Pro-Palestinian film shows gory images out of context

By J.J. Surbeck

J.J. Surbeck

SAN DIEGO — a new pro-Palestinian movie titled Tears of Gaza had its local premiere Thursday evening, May 25, at the World Beat Center (one of the buildings in Balboa Park along Park Boulevard). Described as “a powerful and emotionally devastating record of the impact of the 2008-2009 bombing of Gaza by the Israeli military as caught by Palestinians,” it was in fact made by a Norwegian former model named Vibeke Lokkeberg and funded by the Norwegian government (you can always count on the Norwegians to bash Israel at every opportunity). The screening was organized by Alternate Focus, a local pro-Palestinian video production outfit that openly admits on its site ( that they’re not interested in balance. They proved it.

The film was painfully long (80 minutes) and difficult to watch for at least two reasons. The first one was technical: with no voice-over in English, all the conversations were in Arabic, and the subtitles were too small and not contrasted enough to be seen, which made half of the movie impossible to understand other than by guessing from looking at the pictures. The second one was more substantial: whereas Israelis refrain from showing the gory devastation brought on by suicide bombers, Palestinians have no qualms showing bodies strewn all over the place, with an emphasis on little children. The very graphic content of the film had the expected effect, with people gasping audibly, and some commenting to me later that they had never seen such bloody images before (and this was from pro-Palestinian individuals). Yet, despite the abhorrently manipulative abuse of dead children, it was a bull’s eye. Unless you know all the facts, you can’t walk out of there unmoved.


But therein lies precisely the fallacy: the film doesn’t say anything about the reasons for which Operation Cast Lead was launched in the first place. 9,000 rockets over Israel? As far as this production was concerned it never happened. Dozens of Israeli children killed or maimed during the second intifada? In the filmmakers’ view, they don’t count. It may be a fallacy, but it is the Palestinians’ favorite weapon. In one word: decontextualization. This mouthful means that they will show the world an abundance of sad stories of children and women “allegedly” victimized by the Israelis, but never explain why they happened. We are never told the context. All their speakers use the same technique. It takes a particularly strenuous effort on the part of the informed viewer to remember that these stories, as tragic as they are, are only a small part of the whole picture. They are in fact the effect of a cause which we are never told about. These gruesome images have been selected and put together with only one goal in mind: rile viewers and demonize Israel. It’s easy: without context to explain why Israel attacked Gaza, the conclusion can only be that the Israelis are sadistic monsters who enjoy persecuting and hurting the poor, sweet, innocent Palestinians who have never done anything to deserve such treatment.

The film made also abundant use of manipulative juxtapositions: three kids hanging out on the beach followed by a picture of an Israeli frigate in the distance, a group of men under the tent listening to an imam (the mosque was destroyed, although we’re never told why, most likely because it served as ammunition depot) followed by drones buzzing in the sky, a wedding party driving up the street followed by shots of helicopters flying above, a 3-year old walking up the street followed by footage of Israeli tanks, etc… The unavoidable conclusion: the Israeli military is making life impossible for the people of Gaza.


The construction of the narrative was crude but somewhat effective. It loosely followed the story of three children who were either physically wounded or traumatized by the loss of their parents during the war. Their statements on camera were followed by violent flashbacks, with impressive shots of Israeli bombs blowing up entire buildings followed by scenes of complete pandemonium in which hundreds of men frantically search the ruins to retrieve dead and wounded. And then more shots of destroyed buildings. We were also shown horror scenes from the ER at one of the Gaza hospitals,


The conclusion, entirely predictable, was in the words of the little boy, a ten year who wants to become a doctor to take care of people who are “hurt by the Israelis” (actually he said “the Jews” – Yahudi): “the Israelis are killing children and stole our land.” The fact that there isn’t a single Israeli in Gaza who could possibly be accused of stealing an inch of land there is of little relevance. It’s the slogan that counts.


All in all, this work is a fine propaganda tool worthy of the Goebbels Prize, if there were such a thing. The sad part, beyond the gullibility of audience members who mean well but don’t realize how manipulated they are, is the fate of the children interviewed in the film, carefully raised as they are to hate Israel and the Jews. It will take a long time to de-program them, if it ever happens.


The pro-Israeli camp was represented by Audrey Jacobs, director of the San Diego chapter of StandWithUs, and two of that group’s members who gingerly stood by the door to hand out flyers that gave more accurate information regarding the context of the film. I salute all three for having stayed until the very end (10:30 pm). Approximately 40 people were in attendance, including many of the usual members of the anti-Israel crowd such as Nasser Barghouti and Prof. Gary Fields from UCSD. An instructive evening it certainly was.

Surbeck is executive director of Training and Education About the Middle East (TEAM)

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Copyright 2012 San Diego Jewish World

5 Responses to “Pro-Palestinian film shows gory images out of context”

  1. Thank you JJ for the excellent article about a very disturbing film and evening. The one positive outcome of this event is connecting with the director and founder of the Worldbeat Cultural Center Makeda “Dread” Cheatom. She graciously allowed StandWithUs volunteers to hand out to all attendees our brochures: Stolen Futures: The Murder of Israeli Children

    I thanked her and she said, “You know there’s another side to this story.” I told her about StandWithUs and introduced her to JJ Surbeck of TEAM. Makeda enthusiastically discussed doing programming at the WorldBeat Cultural Center to present the Israel’s perspective. We’re discussing now about arranging an an Ethiopian Jewish art exhibit, more films from Israel’s perspective and concerts at the center.

    Makeda is someone who truly cares about human rights, freedom and democracy and knows Israel shares these values. I look forward to working with her to share Israel’s story with her community.

    Audrey Jacobs
    San Diego Regional Director

  2. Thank you for your insight. This film was just broadcasted in our country, Japan, by its national broadcster. I feel ashamed of that. And, I will counter that in my blog. One thing I want to know…. this guy was hospitalized in Israel after the car crash to the fense. Who paid for the treatment? He said “appalling amount was charged by Israeli hospital, and PA decided not to pay for it, because that accident was not a part of “resistance”. He was saved. And, he doesn’t clarify it. Do you have any idea? I got a feeling that money came from Israeli tax payer.


  1. […] JJ Surbeck attended the event last night. Surbeck earned a law degree from the University of Geneva and worked for 16 years for the International Committee of the Red Cross. He  now heads up T.E.A.M. (Training and Education About the Middle East). Surbeck attended the event and wrote an accompanying column. […]

  2. […] up T.E.A.M. (Training and Education About the Middle East). Surbeck attended the event last night. Surbeck writes: [I]t is the Palestinians’ favorite weapon. In one word: decontextualization. This mouthful […]

  3. […] vs. Israel”, “Life in Occupied Palestine”, or “Tears of Gaza” – reviewed by this writer here. All these movies have at least three characteristics in common: microscopic view of a much […]

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