The documentary “Solidarity: Five Largely Unknown Truths about Israel, Palestine and the Occupied Territories” debunks the myths that lie at the center of the injustice in the region. We discuss the film with its director, Bob Peck.
GREG WILPERT: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Greg Wilpert in Baltimore.
A new documentary called Solidarity: Five Largely Unknown Truths about Israel, Palestine and the Occupied Territories was recently published on YouTube. It combines interviews with activists, Palestinians, Jews, and others fighting injustice in Palestine with archival footage and analysis from Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and others.
In five chapters, the film discusses the history of the Israeli occupation, colonization, and apartheid in Palestine. The efforts to achieve justice and the United States’ efforts to deny justice to Palestinians and to prop up the state of Israel as a proxy of us imperial power in the Middle East. Here’s a brief clip from the film.
SPEAKER: When an Israeli is killed, you hear about it in the media a lot. There’s a lot of attention to that person. He or she is humanized, we know their name, their age, what they were doing with their lives, what their dreams were, we get so much information about that one Israeli life, which is great. Every life matters. But when Palestinians are killed, it’s a very different treatment. You just hear about five Palestinians were killed in one sentence.
GREG WILPERT: Joining me now to discuss the film is its director Bob Peck. He studied cinema and theology and has made several documentary films advocating rights and equality. Thanks for joining us today, Bob.
BOB PECK: Thanks so much, Greg.
GREG WILPERT: So, you’ve published a series of films already in which you interview people in the US and address topics such as yoga, Islam, indigenous people’s rights and more. But what brought you to the topic of Israel, Palestine and convinced you to make a film like this?
BOB PECK: Yeah, thanks so much. I met some Palestinian Americans. I think I–like most Americans–was relatively uninformed on the state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict until meeting these guys. And after so many happy hours I realized that from talking to them and hearing their story that there’s a grave injustice going on over there that so many Americans–even relatively politically informed Americans–are unaware of. So they kind of led me down the rabbit hole and a few Edward Said lectures later and panels and articles and so on, there’s so much content online about it, it just became a really a compelling subject to try to learn more about.
GREG WILPERT: You also wrote an article about the process of making it, I’m just wondering if you could tell us a little bit more also about what that process was like and how much time you spent on it?
BOB PECK: Yeah, it took a long time. September 2017 is when myself and my two Palestinian American co-producers Bilal & Mahmoud Shreidi, we said, “Hey, let’s do this.” We started doing research in the end of 2017 and set up the first interview. That first interview was December 2017 and then the last interview was August of last year with Mark Ellis, professor Ellis, who’s a Jewish liberation theology professor. And so the interview process was about a year and a half this whole time I had been researching, reading articles, watching panels, listening to podcast, watching the Norman Finkelstein, Crocodile Tears video, listening to Chomsky on Democracy Now, really trying to comb through as much as I could to paint the full picture.
GREG WILPERT: Now actually, something that really sets this film apart, I think, and sets it apart from dozens of other documentaries on Israel Palestine and on the occupation and the illegality is that you also include theological and spiritual issues kind of on the side perhaps, but still, it’s included, which usually isn’t. Now on the one side, you show Israeli defense minister Naftali Bennett citing the Bible to justify colonization and then on the other side you have Mark Ellis who you just mentioned who has written books on liberation theology. Let’s show a brief clip as an example.
NAFTALI BENNETT: I guess what you need to do is go back and change the Bible. You need to change the narrative of the Bible because it’s all there.
MARK ELLIS: My Jewish theology of liberation begins with the Holocaust, not with the Bible. And if there’s any claim, if we call this a claim for the creation of the state of Israel, we would have to talk about Europe, not ancient Europe, modern Europe, the Nazi years and the Holocaust. There’s a reason that Jews sought their own power and not to be dependent on others, which I agree with. However, that led to the displacement and a profound injustice. And that continues now for the Palestinians.
GREG WILPERT: Talk about the role of theology and spirituality in your approach. Why do you consider it to be an important dimension for a documentary like this?
