Film review: Avenge but one of my two eyes
Israeli film maker, Avi Mograbi’s amazing documentary is a three leveled snapshot of Israel and it’s relationship with the occupied territories of Palestine. I think the term ‘occupied territory’ just doesn’t do justice to the reality. Palestinian land looks bruised, un kept, and bleak. We watch as Palestinians go about their day constantly harassed and humiliated by angry young Israeli soldiers who shy away in shame when the camera is pointed at them. I’ve always found that when you have to rely on your own two fists to get you by, there is a self preserving humility that keeps ones actions in check. Give frightened angry young people a massive military advantage and the type of sadistic behavior we have seen time and time before starts to become apparent. From Abu ghraib to any Baghdad street where 18 year old kids from Kansas squeeze their triggers at any object, half in fear, half in hate, we see the actions of those being asked to fight morally questionable conflicts. We see the IDF stopping an ambulance from taking a wounded Palestinian woman to hospital leaving her family to weep on the roadside, we see Palestinian school children barred for no reason from crossing a gate and in one scene we see an Israeli soldier mockingly force a bunch of Palestinian men from working in a field, just because he can.
These images are thrown up against the Israeli relationship with the occupied territories. This is summed up watching a group of Israeli tourists visiting the historical site of Masada and in the cult of personality indoctrination of Samson. At Masada the mass suicide of the zealots who held out against a Roman force sent to ‘surround them’ is interestingly given the sort of praise reserved for Bin Laden recruitment videos. The mass suicide is not only praised but rationalized as the only thing to do. Visiting school children are asked to sort themselves into 4 groups, those who would commit suicide, those who would fight, those who would pray and those who would surrender. One young girl defiantly sat in surrender, as the majority went to fight, a couple to prayer, and remarkably four went to suicide.
The biblical story of Samson bringing suicide upon himself while collapsing a temple full of Philistines in Gaza is not only taught as historical fact to a class of Jewish children, but older teenagers sitting around a camp fire praise that he went to Gaza to fight. So much mileage is made from the unbearable humiliation meted out to Samson by his enemies, that his only course of action was to kill as many as he could with his suicide. The tragic irony that this is what fuels and justifies Palestinian suicide bombers is missed by every single one of them, incredible.
The third level that Mograbi shows us is a conversation he is having on the phone with a Palestinian friend of his living under occupation. As the film continues, as we cut back to the conversation, we hear his Palestinian friend analyze his own growing militancy at the conditions he is being forced to live under. Mograbi listens, silently, the sense of guilt he feels is clear and his calls for moderation end up sounding as hollow as he looks.
It is a remarkable documentary that shows what a truly human failure the Israel/Palestinian conflict has become.