A different kind of film about Hebron

Tonight at TPFF there is a screening of “This is my land, Hebron”. If you want to watch it, (and I don’t feel bad about posting this because it’s sold out), it’s on youtube.

If you don’t know about Hebron, then watch the film. Or, pretty much any film about Hebron. They are all similar.

Hebron is important. It’s the most brutal example of the occupation of Palestine, and it’s unifying because almost everyone agrees that it’s horrible – even liberal zionists.

But I’m bored with every film about Hebron. Maybe it’s because I’ve been there three times. Maybe it’s because everything about Hebron, at least if it’s presented this way, is super-depressing. And pretty short on redemption, prospective or otherwise.

I have an idea, however, for a film about Hebron which wouldn’t be depressing, which wouldn’t be boring, and which wouldn’t present the Zionist-Palestinian conflict in the same old way. You’d need the co-operation of anti-zionist orthodox Jews, and you’d need pretty much to be a historian, and you’d need to be able to talk to Palestinians in Hebron who had a good and relatively unbiased memory of what life was like there in the 20s.

The idea would be to trace the real history of the Jews in Hebron during the Zionist colonization of palestine, primarily focussing on the 20s. I’ve written about this before, and I think it’s super-important partially because of the political need to oppose the settlers, but also because of the need for that opposition to be grounded in a genuinely anti-colonial politics, rather than a politics of fake peace and fake reconciliation. To speak honesty about the old Yishuv in Hebron, the way the zionists used money and political smarts to associate the religious community there with zionism, which precipitated the 1929 riots. And to talk about after the riots – where the reality is many Jews returned, although left again in ’36 with the great Arab revolt. These revolts and riots need to be understood in the context of colonization, as violence directed against a force which would take the people’s land and displace them. The settlers retrospectively use the anti colonial violence of 29 and 36 as a justification for the Nakba and the settlers in Hebron – but this is perverse, and people should understand that.

We should come to understand that the western model of reconciliation, which says that “both sides have committed sins”, and that peace is based on mutual forgiveness, is in reality a way for power to cover up the conquest it has undertaken and justify it retrospectively. A truly liberatory film about Hebron would need to show not simply that Hebron is a problem and the settlers are crazy, but that Hebron is the truth of the Zionist colonization of Palestine – and what is expulsion there is present everywhere, and most of all in the expulsion and dispossession of the refugees. And it would show on the basis of any moral dogma – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Humanist – that colonization is a political wrong, and dealing with injustice at the level of state power, conquest and borders are at least as important as an emphasis on psychological niceness, and on “peace”.

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