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5 Broken Cameras: A Palestinian Narrative or a Propaganda Film?

January 22, 2014 at 11:47 pm

After its nomination for an Academy Award, the documentary film, “5 Broken Cameras” by Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat, has gained attention amongst Arabs, Muslims and pro-Palestine activists. It is perceived as a success story for the Palestinian movement and many hoped to see it win an Oscar. Others, however, saw the film as a digression from the Palestinian narrative.

Due to security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, the theme of the film is aligned with the only tactic Palestinians are permitted to exercise when resisting the Israeli occupation in the West Bank – “Peaceful and non-violent resistance”. This is in essence a product of General Keith Dayton’s initiative to create a “new Palestinian breed”. This aimed at extirpating all forms of resistance, particularly armed resistance, and transforming rejection of the occupation in its totality, into mere rejection of certain actions of the occupation.

In an interview with The Film Society of Lincoln Centre, the Israeli co-director of the film, Guy Davidi, who also wrote the text of the film, said, “The whole idea of a non-violent movement is to go on with that idea even when people die around you. You have to confront your emotions and anger.” This vision of living under the occupation without questioning its illegal existence is portrayed in some of the film’s scenes. For example, the scene of Emad’s toddler son handing an olive branch to an Israeli soldier seems fictional and doesn’t appropriately represent the nature of the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed.

In the same interview, Guy Davidi listed Israeli organizations as the primary monetary sponsors of the film. Among these sponsors is The New Fund for Cinema and Television, which was founded in 1993 by the Israeli Ministry of Arts1, Israeli Television, and the New Israel Fund. Davidi emphasized that their support for this initiative was, “not just with money. They were really enthusiastic about it, and they contributed all along the way.”

Not only does receiving funds from organizations affiliated with the Israeli government and advocates of Israel that explicitly condemn a growing means of popular resistance, the BDS movement2, exceed the dangers of normalization with the occupation, but it also suggests that the Israeli propaganda machine supports the film’s message.

Even if it was entirely an Israeli film, as the Israeli Embassy in Washington claimed on Twitter3, discussing the difficulties of Palestinian daily life while failing to include the context of the occupation is like reporting the obstacles people face as a result of a natural disaster while failing to report on the disaster itself. The world may provide basic needs and coping mechanisms to the victims, but it will not eradicate the root cause, which in the Palestinian situation is the occupation.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.