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Broken Lives and Families in Bil'in

By Stephen Lendman - Posted on 17 October 2012


Broken Lives and Families in Bil'in


by Stephen Lendman


A documentary called "5 Broken Cameras" depicts daily and nightly Israeli horrors committed against peaceful Bil'in villagers. More below on what most people can't imagine.


Palestinian residents throughout the Territories live it daily and can best explain. "Bil'in is a Palestinian village….struggling to exist," says its web site (


It's "fighting to safeguard its land, its olive trees, its resources….its liberty."


Israel stole around 60% of its land for settlement expansions and Separation Wall construction. Residents are being "strangl(ed)." Every day more is taken. Palestinians are left inside an "open air prison."


Each Friday, Israeli and international activists demonstrate supportively with Palestinians who want their land and homes preserved. They gather in front of the "work-site of shame."


Israel responds violently. Physical and psychological methods are used. Residents manage best they can. Injustice is horrific. Daily raids and arrests are made. Village leaders are especially vulnerable.


At issue is terrorizing people into submission. Courageously they refuse to go away and disappear. 


"By supporting Bil’in, you will help its inhabitants to continue their struggle and maintain hope in their fight for liberty. (Their) site is dedicated to all people of good will - Palestinian, Israeli and the internationals who fight side by side against the injustices endured by" courageous people who won't yield to oppression.


What's happening in Bil'in occurs throughout Palestine. UN Resolutions 242 and 338, as well as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) condemned it.


The UN and ICJ also denounced the Separation Wall's construction. It's purpose is stealing up to 12% more Palestinian land. It's not for security. That's a ruse. So is Gaza's siege for the same reason. Israeli officials admitted it.


According to the UN, armed Israeli forces on village land constitute "an illicit situation punishable by an international military intervention." Being there also violates Fourth Geneva and other international laws.


Violenly confronting peaceful demonstrations is also lawless. So is collective punishment in all forms. They're considered crimes of war and against humanity.


Battleground Bil'in began decades ago. It continues daily. Villagers wanting to live free contest valiantly. They won't ever quit until their occupier is vanquished.


"5 Broken Cameras" documents what they endure daily. It's available in Arabic, English and Hebrew. It's 90 minutes long. Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi directed it. 


Many others were involved. They produced a visual real life account of how Palestinians suffer. On May 30, it opened in New York. Don't expect airings on late night TV. Elsewhere perhaps but not in America. Disturbing truths like Bil'in horrors are sanitized and/or suppressed.


Surprisingly The New York Times reviewed the documentary. It downplayed what it should have emphasized in great detail. It called the film "a grim reminder….of the bitter intractability of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." It's a "chronicle of protest and endurance, punctuated by violence and glimmers of hope."


It's "necessary, if difficult, viewing." It's not neutral, and shouldn't be. It covers "Israel's controversial security fence."


It's not controversial. It's lawless. It's not for security. It's for land theft. It's not a fence. It's a monster wall eight meters high. It's twice the height of the Berlin Wall. It has watchtowers and a buffer zone 30 - 100 meters wide.


It's for electric fences, trenches, cameras, sensors, and military patrols. In other places, it consists of layers of fencing and razor wire, military patrol roads, sand paths to trace footprints, ditches, and surveillance cameras.


Homes, communities, and villages in its path are destroyed. Other areas are surrounded and suffocated. Land between it and the Green Line is called a "seam zone." 


Residents and landowners in it must obtain permit approval to remain in their homes on their land. Maybe Israel one day will require permission to breathe in and out. Failure to comply may subject violators to arrest, prosecution and imprisonment. Israeli ruthlessness shows no mercy.


The Times called the film "advocacy journalism." Perhaps so for producers wanting hard truths told. The review downplayed its cutting-edge importance. It also said it's "a visual essay in autobiography and, as such, a modest, rigorous and moving work of art."


It's purpose isn't art. It's vital truth telling and full disclosure. Times writers know little about that. Its articles, op-eds, editorials and reviews prohibit revealing what's most important for readers to know.


Reviewer AO Scott said villagers organized weekly protests. They're outraged about losing their homes and land. What's portrayed is "poignant and intimate."


The film "deserves to be appreciated for (its) lyrical delicacy (and) precision…." Scott referred to a longstanding "political crisis" without explaining it. 


What he omitted says more than he revealed. He left out what's most important. What else would you expect from a broadsheet scorning truth and full disclosure.


