When Marjorie Wright set out to make a film about what the political context to a solution in Israel might look like, she found that people weren't interested in answering abstract questions. Instead, those she spoke to were "upset and focused on the devolution inside Israeli society created by militarism, violence, racism and the brutalization of their youth from military service," she tells SFR via email.
Her film eventually evolved into a patchwork of voices from Jewish Israelis, including former soldiers, each struggling with the moral, ethical and legal implications of Israel's occupation of Palestine.
Written and produced by Wright and directed by Lucy Martens, Voices from Inside: Israelis Speak screens again this week, an encore performance after last year's sold-out house. The film was honored as Best Documentary at festivals in London and Cairo. It won a Silver Palm at the Mexico International Film Festival and, in 2009, received the Armin T Wegner Humanitarian Award from the Arpa International Film Festival in Hollywood, Calif.
Voices offers a rare perspective—Israeli Jews criticizing the Jewish "mythology" and reckoning with the real costs of an ongoing occupation—and an important one, particularly for those who see the plight of Palestinians as a Jewish problem.
The film weaves historic footage with modern-day views of Palestine: its partition walls, "apartheid roads," demolished homes and the Israeli soldiers sent to "protect" Israel.
The 16 peace activists interviewed say citizens of Israel need to wake up to the country's reality, particularly parents who send their sons and daughters to the army in which, "blinded by power," they commit unspeakable acts.
"Military service is sold to children as some kind of a summer camp. 'Go to the military; have some fun. Let's go kick some Arab ass,'" one interviewee says. "We don't want to admit people get trauma and have to go through psychiatric treatment because they spend time in the occupied territories—and they don't want to admit the crimes themselves, of course."
Those Jews who speak out against human-rights abuses in Israel and Palestine increasingly face their own "ominous loss of rights," Wright says. "There have been arrests, confiscation of computers, threats of huge fines and imprisonment." Recent interviews with American Jewish academics, Wright says, point to the rise of what they call "fascist elements inside Israeli society and the erosion of rights even for Jewish citizens."
The film has been criticized for forwarding premature reconciliation and a purely Jewish Israeli narrative; indeed, those who wish for Palestinian voices will be disappointed. But one film cannot be expected to embody all voices, and hearing Israelis speak of the difference between mythology and reality is refreshing. Media seldom refer to fractures within the Jewish Israeli narrative, nor of the larger destructive element that comes from militarizing generations of youths.
Voices is a call to expand the dialogue and reflect on what Israeli democracy really means. It makes clear that, in an occupation, even the occupiers are not winners.
Voices From Inside: Israelis Speak
7:30 pm Thursday, March 31
Directed by Lucy Martens
With Ruthie Kedar, Dina Goor, Jeff Halper and Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom
Q&A afterward with producer Marjorie Wright and Richard Forer, author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion