“Delegitimize Zionism,” says Israeli filmmaker, Lia Tarachansky

Click for Source Interview by Sarah Levy of Lia Tarachansky

MOVIE: “On the Side of the Road” by Lia Tarachansky, Israeli filmaker, confronts the reality of 1948 and examines how Israelis deal with that past today. — She describes how it is taught to the young and how facts are deliberately ignored.

Lia asks Amnon Noimon, a veteran of the Zionist brigades (Palmach) what role he played in dispossessing Palestinians.

Amnon Says the subject is too painful

Lia replies: “I understand, Amnon. It’s just that because it’s so hard for you to talk about these things, that’s exactly why you must.”

Lia addresses the inconvenient truth (taboo in Israel) about the 1948 ethnic cleansing (Nakba) of Palestine. Doing so is vital for justice to be achieved.

Lia Tarachansky makes clear the long ongoing process of rejecting Zionism.

At 6 years old Lia was brought from Ukraine to a settlement in the occupied West Bank by her mother. She grew up on land stolen from the Palestinians who were an enemy of Jewish people.

Lia spoke to Sarah Levy, journalist: What led you to make this film, “On the Side of the Road?”

LIA: Discovering 1948 Nakba for myself, I realized just how little I knew of my own history — It was revolutionary for me and I thought it would also be for others. I was working as a journalist in Washington, DC when someone sent me a link to a video of a woman who was a veteran in 1948, who turned out to be Tikva Honig-Parnass who talks about massive ethnic cleansing campaigns she was involved was simply shocking. Prior to that I thought ending the occupation everything would be fine. So I picked up a book by Ilan Pappe called The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and that was it for me. It was very clear to me that occupation of Palestine is about a mentality and an ideology, Zionism — That makes it easier to resolve because it’s a conflict of ideas.

SL: You were raised in a Zionist settlement, but now you are anti-Zionist. What first nudged you in your own process of de-Zionization?

LIA: The strongest thing for me was having a conversation with a Palestinian for the first time, when I was at a university in Canada. This guy comes up to me and asks for directions, and we start talking and he says, “You have a strong accent, where are you from?” and I say, “Oh, I’m Israeli,” and he says amiably, “Oh yeah? I’m a Palestinian!” — and then he goes on his way. I realize I was holding my purse a little bit tighter and my whole body is uptight, and it takes me a couple minutes to calm down from being terrified for my life. I realized he didn’t try to kill me — That was revolutionary for me because all my life I was told Palestinians are just brainless, emotional, primitive murdering anti-Semites who want to kill Jews all the time. But he was a totally polite sensible nice guy and yet he was a Palestinian. It sounds horrible but for me, that didn’t fit with anything I had known before, and it began a very violent process of tackling a lot of the mythology that I thought was true about the conflict.

SL: What inspired you to understand that “collective amnesia?”

LIA: I started out making a very different film about historical truth working with historians and veterans who proved Israelis collective punishment and ethnic cleansing — was terrible and was shocking. But I discovered, when I talked to people in Israel about these things, I wasn’t seeing that “Oh my God!” look on their faces. I realized something’s missing here.

LIA: That something was me discovering these things for the first time in my life because obviously we don’t learn about it in school and I didn’t hear about it from my grandparents because in 1948 they were still in Soviet Russia.

LIA: I ended up basing a lot of my film on the work of Stanley Cohen and his monumental book, “States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering.” He talks about how societies looking at their own historical atrocities and experience collective amnesia. I found that many people knew about the Nakba ethnic cleansing, but didn’t assign a moral value to what they knew. BUT WHY? I wanted to believe that Israelis by and large are an ethical people. Yet they are participate in a brutal conflict. But that’s not because we are a genocidal people. So I wanted to understand what was blocking people from seeing the truth many knew — What Stanley Cohen calls “denial” — A process of knowing and now knowing at the same time.

SL: In the film you show a lot of footage of what you could call Jewish extremists, rallying and saying things like, “Yes, I’m a racist. I don’t want Arabs here and I don’t want you here, either.” Has Israeli society always been like this or do you think this level of open racism has intensified?

LIA: It’s gotten much worse and this latest attack on Gaza really brought a lot of the fascists out of the closet. I think a lot of the ordinary people who are chanting these racist slogans are just the ugly in-your-face version of the whole ideology of Zionism.

LIA: If you honestly look at spiritual and nationalist Zionism, believing Jews have a right to the lands of Palestinians or Zion, as practiced by people like [David] Ben Gurion — Israel as a state for only the Jews and therefore necessarily excludes anyone who’s not a Jew — Makes ordinary street-level Israelis a natural product of ethnic cleansing Zionism — That idea reaches its logical racist peak.

SL: How do you see the process of dehumanization of the Palestinians as a part of the Zionist project? For instance, how is the dehumanization of Palestinians learned or passed on growing up in Israel?

LIA: It is Israeli brainwashing in schools about Palestinians and is more about what is not said than what is said. Growing up in a settlement I never thought about the Palestinians. They never played any major role in my life. I never interacted with them. I never spoke to them. There was no place where our paths crossed, but by the time I finished [high] school I was convinced that it would be so much better if the Palestinians just were not here. We all naturally believed Palestinians killed Israelis and are violent throwing stones at our soldiers, starting intifadas, and want to kill all Jews. We believed the only way to end the fear was all Palestinians must be dead. And that’s it.

SL: What do you hope comes out of this film?

LIA: I hope the activist community shifts from focusing on checkpoints and settlements to the REAL facts on the ground and ZIONISM — Israel must dismantle the Zionist ideology of the regime and the ethnic confinement and cleansing — Everything is easily changeable and we need to talk about this.

SL: What do you think it will take to reach a solution in the region?

LIA: The very first step is to stop funding the Israeli arms industry. This means boycott, divestment, and sanctions to pressure the US and Israel and to delegitimize the idea of an ethnocracy. I’m not saying delegitimize the right of the Jewish people to live in Palestine or Israel — I’m talking about delegitimizing Zionism.

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