On October 5, Haaretz writer Gideon Levy began where he left off. He headlined "The Documentary that should make every decent Israeli ashamed," saying:


Burnat and Davidi produced a riveting documentary. They chronicled what all Palestinians face. Soldiers arrive late at night. 


"They kick, they smash, they destroy. They break in, rudely awakening an entire house and its inhabitants, including children and babies." 


"One officer pulls out a detailed document and declares: 'This house is declared a 'closed military zone.' He reads the order - in Hebrew and in a loud voice - to the sleep-dazed, pajama-clad family."


Who knows if Israeli officers support what they're doing. They get orders and obey. They're replicated daily throughout Palestine. Bil'in reflects occupation hell.


Burnat and Davidi gave views "no moments of respite or reprieve." Their "probing documentary" is riveting and hard to watch. Doing so reveals ruthless repression up close and personal.


It's one thing watching. It's much different living it daily in multiple communities and villages. In late September, the film aired at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. It's won numerous international prizes. Israel's Channel 8 broadcast it. 


"This documentary should make every decent Israeli ashamed of being an Israeli. It should be shown in civics classes and heritage classes." 


"The Israelis should know, at long last, what is being done in their name every day and every night in this ostensible time of no terror. Even in a West Bank village like Bil'in, which has made nonviolence its motto."


"The soldiers - the friends of our sons and the sons of our friends - break into homes in order to abduct small children, who may be suspected of throwing stones." 


"There is no other way to describe this. They also arrest dozens of the organizers of the popular weekly protest at Bil'in. And this happens every night."


Battleground Bil'in best describes what villagers live through daily. Levy spent time there. He witnessed its protests and funerals. Once or twice he participated during Friday demonstrations.


He experienced stinging (at times toxic) tear gas and stinking skunk water. He saw rubber bullets fired at point blank range. They injure and sometimes kill. Institutional violence targets peaceful protesters.


Having seen it himself in person, the film shocked him more than what he called "hasty visits." Settlement expansions are devouring Bil'in. Wall construction steals more. Residents are struggling to survive.


Even Israel's High Court "understood that a crime was being committed" and said so. It slowed but didn't stop land theft.


Burnat and Davidi revealed the occupation's true horror. No matter how peaceful Palestinians remain, there's "no such thing as nonviolent struggle." Security force brutality prevents it.


The slightest provocation or none at all unleashes repression harsh enough at times to kill. Advanced Israeli weapons are used. Bystanders and people in homes are affected.


"Anyone who watches this film understands that it is very difficult to face the wall, the settlement project and the soldiers - all of which scream 'violence' - and remain nonviolent. Nearly impossible."


Burnat's cameras were destroyed five times. Soldiers were responsible three times. Once ultra-Orthodox extremist settlers deserve blame, and another time a traffic accident caused damage enough to prevent filming.


In fact, damage occurred many other times. The film depicts incidents in which equipment was rendered inoperable. Ruined parts were displayed as evidence.


Something much deeper is involved. "A reality has been broken by broken cameras." Most Israelis don't know what goes on. They're cocooned safely away from occupation harshness. 


Perhaps they prefer it that way. Best not to know what's done in their names. Media reports suppress it. Films like "5 Broken Cameras" and others fill roles they spurn superbly.


"Anyone who some day wants to learn what was happening here during these cursed decades will hardly find what he is looking for in the newspaper and television archives. He will find it in the documentary movie archive, which is rescuing Israel's honor."


Burnat and Davidi's film has been shown in many countries, at festivals and commercial screenings. It shows some of the worst of occupation harshness. "The IDF and Border Police come out looking bad."


Even in film they look like "storm troopers." View the film if able and decide for yourself. Daily deadly violence it depicts is "appalling."


Netanyahu and other officials like to boast about Israeli enlightenment. Perhaps they haven;t seen the film. Doing so might give them second thoughts. 


"Anyone who knows what is happening in Bil'in and the other villages understands that a state that behaves in this way cannot be considered democratic or enlightened."


Life goes on in Bil'in like earlier. Daily violence and weekly demonstrations reveal what few outsiders understand. Longstanding injustices remain unresolved. 


Throughout Occupied Palestine, terrorized people struggle to be free. Bil'in is a microcosm of what millions of others face daily. Somehow they persist and endure.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at 


His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"


Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


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