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Israeli Occupation goes to the Oscars - but films carry very different messages

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  • Cort Greene
    - - Prisoner issue and settler violence drive escalation of West Bank
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 24, 2013
      - Prisoner issue and settler violence drive escalation of West Bank
      ByNoam Sheizaf <http://972mag.com/author/noams/>Published February 24,

      Tensions are rising after death of a Palestinian prisoner and settler
      attacks. Pictured: Settlers attack Palestinians in Qusra as IDF looks on.
      (Sa�ad Al-Wadi)
      - Can 'The Gatekeepers' change the way Israelis view the
      ByDahlia Scheindlin <http://972mag.com/author/dahlias/>Published
      February 24, 2013

      Activestills <http://972mag.com/author/activestills/>PHOTOS: In Hebron,
      demonstrators demand reopening of Shuhada

      February 23, 2013 | 1 Comment



      By Mairav Zonszein <http://972mag.com/author/mairavz/> |Published February
      24, 2013Occupation goes to the Oscars - but films carry very different

      *Both Oscar-nominated documentaries from this region are important
      documents of Israeli occupation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in
      their own right. But if �The Gatekeepers� wins, it will whitewash
      occupation by presenting Israeli guilt in a redeeming light. If �Five
      Broken Cameras� wins, it will go beyond the message that what Israel is
      doing is wrong and show the world exactly what wrong looks like � and just
      how ugly it is.*


      Adeeb Abu Rahme, one of the residents of Bil�in who appears in 5 Broken
      Cameras, confronts the IDF during a protest in 2007 (Activestills)

      �The Gatekeepers<http://972mag.com/the-gatekeepers-if-this-film-does-not-lead-to-change-there-is-no-hope-for-israel/65172/>�
      and �Five Broken
      already succeeded in breaking one of Israel�s biggest taboos: airing out
      its dirty laundry on the big screen, for the whole world to see. Now the
      two films are both heading to the biggest stage of all: the Academy Awards.

      If either one of the films from Israel/Palestine wins in the Best
      Documentary category, it will be a symbolic achievement for all those who
      believe Israeli government policies and the occupation are untenable and
      want to see it held accountable for the violent cycle Israelis and
      Palestinians continue to be in.

      But there are salient and important differences between the films. Most
      obviously, �The Gatekeepers� provides the perspective of the privileged and
      powerful occupier, while �5 Broken Cameras� speaks for the powerless and
      debilitated occupied. While each film exposes Israel�s systematically
      unethical treatment of Palestinians, if either one one is chosen by the
      Academy as the winner, it will mean very different things.

      �The Gatekeepers,� directed by Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh, who previously
      made a movie about Ariel Sharon and his decision to withdraw from Gaza in
      2005, brings together six former Shin Bet agents to expose the moral and
      tactical failures in the country�s secret internal security infrastructure.
      �5 Broken Cameras� is a documentary jointly directed by Palestinian Emad
      Burnat and Israeli Guy Davidi, chronicling the West Bank village Bil�in�s
      response to Israel�s construction of the separation wall and routine
      Israeli Defense Force harassment and raids.

      To make the $1.5 million-film, Moreh had to gain access to some of Israel�s
      most elite and authoritative figures on national security. It was filmed in
      a polished studio, providing the six interviewees with impeccable make-up
      and lighting and includes highly sophisticated digitally recreated archive

      To make the $250,000 �5 Broken Cameras,� Burnat pretty much just had to get
      hold of a camera and turn it on. It shows rough and at times jumbled
      footage shot by Burnat with his five different cameras, all of which are an
      objective testament to the damage inflicted by IDF methods over the course
      of years of weekly protests in Bil�in.

      While both films reflect a different piece of the harsh reality of the
      Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they exist in entirely separate political
      discourses. �The Gatekeepers� takes place within Israel�s national ethos,
      from a conscious place of privilege and power. Palestinians are not really
      present in �The Gatekeepers,� except as the legitimate enemy as well as the
      victimized �other.�

      The six spymasters who divulge for the first time their involvement in
      operations like targeted assassinations and mass arrests, do so out of a
      patriotic concern for what Israel has achieved and where it is headed (and
      probably political motives, as three out of the six are Israeli politicians
      from centrist parties). They all insist that negotiations with Palestinians
      are necessary to secure Israel as a Jewish and democratic state long term.

      In the context of the right-wing shift in Israeli society and its
      increasingly draconian government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
      (who reportedly
      see the film), this may seem like a radical message. However, the argument
      that occupation corrupts the occupier and that Israeli military control of
      Palestinians is untenable stems from a veteran left-wing Zionist discourse
      in Israel.

      In this sense, recognition of the film looks like the Academy�s way of
      commending Israelis who question and challenge immoral actions they have
      taken in the name of national security. This is not as much a condemnation
      of the occupation as it is a lamentation of its stain on Israeli democracy.
      It in effect applauds Israeli guilt over being the occupying force.

      �5 Broken Cameras� is simply a portrayal of life under occupation � a
      portrait of a disenfranchised agricultural community in the West Bank
      confronted with construction of a wall on their farmlands, uprooted olive
      trees, and tear gas and live ammunition at their protests, which have
      caused the death of several residents and hundreds of injuries.

      The fact that Palestinian co-director Emad Burnat was detained in Los
      Angeles Airport<http://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/20/showbiz/palestinian-filmmaker-detained/index.html>
      route to the Oscars on Wednesday is a painfully ironic example of the
      starkly different realities Israelis and Palestinians live in, at home and

      �5 Broken Cameras,� on the other hand, is a personal Palestinian story,
      showing the implications of occupation and its human rights violations on
      the very people suffering it. It gives voice to a narrative often
      neglected, dismissed or combated � or simply ignored � in Israeli society
      and media.

      So what message would the Academy send by picking one or other of the
      films? (Several polls and articles indicate that few expect either one to
      take home the Oscar).

      If �The Gatekeepers� wins, it will be like the Academy giving the film �
      and by extension, Israeli society � a pat on the back for demonstrating
      that some of Israel�s most elite security men know how to be
      retrospectively self-critical. While that may be a nod toward a more honest
      way of viewing Israel, it�s ultimately a cop-out since it still manages to
      portray Israel in a redeeming light, and thus stops short of a sea change.

      If �5 Broken Cameras� wins, it will amount to symbolic recognition by
      mainstream America of the Palestinian narrative as the occupied � and defy
      arguments voiced in Israel that it is nothing more than a provocative
      Palestinian propaganda film. It will go beyond the message expressed in
      �The Gatekeepers� that what Israel is doing is wrong and show the world
      what wrong looks like � and just how ugly it is.

      *This post was originally published in The

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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