Monday, November 28, 2005


Saw this Saturday at the Varsity. I was prepared for an all-out propaganda assault, but I was surprised and glad at how rich a picture the film drew, and how it worked to explain the mentality behind suicide terrorism without excusing it.

I found the film very effective in its subtle depiction of the everyday depredations of the occupation. Massive unemployment as a result of travel restrictions, people corralled in their own crumbling cities and towns, having to abandon their cars and go on foot when they encounter random, arbitrary Israeli roadblocks, roadblocks which are useless in a security sense (since they are easily evaded on foot) but which are meant primarily to inconvenience, in the words of IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon, to "sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians that they are a defeated people." The movie demonstrates how clearly the Palestinians, particularly Palestinian men, have understood this as the goal of the occupation. To live under occupation is to be emasculated daily, having to watch helplessly as Israeli soldiers harass your children, wives, friends, and parents, as they invade and destroy your communities and homes with impunity.

This is not a film to see if you'd like to maintain illusions about "equal blame to go around" in the I/P conflict. Yes, it's a complex situation with deep historical roots, but to say that "oh, everyone's got blood on their hands" is just a cop out. The film makes clear that the occupation is an ongoing act of war by Israel against the Palestinians, one which the Palestinians are fully entitled, indeed should be expected, to resist. Even though the film showed what I think is the filmmaker's view that suicide terrorism has become counterproductive, in that it provides Israel a perfect excuse to continue the occupation and the building of illegal settlements, it also showed suicide terrorism as a simple, if pathological and condemnable, final act of defiance in the face of a lifetime of oppression and intentional humiliation. Most chillingly, suicide bombers understand that blowing themselves up in a bus or pizzeria will not win the war for them, but it's not meant to. They mean only to "keep the struggle alive" by showing that they, too, have the power to hurt.

Highly recommended. Probably not for a first date, though.

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