A Parallel of Pain

By Lynne Rogers

Junction

First Run/Icarus Films, Running Time 56:55

By Lynne Rogers

The documentary film, “Junction” by Ilan Ziv, provides a realistic and human dimension to the debate generated by Sharon 's recent discussion of pulling the Israeli settlements out of Gaza. Referring to the meeting point of the isolated Israeli settlement, Netzarim, and the neighboring Nusseirat refugee camp in Gaza, “Junction” documents the stories of the first two victims in the outbreak of renewed post-Oslo violence, referred to by some as the second Intifada.

David, a 19-year-old Israeli soldier, and Fahmi, a young Palestinian civilian, cross fates at this junction and meet their untimely death. By capturing both the Israeli soldiers and their families and the grieved Palestinian family, Ziv's camera draws the viewer's attention to the continual bloodshed, the collapse of Oslo, and the subsequent ramifications.

Rather than reiterate the tired monologues of both sides, “Junction” courageously pierces through the rhetoric in its penetrating juxtaposition of the stories of these two young men and the aftermath for surviving loved ones. The dexterous film's interchanging interviews and scenic shots give the viewer a provocative vision of the personal panorama, touching the viewer emotionally while underscoring the need for a political solution. The inclusion of home video clips adds to the film's realistic and sympathetic treatment of its controversial subject matter.

The film opens with the vast destruction of the junction neighborhood and the Israeli army camp, contrasting the image of soldiers with the sounds of folk music. The film recreates the beginning of the second Intifada through family memories captured in interviews and home videos, then continues on the path of deadly destruction. The camera accompanies David's friends, also veteran soldiers, who return to Netzarim two years after his death. The young men lament the destruction of the neighborhood and then the camera gracefully switches to the Palestinian refugee camp where the family also laments the loss of “the orange groves and homes.” The camp children ask “Why are we called refugees?” and “Why is the United Nations responsible for us?” The film does not attempt to answer these difficult questions but rather, as one Israeli soldier refers to it, reveals the “insanity” of the situation.

Despite the deaths and the refugee camps which stand as his rebuttal, an Israeli settler claims their settlement as a Biblical obligation. This stubborn tenacity, relying on the past to deny the present reality, conflicts with the conscience of David, an Israeli combat soldier, who did not believe that the settlers should be in Gaza. Like the protagonists of Tim O'Brien, the American novelist of the Vietnam War, David and his friends joined a combat unit after graduation merely because it was “expected of you.” They had made anti-war films in high school.

Fahmi's friends also reminisce on his death and their shared childhood experience of the first Intifada. His childhood friend recalls growing up during the first Intifada and the missed days of school. The film hints at the long-term dangers of aborted education for the Palestinian youths. The interviewer asks the older generation if the romanticization of Palestinian agrarian life before 1948 and the promise of heaven to the martyrs both encourage the young men to hate the present. The interviewer seems to ignore the possibility that the stagnation and deprivation of life in the refugee camp alone could inspire desperate means of escape. Nevertheless, the essence of this conversation heralds back to the Israeli camp, emphasizing the propaganda of both sides to maintain the status quo.

In a picture seldom seen, the film captures the black humor on both sides. Relaxing with his friends just two weeks before his death, David irreverently pretends to call God and ask when is he going to get them out of there. Fahmi jokes with his sister, telling her to watch television because he will become a martyr. Yet each joke becomes a fatal prophecy.

The video recording of one housewife in the apartment complex, now deserted on the Palestinian side, provides an additional contrast to this space of broken dreams. Her videos record the celebration of one family's birthday party in their brand new “dream” apartment, endemic to the optimism of Oslo before the subsequent outbreak of riots and renewed Intifada.

Dismissing her hope, the stone-throwing shebab break into the woman's apartment building, making it a target for the Israeli military. In the now all too common images of the incensedshebab chanting and throwing stones, Fahmi's friend confesses that it is impossible to express himself, making the stones the only available form of expression. The Israeli soldiers remember their fear at the onslaught of the stones. However, the interviewer neglects to ask what makes this mob, armed only with stones, so threatening to those armed with the latest military technology. The soldiers only admit to the nerve-wracking noise of the stones on the tin roofs and plead with the army to send in a missile helicopter. With the shots of the hospital and the wounded, the Palestinian uncle worries about the erosion of traditional Palestinian values in the face of Israeli brutalities. He voices a common concern for many older Palestinians and Israelis.

At first, Fahmi's sister insists that her brother lives with God and is not dead. Her cant of doctrine seems incongruent with her fresh young face. Yet she does momentarily break down in front of the camera, giving a glimpse into the human pain behind the rhetoric. She tearfully concludes, “We want peace and security. I am sure the Israelis want the same.” She reflects that if the situation continues, “There will not be any young men left.” In a chilling addition to the stories of David and Fahmi, her words become almost prophetic, as David's best friend, also a soldier, commits suicide. Here again the film covers new territory by dealing with the problem of suicide in the Israeli army.

The rhetoric of Fahmi's sister is echoed in the Israeli memorial service for the fallen soldiers. The Israeli adults are more outspoken about their pain and disillusionment with the post-Oslo political situation. David's father recognizes that they surrender their children to become killers. David's best friend's father, who has already lost one son in a suicide bombing, blames both the Palestinian and Israeli leaders for not having the courage to end the cycle of violence. He bitterly describes Israel as a country where “one should be forbidden to raise children.”

The film closes with the young Israeli soldiers' recognition by that in the name of security, they destroy the homes and the orchards of innocent Palestinians, inspiring hatred and more violence--instead of security. The frightening statistics of wounded and killed confirm the wisdom of the no-longer-innocent soldiers. The film's poignant recording of these families from opposite sides of the fence makes an intelligent and sensitive contribution to the discussion of settlements. The destruction of people and landscape captured by the camera highlights the limitations of politically imposed boundaries for both Israelis and Palestinians.

As one of the few documentaries coming out of the second Intifada, “Junction” records the further deterioration of the political situation in Gaza and the unbearable fatigue on both sides.

 

This review will appear in Al Jadid, Vol. 10, no. 46.
Copyright © by Al Jadid (2004)


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