No issue may be more contentious or more misunderstood than the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Hatred, fear, religion, politics, propaganda, media misinformation, and decades of cyclical violence has made understanding the roots of this conflict (not to mention finding potential solutions to it) seemingly impossible. But if we're to ever see reconciliation for the people suffering on both sides, it seems as though we all have a responsibility to try to fully understand what is happening there, why it is happening, and speak up for solutions that could offer some path to reconciliation and lasting peace.
With so much misinformation and bias in the mass media, sharing accurate information that simply corrects this misinformation is a powerful first step toward a dialog that can make a difference. These 10 documentary films, most of which you can watch free online, have been chosen for that aim.
Best Intimate Portrait of Ordinary Lives
An extraordinary work of both cinematic and political activism, 5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil'in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements.
Best Palestine Peace Activist Insight
9. Budrus: It Takes a Village to Unite the Most Divided People on Earth (2010)
Budrus is an award-winning feature documentary film about a Palestinian community organizer, Ayed Morrar, who unites local Fatah and Hamas members along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village of Budrus from destruction by Israel’s Separation Barrier.
Best Perspective on Modern Zionism
Louis Theroux spends time with a small and very committed subculture of ultra-nationalist Jewish settlers. He discovers a group of people who consider it their religious and political obligation to populate some of the most sensitive and disputed areas of the West Bank, especially those with a spiritual significance dating back to the Bible.
Best Israeli Peace Activist Insight
One grandmother, one rabbi, one anarchist and one ex-soldier – four Israelis trying to put an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The documentary Israel vs Israel is a film about Jewish peace activists who in both words and actions take a stand again 40 years of occupation and illegal settlements.
Best American Political Analysis
Is the pro-Israel lobby so strong, financially and politically, that the U.S. relationship with Israel is taboo and therefore unmentionable? And what happens to those who dare expose the unmentionable? In March 2006 the American political scientists John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) and Steve Walt (Harvard) published the controversial article 'The Israel Lobby and US foreign policy'.
Best Big Picture Perspective
In a series of extraordinary interviews with both Palestinians and Israelis, John Pilger weaves together the issue of Palestine. He speaks to the families of suicide bombers and their victims; he sees the humiliation of Palestinians imposed on them at myriad checkpoints and with a permit system not dissimilar to apartheid South Africa's infamous pass laws.
Best Showcase of Former Enemies Becoming Activists for Peace
DISTURBING THE PEACE is a story of the human potential unleashed when we stop participating in a story that no longer serves us and, with the power of our convictions, take action to create new possibilities. DISTURBING THE PEACE follows former enemy combatants - Israeli soldiers from elite units and Palestinian fighters, many of whom served years in prison - who have joined together to challenge the status quo and say "enough." The film reveals their transformational journeys: from soldiers committed to armed battle to nonviolent peace activists, leading to the creation of Combatants for Peace.
Best Introduction, American Religious Perspective and Hope for Reconciliation
3. With God on Our Side (2010)
With God On Our Side takes a look at the theology of Christian Zionism, which teaches that because the Jews are God’s chosen people, they have a divine right to the land of Israel. Aspects of this belief system lead some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israel.
Best Mass Media Analysis
Provides a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, zeroing in on how structural distortions in U.S. coverage have reinforced false perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Best New Film
1. Gaza Fights For Freedom (2019)
Released for free in May 2021. This debut feature film by journalist Abby Martin began while reporting in Palestine, where she was denied entry into Gaza by the Israeli government on the accusation she was a “propagandist.” So Abby connected with a team of journalists in Gaza to produce the film through the blockaded border. It is a documentary about the historic Great March Of Return protests, which occurred every week from March 2018 until December 2019, but covers so much more.
It tells the story of Gaza past and present, showing rare archival footage that explains the history never acknowledged by the mass media. You hear from victims of the ongoing massacre, including journalists, medics and the family of internationally-acclaimed paramedic, Razan al-Najjar. At its core, ‘Gaza Fights For Freedom’ is a thorough indictment of the Israeli military for war crimes with exclusive documentary evidence and a stunning cinematic portrayal of Palestinians' heroic resistance.
In selecting these, I have had to leave out many good films. What films do you think should also be included and why? Please share your suggestions via our contact page and I will catalog them below.
Suggested by our community:
Seeing Through The Wall: Meeting Ourselves in Palestine and Israel (2017)
Many walls separate Palestinians and Israelis—walls of concrete, of mistrust, of ignorance, of fear. This film follows a group of Americans who traveled to Israel and Palestine in 2016 seeking to understand what life is like for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and in East Jerusalem. They met with Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Christians and Muslims, each with their own narrative, most wishing to live in peace.
The journey became an intense encounter not only with people they met, but also with their own preconceptions, an experience that for many of the travelers was transformative. Seeing through the Wall invites and challenges viewers to question their own assumptions and prejudices.
Tears of Gaza (2010)
Disturbing, powerful and emotionally devastating, Tears of Gaza is less a conventional documentary than a record–presented with minimal gloss – of the 2008 to 2009 bombing of Gaza by the Israeli military.
Promises presents a powerful portrait of seven Palestinian and Israeli children who live in and around Jerusalem. As filmmaker B.Z. Goldberg, who was raised in Israel, notes, “They live no more than 20 minutes from each other, but they are each growing up in very separate worlds.
Death in Gaza (2004)
In the Spring of 2003, filmmaker James Miller and reporter Saira Shah, the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning duo behind the Afghanistan documentaries UNHOLY WAR and BENEATH THE VEIL, traveled to the Gaza Strip to look inside the lives of children growing up in a war-torn world of unremitting violence, death, and racial and religious hatred.
Formally #9 on the list:
Best Historical Review of Zionism
The Zionist Story (2009)
The Zionist Story, an independent film by Ronen Berelovich, is the story of ethnic cleansing, colonialism and apartheid to produce a demographically Jewish State. Ronen successfully combines archival footage with commentary from himself and others such as Ilan Pappe, Terry Boullata, Alan Hart and Jeff Halper.
Formally #4 on the list:
Best Jewish American Perspective
Anna Baltzer, a Jewish American, gives her eyewitness perspectives on average citizens living in occupied Palestine. Baltzer spent 5 months in the West Bank working with the International Women's Peace Service. Her presentation highlights how the Israeli government's policies have drastically and negatively affected normal Palestinian life, and how this perspective has been omitted from most news. Watch for free on Kanopy.