These days there are a number of documentaries and academic books that address the Israel Palestine conflict; many of them, like Occupation 101, reveal how Israeli policy in the region is tearing families apart, killing people and destroying homes. Yet the occupation is still raging in the Middle East; how many of these films reach the right people and why is little changing when they expose a system which has such a blatant disregard for other people’s lives?
Award-winning documentary Occupation 101 offers a few answers to this question. Narrated by Alison Weir, founder of ‘If Americans Knew’, and directed by brothers Abdallah and Sufyan Omeish, it was released in 2006. It analyses both the repercussions of the occupation – settlements, house demolitions, and access to jobs – and explores the relationship between Israel and The United States, examining the implications of such a cosy alliance. America’s manipulation of the media on Israel, for example, means people see a very limited view of what is really happening.
There are a number of scenes in which Occupation 101 demonstrates American political complicity in the conflict. It explains that between 1978 and 2006 pro-Israeli political committees donated $43,724,035 to candidates who voted in Congress according to their agenda; Israel scoops up a third of all annual American international aid at between two and three billion dollars a year; The States has exercised their veto in the U.N. over 40 times so Israel can continue to contravene international law.
In one scene an Orthodox Jewish citizens appears to tell us “I am from Al-Quds. I am a witness. I know the Arabs, the Arabs are very good. [There was] no problem until the Zionist movement started. My grandmother told me before the Zionist movement started they were babysitting each other’s kids. They borrowed from each other like brothers… it is not Arabs that are the problem, it’s not Jews that are the problem, not Judaism or Muslims. Only Zionism.”
His words contradict the widespread myth this is an irreversible conflict with its roots in an ancient disagreement between Jewish and Arab citizens that has been raging for thousands of years and will continue to rage for thousands of years. Footage of Ireland, Algeria, South Africa and India are mixed with images of Israel and Palestine to place the conflict in the wider context; it illustrates that many societies fight for their rights against oppression, form resistance movements and struggle against military occupation all over the world.
This documentary mixes largely Palestinian, Israeli and American voices of journalists, academics, scholars, religious authorities, activists, human rights lawyers, NGO representatives and humanitarian workers -amongst them Noam Chomsky, Jeff Halper and Amira Hass – to represent the span of voices that challenge the occupation. In the right hands, Occupation 101 would offer a newcomer to the conflict a comprehensive, clear, overview of history in the region and reveal numerous, disturbing facts and figures that have fanned the flames of hostility.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.