For the last 44 years, Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem have lived under severe Israeli military control and occupation. According to the UN, there are over 500 Israeli-controlled checkpoints in the West Bank alone. Israel has built settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, all of which, according to international law, are illegal. It is estimated by the UN that there are more than half a million Israelis living on occupied land. Next week, Cinema Politica’s special double-feature takes a look at what life in occupied territories is like with Israel vs Israel and This Palestinian Life.
Israel vs Israel
“[Occupation is] really emotional for me, it’s really frustrating, and it really pisses me off,” said Israel vs Israel director Terje Carlsson. He has lived and worked in Jerusalem as a freelance journalist and filmmaker for the past eight years. “Israel vs. Israel is a way for me to try and somehow make a positive film about a very sad and frustrating situation.”
The film follows four progressive Israeli activists â€“ an ex-Israeli soldier, a rabbi, a concerned mother and an anarchist â€“ who are fighting for an end to over 40 years of Israeli occupation and illegal settlement in the Palestinian Territories.
“Today we work to expose the reality of occupation back home,” explained ex-Israeli soldier Yehuda Shaul in the film. Shaul is one of the leaders of Breaking the Silence, a group that secretly receives testimonies and accounts of abuses and excessive use of force against the Palestinians from soldiers. “We call it Breaking the Silence because, you have to understand, what’s going on in occupied territories is one of the biggest taboos in Israel,” said Shaul.
Israel vs. Israel uses intense, visceral and constantly shocking footage to show how complicated and strange this conflict really is, from the frantic checkpoint of Qalandia to the strange and violent streets of Hebron, where even the children beat Palestinians walking the streets.
Though Carlsson admits that he is no activist, he said his motives behind making the film were to inform a wider audience, and spark interest in an issue that is not just going to go away. He implores us to “get informed, don’t stay fucking ignorant about what’s going on in the Middle East; you can have whatever approach you have, just don’t stay ignorant.”
This Palestinian Life
This Palestinian Life is a short independent documentary film by Egyptian/German freelance journalist Philip Rizk that tells the stories of the everyday lives of Palestinians living in a place called “Area C” in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories. Rizk moved to Palestine in 2005 to work as a volunteer in the West Bank, then spent two years working with NGOs in Gaza.
“The conflict is large and complex,” explains Rizk in the film. “I found that because violence makes the news, the everyday stories of real people barely reach the outside world.”
The conflict is complex indeed; Gaza isÂ sort of a “no man’s land,” without any internationally recognized governing body and stuck under harsh Israeli control policies.
In Susya, south of Hebron in the West Bank, it is illegal for the people to dig wells for water or tend their fields. In Gaza, a family is in ruins after Israeli forces bulldozed their entire property. In the Jordan Valley, families are not permitted to even repair their homes when they begin to deteriorate. This Palestinian Life creates an interesting and intimate portrayal of the plight of the Palestinian villagers living in these areas.
Israel vs Israel and This Palestinian Life will play at Cinema Politica on March 14. For more information, check out cinemapolitica.org.