International Writers Magazine:
USA and Palestine:
Al Zains Palestine Post 9/11 debunks Israeli myths of Palestinian
Dr Marwan Asma
the world remembers the anniversary of 11 September, Osama Al
Zains feature documentary Palestine Post 9/11 becomes ever
more relevant in providing an analysis of the international system
where war became an instrument of politics and priorities and
alliances reordered to fight terrorist threats that may have been
blown out of all proportions.
documentary is a full-length feature examining the attack on New York
and Washington from a Palestinian perspective, suggesting 9/11 has been
a disaster for the Palestinians, and which Israel exploited to provide
a false linkage between Palestinian ambitions for statehood and Osama
Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. In so doing it has fed into the growth of Christian
fundamentalism in the USA and Christian Zionism in the Bush administration
and built a rock hard alliance with Israel under the banner of fighting
After 9/11 new factions developed in the "US government and the
intellectual contours of American life" to make sure "no even-handed
policy [towards the Palestinians] ever occurs," and the Israeli
view remains supreme by hijacking American foreign policy through its
totally biased media.
Palestine Post 9/11, meticulously navigates through the complicated
set of relations that developed after 11 September 2001, whose hallmarks
were obtrusiveness, fighting terrorism, and adventurous politics and
which on the Palestinian level meant tightening the screws of occupation
and making sure talk of final status negotiations take a backseat which
continues to be the case today.
Through footage, on-site film location in New York, Washington, and
Palestine, Al Zain produced and directed a film that sought to be informative,
analytical, and issue-oriented with powerful-videography that weaved
together a world-wide connection that started in the United States and
stretched to Palestine, Israel and its occupation.
Through expert commentary, camera movement, sound effects and editing
techniques, the documentary sought to be educational and thought-provoking,
stimulating the mind of viewers in the United States and the West generally
about the evil nature of the occupation that is harsher today as we
approach 2009, than has arguably ever been with Israels building
of its separation wall, its siege of the Gaza Strip and closures of
different towns and cities in the West Bank
When it was made in 2005, Palestine Post 9/11 was an appeal to common
sense, rationale and a call for better understanding, a far cry from
the present Israeli belligerence on the occupied territories as underpinned
by its 2006 war on Lebanon made with American blessing under the pretext
of fighting global terrorism allegedly spearheaded by Hizbollah, Syria
Today also the film continues to be shown in major cities in the United
States, and many European countries as well as international film festivals
through the Cinema Guild Inc., one of the major distributors of documentary
and foreign films in the United States and which has worldwide distribution
Because of its educational value, Cinema Guild Inc has been distributing
the film to the educational market as well and currently, the film has
been acquired by the libraries of the American University in Georgetown,
Washington, and Columbia University.
The films importance lies in its sharp angles, camera shots, text,
photography, camera techniques, visualization, editing, video composition,
clear sound effects and light background piano notes characterized by
its music and audio tracks depicting a cross-cultural human image through
its clear message of debunking the Israeli-induced myth that sought
to link 9/11 with so-called Palestinian terror!
Palestine Post 9/11 dwells into the labyrinths of international power,
Israeli hawkishness, harshness of daily Palestinian life, and their
tough economic conditions whilst stressing how Israel sought to capture
the imaginations and emotional fear of the American people and build
a rightwing alliance in the post-attacks period, projecting itself as
a bulwark against manufactured battles that maybe waged on behalf of
the United States in the Middle East; today Israel maintains this image
when it cracks down on Hamas in Gaza, and saber-rattles on the Lebanese
The filmmaker sought eight experts to throw light on the international
machinations through no less than 87 commentary shots including that
by Stanley Cohen, a Manhattan lawyer filmed in the occupied territories,
Anthony Sullivan of the University of Michigan, Phyllis Bennis of the
Institute of Policy Studies, Edmund Ghareeb of Washington University,
Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch in New York, Ali Hamidah of the University
of New England and University of Tennessees Fouad Al Mugharbi.
"It was the 20 second news clip that showed few Palestinians dancing
in the street in Jerusalem that drove me to produce Palestine Post 9/11
as the US corporate media ran the byte again and again. Over a very
short period of time, these scenes became an iconic image portrayed
to create a false link, or rather equivalence, between the Palestinian
struggle for independence and Al Qaedas ideology and actions,"
points out Al Zain.
Long-time Middle East politics professor Edmund Ghareeb says the media
made a big deal of the dancing scene, although this was an isolated
incident, and did not reflect the Palestinian street which through an
opinion poll, showed the vast majority expressed sympathy with the American
people, as opposed to US policies and terrorist acts were against Muslim
teaching and values.
"Palestinians and Arabs have a great deal of admiration for American
values, American freedom, tolerance and democracy, they want to emulate
these principles and have them implemented back home," Ghareeb
says in one of the commentary shots.
"But because of the corporate control of the American media, Israel,
which is the occupying power, is shown as the underdog, surrounded by
savage primitive Arabs, who want to destroy the oasis of democracy in
the region that is repeatedly underlined by the medias intentional
blindness which helps to perpetuate a mistaken reading of history regarding
the Palestinian question," Al Zain adds.
