Socialist Worker

A moving film for Palestine

by Rachel Aldred
Issue No. 1817

PALESTINE IS Still The Issue, the new film by the journalist John Pilger, is a rarity on TV. It is a painfully honest documentary that refuses to toe the established political line.

John Pilger will be familiar to many Socialist Worker readers as a witness and a fighter for truth and justice. This is his latest project. It is about the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian resistance to it. Some of the film's most powerful moments come in the description of the everyday brutality of the occupation. The Israeli army would like to see itself as a 'defence' force battling terrorists.

But pictures of what was the Palestinian culture ministry obliterate that illusion. Israeli soldiers destroyed computers wilfully, smeared shit on walls and equipment, and even vandalised children's drawings. In these and many more unrecorded acts of vandalism, they attack the possibility of any kind of normal existence in Palestine.

Fatima Abed-Rebo lost her baby when she was held up at an Israeli army checkpoint. She says of the cruel way the soldiers treated her, 'It wasn't personal. This is the way they treat all Palestinians.' Palestinians have resisted this state terrorism. Even within the Israeli army some dissent has appeared - over 500 soldiers have refused to serve in the Occupied Territories.

The film examines the motivation of those who are driven towards suicide attacks. Wafa Idris, the first female suicide bomber, was an ambulance volunteer - an extremely hazardous occupation in Palestine where the Israeli army regularly attacks medical crews.

In the horrific aftermath of suicide bombings in Israel, ambulances zoom up and down to pick up the dead and injured.

But in Palestine ambulances are often prevented from reaching the injured and dying. Wafa Idris saw so much death and destruction that she could not take it any more. Some Israeli victims of the suicide attacks have spoken out against the occupation. Most of Rami Elhanan's family were murdered in the Holocaust. He lost his 14 year old daughter after an attack by a suicide bomber In Israel. 'It doesn't just come out of the blue,' he says. 'The boy whose mother was humiliated in the morning at the checkpoint will commit suicide in the evening. 'The bomber was a victim, just like my girl. Of that I am sure.'

We see the immense disparity between the poverty of the Palestinian areas and the lush suburban Israeli settlements guarded by massive military force. Maps show just how little was offered to the Palestinians during the peace process, despite the enormous concessions made by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Seeing this film will make you angry, but don't feel helpless. The anti-war demonstration in London on Saturday 28 September is also in support of Palestine. Pilger's film shows exactly why everyone should be there.

Palestine Is Still The Issue is to be broadcast on ITV1 on Monday 16 September at 11pm.

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Sat 14 Sep 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1817
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