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Leftists Speak Out
Here it comes again!  Gaza Strip: the movie.
Below this missive is my review of the film which
you have not yet posted on the Dafka website.   --- Becky
The Resource Center for Nonviolence
The Award-Winning Film: (? WHAT AWARD?)
by James Longley
Sunday, June 29
12:00 pm

The Nickelodeon Theatre
210 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz
$5- 25 Donation
Proceeds Benifit the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in
the Gaza Strip. 
Tickets available at the Resource Center for Nonviolence (515
Broadway, Santa Cruz) or at the Nickelodeon.

"GAZA STRIP was filmed during the first four months of 2001,
a period that covers the election of Israeli prime minister
Ariel Sharon and extends to the first major armed incursion
into "Area A" by the Israeli military. It was my first trip
to the Middle East; all of my previous international
filmmaking experience took place in Russia. The idea to make
a documentary about Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip was
mainly a reaction to what I perceived as a lack of good media
coverage of that area: it was difficult for me to find
intimate material of the Palestinian struggle in the
mainstream US media. More than anything, it was a desire to
satisfy my own curiosity about what was really taking place
inside the Occupied Territories that induced me to take
matters into my own hands and produce the project.

At first it was daunting, to say the least. I didn't speak
Arabic, I had no contacts on the ground. I had never even met
a Palestinian in my life. The current intifada had been
underway for five months and hundreds of people -- mostly
Palestinian civilians -- had already been killed in the
violence. After a number of dire warnings from Israelis about
the likelihood of my being attacked by angry Palestinian
mobs, it was with much trepidation that I crossed alone
through the Erez Crossing checkpoint into the Gaza Strip one
rainy day in January.

To my great relief, the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip turned
out to be people like everyone else. It is the situation they
find themselves in that is extraordinary: The Gaza Strip is
essentially an open-air prison for Palestinian refugees,
guarded on all sides by the Israeli military. Barely 28 miles
long and 4 miles wide, it contains more than 1,200,000
Palestinians -- over one third of them living in squalid
refugee camps built in 1948 to hold the people forced out of
their homes by the creation of modern-day Israel. It is one
of the most densely populated places on the planet. Nobody
can pass through its borders without the permission of the
Israeli soldiers. Like the West Bank, the Gaza Strip has been
under Israeli military occupation since 1967. Most people
living in the Gaza Strip have never known a single day of
real freedom.

My plan was to find a main character to follow -- probably a
stone-throwing kid or an ambulance driver -- who would be
able to give a narration and framework to the events taking
place. I knew from the start that I didn't want to write a
narration for the film; I wanted the characters I filmed to
speak for themselves and tell their own stories.

I found the film's principal voice in the person of Mohammed
Hejazi, a 13-year-old paper boy in Gaza City. He was the
first person I filmed inside the Gaza Strip. One afternoon
early in my stay I walked out to Karni Crossing, a place in
east Gaza where many children have been killed and wounded by
Israeli soldiers while throwing stones at tanks, and the kids
there pushed him in front of the camera as their
spokesperson. It was no accident: Mohammed could talk the
ears off a donkey, and he has a great deal to say. I followed
him for several weeks, recording hours of interviews and
verite material.

The situation in the Gaza Strip worsened noticeably during my
stay. Sharon was elected prime minister and immediately began
a campaign to demolish the infrastructure of the Palestinian
Authority. I eventually branched out from Gaza City and moved
to the refugee camp of Khan Younis in the southern part of
the Gaza Strip, where things were made particularly tense by
the proximity of a large Jewish settlement that virtually
surrounds the western edge of the camp. Khan Younis came
under constant attack from the Israeli military while I lived
there -- particularly at night. The Israeli machine-gunners
would usually start around 10 pm, firing into the city. Most
of the time it seemed as if the IDF soldiers were shooting
out of boredom. They would tap out little tunes with their
armor-piercing ammunition, like fans clapping at a hockey
match. Most nights, the bombardment would last until morning.
Families living on the perimeter of the camp gradually
evacuated their homes and moved in with  relatives. After
about a week in Khan Younis, I became accustomed to the
Israeli gunfire and tank shells. I moved my bed to the
balcony of the apartment I shared with two French
journalists, letting the sound of the machine-guns lull me to
sleep. A quiet night was a fitful night.

I fell into a routine of filming every day, all kinds of
subjects. I filmed women in tents whose houses had been
bulldozed. Children dodging machine-gun fire on their way
home from school. Rock-throwing demonstrations. Patients
suffering in the hospitals from a gas attack. An old couple
in Rafah whose small villa was gradually being destroyed. A
boy whose friend was blown up by an Israeli booby-trapped
device. Palestinians circumventing a roadblock by driving
along the beach. Assassinations carried out with Apache
helicopters. Funerals. Lots of funerals. It ran together in
my camera like a kaleidoscope of slow suffocation punctuated
by moments of extreme terror. All in all, I filmed more than
75 hours of material. For every minute in the finished film
there is an entire hour of material that I had to leave out.

