On A Broken Perspective


Earlier this quarter, I attended a screening of the critically acclaimed film “5 Broken Cameras” at an event sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine. The 90 minutes I spent watching were difficult and infuriating. Though, not for the reason you might expect.

The problem is that I wasn’t thoroughly impressed by the cinematography, I was deeply moved by the emotional plight of the protagonist, and I was confused as to why the film failed to take the Oscar; the distorted truth, manipulation of reality, and blatant omission of any historical context that was presented appalled me.

Simply, the film is propaganda packaged into an “easy to understand” way and designed to pull at the heartstrings of its target audience: naïve and utterly uninformed viewers.

To provide our readers context, “5 Broken Cameras” is a documentary shot almost entirely by Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat. It offers Burnat’s firsthand account of protests in Bil’in, a village located in central Judea and Samaria.

The documentary’s goal is to portray how Israel’s security barrier negatively affects life in this Palestinian-populated village. When Burnat received his first camera in 2005, he intended to document the life of his new son and the lives of residents of Bil’in.

The first words uttered by Burnat are dedicated to describing how the lives of his four sons fit into the timeline of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the film is riddled with fallacies from start to finish. His son Yasin is born on the first day of the Second Intifada. Burnat describes the suffering endured by Palestinians during the Intifada as a result of “the long siege [of] the West Bank,” and the way the “hospitals were full of the dead and wounded.”

Firstly, what is the Second Intifada and why is the “West Bank” separated from the rest of Israel by a security fence today? The Second Intifada was a Palestinian uprising, which spanned from September 2000 to February 2005.

This wave of conflict broke out when Palestinians initiated riots in Jerusalem’s Old City after Israeli Prime Minister Sharon visited the Temple Mount in Israel’s capital. The first act of violence occurred when Palestinians threw rocks at worshippers at the Western Wall. In October 2000, two reservist Israeli soldiers were lynched by a Palestinian mob, their bodies mutilated and dragged to the town square.

In the ensuing months and years, acts of brutality only grew more horrific. Typical Palestinian acts escalated from rock throwing and mortar fire to lethal road ambushes and suicide bombings.

Between 2000 and 2005, Palestinian terrorists detonated over 140 suicide bombs on buses, streets, schools, marketplaces, clubs and restaurants. Among the hundreds of Israeli civilians dead and wounded were men, women, children and infants.

I visited Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem this summer, the sight of numerous suicide bombings. I’ve been rushed to cross a street faster because “this crosswalk is packed today and this exact area outside Dizengoff mall was a popular spot for suicide attacks.” Wounds of terror never heal.

Israel’s security border was built in 2002. Its goal is to protect citizens from political violence, not embitter the lives of those living in Judea and Samaria. And it is successful. The number of suicide bombings fell drastically since it was built 11 years ago. Incidentally, the border is 95 percent chain link fence and only 5 percent concrete. When SJP brings back “Palestinian Liberation” week in May, keep that fact in mind!

Burnat’s account tells the viewer half of a story — a distorted half at that. Scenes where Israeli soldiers appeal to protesters to clear a premise, or where IDF soldiers tend to wounded Palestinians conveniently have no subtitles.

Words of compassion on the part of Israelis do not exist in this film’s “reality.” Israeli soldiers are seen as brutal for no reason, while the Palestinian villagers are viewed as “peaceful, non-violent protesters.”

But there is a scene where the villagers threaten Israeli soldiers to retreat saying, “if you go back we won’t throw stones at you.” I guess Burnat forgot to edit that out!

But even after all the “abuse at the hands of Israeli’s,” when Burnat is injured at the end of the film he is overjoyed that he is taken to an Israeli hospital, saying “I know if I were taken to an average Palestinian one I wouldn’t survive.” It’s funny how he doesn’t mind Israelis now.

But the dissatisfaction I found in watching the film was surpassed tenfold at its conclusion by two SJP members who graciously stood in front of the audience of students to field questions and lie.

One member of SJP and a member of our Legislative Council got up and said, “in Palestine, it’s normal for people to be attacked by Israelis living in [Judea and Samaria].”

Sure there are cases, few and far between, when an Israeli in the region burns down a Palestinian’s olive tree. But these are retaliations for Palestinian violence.

Like when all five members of the Fogel family, a Jewish family living in the Israeli town of Itamar in Judea and Samaria, were slaughtered in cold blood while they slept. The two Palestinian murderers from the neighboring village decapitated the family’s 3-month-old infant.

An opinion poll indicated that one third of Palestinians supported the attack. I am saddened that members of my own university would blind themselves to a full picture of reality. Open your eyes.


Sharon Shaoulian is a second-year political science major.  She can be reached at sshaouli@uci.edu.