On the Side of the Road is a documentary with a cathartic difference about the Palestinian Nakba; the 1948 catastrophe of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of over 500 Palestine villages and cities and the forced expulsion of 750,000 indigenous residents and its ongoing dispossession through illegal settlement expansion.
The difference factor is metanoia, μηταοια, meaning a profound moral and intellectual change of mind. A conversion. Lia Tarachansky offers a simple weapon to slay Israel’s enemy within; not Palestinian Israelis nor Palestinians in general, but, the real enemy within is the hasbaric (propaganda) cruel brainwashing of Israelis from the moment of birth into the psychotic groupthink of superior racism/victimhood.
And the weapon is? Truth and accountability.
Tarachansky presents the Nakba from the unusual viewpoint of its perpetrators and the ‘inheritors’ of its stolen booty — the land of Palestine. The protagonists are Tarachansky, who, herself, is an ex-settler from Israel’s largest illegal colony, Ariel; Eitan Bronstein founder of Zochrot; Palmach veterans, Tikva Honig-Parnass and Amnon Noiman. Amnon’s struggle to come out of the torture chamber of silent guilt is vivid and (grudgingly) brave.
The documentary opens on the lively celebrations of Israel’s Independence day in Tel Aviv which is also Nakba Day, with the shocking opening lines from a female reveller, “I’m a racist. I’m a racist. I don’t want Arabs here and I don’t want you.” which is tactically juxtaposed by the direct switch to the office of Zochrot, an Israeli NGO that runs tours to the destroyed ghost villages and has just released an app, iNakba. Zochrot acts “to promote Israeli Jewish society’s acknowledgement of, and accountability for, the ongoing injustices of the Nakba” and challenges “the Israeli Jewish public’s preconceptions and promote awareness, political and cultural change within it to create the conditions for the Return of Palestinian Refugees and a shared life in this country.”
And there, in a nutshell, is the inspiration and motivation for Tarachanky’s film.
Tarachansky’s camera, Zochrot members, Israeli Palestinians and their Israeli friends don’t shirk from the hostile opposition of ratbag racism swathed in Israeli flags that can’t hide the vacuity of intelligence and compassion, like that spouted by the young guy wearing a Kahane T-shirt who regards Arab Palestinians as a cancer, like the thug from the Golani military unit who threatened, “And if we had the chance we’d shoot you one by one” or Member of the Knesset (MK), Michael Ben-Ari’s irrational ravings on Nakba commemorations “as marking that they didn’t exterminate me. They didn’t succeed in raping our daughters, and cutting off our heads. As if we need to apologize! We have come here to be happy we won! Because if we weren’t celebrating today, we would have a holocaust day here.”
Ben-Ari was speaking in protest at a Nakba remembrance at the Tel Aviv University held in defiance of the Nakba Law that states, “It is forbidden to mourn on the day of the establishment of the state of Israel” to which, the highly principled Dov Khenin MK, lone speaker against the law, drew similarities to “the racist, anti-democratic laws of the rising Nazi regime.”
Unlike Knesset Member, David Rotem’s stupid tall tale:
What is the Right of Return. After all it is the realization of the lie that starts with their theory of the Nakba. They’re the ones who started the wars. They’re the ones who attacked. they’re the ones who lost…. You invested the whole Nakba story in order to justify the right of return and destroy the state of Israel.
Or Netanyahu’s doltish accusation that the giant key featured in the Nakba commemoration by the villagers of Bi’lin was the key to “our houses in Jaffa, in Akko, in Haifa, in Ramle.”
Netanyahu and his Knesset mates should watch and learn from the documentary, particularly the scenes where Tarachansky filmed a young Palestinian journalist, Khalil Abu Rahmah from the Balata refugee camp in Nablus, who managed to get a 12 hour visa to visit, for the first time, the ruins of his ancestral village, Qaqun, near Jaffa, sharing every excited sacred step with his grandmother on his mobile phone. Khalil recounts,
My grandfather told me stories of before the Nakba. We were living together, sharing everything together, if someone need help from the Jewish, we give them help. So what happened? The Zionist came and destroyed everything. So we are not saying that Jewish is bad, no way, we just want to go back to our land.
Eitan points out that the majority of the ghost villages are not inhabited by Israelis, but are hidden away in national forests planted with donations from overseas Jews by the Jewish National Fund which also funds the illegal colonies and their immigration (aliyah) programs.
Netanyahu, the Knesset and the Israeli public need a transplant of the backbone gained by the Palmach veterans. Tikva Honig-Parnass, since her conversion to truth, views her childhood brainwashing of, “We are the best in the land and they are nothing, human dust… human dust that it is almost a charity to fight them,” as a dehumanisation process which spawned the subsequent denial of responsibility for war crimes.
For his part in massacres and the expulsion of Palestinian villagers, “poor like church mice,” to Gaza,1 Amnon also blames the Zionist inculcation of the racist right to the land for the dehumanising that unconscionably perpetrated the Nakba;
“At that time, I didn’t see anything wrong with it. Like everyone I was educated into it. And I followed through with it faithfully….”
It is hard not to hear echoes of Nazi war criminal Eichmann’s ‘only following orders’ defense ring loud:
I cannot recognize the verdict of guilty. . . . It was my misfortune to become entangled in these atrocities. But these misdeeds did not happen according to my wishes. It was not my wish to slay people…. Once again I would stress that I am guilty of having been obedient, having subordinated myself to my official duties and the obligations of war service and my oath of allegiance and my oath of office, and in addition, once the war started, there was also martial law…. I did not persecute Jews with avidity and passion. That is what the government did…. At that time obedience was demanded, just as in the future it will also be demanded of the subordinate.
Amnon reveals a major strategy for the 66 year perpetuation of the Nakba for the Zionist takeover of the whole of Palestine; the indoctrination and mandatory military service of Israeli young at 18 years of age:
I didn’t understand, I was 19. I was a fool, and I didn’t know. Yes. That’s why I am in such despair… because soldiers are always 19-20 years old…and they only sober up after a few battles. That’s the main point and there will always be new 19 year olds.
Lia Tarachansky is a feisty, uncompromising journalist, rare in these days of worldwide government-embedded journalism. She is Israel’s Snowden, disclosing to her people and the world, not classified documents, but living words of truth that unmask Israel’s manufactured myths, delusional innocence and vicious cycle of violence.
Through her, and through other Israeli champions of truth such as members of Zochrot, Breaking the Silence, Shministim, Adalah, Women in Black, MachsomWatch, the revolutionary conversion of the modern belligerent Israelites into a people of peace is possible.
- Ramzy Baroud’s book, My Father was a Freedom Fighter, provides insight into the Palestinian horror and experience of the expulsions from southern Palestine to Gaza. [↩]