My idea of a good documentary is a film that captures the
most essential aspects of its subject, a film that shows
rather than tells. I wanted to make a film that would convey
not only the hard facts of life inside the Gaza Strip, but
also the emotions, sensations and driving desires of the
people I filmed. I made the film to fill a gap in our
knowledge and a blind spot in our thinking about this
conflict, but more than anything this film is an attempt to
record the humanity of the people I met there, the thing that
is impossible to tell in words."
-- Director / Producer, James Longley

Gaza Strip the Movie
Review of a film by James Longley
by Becky Johnson
February 4, 2003


Santa Cruz, Ca. --- I attended the screening of "Gaza Strip" last night at the University of California in Santa Cruz. At the well attended event, I learned from the organizers, the Committee for Justice in Palestine, that Gaza "is illegally occupied by the Israeli army and that they are there to "humiliate, bulldoze, and to kill." The organizer then explained that since the filmmaker is "an American, he does not have a vested interest in the topic of the film."

The opening screen of the film states regarding the residents of Gaza that "most were purged in 1948" and that after years of unproductive talks the Intifada "broke out."

Okay. All by itself. No one started it.

The story is told by a 13 year old boy who dropped out of school in the 2nd grade, can't read, and by his own account throws rocks at Israeli soldiers daily, steals copper, steals oranges, steals tomatos, sets tires on fire, and sneaks through the perimeter fences to burn Jewish fences. He is the main source for political and historical information on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Okay.

We are told that Gaza is a "prison camp" because 1.2 million people live on 139 square miles of land. Contrast this with San Francisco which has 675,000 people living on 47 square miles of land. By the way, they are both on the beach.

Everyone in the film blames Israel for all their problems. Not one word is said about suicide bombings, snipings, kidnap-torture-murders by Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Tanzim, El Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Hizbollah, Fatah, the PLO, or PFLP. Instead we are told that "the Jews want to push us into the sea." Hmmmmm. I thought it was the Arabs who wanted to push the Jews into the sea. Like in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973. Old news,right?

The filmmaker takes us into a hospital in Gaza to see young boys recovering from various injuries, some of which appear to be from bullet wounds.  While it is implied that the Israeli soldiers shot the boys, it is ambiguous.  Were those boys shot while stealing oranges, stealing tomatos, stealing copper, setting tires on fire, or burning down Jewish fences?  The most disturbing shot in the movie is of a young boy who is killed by an explosion near his abdomen.  His injured friend tells the cameraman that an Israeli tank dropped a boxing glove with a grenade in it. If the boy had been killed by a bomb he was carrying or by an accident with explosives at a terrorist's house, would he have said that? The thing is, you will never know.

Two Palestinian women wail "Why don't they just leave us alone?"  and "We only want to live in Peace!"  A few moments later they are calling to kill the Jews. 

No doubt life in Gaza Strip is unpleasant and downright depressing. But the film does little to reveal either the cause of their suffering or invite the viewer to do anything but express hatred towards Israel. The Israeli Defense Force soldiers, who's outpost is shown in the film with the Israeli flag flying above it, are in Gaza per the terms of the Oslo accords signed in 1993 by both Israel and Arafat's Palestinian Authority, a fact never mentioned in the film.  Longley does not interview anyone with an Israeli perspective.

Longley claims he witnessed Israeli attacks "nightly" while in Gaza. Yet of the 75 hours of film he claims he shot, not even one second of the film depicts this.  The only footage he managed to get was some grainy footage of a bulldozer at work which Longley claims is destroying "Palestinian homes."  He objects to the presence of Jewish settlements in Gaza.  Perhaps he doesn't know that those settlements have been there for 900 years.

The history of Gaza is somewhat different than what Longley presents us.  David Horowitz documents in 2002 how Gaza came into its current condition. In 1948, as Arab civilians fled Israel to make way for the war, Egyptian soldiers met them at the border to Egypt.  They disarmed them, and herded them like cattle into the Gaza Strip.  Egypt was just not willing to take in a lot of Palestinian Arabs. Not then. Not now.  So the "prison colony" of Gaza was created by the Egyptians, rather than the Israelis who were too busy trying not to be engulfed and destroyed by 5 attacking Arab nations who outnumbered them 10 to 1.

From 1948 to 1967 Gaza was "occupied" by Egypt. There is no movement to return Gaza to Egyptian rule.  Instead, the Palestinians solely blame Israel for their plight.  They have not one word of criticism for the Palestinian Authority who takes in $125 million per month in foreign aid, but little trickles down to the Palestinian people. No, the message is clear. Whatever problems the residents of Gaza are suffering from, Israel is to blame for everything.