Activism Discussion: Behind The Wall

Behind The Wall
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Dan Clore
2005-07-25 20:54:15 EST
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

Behind the Wall
By Chuleenan Svetvilas
AlterNet
July 22, 2005
http://www.alternet.org/story/23646/

For the past three years, the Israeli government has been
building a wall through the West Bank and around Jerusalem
in order to, it claims, combat Palestinian terrorist
attacks. But Palestinians and other critics say Israel is
using the wall as a means to annex Palestinian territory.
French-Israeli filmmaker Simone Bitton focuses on the impact
of the wall's construction in her new documentary, titled
simply, Wall.

The Israeli wall was initially approved by the Israeli
Defense Cabinet in 2001. At that time, according to the
Israeli Ministry of Defense (MOD), the "security fence" was
intended "to prevent illegal entry into Israel through the
seizure, interrogation and arrest of [terrorist and
criminal] elements" and to be constructed in three separate
areas for a total of 80 kilometers. However, the MOD
determined that in order for the Israeli Defense Forces
(IDF) and police to operate more effectively, "a contiguous
obstacle" was necessary. That is what remains under
construction today.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), which refers
to the wall as the "anti-terrorist fence," says it will
eventually be 720 kilometers or 480 miles long -- nine times
the length of the original plan. Parts of it include huge
concrete sections, electronic chain-link fences, razor wire,
paved patrol roads, dirt roads, and ditches -- all of which
are under constant surveillance by the Israeli army.

A number of international bodies have criticized the
construction of the wall. Amnesty International said the
majority of the wall is being built on Palestinian land,
"separating farmers from their land and Palestinians from
their places of work, health care facilities and other
essential services." In 2003, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan said construction of the wall should cease. The
following year, the International Court of Justice issued an
advisory opinion that the wall was "contrary to
international law" and that Israel should "cease forthwith
the works of construction of the wall being built in the
Occupied Palestinian Territory." Writer Noam Chomsky has
called the wall a "land grab."

Meanwhile, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that
"the route of the fence has been determined on the basis of
security needs and topographical considerations" and that it
is a "temporary defensive measure, not a border." (For an
Israeli map of the wall, visit the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs or the Ministry of Defense.)

But "wall" is an inadequate word to describe the immense
barrier that Israel is constructing. It is also a contested
word, as the Israeli government insists that the majority of
the obstacle is a chain-link fence, not just the tall
concrete blocks that have received media attention. Wall may
not be an accurate word, but "fence" is too innocuous to
describe what is under construction.

Simone Bitton's 100-minute-long documentary, Wall, takes a
personal and contemplative look at the wall's effect so far
on the people and the landscape. Born in Morocco to a Jewish
family, Bitton has both French and Israeli citizenship and
speaks several languages, including Arabic, French, and
Hebrew. She decided to make the film after she saw a
television news report in 2002, announcing the wall's
construction.

"The very idea of a wall erected between Israelis and
Palestinians tore me apart," recalls Bitton. "I had the
feeling that I was being cut in half, that who I am was
being denied -- an Arab Jew whose entire being is the site
of a permanent dialogue."

She began scouting locations in 2003 and soon put together a
crew for a four-week shoot, capturing different views of the
wall in its various stages of construction and including
details such as the artwork painted on several tall concrete
sections -- Matisse-inspired dancers cavorting with doves,
pastel landscapes and desert scenes, and colorful animals
and figures similar to Keith Haring's outlined blocky style.

As Bitton filmed, locals often approached her to talk about
the wall. "We've been suffering for three years now," says
one man. "We need to live together, that's it. And leave our
destiny to God." Another man says that he does not feel safe
and that the wall is "a waste of money. Were the fence the
solution, they'd have built it 50 years ago."

Bitton also interviewed General Amos Yaron of the Israeli
Ministry of Defense, who describes the wall as Israel's
greatest engineering achievement, using 500 pieces of
equipment that move millions of cubic meters of earth every
day at a cost of around $2 million per kilometer.

