Tapestry of Humanity Revealed in Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Films

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

A film series on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which includes six films that are screened Wednesday’s at 4:15 at LPAC Cinema, is offering an introduction to the political context of the struggle through a human lens.

“We shouldn’t study them in an abstract way, we should remember that they are living breathing human beings,” Professor of Peace and Conflict Sa’ed Atshan ’06, who is conducting the series, said of the Israeli and Palestinian people.

Four films have been screened so far; Frontiers of Dreams and Fears, which chronicles a pen-pal relationship between two Palestinian girls in refugee camps, The Flat, an Israeli filmmaker’s exploration of the friendship his grandparents had with a Nazi, The War Around Us, which follows two reporters who covered the 2009 Israel-Hamas War in Gaza, and Promises, which records a first time meeting between Israeli and Palestinian children.

Atshan said the films were a window into the heterogeneity of Palestinians and Israelis.

“Palestinians in refugee camps are different than Palestinians in Gaza. The world of children is different than the world of adults,” he said.

The series is meant to educate the viewers on both the human and political flavors of the decades-long conflict.

Atshan said that his favorite film, one of two still to be broadcast, is Eyes Wide Open, which traces the romantic relationship of two Orthodox Jewish men in Jerusalem.

“It would be easy for the Israeli filmmaker to portray it as suffocation, but you get a sense of what could be appealing,” he said.  

Zackary Lash ’19 said he appreciated the nuanced humanity of the films.

“The movies remind us of the fact that there are real people going through the turmoil of the conflict,” he said.  

Leah Schwartz ‘19, a socialist Zionist who spent nine months in Israel, said she saw echoes of the Jewish struggle for statehood in the Palestinian film subjects.

“Palestinians today are at the whim of the countries that are occupying them or the countries in which they are refugees,” Schwartz said. “Before Israel became a state, Jews didn’t have self determination, they could be kicked out of a state.”

The parallels gave Schwartz hope that in the future Palestinian children could be watching movies about “how their dreams for liberation was realized instead of just dreamed of.”

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