A few years ago, the Israeli human-rights group B’Tselem distributed several hundred videocameras to Palestinians in the West Bank and asked them to record the daily abuses they experienced at the hands of Israeli soldiers and settlers.
The group sensed that most Israelis had grown indifferent to the military dominion Israel has maintained over the Palestinians for 45 years now, a phenomenon B’Tselem hoped to reverse.
The project produced some arresting footage, including clips of unprovoked beatings and shootings, all offered to Israeli television networks for their news programs. But while editors found interest in some, they turned down many others. “The occupation has become kind of a nonissue for Israelis,” the director of the video project, Yoav Gross told me recently. “It’s a downer that you don’t really bring up at dinner because it will just ruin the conversation.”
A new documentary, 5 Broken Cameras, makes a similar endeavor to show Israelis and others what transpires on the other side of the divide, just a few miles from Tel Aviv. Shot by Palestinian journalist Emad Burnat over five years, it traces the lives of Bil’in residents in the West Bank during a period of mostly nonviolent protests, as Israel erects a separation barrier across land belonging to the village.