This is inspired. Two years after the onslaught on Gaza that killed over 2200 people, a group of activists, academics and artists has produced a new teaching video that aims at shifting the western narrative of the conflict.
Its new 20-minute video is called “Gaza in Context.” Narrated by Noura Erakat, the film points out the roots of the conflict: for 70 years Israel has sought as much Palestinian land with as few Palestinians on it as possible, and the peace process has only served as a cover for this project. Erakat uses simple descriptions to convey the reality, that Israel now seeks to accustom Palestinians to “domination as a way of life– an unfathomable possibility to all humans, whose first instinct is to be free.”
The film avoids the term Zionism entirely, and identifies the root of the conflict as settler colonialism. “This is a human-made disaster,” Erakat explains, and its resolution is a political one that depends on all of us to take action.
The film was written by Erakat and Nour Joudah (the Palestinian-American teacher who was repeatedly denied entry to Israel) and directed by Erakat and Dia’ Azzeh.
Here’s Erakat on the misinterpretation of the 2014 Israeli offensive.
During the devastating offensive, news media repeatedly framed the issue as Israel’s fight against a marauding Muslim mob driven by religious hatred. Gaza seemed to float outside of history. But understanding these systematic offensives means understanding where Gaza fits in the larger question of Palestine.
Israel claims that it’s responding to Hamas rocket fire. But no one’s stopped to ask: If Hamas didn’t launch its first rocket till 2001, nor its first suicide attack until 1994, then what explains an ongoing conflict for nearly seven decades?
The larger issue is Israel’s “abject disregard” for Palestinians. “What explains settler takeovers? Home demolitions? Forced displacement? Disproportionate use of force?” She answers:
The campaign is not aimed at Gaza or Hamas, it’s aimed at Palestine. The aim is to gain the maximum amount of Palestinian land with the minimum number of Palestinian people.
There’s some shocking video I’ve never seen before, at 5:52: settlers taking over a Palestinian house, I believe in East Jerusalem.
Here’s more about the outfit behind the video:
Gaza in Context is an Arab Studies Institute pedagogical project about the Gaza Strip…. The film is available in full 20 minutes as well as in 4, 5-minute parts. Its other components include a teaching guide for instructional purposes, a bibliography for research purposes, and a compendium of Jadaliyya articles featured in what we call a JadMag. All of these elements will be housed on the project’s own website, which is part of a broader research initiative on Gaza led by the Forum on Arab and Muslim Affairs. This interdisciplinary pedagogical project aims to resituate the question of Gaza within a larger Israeli settler-colonial framework, and it uses Israel’s most recent military onslaught, Operation Protective Edge, to do so.
The release of this project coincides with the two-year anniversary of the brutal operation and aims to use the war as a teaching moment to counter Israel’s ahistorical claims that saturated the media. Gaza In Context seeks to provide an assertive framework for understanding Israel’s systemic attacks as part of the larger question of Palestine.
You can read expert assessments of the film here, from Richard Falk and Robin D.G. Kelley. Nadia Hijab wisely links the project to the larger burgeoning movement:
It is an excellent entry point for the many thousands who are beginning to support Palestinian rights and an important refresher for others that have been involved in the movement for longer.
Diana Buttu captures its powerful manner:
In 20 minutes, this film debunks many of the Israeli-perpetuated myths — myths that have been conveniently adopted by others — by focusing on facts.
Here is the distinguished scholar Sara Roy‘s comment on the film:
I did not think it was possible to examine in 20 minutes what Gaza in Context does with such compelling clarity: Israeli policies toward Gaza and Palestine, which are inseparable; the core problems affecting Gaza and the deliberateness of the policies that have led to Gaza’s disablement; Gaza’s centrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and some common myths surrounding Gaza and the history of the conflict overall, which are straightforwardly debunked.
An immensely valuable teaching tool, the film’s power also lies in its fundamental humanity, a heartfelt entreaty to end the oppression and violence so that all people in this tortured part of the world may aspire to a future in which their children can flourish.
Here is novelist Raja Shehadeh’s comment:
[It] helps explain the consistency in the Israeli policy over the years and throughout Palestine while focusing on its implications and manifestations for Gaza. The film ends with a cri de Coeur to all of us to do what we can to bring an end to what the film convincingly argues is not a natural but a human- made disaster and save Gaza from continuing to be a zone of death.