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The issue surrounding the Gaza strip is one of difference. Alongside the documentary Eyeless in Gaza, we’ve asked both sides of the political fence for their opinion, in the name of greater education.
View from the right: Tanya Levin
It wasn’t easy being Jewish in the middle of 2014. There was a war in the heart of Israel, and, in the mainstream media, that could only mean one thing: the Jews were killing Palestinians. The body counts were constant, and the emphasis on dead children loomed large. While there were some mentions of the non-stop rocket assault from the Palestinian side, the narrative was of a powerful nation inflicting a meaningless war on the stateless people they oppress. In the mainstream media, there is only one side of the story, and it’s rarely the story of Israel.
This is why Eyeless in Gaza, the film, is such a welcome relief.
Along with the onslaught from news sources, were the inevitable attacks against Jewish people. As Alan Dershowitz says near the end of the film, “If you say it against the Jews, you’re exempt.”
When Israel acts in ways that western media outlets disagree with, it appears totally acceptable for that media to produce skewed and one-sided approaches. It is a frightening indictment on how pervasive and persuasive news sources can be in affecting global views, and it is unconscionable that the rest of the story goes unheard, which is where Eyeless in Gaza steps in.
Palestine is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organisation whose primary goal is to replace Israel with an Islamist Palestinian state according to its own Charter, and “to fight the Jews and kill them”.
Were this any other nation, it would be considered an ongoing declaration of war. When, in 2014 Hamas fired thousands of rockets from densely populated areas, outside of Israel, we waited for Facebook posts from our friends and family in Jerusalem to keep us updated on our safety. As these family and friends attended funerals and avoided suicide bombings, rockets, and stabbings in the street, the rest of the world was fed images of bleeding children and reports of Israel the mindless tyrant.
War is horrific in any situation, but when your people are being attacked, and their actions of defense are being branded as cruel, one-sided and for no good reason, the frustration and terror for those people, and yourself grows.
No filmmaker can capture the long and brutal history that led to the war in 2014, but Robert Magid provides a different explanation than the usual, often antisemitic, version which positions Israel as a monster and Palestine as a hapless, helpless victim. His systematic exploration of the crucial topics at hand has been desperately needed as a record of what else went on and why.
Our history needs recording.
Magid lays a historical foundation, outlining the various moves Israel has made towards peace with Hamas. These are not secrets he’s uncovered, but facts that get pushed to the side, or underreported because Israel as a sociopathic superpower is a story gobbled down by those eager to regurgitate the mythology.
Israel, the strip of red in this map is the only democracy in the Middle East and surrounded by 22 enemy countries. In 2014, after relentless rocket attacks by Hamas, and the kidnap and murder of three teenage Israeli army personell, Israel retaliated.
During the war it was discovered that Hamas had used aid funding to build a system of tunnels in the city to support its terrorist aims.
Should Israel really be expected to keep sending olive branches to people determined to destroy it?
While Hamas stored weapons in local schools and hospitals, Israel dropped leaflets off and made phone calls to buildings it planned to attack, warning the enemy to leave, to minimise civilian deaths. Hamas, who has a long history of using its people as human shields, instructed them to stay.
Yet this story seems only ever told as that of a group of innocent people who’ve had their land taken away, and the overlord that denies them. Finally, Eyeless in Gaza speaks that which we the Jewish people have known for decades but never more clearly than in 2014.
As Benjamin Netanyahu said, “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.”
View from the Left: Alan Harstein
Eyeless in Gaza is a confronting documentary about the seemingly intractable Israel/Palestine conflict that has fascinated the world for the past 70-odd years and seems, if anything, to be getting worse with the passage of time.
This latest instalment, which premiered at the Jewish International Film Festival held in Sydney last year, centres around Hamas’s rocket attack on Israeli population centres in July 2014, the Israel Defence Force’s subsequent military operation codenamed Operation Protective Edge, and the way in which the international media covered the conflict.
Regardless of what side of the fence you may be entrenched on in this highly polarising issue, the one thing you’d agree on is that Eyeless in Gaza does raise a lot of interesting points.
Hamas launched a seemingly unprovoked rocket offensive from densely populated neighbourhoods of Gaza at Israeli cities, the Israelis were fortunate that the recently erected Iron Dome missile defence system was able to repel over 90% of over 4,000 rocket attacks. More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed in what ensued.
Describing that operation as a massacre, the world’s media seemingly had a collective meltdown, blaming the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) for the senseless slaughter of civilians and painting the Palestinians as the helpless victims while virtually ignoring Hamas’s role in the tragedy.
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Eyeless in Gaza also shows how Hamas terrorised local and international journalists who didn’t report the “official” version of events, and there were plenty of people on the ground, some of a distinctly pro-Palestinian persuasion, that willingly confirmed this version of events.
But does the documentary simplify a highly complex issue? For example, there was plenty of discussion about the number of fatalities suffered by the Palestinians: 760 civilians, 950 militants, and another 430 people not identified as either. Reports referenced claimed that civilian deaths in these sorts of conflicts are usually disproportionately higher (three to one), whereas here it was less than one civilian for every enemy combatant, the argument being that the IDF had been extra careful to avoid civilian casualties.
Yet an Israeli military inquiry found that it dropped more than 2,000 bombs, missiles and shells on the southern city of Rafah in just one day, August 1st, including 1,000 in the three hours following the capture of an Israeli soldier. That four-day bombardment killed at least 135 civilians, injured many more and destroyed hundreds of homes. Eyeless in Gaza also made much of the way that the Egyptians have treated the Palestinians on the Sinai side of the border and the brutal oppression by the Syrian government of its Palestinian population during the civil war, both of which were apparently much worse, especially in terms of numbers killed and injured.
While it’s easy to agree that there’s been an unacceptably low level of coverage of these atrocities by the international media, there’s still no escaping the findings of reports into the IDF’s conduct during the 2014 conflict, and worth also looking into is the research from Amnesty.
Describing that operation as a massacre, the media had a collective meltdown, blaming the IDF for the senseless slaughter of civilians and painting the Palestinians as the helpless victims while virtually ignoring Hamas’s role in the tragedy.
Much was also made of the unprovoked nature of the attacks and while Hamas richly deserves its portrayal as a venal, toxic organisation, attacks like these are rarely unprovoked, regardless of ideology.
Israel had launched two major incursions into Gaza in the previous six years, and the area has one of the highest population densities on earth and living conditions that most would agree are appalling, especially given the restrictions placed on the movements of people and goods.
Perhaps the real tragedy of the situation, that Eyeless in Gaza went some way to explaining, is that the people of Gaza elected a group of fascist thugs hellbent on destroying any chance of a lasting peace. Of course the reality of the situation is that there’s never been any shortage of appalling hardliners, on the Israeli and Palestinian sides, who are equally enthusiastic about scuttling any chance to find a way forward in this conflict.