Foreign Policy Blogs

Palestine Blues (2006)


To say this documentary puts the Israelis in a bad light is a great understatement.
It is hard, watching this film, to not want to ally oneself with the Palestinians portrayed in it.
The documentary is about the erection of the wall Israel was building in 2002 that hems in the West Bank.
We see images of tanks and bulldozers razing the buildings and orchards owned by the Palestinians.
But why is Israel doing this?
That question is never asked or answered.
We also see young people throwing stones at military vehicles and can’t help but see the connection to the story of David and Goliath.
What we see is atrocity, no doubt, but there is no backstory, no history lesson of what led the Israelis to build the wall in the first place.
What the filmmaker does very well, however, is to show the human side of life in Palestine. He draws us into a world of people who are just like people living anywhere in any time.
The anger of the youth is also displayed. When a boy of no more than 12 says he will drive Israel out of Palestine, the viewer can’t help but sympathize on one level.
This documentary does nothing to bridge the gap between Israelis and Palestinians. If anything, the viewer will come away with the same views he had going in.
Again, the actions are devoid of context, everything happening in a vacuum.
One reviewer from the Huffington Post wrote in 2012: “Watching this movie is like watching a Japanese documentary about the bombing of Hiroshima that doesn’t mention World War II, in which the evil Americans just bombed the Japanese for no reason.”

That being said, it appears obvious that Israel is putting up the wall in part to create locales for new settlements.
Most if not all of the Palestinians shown are victims. However, none are shown aiding and abetting terrorists who carry out suicide bombings in Israel proper.
The problem the Israelis face is: who are the bombers? Like the United States in Vietnam, paranoia runs rampant and anyone could be the enemy.
Palestine Blues is one of many documentaries in the last decade that depict Israelis as faceless, evil monsters. And, while it is important to see the human side of the Israeli settlement program, it fails to show the full story.
Demonizing on both sides will do nothing but fan the flames of outrage and mistrust. The viewer of this documentary must ask questions about not only what is being shown but also what is not.
Imagine how much more credible the film would be if we saw Israelis in settlements living their lives, honoring their traditions, and loving their children. That would show that the situation is not as black and white as it first appears.
What is needed, at least in the film world, are documentaries that are open to dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. Only when a true account of history since 1948 is offered will there be any chance of peace between the two.
Palestine Blues is available to rent.
Murphy can be reached at: [email protected]




Sean Patrick Murphy

Sean Patrick Murphy is a graduate of Bennington College, where he majored in politics and Latin American literature. He has worked for Current History magazine, Physicians for Human Rights, and Citizens for Global Solutions (formerly the World Federalist Association). He lives outside Philadelphia.

Areas of Focus:
Cinematography; Independent Films; Documentary;