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‘Two Blue Lines,’ Tom Hayes’s third film on Palestine, premieres tonight in Columbus

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Tom Hayes’s brilliant new documentary Two Blue Lines explores the passionate dispute among Israeli citizens about their government’s Occupation of Palestine.  The film deftly splices together dueling creeds and the result is electrifying, because it’s a split so rarely displayed on U.S. screens.  Zionist “settlers” claim all of historic Palestine, asserting, variously: “This is our territory returned by God”; “The Arabs are trespassers in the land of Israel: it’s not their country”; “This [land] is ours in every sense of the word”; It’s a “Jewish and democratic state.”

Human rights’ advocates counter such maxims, deploring the contradiction between a “Jewish state”–with “Apartheid” privileges for Jews in an “ethnocracy”–and a democracy with equality for all.

Tellingly, many Israelis speak with American accents, for “the Jewish state” welcomes anyone Jewish from around the world with citizenship, a right denied the stateless, indigenous people of Occupied Palestine.  The movie debates competing views of Judaism: a religious entitlement to land versus a spiritual commitment to freeing the oppressed, asking whether Jews are safer segregated or connected to other humanity.  As several people of conscience remind us, seeking a purely physical security exposes a people to the more dangerous moral hazard of “re-enacting what happened to us”–of even becoming “animals.”

Hayes grounds this drama in history, with clips from archival newsreels describing Israel’s founding.  The film reveals that in 1948 Israel expelled 718,000 of 850,000 Palestinians, destroying two-thirds of their villages.  It cites International Law: UN Resolution 194 establishes the Palestinians’ Right of Return to their homes and the Fourth Geneva Convention outlaws “collective punishment,” including Israel’s house demolitions, theft of water and other resources, torture, humiliation, and murder.  It compares the numbers of children killed from 2000-2014: “82 Israeli kids, 1861 Palestinian kids.”

The artistic originality of the film’s story-telling goes beyond even its striking sounds of words, music, silence, buzzers, explosions.  Hayes’s pictures, from his own living archive of 32 years’ footage, offer entrancing time travel. We magically see “the first Jewish American …conscientious objector” turned World Religion scholar transform from youth to middle age and back, as he and others analyze the 1967 Occupation, 1989 Intifada, 1993 Oslo accords, 2000-2004 second Intifada, the  attacks on Gaza, as well as the ever-disputed theology.  The movie compares the Israel military insistence that it shoots “non-lethal” bullets to x-rays of human skulls with bullets lodged deep inside.  It contrasts massive Israeli-government airstrikes with a Palestinian suicide bombing.  It juxtaposes fundamentalists’ vaunted attachment to the land with their desecration of ancient landscapes–especially the construction of the monstrous Wall and rows of identical stone houses in Palestinian territory, turning paradise, not merely to parking lots, but to hill-top fortresses.

It exposes the separate, unequal treatment of Jews and Palestinians, in which “two people…living side by side…governed by two legal systems, where one is the legal system of a liberal democracy… and the other…a military occupation.”  It uncovers the everyday “hell” of parallel lines that never meet: segregated roads, checkpoints, water systems, and economies, with freedom and bounty for Jews, captivity and paucity for Palestinians.

Those sights throughout Two Blue Lines, as well as the recurring graphics and the Israeli flag, ask viewers to wonder what the title means.  Spoiler alert: keep watching past the gripping end, through the credits, to the wrenching closing song by George Snow.  C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe depicts dictatorship as “Always winter and never Christmas.”  Tom Hayes’s film portrays tyranny as straight lines–always parallel and never equal signs.  Hayes, though, has faith in the inevitable power of Equality in those equal lines.

Hayes tells me that he set out to document Palestinian people’s lives under Occupation but, in the face of frequent Israeli interference– from “Closed Military Area” orders, to curfews declared wherever he worked, to threats of physical harm–his crew would “go up the hills to the settlements or back across ‘The Green Line’ into Israel, looking for interesting Israelis to film.”  Hayes notes that several of his Palestinian crew and interviewees were shot during production, and more than a dozen were incarcerated without charges or trial.

Two Blue Lines confronts U.S. viewers with an Israeli schism over their state’s oppression of Palestine, as well as our own government’s responsibility: over $100 billion and the majority of our Security Council vetoes have supported Israel’s wars.  This disturbing film can revolutionize discussion here, opening the conversation to Palestinian wisdom, as when Shireen asks near the film’s end, “Can you imagine” how “I feel when I am being bombed?” That question suggests the call to empathy, justice, and peace Americans will hear.

Two Blue Lines premieres Tuesday, January 27, 7 PM, at the Wexner Center for the Arts
The Ohio State University
1871 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43210

Tom Hayes will introduce the film and discuss it afterward.  Hayes is Assistant Professor in the Film Division at Ohio University, where he teaches post production and documentary development.  Two Blue Lines is Hayes’s third film about Palestine. His other films were Native Sons: Palestinians In Exile, narrated by Martin Sheen,​ and ​People and The Land.  Native Sons is available as a free download​.​

Two Blue Lines can also be ​seen​ at the Jewish Voice for Peace National Membership Meeting in Baltimore, March 13-15, 2015.

​A version of this review ​was published by The Columbus Free Press  and print edition​ p. 22.​  I’d like to add that I’ve known Tom Hayes for years as an inspirational spirit at talks and walks about freeing Palestine. Tom defends the vulnerable wherever he is, for he honors the humanity of others with kindly integrity.  Tom’s stalwart benevolence here in Ohio helps me imagine his decades of bravery among the valiant people of Occupied Palestine and deepens my awe of his beautiful film about terrible crimes. ​


Susie Kneedler

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12 Responses

  1. pabelmont on January 27, 2015, 2:55 pm


  2. just on January 27, 2015, 3:08 pm

    This is terribly exciting! Thanks so much for this great review and for the heads- up, Susie! Thank you to Tom Hayes, your team, and your life work!