The presence of the wall is overwhelming, looming
psychologically and physically throughout the film. Clearly,
it is not a solution, but a terrible and disastrous barrier
to peace, which is an underlying message in the film. One
way Bitton tried to break through seemingly impenetrable
boundaries was by not identifying whether she was filming on
the Palestinian or the Israeli side of the wall or whether
she was speaking to a Palestinian or an Israeli. She made
this conscious decision because for her, Israel-Palestine is
one country "inhabited by Jews and Arabs alike." In fact,
she says, "Nothing touches me more, in life as in my film,
than to mistake a Jew for an Arab or vice versa."

Bitton has directed more than 15 documentaries about the
history and culture of Arab people, including Mahmoud
Darwich: As the Land Is the Language, which focuses on the
renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwich. Wall, in Hebrew
with English subtitles, has been screened in many festivals
worldwide and makes its California premiere at the San
Francisco Jewish Film Festival on July 23. Bitton spoke with
AlterNet about filming difficulties and the people she
interviewed for the film.

In your research for choosing locations, how did you decide
where to go?

I just went all over looking for the wall and for the sites
where it was under construction. There was very [little]
information about the wall and that is still the case. You
cannot know from the newspapers or from the official
communications where exactly they are building it. All the
maps are false and the projects change all the time.

I wanted to show how the landscape is destroyed by the wall
and for this you need to find high places, special angles.
It was very strange because while looking for the wall, I
rediscovered the beauty of the place at the same moment it
was being destroyed.

Did you need permission to film or was the press card enough?

You need the press card to pass the checkpoint but many
times the press card is not enough. Sometimes I asked for
permission and sometimes I didn't. In many places I filmed,
I was not supposed to be there according to the law or all
kinds of military regulations, which change every day. I
just have to sneak in or out, which is how Palestinians
mostly live for years now.

Did you have any trouble with the military at the checkpoints?

I wouldn't say so. It was not easy all the time. There were
some moments of tension, which you can somehow feel in the
film but nothing really serious. But that's because I'm an
Israeli and a Jewish Israeli. Nobody will shoot at me.

A Palestianian colleague could not move in the territories
even without a camera. I used my tribal privilege to make
the film. It would be obscene to talk about my difficulty
considering that Palestinians are not allowed to walk one
kilometer from their home.

In one scene, you are talking to a Palestinian man working
on the wall. You seemed angry that he was building the wall,
pointing out the irony of the situation. But he's resigned
to his position, which he sees as a decent paying job.

Because this is how it is. You said ironic. I would say it's
tragic. Just for feeding their family they are obliged to
build the wall against themselves. And this is not a new
phenomenon. Long before the wall, for example, all the
Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have all
been built by Palestinian hands, and most of them on the
land which has been expropriated from the villages from
which these workers came.

They are building the settlements on their own land because
they have to make a living. All these people used to be
farmers and when their land is taken, they become workers.
All they have is their hands.

The economic situation in the West Bank and in Gaza is such
a catastrophe with all the checkpoints, the closures and
everything, that the only way to make a living without
humanitarian food distribution is working for Israeli
settlements, walls, etc.

You also show people circumventing the wall, finding little
places where they can climb over.

All the West Bank is full of people looking for the holes.
There are fewer and fewer holes but they are obliged to.
They are not crossing it to go to Israel. They are crossing
it to go to the other side of their own village because the
wall is in the middle of the land, in the middle of the
villages. So they are just trying to find any holes to go on
with crucial things in their lives, going to school, to
hospital, to water their land, etc.

Filmmaker Simone Bitton.

Many of the Israelis that you interview seem quite
ambivalent about the wall. But everyone seems to feel like
it can't be stopped. Do you think that it will just continue?

It's continuing. New kilometers everyday, new walls
everyday. What you are pointing out is a very general
problem with the Israeli population, which is that every
time you make a survey, there is a majority of the Israeli
population who is in favor of dismantling the settlements,
in favor of the Palestinian state, etc. But it doesn't
happen. Many people didn't vote according to their ideas or
maybe they don't have anybody to vote for because all the
Israeli traditional political establishment is in favor of
the occupation.

Do you feel that your documentary is a good reflection of
the way people are feeling there?

I made it very clear in my film that this is a very personal
and intimate look at things. I show the reality through my
eyes, which I believe are well-informed eyes and thoughtful
eyes. I think it's interesting for people to see this place
through the eyes of somebody like me. I know this place very
well and I love it. I know the people and I am part of them.

