July 2005

Maybe I should learn to be less sensitive but when director Eran Riklis arrived in Nazareth last month for the screening of his much-garlanded film “The Syrian Bride”, he got off on the wrong footing the moment he walked through the door. A handful of Nazerenes had been invited to a film studies workshop, keen to see an Israeli movie that has won universal praise, as well as more than a dozen awards, for its uplifting and supposedly non-partisan message: that we must never let go of our humanity or our dignity, even in the face of the brutalitising effects of the Middle East conflict.

This week the Israeli soldier who shot and killed Tom Hurndall, a 22-year-old British peace activist, in Rafah in the Gaza Strip was convicted by an Israeli court of manslaughter. The judgment was a belated and incomplete victory for Tom’s parents, Anthony and Jocelyn Hurndall, who had been involved in a two-year battle against the Israeli authorities to bring their son’s killer to justice. They believe responsibility reaches much higher up the chain of authority to Israeli commanders who have approved a reckless policy of targeting Palestinians, whether armed or not.
Despite more than 1,700 Palestinian civilians having been killed by the Israeli army in this intifada, according to figures from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, few soldiers ever account for those deaths. Only 90 investigations by the army have been held, leading to seven convictions of soldiers, three for manslaughter and none for murder. The longest sentence so far has been for 20 months.