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Panorama: A walk in the park

Panorama: A walk in the park

Issue 66 March 2010


BBC One, 8:30pm Monday 18th January 2010


Review by Myriam Francois-Cerrah


Jane Corbin’s investigation into the land grabbing policy of the Israeli government could hardly have been more distressing. One of the more objective documentaries the BBC has produced of late on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the camera follows Jane’s Converse trainers as she treks around the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods where the Israeli government is either actively or tacitly complicit in the eviction of Palestinians from their homes or the demolition of their houses to make way for new and ever expanding settler accommodation. 

Without a doubt, one of the most chilling aspects of the documentary was the unashamedly open fashion in which Israeli settler groups discuss their project to evict Palestinians from East Jerusalem in order to both ethnically cleanse the city, as well as to ‘re’-populate Greater Israel. As someone who has lived in East Jerusalem, it was distressing to see the extent of the changes made to the already impoverished and under-funded Arab side of town, where the municipalities are allocated a small percentage of what is allocated to the Israeli neighbourhoods. Evictions have always been a common occurrence in East Jerusalem and virtually everyone there knows someone it has happened to. 

What is particularly harrowing is the role that certain Jewish and Christian communities abroad are playing in funding this abominable practice. Corbin speaks to settler organisations which receive millions of dollars from wealthy donors in the US and Europe, to enable the taking over of Palestinian homes and making families homeless. 

In addition, she reveals the extent of the Israeli government collaboration and support for such practices, with Israeli soldiers acting as a support arm for private organisations evicting Palestinian families. 

If there was any need for further vindication of the oppression the Palestinian people are living, this documentary showed the utter helplessness of the Palestinians; unable to fight the eviction notices, unable to get planning permission to extend their over-crowded homes and unable to fight the bulldozers which eventually come to destroy the homes they had no other choice but to build illegally. 

The breeding ground for anger, resentment and frustration is clear for all to see in the ruins of young Palestinian children’s homes, or as they watch Israeli settlers appropriate their homes in the midst of their misery. The Israeli justice system appeared less the epitome of fairness and democracy that its proponents like to portray it as and more the apartheid system I am used to hearing organisations like Human Rights Watch refer to it as. One Palestinian father, shot in front of his children, was unable to prosecute the culprit who claimed he’d been acting in self defence, despite the fact the father in question had not been carrying a weapon in full public view. 

The sickening injustice of the Israeli occupation and relentless expansion continues to act as a powder keg for those who refuse to ignore the inhumanity of this ethnic cleansing. 

Documentaries like that of Corbin are a reminder of just how desolate the future looks and how far we are from any meaningful peace process. As Israel continues to expand in all impunity, impervious to international law, increasing public disapproval amongst its own population and the sheer inhumanity of the war it is waging on a tired, impoverished yet resilient Palestinian population, the seeds of tragedy for all involved are being sewn.

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