This documentary really exposes the harsh reality imposed by the Israeli government on the occupied Palestinians, demonstrating the collective punishment of a people and the disproportional use of military personnel to manage a civilian population.
Mission Hebron (Documentary Film Review)
In December, the documentary film Mission Hebron held its world premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. The film tells the story of six young Israeli men who served in the Israeli Defence force from the age of 18, who give an account of their mission in Hebron, a Palestinian city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The young soldiers were tasked with protecting a compact community of Jewish settlers from the city’s predominantly Palestinian population. Barely adults, these young men were given complete control of public life in the area.
In a studio setting, based on the duties defined in their military handbook, the six ex-soldiers describe their mission, both official and unofficial. Official: protecting the Jewish community in Hebron. Unofficial: making the lives of Palestinian civilians impossible, using a range of sophisticated strategies.
Watching Mission Hebron, the audience is provided with a large amount of information in a short period of time. The soldiers describe how they were never given age limits on who they could arrest and admit to detaining Palestinian children as young as 10 or even younger. The soldiers recount how at times they would stand by witnessing violent abuse and attacks of Palestinians by Israeli settlers.
They also discuss incidents of arbitrary searches of young Palestinian men in the day time and random searches of Palestinian homes at night, damaging Palestinian property and intimidating the innocent men, women, and children, at times not knowing what they were searching for if they were searching for anything at all.
One of the ex-soldiers, Dean Issacharoff, describes the violence perpetrated against Palestinian protesters:
Soldiers really like shooting rubber bullets, it’s fun, soldiers really want to hit what they’re shooting at.”
The targets were mostly Palestinian youth demonstrating against the inhumane treatment they received daily.
Issacharoff goes on to say: “Baruch Marzel had this thing where he handed out coupons for the Tomb of the Patriarchs pizza place if you shoot a Palestinian”. There is a clear sense of dehumanisation of the Palestinian identity in the way the approximate 1,000 settlers and Israeli soldiers view and interact with the almost 30,000 Palestinians under occupation in the H2 zone of Hebron. These soldiers know they will not be received favourably by many within Israel for openly talking about the abuse and mistreatment of the Palestinians in Hebron. And yet clearly, there is a heavy burden on these soldiers’ conscience that has pushed them to participate in this documentary film.
The final scene of young Palestinian children trying to climb over tall and dangerous metal fencing to get to school is heartbreaking. This documentary really exposes the harsh reality imposed by the Israeli government on the occupied Palestinians, demonstrating the collective punishment of a people and the disproportional use of military personnel to manage a civilian population. Anywhere else in the world, military personnel controlling the day to day life of another country’s civilian population would be referred to as an illegal occupation force.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a burden on the people of the Middle East for over seven decades with no end in sight. This conflict and dispute have been debated, written about, numerous wars have been fought over this issue, multiple UN Security Council resolutions have been passed regarding it, and untold films and documentaries have mentioned it.
Mission Hebron is an interesting addition to the library of documentaries, as it reflects the perspective of the young, immature, and inexperienced young men and women who are thrust by the Israeli Defence Force into crowded civilian centres and are expected to maintain the dominant position of the Israeli government and settlers in predominantly Palestinian lands.