In the excellent television programme, Palestine – Still the issue, which unfortunately was broadcast so late that many people will have missed the chance to see it, John Pilger provided a follow-up documentary to one he did 25 years ago on the issue.
Unusually for a major broadcasting company, ITV in Britain aired an excellent analysis of the conflict in Israel/Palestine on Monday 15 September (albeit at a very late hour). The programme was made by John Pilger, an outstanding investigative journalist and filmmaker, who has previously exposed the crimes of the Suharto regime in Indonesia against the people of Timor, amongst other topics.
His latest film on Israel/Palestine graphically revealed the daily repression faced by Palestinians. The piece also interviewed Israelis who oppose Sharon’s brutal denial of self-determination for Palestinians, including those refusing to be conscripted into the armed forces.
It is to be hoped that ‘Palestine – Still the issue’, will be syndicated internationally and will find as wide an audience as possible.
Chris Newby reviews the Pilger programme below. For a socialist analysis of the Israel/Palestine conflict see the articles on this site under, Middle East at War.
The programme opens with Pilger being shown the destruction and vandalism of the Israeli military after it had attacked the Palestinian Ministry of Culture buildings in Ramallah. The soldiers completely wrecked the offices and rooms, including vandalising children’s art work. Then they left bags of human excrement all over the place, including smearing a photocopier.
War for land
As Pilger makes clear, this is war where land plays a key part. He underlines the hypocrisy of Western leaders, particularly at a time when US imperialism is conducting a ‘war against terror’, with the fact that at least three former Israeli prime ministers have been involved in acts of ‘terror’. When asked about this and ongoing acts of state terror by the Israeli state, a ‘special adviser’ to Prime Minister Sharon dismisses these attacks as mere ‘accidents’. He went on to argue that as terrorism has ‘moved to nuclear terrorism’ we must remove this ‘scourge’ from the earth. That Israel is a nuclear power, has the fourth biggest army in the world, and occupies Palestinian land illegally – are all issues he of course does not address.
Pilger points out the hypocrisy of the Blair government, which up to 14 months ago had granted over two hundred export licences for weapons and other military equipment to be sent to Israel, despite officially condemning Israel through the UN.
Living behind electric fences
This documentary gives a feel of what life is like as a Palestinian: living behind electric wire fences, in the shadow of settler villages built like medieval fortresses, and having to wait overnight at checkpoints on a journey that should only take 20 minutes. Pilger also provides some insight into why people in this desperate situation become suicide bombers. The first woman suicide bomber, who blew herself up in January this year, was an ambulance worker but was sickened at the sight of the killing and injured, including pregnant women having to give birth at checkpoints because the Israeli army would not let them go to hospital.
Importantly, Pilger interviews Israelis who give a sympathetic response to the Palestinian struggle, including, a father whose 14-year old daughter was blown up by a suicide bomber, a former IDF soldier who is refusing to serve, and a historian critical of the denial of self-determination for Palestinians.
While Pilger made a passing reference to Arafat, describing how after the 1991 Oslo Accords the PLO leader and his cohorts got the trappings of power while, as one Israeli official correctly described it, the vast majority of the Palestinians got the "autonomy of a POW camp", the differences between the Palestinian elite and the masses was not fully brought out in the programme.
Pilger ended the documentary by saying that "the Israelis will never have peace until they give the Palestinians the same freedom that they enjoy. The occupation of Palestine should end now. Is that possible?"
The CWI has always made it clear that there can never be lasting peace on the basis of capitalism and a denial of the right to self-determination for the Palestinians. Only a socialist solution in the Middle East – a socialist Palestine and a socialist Israel, as part of a socialist federation of the region – can bring long lasting peace and a dramatic rise in living standards.