Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2024 9:19 pm 
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More about the eradication of a people

This is partly a beautiful, partly a disturbing film. It provides more of the deeper knowledge that aware people in America are acquiring in the wake of the post-October 7, 2023 massacre and genocide of Gaza. The images are often beautiful; the colors are delicate. A soft-voiced women speaking Arabic with a Palestinian accent quietly speaks as the embodiment of a place, the city of al-Lyd in Palestine, and speaking of its past glories. It connected Palestine with the world: it had an airport. It has an airport now. But after the Nakba, the mass expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948, Lyd was eradicated and turned into Lod, all the street names and place names changed, all the Arab inhabitants expesllled except a thousand allowed to remain to do menial jobs and live in a crime-ridden slum. That is, in what was once Lyd and now is Lod. But this film also shows what it might have been. Rami Yousif, the co-director, explains all this is a short video.

There are first hand descriptions of massacres in this film, particularly of a notorious one in a mosque partly described by perpetrators who didn't care and pretend they did nothing wrong. They are Israeli Jews and were filmed by a government agency as a record. One of them, a little different, recounts being horrified and rushing out of the mosque jammed with Palestinian Arabs as a young soldier. The people in the mosque were shot and then a bomb was thrown in to finish them off. Several weeks later, an old Arab man recounts today how. as a 12-year-old he was one of three boys brought to the mosque and told to pull out the rotting, putrid bodies of the massacred people. It took two days. On the third day he hid because he couldn't go back. He still remembers how horrible the smell was. This was Lyd in 1948, on the way to becoming Lod.

This is part of the story of Lyd. It was also a beautiful Palestinian city, and there are still old women in the refugee camp at Nablus, survivors of the Nakba, the Catastrophe (what Palestinians call the mass genocide and domicide and expulsion of their population in 1948, simultaneous with the establishment of the State of Israel), who remember the beauty of Lyd , the prickly pears, the fruit groves, the nice houses.

Everything nice that was Palestinian, they explain, had to be destroyed. The Israeli settlers went for the Palestinian towns because they had to eliminate any signs that the Palestinians had culture and leave only the impression that they are lowly, inferior, without accomplishment. Lyd was the nicest city, so it was the most totally destroyed of the Palestinian towns.

The film uses old footage, new footage, and also animated film to create images of an alternate Lyd if the Arab city had not been wiped out by the Jews but allowed to continue till today. Another note: Lydda (Lyd) was also the cite of the martyrdom of Saint George and the church in his name houses his sarcophagus and here, unlike in Europe, are images of the saint with dark skin.

But what is left of being a Palestinian? Rare detailed footage of the refugee camp of Nablus, following around a metal worker and interviewing him, his brother, and his elders, inspires another realization: the Palestinian refugee camps are not just concentration camps, as Norman Finkelstein has said, citing an Israeli official who said the same. They have developed from camps into ghettoes dark, cramped, deprived, graffiti covered, pathetic, crowded with people living on from generation to generation like in Warsaw, Krakow, Lodz in Europe, and like there, the Isdraelis like the Nazis regard their inhabitants as Untermenschen, subhumans, to be treated with indifference.

And yet some might thrive there or could thrive. One of the most original and indelible sequences is of a special class for Palestinian school children, especially bright ones, seated around a big table like a seminar, where the teacher questions them about their "hawiyya," their "identity" and they choose items from a cartwheel chart of names and characteristics. Only a few identify as Palestinian, they have a confused idea of where Palestinian even is. THE teacher weeps afterward. She fears they are forgetting who they are. The scene suggests thatthe Palestinian people, in the younger generations, are losing their true "hawiyya," are being eradicated internally, mentally, as well as their parents and grandparents and great grand-paarents had their homes, their lands, eradicated and there valuables stolen by soldiers. Will there by anything left in a few years? the teacher wonders. Isn't this what was done to indigenous people, to the aborigines in Australia, Ntive Americans on the reservations?

Many films have been made about these subjects. But this is one that may be remembered, because it comes at things, starting from the focus of what was once a most notable Palsstinian town and now has been eradicated, turned into the Israeli city of Lod, a fresh point of view. The world has been ignoring Palestine and its people and accepting the Israeli version of the facts for generations now. But as we observe the waves of - brutally repressed - student demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine all over the US, the change toward awareness is highly visible.

Friedland is a NYC-based media artist and educator. Younis is an Israeli Palestinian. from LOd (former al-Lyd).

Lyd, 78 mins., debuted Aug. 19, 2023 at Amman, where it won the the Best Documentary prize , and the FIBRESCI prize, and it was shown in a half dozen other festivals. It is now being released in the US by Icarus Films and was recently discussed by A,my Goodman interviewing the filmmakers in New York on Democracy Now!.


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