07 May 2010

Last Week in Israel

by guest columnist Frederick Marx.  Follow him on Twitter.

(editor's note - Frederick was noticeably absent from MH for the past couple weeks - here's why - T)

This is some of what happened last week while I was in Israel with a Palestinian friend researching a film on the possible 1948 massacre of up to 270 civilians in the village of Tantura:

  • Arriving in the country we were held for 7 hours by security police.  We were questioned separately, guarded, escorted to the bathroom, separated from our bags, computers, and phones.  I was told to provide my father’s and grandfather’s names, my cell phone number, and my email addresses.  I was asked how long I’d known my friend and what my relationship was to her. 
  • The day after we arrived home this similar story appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about a Spanish clown being denied entry to the country.
  • Teddy Katz, the academic who first published his research on Tantura has received numerous death threats.  http://www.monabaker.com/pMachine/more.php?id=2819_0_1_0_M27
  • Ilan Pappe, another academic who supported Katz, received so many death threats that he chose to leave Israel altogether.  http://www.monabaker.com/pMachine/more.php?id=2819_0_1_0_M27
  • None of my friend’s numerous family members would go on camera to talk about Tantura for fear of government reprisals.
  • Two other villagers we met said they knew plenty about what occurred but also would not speak for fear of government retribution.
  • Three Israeli army veterans met with us and denied any wrongdoing.  One said since he couldn’t kill Teddy Katz he wanted to at least set the record straight. They also said they would not have met with us if they’d known in advance that my friend - a Palestinian woman relative of the Tantura victims - would be present.
  • All parties agree that all the Palestinian bodies from 1948 still lie buried under the parking lot outside the public beach.  One of the soldiers said he’d support exhuming the bodies there.  But to date the government has shown no interest in exhuming bodies, counting them, and determining cause of death.
  • The once beautiful stone house that belonged to my friend’s family still stands on the beach.  Signs posted on the house warn people to stay away because it’s dangerous.  The town council has decided to tear down the house because it’s an “eyesore.”
  • By law my friend is not allowed to return to her family’s village to resume residency in any dwelling anywhere, much less her family’s historic home.  However, as an American citizen, theoretically at least, she could return to her homeland and take up residency if she converted to Judaism.
  • On our final day, we took the highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem dubbed “The Apartheid Highway” by many.  It’s easy to see why.  Only some of it runs along the so-called Green Line.  Most of it runs inside the West Bank, well inside Palestinian territory.  Much of the road is lined on both sides by tall fences and razor wire.  Feeder roads to Palestinian villages are blocked and sealed.  Occasional tunnels under the road link Palestinian villages on either side.   Entire villages and towns are encircled by walls and barbed wire, the movements of citizens in and out entirely controlled.
  • On leaving the country we were held and questioned again.  Despite one extremely thorough prior baggage check and two Xrays our bags were searched yet again by hand.  When I asked why we were singled out for this I was told we were chosen at random.  My friend was strip searched. 
  • Many Israelis we spoke with argued that creating a Jewish homeland after the Holocaust necessitated taking the land and homes of Palestinians.  Though many of my family perished in the Holocaust, my father and grandfather were survivors.    My father always taught me two wrongs never make a right.
Frederick Marx  is an internationally acclaimed, Oscar and Emmy nominated producer/director with 35 years in the film business.   He was named a Chicago Tribune Artist of the Year for 1994, a 1995 Guggenheim Fellow, and a recipient of a Robert F. Kennedy Special Achievement Award.  His film HOOP DREAMS played in hundreds of theatres nationwide after winning the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and was the first documentary ever chosen to close the New York Film Festival.  It was on over 100 “Ten Best” lists nationwide and was named Best Film of the Year by critics Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel, Gene Shalit, and Ken Turran and by the Chicago Film Critics Association. Ebert also named it Best Film of the Decade. It won numerous prestigious awards, including an Academy Nomination (Best Editing), Producer’s Guild, Editor’s Guild (ACE), Peabody Awards, the Prix Italia (Europe’s top documentary prize) and The National Society of Film Critics Award.  The New York, Boston, LA, and San Francisco Film Critics all chose it as Best Documentary, 1994.  Utne Reader named it one of 150 of humanity’s “essential works,” the Library of Congress recently added it to its prestigious National Film Registry and the International Documentary Association named it the Best Documentary Ever.


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