A Palestinian film-maker living in the United States and maker of Transparency,
Al Zains first award-wining documentary for its focus on the Hajab,
also in the libraries of Harvard and Yale universities, says its
important to highlight the media treatment in the US which tends to
use a well packaged stereotypical portrayal of the conflict in black
and white, civilized vs uncivilized, whites versus colored, well-groomed
Israeli army soldiers in uniform versus bearded fighters in civilian
clotheswith the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with all its history
and complexities reduced to simplistic binaries that are well received
by a "conditioned" rather than an informed American public."
The film sought to strip these binaries. For every shot, there was a
commentary, a sound byte, an explanation of what westerners may consider
contentious. Images were backed, nothing left in the lurch and the voices
important in leading the documentary rather than having an overall narrator,
moving from one scene to another and one issue to the next.
"I prefer the narration-free style of documentary filmmaking where
the story moves forward flawlessly through seamless editing and juxtaposition.
Takes lay the scene from one to the next without the need for a narrator,
the over-riding voice to cement the structure of the film. Narration
is an intrusion that allows the narrator/writer to offer the dominantif
not the only, perspective on the footage or the subject matter of the
film," says Al Zain, who received his MA in Film and Video from
the American University in Washington DC in 2002 and has made many shorts
and public service announcements.
Juxtaposed to New York were flip-flaps of Stanley Cohens journey
to the West Bank, the Qalandia checkpoint, Jenin, and East Jerusalem..
Through direct film takes and archival footage, Cohen, an American Jew,
clearly shows, through different camera shots and angles, the heartaches,
and agonies in closures, endless curfews, humiliations, soldier-control,
shootings, searches, and the Bantustans-like existence which the Palestinians
are forced to live under and which is the current situation in Palestine
despite the lip-service Israel leaders make to the peace process, especially
in front of the world cameras and print media, many of whom parrot judiciously.
Palestine Post 9/11, sought to stay away from showing blood and gore
for its own sake, and stopped short from profiling direct killings because
it would have trivialized the over-riding issue of seeking an end to
occupation and Palestinian self-determination. Although Osama Al Zain
didnt comment on that, body bags were shown and extensive demolitions
displayed on screen.
The Muqata, the compound of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah was
at one time raised to the ground with senseless destruction: A car park
and a complex which at one time showed "vitality", serving
the local community was gone through sheer Israeli bloody-mindedness
with soldiers flexing their muscle-power as Cohen tell-tales.
The film concentrated on heavy tanks rooming streets, Israeli fighter
planes in the sky, shootings at children, settlers vandalizing property
in Hebronshowed the manifestations of Israeli control over Palestinian
lives which inevitably hit back at the Israelis. Camera shots of body
bags of Israeli deaths and kin crying over them in Haifa were slotted
to show Israelis too were paying a high price because of their governments
bloody actions on the West Bank and Gaza.
Despite the gloom, Al Zain points out "9/11 served as an eye-opener,
a wake-up call, and an opportunity for some Americans to look at the
world from a totally different perspective. Many Americans, especially
the educated, know that the Palestinians had nothing to do with what
happened on 11th September. But they also became aware of the fact that
the issue of Palestine is like the elephant in the room you cant
Also on the Palestine-Israeli conflict, a forward-looking view is offered
from Sullivan who says Bush was the first sitting president to call
for a Palestinian state but the 9/11 attacks got in the way, overtaken
by a belligerent environment and possible conciliation and were Israel
veered more to the right.
He says Palestinians must continue to forge a political campaign in
the West that is far more important than military operations and not
fall into traps put by people like Sharon when he entered Al Aqsa Mosque
and sparked the second Intifada. Palestinians have to go beyond the
"hate consuming hate [that] has filled their hearts and clouded
Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch says everyone, Palestinians and Israelis
must respect human rights, and the killings of civilians from which
every side must be a no-go area; he calls on Palestinian political parties
and factions, including Hamas to respect that although in earlier shoots
he had no qualms in saying that settlers often act in vigilante groups
Palestine Post 9/11 has to be watched, re-watched, analyzed and fathomed.
Its a documentary feature film that threads together linkages
related to existence, violence, suicide bombings, harsh living and an
open call to end occupation represented by Phyllis Bennis quoting Gush
Shalom that says "the occupation is killing all of us, its killing
Palestinians and its killing Israeli Jews." Today, this is true
as it was when it was said at the beginning of the Intifada in the year
It ends on strong words of defiance from Stanley Cohen: "For the
occupier, they always have two choices, for the occupied they only have
one. Palestinians have absolutely no option, no choice, to stop resisting
means death, the occupier does not have to occupy, the occupied must
In this day and age of stop-go political negotiations, resistance seems
to be the only option out of the stalemate where Israel flexes its muscles
over the weak. In remembering, 9/11, we should also remember it was
the Palestinians who became one of the major victims of that disaster
made thousands of miles across the Atlantic.
The writer is an
Amman-based journalist specialising on Middle East Affairs.
asmar 11th September 2008
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