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Posted in: Anti-Semitism, Jihad & Terrorism, Film & Propaganda, Arts, Film & Culture

Published on Aug 25, 2004 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for The Jewish Press

The Sins of Omission, Part Two


For five weeks, (August 11-September 13), 2004, this website hosted two of Pierre Rehov's films. The site drew nearly 30,000 viewers from 88 countries on every continent. If you would like information about these films, please visit the filmmaker's website (www.pierrerehov.com) where you may see a trailer of these and other films with an option to purchase any one. I strongly recommend that you do so.

Week before last I wrote about HBO'S airing of the Miller/Shah film "Death in Gaza," which is being shown for two weeks. Because I failed to persuade HBO to consider airing any one of Pierre Rehov's extraordinary films about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I decided to post two of his films on my own website for the same period of time. You may view them at www.phyllis-chesler.com until September 12.

The response has been incredible. As of Monday, Aug. 23, twenty-thousand people from more than eighty countries on every continent had visited my website over a twelve-day period. Individuals from thirty-five European countries came to visit -- from England, France, Scandinavia, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Russia, and Ukraine. They came from China, South Korea, the Philippines, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, and South Africa. And they came from all over the United States, Canada, and nine countries in South America.

My first column on the subject ("Race Against Lies," Jewish Press, Aug. 13) has been reprinted on websites all over the world.

Given such grassroots interest in Rehov's work, I need your help to convince HBO -- or, for that matter, any other major network -- to show it. His films are high quality, and the truth he presents is, in my view, deeper, more troubling, and more important for American viewers to see than "Death in Gaza."

The co-producers of "Death in Gaza," by the way, are Sheila Nevins and Nancy Abraham. They may be reached at Sheila.Nevins@HBO.com This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it and Nancy.Abraham@HBO.com This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . Please write them and send me copies of your letters via my website.

In the Miller /Shah film, we mainly see Israeli tanks and bulldozers moving ominously toward children and weeping women; the soundtrack that accompanies the Israeli military equipment is that of a horror movie. The only "human" face shown is that of Palestinians: crying, suffering, burying their dead, visiting cemeteries.

In the Miller/Shah film, there are no Israeli civilians or child counterpart interviewees. Although the Palestinians are indeed shown as world-class haters and brainwashers, I still fear that the film will encourage further demonization of Israel and sympathy for the Palestinian jihadic terrorists.

Rehov's film "The Road to Jenin" shows us a very different Israeli army than we see in "Death in Gaza." A far truer view of the IDF may be gleaned not only from Rehov's film but also from Gil Mezuman's film "Jenin Diary: The Inside Story," and from an important and moving book by Brett Goldberg, A Psalm in Jenin (2003, Modan Publishing House).

Given the world's diabolic double standards, Israeli soldiers stand accused of atrocities (which they did not commit) while the ethnic Arab Muslim Janjaweed paramilitary troops in Sudan and the Arab and Palestinian terrorists remain uncondemned.

The truth is so different from the commonly held myths that what I am about to write will no doubt be met with considerable scorn by those who believe what their politically correct professors and the Arab/Palestinian propagandists have taught them to believe. But speak I must.

The Israeli (mainly reserve) army is exceptionally principled, sensitive, haunted by any accidental civilian deaths, grief-stricken by the deaths of their own comrades. Unlike the Palestinians or al Qaeda, the IDF does not glorify death, and mourns each life lost in necessary battle. This must be said -- not once, but over and over again to counter the monstrous propaganda against Israel.

For two years without stop, terrorists attacked Israeli civilians. In just the month of March 2002 they murdered one hundred Israeli men, women and children. In April 2002 a suicide bomber exploded a bomb at the Park Hotel in Netanya, just as Jews were seated at their Passover seder tables. This was a final straw. Reservists voluntarily flew home to Israel from all over the world. Unasked, soldiers left their own Passover tables all over Israel and rushed to join their units.