    The times, they are a-changin’!

    This film in Ohio, coupled with the NYC exhibit of photos of the beginning of the ongoing Nakba, give me great hope. America needs the education and the truth.

    That trailer leaves me hungry/thirsty for more. Hope that it gets nominated for awards, wins, and is shown far and wide.

  3. HarryLaw on January 27, 2015, 3:10 pm

    “Zionist “settlers” claim all of historic Palestine”, I’m afraid its worse than that, all the major movers and shakers in Israel from Livni to the extreme right including Likud claim all of historic Palestine and will not relinquish sovereignty of one inch without being forced to. That does not necessarily mean Palestinians will be expelled, only provided they keep their heads down and accept living as second class citizens in some kind of constitutional monstrosity called Bantustans. All paid for of course by handouts from the EU/US and rich Arab states. Any complaints and they will receive the Gaza treatment. The world will not put up with this, I suspect the axis of resistance Iran Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah will stockpile 100’s of thousands of rockets that would have the capacity to destroy Israels infrastructure, together with BDS. A fatal combination for Israel coming down the pike, unless it changes its ways. All power to Tom Heyes and the success of his film.

  4. oldgeezer on January 27, 2015, 3:11 pm

    “Hayes notes that several of his Palestinian crew and interviewees were shot during production, and more than a dozen were incarcerated without charges or trial.”

    One might say unbelievable but then one would have to not see the Israeli state for what it actually is to come to that conclusion.

  5. Marnie on January 28, 2015, 12:58 am

    This looks like an amazing work. I hope it reaches many many people. The timing couldn’t be more perfect – before Netanyahu’s invite to address the american government to give an israeli primer on Iran.

  6. JLewisDickerson on January 28, 2015, 2:14 am

    RE: It [the film] exposes the separate, unequal treatment of Jews and Palestinians, in which “two people…living side by side…governed by two legal systems, where one is the legal system of a liberal democracy… and the other…a military occupation.” – Kneedler

    MY COMMENT: Not to mention certain Christans!*

    * SEE: “Christian Missionary Joel Rosenberg and Family Make Aliyah”, Posted by Jewish Israel on September 21, 2014


    First, we are moving to Israel as a family. For the last several years, we have sensed God calling us to immigrate to the land of Israel (to “make Aliyah”) and follow the path of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Based on my Jewish roots on my father’s side, the State of Israel has granted us citizenship. We are now dual citizens of the United States and Israel, and are deeply grateful to the Lord for making this possible in His timing and by His grace.” —- Joel Rosenberg, August 13, 2014

    Joel Rosenberg, a renowned “end-times” author and missionary, who promotes proselytizing the Jewish people and dedicates resources to targeting Israelis for conversion, has managed to make Aliyah with his family.
    Like messianic attorney Jamie Cowen, Rosenberg is an influential evangelical leader who hails from the Washington DC area and who apparently immigrated to Israel as a believing Christian via a loophole in Israel’s Law of Return – a law which was ripped open in 2008
    by Evangelical/messianic attorney Calev Myers of Israel’s Yehuda Raveh law offices and the Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ). Rosenberg’s testimony of his family background can be read here.
    Like evangelist Mike Evans, Rosenberg is a best-selling author who writes biblical prophecy fulfillment novels which tie in to current news events, usually from a “pro-Israel” perspective. Like Evans, Rosenberg is involved in a number of “charitable outreach” missions in Israel. Also like Evans, Rosenberg flaunts the endorsements he has received from high-ranking Israeli diplomats and politicians. . .


    • TonyRiley on January 29, 2015, 9:02 am

      The 2 peoples are actually in 2 different countries.

    • Susie Kneedler on January 31, 2015, 11:21 am

      Thanks, John: those words are actually B’Tselem’s former Executive Director, Jessica Montell’s; her full sentence is, “​From a human rights’ perspective, what is most problematic is that ​two peopl​e can be ​living side-by-sid​e and be ​governed by two legal systems, where one is the legal system of a liberal democrac​y like the state of Israel ​and the othe​r is the legal system of ​a military occupation.”

      Montell and all the other speakers tell us much more that’s vital, too.

      • TonyRiley on January 31, 2015, 11:28 am

        Don’t let the truth be your enemy. Israel and the PA are 2 entirely separate entities.

  7. Kris on January 28, 2015, 5:03 pm

    I can’t find any reviews of the film’s premiere today (Jan. 28). I did read that Tom Hayes is going to enter “Two Blue Lines” in film festivals, and is working out how best to get the film distributed.

    I hope we start hearing more about this film. If there is enough publicity about it, we may be able to get our local movie theaters to show it.

    • bintbiba on January 31, 2015, 1:04 pm

      Thanks Susie for the great review.

      Here’s hoping it makes its way surely to the UK.

      Recently saw “Open Bethlehem” by Leila Sansour in London.

  8. Susie Kneedler on January 31, 2015, 11:00 am

    ​Thanks, All, for such supportive Comments, as always.

    The premiere of Two Blue Lines was thrilling, celebrated by a standing ovation from over 160 people who’d trekked on icy, salt-strewn sidewalks in an 18-degree freeze to see it. The audience seemed most moved by how Hayes’s film can at last open American hearts to Palestinian voices and human rights.

    Discs and downloads of “Two Blue Lines”​ be available in a few weeks. I hope everyone can see it because I didn’t come close to describing its stirring depths.

    Meanwhile, Tom Hayes sends on B’Tselem’s most recent–appalling–figures for children killed from 2000-2014: “133 Israeli kids and 1404 Palestinian kids.”

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