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As one of the world’s longest ongoing disputes, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been one of the most devastating disagreements of modern human history. In the early 1900s, the region that is the eastern Mediterranean — present day Israel and Palestine — was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. This area was occupied by a diverse community of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Over time, the Muslims in this area began to develop a newfound identity, which they termed Palestinian. This was popularly believed to be a new nationality among Muslims in this region. Likewise, Jews in Europe were joining a popular movement called Zionism. Zionists believed that Judaism was much more than just a religion, but also a nationality, specifically one that deserved its own territory. After dealing with oppression, Jews heavily relied on this belief that they needed their own land to truly be safe from wrongdoers. The majority of this population considered the eastern Mediterranean to be the best option, as this was technically their historic homeland. Suddenly, thousands of Jews began to move to the newly-found Palestine. After the conclusion of World War I, the Ottoman Empire crumbled, leaving Britain and France to decide what to do with these territories. The British took over the northern half of this region, whereas the French took the southern half. At first, the British welcomed Jewish immigration, but as time went on, tension began to rise between the Muslim and Jewish populations. This caused Britain to begin to control to number of Jewish immigrants from entering the Palestinian state. In response to this, the Jewish immigrants formed militias to combat the settled Arabs and British control. Soon after, the Holocaust occurred. This pushed many Jews to flee Europe to Palestine. With the support of the rest of the world, the Jewish population put more pressure on British authorities to have their own state. After tensions grew out of control, the United Nations proposed a plan to split British Palestine into two separate territories — one for Jews, Israel, and the other for Muslims, Palestine. The city of Jerusalem, which is home to a number of holy grounds belonging to Muslim, Jewish, and Christian religions, was deemed an “international area”, not belonging to either Muslims or Jewish populations. After a war between the two, the Israeli army won and pushed into territories not allotted to them by the UN, including western Jerusalem. The reverberations of this otherwise unjust land acquisition were in the form of displacing thousands of people, some of which fled the state entirely or went to refugee camps.
Since these occurrences, Israelis and Palestinians have despised each other for almost a century. This hatred towards one another has manifested itself in the form of mass bombings, shootings, and other acts of violence. Not much has been done to resolve these issues, at least not publicly. This was all true until the documentary My So-Called Enemy was released in 2010. In this film, 22 Palestinian and Israeli girls were invited to come to the United States and participate in a program called Building Bridges for Peace. Throughout the film, the girls from both nationalities discuss the ongoing conflict between their two countries. Seeing that this is a very sensitive topic, the conversation that they share gets very heated at some points. Most importantly, the film highlights that while these women are from countries with a long history of disparity and hatred towards each other, they can still engage in meaningful conversation and ultimately befriend each other. This work features a variety of film techniques, however the most important one it employs is by far the specific use of camera angles. During the conversations between the women, the camera is shooting from a high angle. This is particularly crucial for the viewer of the film because it allows the reactions — facial expressions, body language, and rebuttals — of others to be accurately captured. Having all of the women at the same level sort of humbles them in a way, especially when controversial conversation is involved. If one of the women was placed higher in a camera shot than the others, for example, subconsciously the viewer could potentially be partial to her position in the conversation. When the film presented various cityscapes around the Israel-Palestine area, high angles were also used. This allows the audience to fully take in every detail of the various locations shown throughout the film. Similarly, the film also utilizes the eye-level camera angle when displaying the city life in the affected areas. From this angle, the audience is shown a life-like experience of what it could be like to live in the depicted area. If the camera was placed at top or bottom angles, details would be easily missed, and it is possible that the viewer could be distracted by things that weren’t meant to be the center of focus. Of all the film styles, the director, Lisa Gossels, decided to make this film a documentary. While Gossels could have employed another film style, like an arthouse approach, she used a documentary style because of the subject of the film. The events that form the foundation of this film — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — are very real events that have carried on for the last century. There would be no better way to depict the consequences of this historical disaster other than in the form of a documentary. By definition, the documentary style is purely non-fictional and intended to document reality for the purpose of education and/or maintaining some sort of historical record. I believe that Gossel’s purpose was to reveal this otherwise overlooked conflict to the rest of the world and the impacts it has on certain societies. Too often we hear about bombings and terrorist attacks in the Middle East, however these are just passing news stories that aren’t often examined or talked about in great detail. When various audiences watch this film, I think they are exposed to the truth of what is really happening and no longer consider these events as something trivial or easily resolved.