Most of the suicide bombers had come from Jenin, and it was time to shut it down. Israeli soldiers went in on foot, not only to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties but because world opinion would not allow Israel to defend itself properly. The relentless sacrifice exacted by the world meant that 24 Israeli soldiers had to (needlessly) die in the siege of Jenin. The Israelis went from booby-trapped house to booby-trapped house and were easy prey for snipers, rockets, grenades, etc. For its efforts, Israel was falsely accused of committing a massacre there.

As we now know, the Israelis did not perpetrate a massacre in Jenin. Twenty-four armed Israeli soldiers and 56 armed Palestinian soldiers died. The Israelis were up against home-made napalm (glue and kerosene), rockets, suicide bombers, Palestinian fighters transported via ambulances, snipers shooting from minarets, and intricately booby-trapped roads, stores, fields, and buildings. Israelis were ordered to never shoot at an ambulance or a mosque and they never did. Israeli soldiers were wounded and killed while trying to help Palestinian civilians.

Israeli soldiers not only gave out food and water, they gave up their own rations to civilians. They stocked up on candy for children and diapers for infants. Israeli soldiers did not confiscate or destroy civilian property. In fact, they slept on floors so as not to soil beds. Israeli soldiers systematically rolled up oriental carpets to shield them from their muddy military boots. They even left notes apologizing for any damage and thanking the absentee home-owners for their "hospitality."

Sleepless, embattled, freezing, the Israelis refused to "borrow" blankets or coffee. (Only one caffeine-starved soldier did so and his commanding officer wrestled with the question of whether or not to punish him.)

Contrary to the myths presented by Mohammed Bakri in his fictional documentary "Jenin, Jenin," Rehov's film proves that the Israelis did not shell or destroy any hospitals. In fact, they treated every Palestinian civilian who was wounded professionally and ethically. According to Rehov and Goldberg, Israelis fed and medically treated enemy combatants, including men who only moments before had been trying to kill them. In one instance, when an Israeli soldier accidentally wounded an elderly Arab man who was deaf and who could not hear his orders, the soldier literally fainted; the Arab man was evacuated by medics.

Mezuman's documentary, filmed while the invasion of Jenin was still in progress, shows us exhausted, traumatized, frightened, heartsick reservists engaged in soul-searching as well as in criticism of Israeli policy. Rehov's film confirms all this and more. Brett Goldberg's book explores the characters, biographies, and in-battle conduct of the 24 Israelis who died in Jenin as well as several who survived.

Unlike Palestinians and Arabs who dance and cheer when they lynch, behead, and blow up infidels, Israelis mourned and even wept when they had to destroy ancient orchards and homes because they sheltered terrorists. When one retarded Palestinian boy whom the Israelis had been feeding was about to be wired up with explosives, Israelis found a way to feed him from afar.

Israeli soldiers have been taught that they "ha(ve) no right to punish with violence. Only to defend." According to Goldberg, when one commanding officer received a Palestinian prisoner who had obviously been beaten, he freed him "as a lesson to the arresting soldiers."

"Death in Gaza" was not completed by James Miller. While filming, he unwisely and tragically decided to wander out in the dead of night in the midst of an ongoing battle in Gaza. In the confusion, he was shot and died instantly. His accidental death was conveniently filmed by a Palestinian film crew that just happened to show up.

Palestinians mourned Miller as a shaheed and staged a public funeral for him -- all now part of the film which his wife and his colleague Shah completed. Neither chose to interview a single Israeli child -- something Miller had intended to do.

It should be noted that the only Israeli troops in the area at the moment of Miller's death were Bedouins -- a fact that none of the film's many reviewers mention. (Let me be clear: Whether the Israeli soldiers were Bedouins or immigrants from Russia or Algeria does not matter to me -- they are all Israeli soldiers. However, the omission of this known fact by the film's reviewers does matter, since it illustrates a subtle and invidious prejudice.) Israeli authorities are still conducting an investigation of Miller's death.

If HBO and other American and European networks do not begin airing both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian issue so that people can really make up their own minds, we will all be the poorer for it. We are also more endangered when the media systematically feed us propaganda disguised as truth.


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