Chuleenan Svetvilas is a freelance writer who lives in
Oakland, CA. Her writings on film have appeared in Dox,
International Documentary, and Release Print magazines.

http://www.alternet.org/story/23646/

--
Dan Clore

Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
http://www.wildsidepress.com/index2.htm
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1587154838/thedanclorenecro
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As the Government of the United States of America is not, in
any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in
itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or
tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never
entered into any war, or act of hostility against any
Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no
pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce
an interruption of the harmony existing between the two
countries.
-- The Treaty of Tripoli, entered into by the USA under
George Washington














James A. Donald
2005-07-26 00:53:11 EST
--
On Mon, 25 Jul 2005 17:54:15 -0700, Dan Clore
> For the past three years, the Israeli government has
> been building a wall through the West Bank and around
> Jerusalem in order to, it claims, combat Palestinian
> terrorist attacks. But Palestinians and other critics
> say Israel is using the wall as a means to annex
> Palestinian territory.

Doubtless, but every Palestinian terrorist attack *does*
give them a reasonable pretext to annex more territory.

--digsig
James A. Donald
6YeGpsZR+nOTh/cGwvITnSR3TdzclVpR0+pr3YYQdkG
qzJ9CxxjU9bkRafD4V7ZcQcYSRO0jMC4greiEWq7
4pZrn1hWKhA8wM5w+QMtUjetPduTleAI3AgmAAAHf


--
http://www.jim.com

Josh Dougherty
2005-07-26 03:44:33 EST
"James A. Donald" <jamesd@echeque.com> wrote in message
news:aagbe1pvl5pecngqpkq1bpqqeeecm6kv0p@4ax.com...
> --
> On Mon, 25 Jul 2005 17:54:15 -0700, Dan Clore
> > For the past three years, the Israeli government has
> > been building a wall through the West Bank and around
> > Jerusalem in order to, it claims, combat Palestinian
> > terrorist attacks. But Palestinians and other critics
> > say Israel is using the wall as a means to annex
> > Palestinian territory.
>
> Doubtless, but every Palestinian terrorist attack *does*
> give them a reasonable pretext to annex more territory.

...about as much as the 40 year terror of the occupation gives its victims a
"reasonable pretext" for blowing up restaurants anyway, maybe less so.



James A. Donald
2005-07-26 16:08:29 EST
--
On Mon, 25 Jul 2005 17:54:15 -0700, Dan Clore
> > > But Palestinians and other critics say Israel is
> > > using the wall as a means to annex Palestinian
> > > territory.

"James A. Donald"
> > Doubtless, but every Palestinian terrorist attack
> > *does* give them a reasonable pretext to annex more
> > territory.

"Josh Dougherty"
> ...about as much as the 40 year terror of the
> occupation gives its victims a "reasonable pretext"
> for blowing up restaurants anyway, maybe less so.

Bulldozing houses is not morally equivalent to blowing
up innocents in a pizza parlor. The arabs have to stop
and make peace. They, not the Israelis, have to give
the extra mile, have to go extra far to prove to the
Israelis that they are willing to live with them.

--digsig
James A. Donald
6YeGpsZR+nOTh/cGwvITnSR3TdzclVpR0+pr3YYQdkG
ntJ9zslQ28RZeTby3z8Nw1mjYiuVNSX4CAIY86k+
4ZLT4c3lixLeZnpi18atgNyGAymDs6Kfxufy761em


--
http://www.jim.com

Josh Dougherty
2005-07-26 21:17:33 EST
"James A. Donald" <jamesd@echeque.com> wrote in message
news:ql5de1lpptk23re3995s0o2jd5onu04jv8@4ax.com...
> --
> On Mon, 25 Jul 2005 17:54:15 -0700, Dan Clore
> > > > But Palestinians and other critics say Israel is
> > > > using the wall as a means to annex Palestinian
> > > > territory.
>
> "James A. Donald"
> > > Doubtless, but every Palestinian terrorist attack
> > > *does* give them a reasonable pretext to annex more
> > > territory.
>
> "Josh Dougherty"
> > ...about as much as the 40 year terror of the
> > occupation gives its victims a "reasonable pretext"
> > for blowing up restaurants anyway, maybe less so.
>
> Bulldozing houses is not morally equivalent to blowing
> up innocents in a pizza parlor.