BOB PECK: Sure. Well, great question. I think Greg, it is the Holy land obviously, and it’s funny you say that because I thought that I kind of, I didn’t talk about how powerful, for example, the Southern Baptist churches are in the funding of Israeli support, but to the point of activism, I think you’re absolutely right in that a core component of Judaism and a really interesting and useful component of it is the solidarity with the persecuted. That it’s an inherent aspect to the Jewish religion.
And it’s what has kind of activated all these Jewish activists over the last 10 years or so. Kind of picking up the mantle of the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s, Mark Ellis and liberation theology, kind of uniting that core component of Judaism and standing up for others who are suffering, who are kind of at the receiving end currently of the state of Israel it’s so important. It’s been really inspiring to become more familiar with those organizations and leaders.
GREG WILPERT: But what I think is interesting that you contrast that perspective also with the defense minister who I just mentioned, who uses theology as well to justify the occupation.
So would you say that perhaps that this is a particularly important element to the conflict in Israel Palestine?
BOB PECK: Yeah, absolutely. You’re right. There is a contrast there. I think it’s, having taken several Bible classes at the University of Texas, really kind of trying to understand scriptural interpretations to take a 3000-year-old document as a land deed is pretty shaky business. I think the Edward Said clip at the very beginning of the film is right on about it. Archeological scholars have determined that a variety of people have lived in that area. It’s a fertile area, it’s the center of earlier human civilization.
So of course, there was different groups there and the Jews have every right to be there, thanks to their ancestral presence, but so do the indigenous Arabs because they’ve been there for centuries as well. So, I think it’s easier for the secular crowd to start to kind of divorce some millennia-old land claim than it is for the more religious. But I think it’s, to Mark Ellis’s point, it’s something that really began 75 years ago, really the Balfour Declaration is early 20th century.
GREG WILPERT: Now you call the five chapters in your film, the five truths. Now, assuming that viewers accept these truths as actually being true, what kind of reaction do you hope that viewers will take away from it?
BOB PECK: Yeah, thanks so much. That’s a great question. I came to that format by having to explain the film to fellow Americans. A lot of people, friends would ask me, what’s the new project? What are you working on? And finally, it’s kind of funny, a friend of mine who’s a marketer said, “Okay enough with the rambling and on and on here about the film, what are the three main things that I don’t know that I should know about it?” And eventually added two more. But I just really liked kind of that digestibility aspect of it.
A core reason why there is so much lack of education about the topic is because it is so complex and it is so layered and there’s just so much to it. So, to kind of make it this one through five series of the most important kind of core concepts to understand, made sense and getting it out there further.
GREG WILPERT: Yeah. I think that was a very interesting and very important way to get your point across, actually. And I hope people will get a chance to see it. We’ll definitely link to it together with this video, but we’re going to leave it there for now. I’m speaking to the documentary filmmaker Bob Peck, who just released the film Solidarity: Five Largely Unknown Truth about Israel, Palestine and the Occupied Territories, which was released on YouTube. Thanks again, Bob for having joined us today.
BOB PECK: Awesome. Thanks so much, Greg.
GREG WILPERT: And thank you for joining The Real News Network.
Gregory Wilpert is Managing Editor at TRNN. He is a German-American sociologist who earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis University in 1994. Between 2000 and 2008 he lived in Venezuela, where he first taught sociology at the Central University of Venezuela and then worked as a freelance journalist, writing on Venezuelan politics for a wide range of publications and also founded Venezuelanalysis.com, an English-langugage website about Venezuela. In 2007 he published the book, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government (Verso Books). In 2014 he moved to Quito, Ecuador, to help launch teleSUR English. In early 2016 he began working for The Real News Network as host, researcher, and producer. Since September 2018 he has been working as Managing Editor at The Real News. Gregory's wife worked as a Venezuelan diplomat since 2008 and from January 2015 until October 2018 she was Venezuela's Ambassador to Ecuador.