The Law in These Parts
Directed by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz
In 2004, Israeli documentarian Alexandrowicz attended the trial of a Palestinian boy accused of throwing stones at a military Jeep, and it inspired him to make this investigation into how the laws of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories have been shaped and administered. The film contains no talks with Palestinians, whose images appear only in archival footage shot by Israelis; its goal is not to hear from people ruled by laws but to better understand the laws themselves.
The film consists almost entirely of seated interviews with retired Israeli military judges and legal advisors, moving from discussion of the occupation’s 1967 beginning up to the present. A document written years before the Six Day War’s outbreak is produced, outlining how the Israeli Defense Forces would be obeyed under an occupation. Once the war ended, over a million people became the IDF’s subjects overnight. The military established its own set of provisional laws separate from the Israeli government’s and left them open to change. The IDF set up its own courts, with three military-appointed judges deciding each case; proceedings were always to be held in Hebrew, with a soldier translating into Arabic if needed. The judges condoned the settlement of Israeli citizens within occupied areas, justifying it with laws established by the Ottoman Empire, and decided the punishments of Palestinians accused of resisting. "Today, the difference between a soldier and a terrorist is rooted in our legal and political discourse," says a former judge.
If Palestinians felt that they had been treated unjustly, they could petition the Israeli Supreme Court directly, an unusual right even within a democracy. Yet the more Alexandrowicz looks—and, as he himself points out, chooses to tell us, noting that he controls the truth in this documentary film—the more examples he finds of the Court ruling against petitioners and in favor of the IDF. The filmmaker asks Meir Shamgar, the former President of the Supreme Court for 12 years, whether he believes that Israeli citizens would accept being governed as the Palestinians have been. He answers that he can’t give an opinion on hypothetical situations.
Opens November 14 at Film Forum