, who is just, his house is in the way.” Conan follows: “And is brushed aside, and their complaints are not listened to, and story of his friends, one of whom is killed…”

    At 16 minutes Conan cites ‘The Gatekeepers’ as “one film many tout as the likely winner.” Mondello responds, “And boy, is it powerful.”

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