United Arab Emirates 2011, 59 min| Israel 2011, 101min.
There is no other region in the world that has been so exposed in the media as Gaza and the West Bank. Yet I can’t say I had a real understanding of the escalating violence in this region. The media’s slaughter scenes left by car bombs were completely incomprehensible to me. The more news clips I saw, the less I felt I could relate to this conflict. Then I noticed two new films on this difficult topic. The Palestinian, The Invisible Policeman by Laith Al-Juneidi and the Israeli movie, The Law in These Parts by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz. To my surprise, I found that these two movies complimented each other.
If you want to understand the structure of the conflict in this region The Law in These Parts provides an all-time breakthrough experience. The complex and well-hidden history of the legal apparatus is revealed. The film dissects the foundation of the legal system that was constructed in order to justify the occupation of the region. At one point the archive footage starts with today’s violence and goes back in fast tempo with the sound of fast reverse from an old film editing table. The history goes backwards to the first simple protests from the Palestinian farmers back in the 70s. We understand that this is a spiral of violence and we should not be afraid to look at the source for this aggression. It all began in 1979, when a group of Palestinian farmers filed a petition with Israel’s High Court of Justice claiming their land was settled illegally.
The court ruled in their favour, saying that land being seized for a civil rather than a military need is a blatant violation of international law. It was at this point that the Israeli legal advisors got together to find out how to circumvent this ruling and make the legal basis for continuing to practise their transgressions. The film itself was shot in a mere nine days in the studio. There is a desk, a chair, some documents and a green screen. This simple set becomes the most powerful court I have ever seen, more powerful than any international war crimes court in The Hague. We the viewers are the jury. With fascination, we watch an hour and a half of cross-examinations of a handful of Israeli legal officials, including Supreme Court judges. At first they are rather relaxed, maybe even sentimental, when they get into their hands the old documents of their court cases. Some remember very well, others don’t. It takes some time before they realize that they have just taken the witness stand.
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