After watching this film, I had many questions pertaining to the origins of this conflict, since this is something not widely discussed in the American population. Since the film did not directly address the source of this conflict, which was certainly intentional, and rather only its impacts across cultures, I did some research. Among all of the biased sources, I was able to locate a video by Vox, an informative infographic YouTube channel, which I have linked above. While watching this video and listening to the history of this century-long dispute, I began to question who was really “right.” While the Jews needed a place to call their own to escape corrupt prosecution in Europe and the Holocaust, the land was majorly an Arab territory. In some ways, I almost want to blame Britain for having such a laissez-faire attitude while they controlled Palestine. Perhaps some of these events could have been prevented or mediated in such a way that things would have happened differently. For example, when tension between the Jewish and Muslim groups was at its peak, the British essentially fled the situation as to not get involved. It is also possible that the UN was not justified in apportioning land to the Jews, displacing Muslim families. Either way, I think the UN or some other higher power could have stepped in during the Arab-Israeli War, where Israel largely overstepped their allotted area and essentially seized control of Muslim land. What is the point of the UN temporarily solving the problem and not following through to ensure equality to both cultures? This makes me question the efficacy and the legitimacy of the UN. In present times, however, people in areas occupied by both Muslims and Jews have begun to establish initiatives to push the two together. For example, an Israeli café in the city of Netanya is encouraging Jews and Arabs to eat together by offering them discounted food. This has received a lot of positive criticism from both communities. Typically, meals are shared with loved ones and are seen in many parts of the world to be a relaxing activity. Psychologically this creates a safe space for them to converse about the events taking place and perhaps reach some sort of “middle ground” and agree on certain topics, especially when food and financial incentives are involved.
When I was in high school, I had the pleasure of having the opportunity to work for an Israeli man named Oren. He owned an Israeli food truck in the town that I lived in and offered literally the best Mediterranean food I’ve ever had in my entire life. He was so interesting and fun. We frequently talked about life in Israel and how that compared to living here in the states. He often spoke about this conflict and how stupid he thought it was. He wondered why people just couldn’t get along and love each other. He loved Muslims and had Muslim friends, however not all of them loved him back. I will never forget that one afternoon I was approached in the food truck by a woman in a hijab. She was asking about the food and what country it was from. When I told her that we served Israeli cuisine, she looked disgusted and told me that I could have none of her money. She walked away with such distaste, as if I had done something to contribute to the problem thousands of miles away overseas. Clearly this is something that people both near and far from the conflict are taking very seriously. I never considered doing additional research at that time, but after watching this film and learning about the origins of this issue, I understand now. While I think it is a little radical to be rude to someone not involved with the problem at hand, I understand why it is a sensitive topic.
Above all, I think that this all boils down to a lack of communication within the Jewish and Muslim communities. Without these important conversations that are oriented towards solving the conflict and being equal to both parties, nothing will happen. It seems as if both groups are purposefully attempting to push each other further and further apart, especially when they attack each other, build barriers between each other, and setup checkpoints to keep certain people from travelling to different areas. At this point it is very obviously that they don’t want to talk — they want pressures to keep building up. After a certain point, I think this unnecessary pressure will result in a massive catastrophe, bigger than those that have already transpired. The real question is: can we just wait around for this to happen? If they don’t somehow establish some sort of respect for each other, I feel like they will all perish due to their ignorance. Another issue in this situation is that both sides think they are right and are without fault. Maybe a third party needs to intervene and mediate these conversations to save the people of Israel and Palestine. From what I have found, some third parties have tried to have a hand in the situation, but their intentions seem questionable. For instance, Facebook has actively suspended accounts of Palestinian journalists, censoring their posts due to recently updated term agreements between Facebook and the Israeli government. Should a for-profit business be interfering with a conflict of this intensity, let alone a conflict at all? If you ask me, I wouldn’t be surprised is the social media giant is working with the Israeli government for financial gain. At the end of the day, I’m sure Facebook isn’t very concerned with the issue because it doesn’t affect them — they continue to make money day and night regardless of the progression of this conflict. Facebook replied to the social uproar, commenting that these account suspensions were “accidental.” Should the US government halt the US-based company from becoming involved with foreign affairs? This is just one looming question, among the many, that must be answered to fix the desperate condition of the Middle East.
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