Well, I'm a gonna raise a fuss, I'm a gonna raise a holler....I've been bombing all summer just to whine for a dollar...Well I refuse to go to work, told the boss I was sick...Now I can't stone cars 'cause I gotta work late...Sometimes I wonder what I'm a gonna do, but there ain't no cure for the Palestine Blues...
Last night I watched the documentary Palestine Blues in the name of balanced documentary viewing. The film is about the effect of the security wall/fence on the Palestinians living in the West Bank at the time it was constructed in the fall of 2002. The film interviews various Palestinians living in different villages near the construction of the fence, but focuses mainly on the filmmaker's uncle who lives in Jayyous.
This movie is sort of the opposite of Hijacking the Holy Land, misinformative to the point of outright lying, but a very well made and engaging film. The film does a good job alternating between casual human interest parts such as the uncle picking fruit from his trees and tense standoffs between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. When guns are out and emotions are high, you can't help but get sucked into the film, regardless of which side you support.
But now let's talk about the politics of the film:
Regardless of which side you stand on this conflict, you need to see this movie because it shows just how duplicitous and one-sided the Palestinian narrative is. Unlike Hijacking the Holy Land, which covers the history of the conflict in a somewhat objective and dispassionate manner, Palestine Blues begins with Rachel Corrie's death and then switches to the West Bank for the construction of the fence. '48 and '67 are mentioned, but only by old Palestinian women as part of their complaining about "the Jews expelling us."
I made a joking bet with myself that terrorism wouldn't be mentioned once in this film, not really believing it to be true. But I won my own bet. In a film about the security fence, filmed at the height of the Second Intifada, absolutely no mention was made of suicide bombings. I couldn't believe it as I was watching it, but it was true. The closest you come is an IDF soldier saying "Any one of them [Palestinians] could go to Tel Aviv..." but then the camera quickly cuts before he mentions the inconvenient truth. Watching this movie is like watching a Japanese documentary about the bombing of Hiroshima that doesn't mention World War II, in which the evil Americans just bombed the Japanese for no reason.
Once you realize what the filmmaker is doing, it becomes a lot harder to cry along with the Palestinians who are losing access to their trees and farms. They appeal to the Israeli soldiers "How will we make a living?" which is undoubtedly sad, but compared to Israelis dying by the busload it's a lot less sympathetic. Even in conversations between Palestinians, they don't talk about the terrorism. Is it because they genuinely don't see the connection between the terror and the wall or are they being deliberately dishonest along with the filmmaker? We never know for sure.
But like all Palestinian propaganda, sometimes the mask of "poor oppressed innocent" slips and we see things that aren't necessarily so great for the Palestinians. At one point, a group of kids are interviewed and one of the kids talks about how they dodge Israeli patrols past curfew. We are clearly meant to be impressed by their courage and resistance. But then one of them says something like "we will expel them from our land," and anyone paying attention knows what that means. At another point, a Palestinian song is played, singing about "the return" and "resistance to Zionism." But when it talks about liberating the land it names places like Haifa, Acre, and Jaffa, all cities in Israel. So again, the lie that Palestinians just want Israel out of the West Bank is busted in their own documentaries and songs. The filmmaker has no problem trying to push both ideas that Palestinians just want to be left alone by Israel and that Palestinians are going to destroy Israel someday at the same time.
Another example of the film busting Palestinian mythology is when the film again attempts to portray the brave Palestinians fighting back against the cruel Israelis. The Palestinians and their Western supporters walk right up to armed Israeli soldiers, yell at them, spit on them, and push and shove them. Naturally the soldiers push back. There is one part where a girl stands in front of an Israeli jeep and refuses to move until a soldier grabs her and moves her out of the way. We are meant to be amazed at the bravery of the Palestinians, and it's true, they are brave to a certain extent. But at the same time, can you imagine protesters in Syria or China being able to walk up to soldiers and shove them without being immediately gunned down? How about protesters in Afghanistan walking up to American soldiers? A girl stands in front of a jeep in Libya, she is getting run over, no question. It's funny, by showing Palestinian "resistance" to Israel, the filmmaker also shows how restrained the Israeli soldiers are (though he would never admit it).
No film would be complete without some Pallywood. There's one part where (to the film's credit) it shows Palestinians using slings to hurl rocks at Israeli soldiers. One Palestinian goes down holding his leg. The camera rushes over to him, but there is no sign of blood anywhere, and we never hear about the hit man again. I guess we'll just have to take it on faith that he was hit by Israeli soldiers and died, or something.
I could talk for a lot longer about the numerous political problems I had with the film, but I think you get the idea. I would recommend this film to any pro-Israel person, just so they can see precisely how bad (and how good) the Palestinians have it and how much they are willing to lie to support their narrative. And to any Israeli filmmaker for ideas about how to make an arresting, interesting documentary.