A guest post from Shahinaz Nabeeh on the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, "Children of Gaza"
The eyes of the orphaned Mohammed said it all. For an hour in Dispatches: Children of Gaza (Channel 4) they were defiant and angry, older than his 12 years. But at last the tears welled up, though he manfully fought them back. “I am not a terrorist, I am a Palestinian,” he declared. “Would they accept their children being fatherless… like us?”
Jezza Neumann’s film unflinchingly showed the aftermath of the Israeli campaign on Gaza in 2009, killing more than 1,300 innocent civilians, leaving families torn apart and lives left in limbo. It followed the impact on those left behind, youthful hearts toughened by the tragedy of war on their doorstep.
Young boys played mock war with toy rifles among the ruins of their former homes, but it did not take much of a leap of the imagination to fast forward a few years and picture those boys ready to die for their cause. For what Children of Gaza showed beyond anything else was how the desire for revenge is one of the few seeds to flourish among the tragedy and devastation.
“I hate everyone now… I used to love all people” said Mahmoud and it was heart breaking to see such torment in a boy who looked so young and innocent.
One girl, who watched her 9 year old brother get shot right in their home, was asked what she would wish for the most, she replied simply "To die, it would be better for me than to live like this"
This was not a film about taking sides. It was not about examining the complexities of the ongoing conflict, or indeed the unjust dealings of neighbouring Egypt. What it did do, with touching clarity, was to illustrate the futility of shooting bullets at a situation and expecting it to ever end through the eyes of those most innocent.
It is a story repeated around the world; a new generation is radicalised by the basic (and rightful) human need to avenge the wrongs done to them. At one point Mahmoud did talk about imagining a future where there is peace between the young generations. But It was hard to shake the feeling that, in the face of such pain and suffering, for him the moment has already passed.