Bulldozing homes is only one example of the violence and oppression that
Israelis have been imposing on Palestinians for forty years.

But fine, I'll be over shortly to bulldoze your house and then hold a gun to
your head and tell you what to do for the rest of your life. If you disobey
my orders, then you're not "innocent", you're a "terrorist", and I get to
kill you. But that's not "morally equivalent to blowing up innocents in a
pizza parlor", so don't complain.

While you're obeying you can try to convince me that you mean well toward
me.



James A. Donald
2005-07-27 14:12:57 EST
--
On Mon, 25 Jul 2005 17:54:15 -0700, Dan Clore
> > > > > But Palestinians and other critics say Israel
> > > > > is using the wall as a means to annex
> > > > > Palestinian territory.

"James A. Donald"
> > > > Doubtless, but every Palestinian terrorist
> > > > attack *does* give them a reasonable pretext to
> > > > annex more territory.

"Josh Dougherty"
> > > ...about as much as the 40 year terror of the
> > > occupation gives its victims a "reasonable
> > > pretext" for blowing up restaurants anyway, maybe
> > > less so.

James A. Donald:
> > Bulldozing houses is not morally equivalent to
> > blowing up innocents in a pizza parlor.

"Josh Dougherty"
> Bulldozing homes is only one example of the violence
> and oppression that Israelis have been imposing on
> Palestinians for forty years.

If the situation were reversed, not one Jew would
survive.

When Jordan liquidated twenty thousand Palestinians, not
a dog barked. Why then does the world get so agitated
when the Israelis bulldoze a house without first
checking to see that it is empty?

I am not going to be drawn into defending the bad things
done by Israel and Israeli Jews, but the difference in
evil between Israelis and arabs is as great as ... as
great as ... as great as the difference between the
murder of Rachel Corrie and the murder of three thousand
New Yorkers.

> I'll be over shortly to bulldoze your house and then
> hold a gun to your head and tell you what to do for
> the rest of your life

Shall I then respond to that by blowing up random people
at a pizza parlor?

Its a war, both sides do bad things, both sides argue
they are forced to do bad things by the evil of their
enemy. But in the case of the arabs, their argument is
absurd, because the bad things that they do are so
completely over the top, and usually have no obvious
direct connection to bad things done by Jews, whereas
the bad things jews do are always at least arguably a
result of necessity of war - sometimes the argument is
not very convincing, but it is never completely over the
top nor totally absurd. Obviously they are entitled to
build a wall against their enemies, obviously they are
entitled to build it through the lands occupied by
arabs, and if that wall just somehow happens to wind up
giving some Jews land and depriving some arabs of land,
well, that is war. It is not in the same league as
blowing up a pizza parlor, because the pizza parlor is
emblematic of an intent to murder all Jews everywhere,
whereas the wall is merely emblematic of intent to enjoy
one's own land in peace - and perhaps some of someone
else's land in peace, but not all of someone else's
land.

The very fact that they are building the wall shows they
don't really want an Israel extending from the Nile to
the Euphrates, though if the arabs persist, they may
well wind up with such an Israel.

--digsig
James A. Donald
6YeGpsZR+nOTh/cGwvITnSR3TdzclVpR0+pr3YYQdkG
RIFk40oR1weH4bFVL9lkKw6Zb1tq733UZlhULue7
4jdPKB3bFEIhfEDEj8aOo4ivaEDYrqEpQlKTWqZ4t


--
http://www.jim.com

Josh Dougherty
2005-07-27 21:33:43 EST
"James A. Donald" <jamesd@echeque.com> wrote in message
news:jbhfe15c3ujium0o6bgpm3hgdlfusuns40@4ax.com...
> > I'll be over shortly to bulldoze your house and then
> > hold a gun to your head and tell you what to do for
> > the rest of your life
>
> Shall I then respond to that by blowing up random people
> at a pizza parlor?

uh....yes, you would, assuming you couldn't find a nuke or something.


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