The JTA has a report up today bemoaning the reception Israel is receiving at this year’s Sundance film festival. Matthew Weinstein says “the views of Israel range from critical to abysmal.”
Weinstein reviews two documentaries — Five Broken Cameras and The Law in These Parts:
Five Broken Cameras” is West Bank resident Emad Burnat’s chronicle of life in his Palestinian village of Bil’in from 2005 to 2010. Burnat, who serves as narrator, director and cinematographer, documents on video the town’s campaign of legal action and weekly demonstrations against the West Bank security fence and Jewish settlements being built on Bil’in’s land, as well as the impact of the protest movement on his wife and four young children. The film, which won two awards in November at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, was co-directed by Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi.
How badly does Israel comes off in this one? Think Bull Connor’s cops in Birmingham, Ala., except that instead of attacking protesters with fire hoses and police dogs, the authorities use rubber-coated bullets, stun grenades and tear gas canisters.
We witness a protest leader, a local resident known as Phil who just minutes earlier was yelling at villagers to stop throwing stones, struck in the chest by an Israeli tear gas canister and killed during one of the weekly protests. We see an Israeli soldier calmly aim and fire a rubber-coated bullet at close range into the leg of a protester who already has been arrested and handcuffed and is waiting to be loaded into a van. We see the Israel Defense Forces come in the middle of the night to wake up families and arrest their preteen sons who had been identified as participating in the protests.
The film is one-sided and the impact is devastating. No mention is made of the more than 1,000 Israelis who died in Palestinian terrorist attacks in the decade before there was a West Bank security fence, no mention of the soldier who lost an eye in 2005 when he was struck by a rock thrown by a Bil’in resident. We never hear an Israeli commander explain why the IDF chose its tactics.
But because Bil’in’s residents eschew guns and bombs and attract so many Jewish Israelis to their side, and because the IDF response appears on screen as disproportionate, the documentary is damning.
It’s not just the documentary. Israel’s own Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the security fence illegally impeded on Bil’in’s land and ordered about two miles of the fence rerouted. It took until 2011 for the IDF to comply, following additional years of protests and successful contempt-of-court lawsuits against the IDF over the delay. In all, Bil’in recovered about 170 acres.
“The Law in These Parts” offers a much different look at essentially the same issue. The film is an interrogation — literally — of the military-run legal system of justice that Israel established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip following the 1967 Six-Day War. Made by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, whose previous works include “The Inner Tour” and “James’ Journey to Jerusalem,” the movie consists almost entirely of interviews with the Israelis, now quite old, who had established the system and run it over the years.
Some of the revelations are shocking. One judge acknowledges that “of course” he knew about torture, contradicting the findings of various Israeli investigative commissions. Alexandrowicz takes us inside the meetings where they developed the legal justifications for controversial practices such as indefinite detentions and land confiscation for settlements.
And this is say nothing at all of the upcoming Israeli/Iranian proxy war to be fought at this year’s Oscars!