"World Cinema: Israel"

My book, "World Cinema: Israel" (originally published in 1996) is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.

Want to see some of the best films of recent years? Just scroll down to "best films" to find listings of my recommendations.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Arab-Jewish relations within Israel

Commemorating the deaths of 13 young men during the riots of October 2000, the film October's Cry (2006), directed by Julie Gal, was rebroadcast this month on Israel TV Channel 1.

The film tells the story of the Or commission, a panel of investigation which was established to look into the deaths of 12 Palestinian citizens of Israel and one Palestinian from the West Bank who were killed by Israeli security forces during the riots of October 2000. At the beginning of the second intifada, the rioting on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, spread to the Galilee and to the area of Wadi Ara in the center of the country. Young Palestinians, expressing their frustrations with the discrimination that they endure as members of a minority within the State of Israel, and demonstrating their identification with the Palestinian uprising that had begun in Jerusalem, began to riot against the Israeli police. The police responded with live ammunition.

This film provides a human look at the efforts to achieve justice by the mother and father of one of the youth who were killed in these riots. Their son, Asil, was active in Seeds of Peace, and was killed – and buried – in his green Seeds of Peace t-shirt. The father says that they brought up Asil to love three things – the almighty God, the land that they live on, and humankind. According to the parents and eye-witnesses, their son was not even participating in the unrest and was killed at close range. We see the pain, the tears, the anger of the parents against Prime Minister Barak and the Jewish state that killed their son – a teenage boy who had been so full of life.

The film is also the story of two lawyers, from Adalah, the Arab Association for Human Rights, who represented the case. Through them we understand the wider implications of this watershed event. The strongest figures in the film are the mothers of the young victims – some of them with head coverings, some of them without, women who gather together to express their pain, women whose eyes tell their stories.

According to the findings of the Or Commission (named for the chief investigator, Judge Theodore Or), the police responded to the violence with excessive force. In addition, the Commission found that Israeli Arabs have not been treated all these years fairly by the State and the Commission made a series of recommendations on how to improve the situation. However, no police officers were punished, therefore the parents of Asil still feel that justice has not been served, and they are still pursuing the matter in the courts.

One thing has changed in recent years – as we can see in the rioting in Acre during Yom Kippur and Succot, just recently. No longer do the Israeli police shoot Palestinian demonstrators with live ammunition. This is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. More needs to be done to recognize the historical suffering of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, to alleviate the discrimination and humiliation that they endure, and to provide them with equal services and equal opportunities, in order to prevent additional crises in the future.

The film is available from the director, Julie Gal, at jgalex@aol.com

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