Corner Store [2010)

I previously reviewed the Palestinian masterpiece خمس كاميرات محطمة‎‎ (Five Broken Cameras).

And we shall return to Palestine with another moving documentary.

Another masterpiece.

For this one we have a very perceptive American director to thank:  Katherine Bruens.

But all of it would be for naught if not for a shining example of humanity:  corner store owner Yousef Elhaj.

The occupation of Palestine can elicit such feelings of anger and disgust (as well it should).

But every once in a while a real kind spirit comes along.

And such kind spirits shame the despicable Israeli settlers and their vulture military even more so than the most vitriolic polemic.

Yousef Elhaj is such a person.

Sweet.  Hardworking.  Kind.  Quiet.  Patient.  Hardworking.

And (big surprise) a Christian.

Here we see a different perspective from 5 Broken Cameras.

I suppose we are used to assuming that all Palestinians are Muslims (and a vast majority are), but it is interesting to see things from a different perspective.

Elhaj’s life in Bethlehem (occupied West Bank) was just as crappy as that of any Muslim living there or in any other part of the criminally unrecognized Palestine.

Another important point…  Being Christian does not make Elhaj any less Arab.

Most importantly…  Peace in the Middle East is possible because of people like Yousef Elhaj.

He is really a jaw-dropping personage.

So much sacrifice for his family.

7:30 a.m.-midnight.

Seven days a week.

A little corner store on Church St. in San Francisco.

And to see life in Bethlehem.

To see the hell of walls and settlements which the Israelis have erected.

The settlements encroach.  The settlements surround.

Bethlehem is completely encircled by concrete structures which are too artless for even Frank Gehry to barf on.

That’s what settlements mean.

Don’t let the euphemism fool you.

“Settlements” are concrete apartment blocks built on stolen land.

That would be bad enough were it not for the ubiquitous (and racist) walls which stockade Palestine.

And yet we don’t see anger from Mr. Elhaj.

He isn’t shown at a protest.

He just wants his family to be alright.

And his main emotion upon seeing the decline of his home town of Bethlehem is sadness.

The Israeli gun towers.  Turrets to protect the settlers.  And to hell with everyone else.

The sadness as a business man is remarkable.

What made him leave in the first place.

Things weren’t just bad.  They were awful.

And so he has been away from his family for ten years.

He could have brought them to the U.S., but our immigration laws are not written to think of people as people.

Rather, our laws reduce people to statistics.

Quotas.

I can only figure that Mr. Elhaj (as bad as things were for him) actually had it better than Muslim Palestinians hoping to start a new life in America.  [Which is to say, Muslims in general are not in an enviable position at this time regarding their leverage in situations of immigration review.]

So let’s think about it…

Bernie Sanders might be a generally disposable candidate, but he’s gotten a couple things right.

When he talks about America’s strength being its diversity?  He’s absolutely right.

It’s trite.  It’s Democrat politics 101…but it is correct.

And Mr. Trump (whom I like)…  Wanna see what walls do?  Go check out Palestine.  Actually get in the open-air jail.  Don’t view it from a safe distance courtesy of the occupiers.

The walls are ugly.

Sad.

Pathetic.

Fearful.

Weak.

Mr. Elhaj has so much to teach us in this documentary.

You can succeed in America.

The opportunity is there.

It may not be pretty.

But when you’re coming from the hell of Bethlehem, it’s a walk in the park.

You do it all for your family.

Seven days a week.

For ten years.

 

-PD

خمس كاميرات محطمة‎ [2011)

Israel is the most shameful country on Earth.

But America is not far behind.

Israeli soldiers are cowardly, repugnant beasts.

With their high-tech weapons.

It is the same for America.

The Jews of Israel who occupy the Palestinian West Bank are disgusting semblances of human life.

They need their walls.

They need to steal land.

Oh, sounds very progressive for the cause of Zion.

So very brave that these automata in their yarmulkes move in to the olive fields of Arabs.

They set the olive trees on fire.

That sounds like an outrageous claim.

But it is nothing compared to kidnapping children.

The Israeli military kidnaps children in West Bank villages.

Why?

To try and terrorize these subsistence farmers into ceasing their protests.

And why are these farmers from small villages protesting?

Because their land is being gobbled up little by little.

“Hey, I was using that land…by the way.”

Picking olives.

So the Israeli Humvees roll in at night.

Spielberg’s pathetic imagination could never conjure what documentary filmmaker Emad Burnat captured on film.

Israelis should be puking in the streets and smearing themselves with their own shit…in shame for what their military does in their name.

And America is not far behind.

Israeli soldiers with weak faces knocking on the doors in a West Bank village.

If there are children inside, the children are taken.

It is shock and awe…Stockholm syndrome…terroristic tactics of which Goebbels would have approved.

The weak Jews who move into settlements (concrete apartment blocks) on stolen land.

All they can yell is, “I’ll sue you.  I’ll sue you.”

How dare you film me as I move into my new patriotic Israeli home?

How dare you film the scramble of settlers eager to establish false legitimacy?

What kind sick people allow their military to shoot at children?

In this film.

Never a single gun among the Palestinians.

The only rocks they throw are when the Israeli stormtroopers roll through their village in an arrogant convoy.

But the children who are shot…

The incessant tear gas…

The stun grenades thrown at people…

These every day occurrences…rather, every Friday.

The villagers of Bil’in protesting a wall.

A nonviolent protest.

And every time (every fucking time) the Israelis disperse the crowd by means of violence.

People die.

People holding nothing but Palestinian flags.

Unarmed.

In the middle of fucking nowhere.

But it’s THEIR nowhere!

It’s where the olives grow.

“Hey…your wall has cut us off from the trees.  Our trees are now on your side of the wall.”

This film, 5 Broken Cameras, shows the struggle of a filmmaker who suffered more in making this film over five years than Jean-Luc Godard suffered making films over a lifetime.

And yet, Godard is the best of the Westerners.

The only one with a conscience.

He was in Palestine in the 70s.

No other filmmaker comes close to the integrity of Godard.

Except for Emad “The Real Deal” Burnat.

Immense credit is due to the Israelis who joined the struggle with their Palestinian brothers and sisters.

Co-director Guy Davidi was one.

Immense credit is due to Kino Lorber for releasing this film.

Immense credit is due to Hulu for currently streaming this film.

Last I checked, it was also available on Apple iTunes.  Great work, Apple!

Emad Burnat threatens to unseat Abbas Kiarostami as the most relevant Middle Eastern director.

Emad Burnat lays his cards on the table in a metaphorical game of poker with Abdellatif Kechiche.

There are real tears to be cried, do you understand?

I like a good lesbian fuckfest as much as the next bloke, but these are real tears, do you understand, Adèle Exarchopoulos?

We want to see beauty.  We want to see stories which mirror our pathetic little lives.

But 5 Broken Cameras shows you hell on Earth.

Palestine.

Norman Finkelstein is a two-face Janus (which is to say, a Janus).

And so am I.

But I am so out of fear.

I am human.

[Finkelstein attacked BDS for not boycotting 5 Broken Cameras.  That’s an intel op move.  Princeton.  Princeton.]

If you’re not afraid to post something, then it’s probably not important.

 

-PD