'This Is My Land ... Hebron'

A succinct, exceptionally well-researched but excruciatingly hard-to-watch documentary.

An admirably uncompromising docu, “This Is My Land … Hebron” examines the sorry situation in the largest city in the occupied West Bank, where a few hundred Jewish settlers, with the Israeli army’s support, have managed to impose their will on 160,000 Palestinians. Journalists, ex-politicians, disillusioned ex-soldiers and settlement spokespersons expound rationally or rave fanatically, but most resonant are the images of hate-filled Israeli children throwing stones, spouting death threats and attacking Palestinians while their mothers beam approvingly. Succinct, exceptionally well-researched but excruciatingly hard-to-watch docu will find favor in fests, but only the bravest TV channels need apply.

The filmmakers open on a tiny video image at the center of the screen, which then enlarges to encompass the entire frame, inescapably drawing viewers into the hellish lockdown that is Hebron. As Orthodox children hurl pebbles at Palestinians huddled behind chicken-wire barriers, an Israeli woman sidles up to the fence to insidiously whisper “whore” at her Palestinian neighbor.

Graffiti exclaiming “Arabs to the gas chambers,” adorned with stars of David instead of swastikas, cover the walls of Palestinian businesses shut down on “sterilized” streets (where no Palestinian has the right to walk). A former Israeli soldier-turned-dissident guides visitors through once bustling centers that have now become ghost towns, the doors soldered shut as “temporary” security measures have become irreversible confiscations. He leads them through streets permanently cordoned off for the convenience of settlers, next herding them through the long, circuitous pathways residents are forced to take to reach their homes, schools or jobs. Public Jewish gatherings of any sort force Palestinians city-wide to stay indoors, with additional curfews frequently, arbitrarily declared.

Heavily armed soldiers proliferate, 2,000 of them, doing little to defuse violence against Palestinians but quick to imagine threats to settlers. Residents speak of frequent, gratuitous raids on their homes, as we see footage of soldiers herding entire families into single rooms while they ravage the contents of pantries and closets, overturning food and clothing.

While young settlers verbally and physically abuse European human-rights activists, calling them Nazis and shouting things like “This is my land. God gave it to me and fuck you!” more rational-sounding elders address the importance of Hebron to the Jewish people and its centrality to many biblical events (Adam and Eve are on the list of historical personages said to be buried there). But even the most seemingly peaceful settlers never speak of coexistence, making no secret of their desire to drive all Palestinians from the land they feel God earmarked for Jews. (One Palestinian wryly remarks, “We do not believe that God is a real-estate agent.”)

Some might object that there are no interviews with hate-filled Palestinians, only sad, quietly resolute or deeply cynical ones, but after 72 minutes of vicariously experiencing the humiliations, imposed inconveniences and open vituperation most Hebronites suffer daily, viewers should be angry enough on their own.

This Is My Land ... Hebron

Israel-Italy

Production

A Blink Blink production. Produced by Giulia Amati, Stephen Natanson. Directed by Giulia Amati, Stephen Natanson.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Amati, Natanson, Boris Sclauzero; editor, Amati; sound designer, Matteo Di Simone. Reviewed at Human Rights Watch Film Festival, New York, June 29, 2011. Running time: 72 MIN.

With

Gideon Levi, David Wilder, Yehuda Shaul, Oren Yakobovich, Hamed Qawasmeh, Uri Avnery, Sani Horowitz, Miriam Grabovsky, Jessica Montell. (English, Hebrew, Arabic dialogue)

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