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Ghost Town: Stories From Hebron

October 23, 2015

Ghost Town: Stories from Hebron
by Malcolm L. Rigsby

Personally meaningful and life focusing!

Subject: Accounts of the stories from Hebron as a result of occupation by Israel.

Year: 2015

Ghost Town is an alarming and stark examination of reality in being imprisoned in one’s own homeland!

                                    ~ Malcolm L. Rigsby

The past 10 years have seen an increasing number of documentaries on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.  Many of these films have been objective recounts of each side and others have been biased.  Some films have focused on the historical contexts that may have created the conflict that seems to ebb and wane then resurface in hate and rage while other films focus on religious and politicalized ideologies that propel conflict.  Ellie Bernstein has created a masterpiece in Ghost Town.  She holistically interweaves history and current day politics and culture with deeply moving and personal narratives.  She is both passionate as well as objective in this film that focuses on the Palestinian side of the region’s conflict.  The film begins with the statement “never a land without people nor a people without a land.”  What better setting for a land that now is increasingly “ghost-like” for its indigenous inhabitants; the Palestinian.  The land mass known as Palestine since the Roman conquest now contains the states of Palestine and Israel.  Israel, as defined by its borders established by the Six Day War as well as Palestine, also known as the West Bank and Gaza, has been inhabited by indigenous peoples throughout recorded history.  Against this backdrop, within this land are many ghost towns.  Hebron is one such example where in the midst of this populated city lies a virtual wasteland devoid of Palestinian inhabitants and human enterprise.  It is in these sections of Hebron and other locations that Palestinian ghost towns have been created by the removal laws of the Israeli state and its support of a numerically few settlers who wield great power over the numerically larger Palestinian population.

Narrated by Martin Sheen, the film lays out a factually objective history of the land of Palestine.  This provides us with the knowledge of the effects of the creation of the state of Israel upon the occupation of the region and the demise of the Palestinian people.  Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention provides that “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into territory that it occupies.”  In spite of numerous UN resolutions and language of Article 49 Israel has aggressively sought to expand its 1948 borders and occupy the land of Palestine.

Ghost Town truly is both a magnetic and informative film.  A focal point in this film surrounds the historical division of Hebron by Israel into areas H-1 and H-2.  The state’s creation of these areas serve a foundation for “self-legitimizing” much violence committed by the Israeli soldiers and settlers against local Palestinians.  This violence perpetrated against local Palestinian residents of Hebron is exemplified in many accounts described in this film.  One resonating case is the murder of Frial-Fayez.  Fayez’ death is not an isolated case.  Attempts by survivors and those injured by IDF soldiers are unable to file law suits for damages due to Israeli law.  In essence the brute power of the occupier serves to substantiate the military rule that denies the Palestinian residents the basic human need for democratic Due Process that so many citizens of other nations and the Israeli non-Arab population enjoy.

Increasingly the Palestinian residents of Hebron have been fenced off from their properties and forbidden to enter or conduct business in sections of the city.  The result is a city of ghostlike storefronts, memories, and lost dreams.

Ellie Bernstein provides a deeply meaningful experience for each viewer.  She brings together her many personal travels of the lands of Palestine and Israel into context as she explores personal accounts, third party intervenors perspectives, and individuals and private organizations who are attempting to bring change.  The film clearly sets the backdrop in an interspersed review of the concise history of the region, the conflict, and the people.  Their accounts will resonate in your mind as you consider the facts and the circumstances currently faced in the daily lives of people living in modern day Palestine and in particular the city of Hebron.

Ghost Town: Stories from Hebron is starkly shot with excellent editing.  The personal accounts echo in a way that enhance and assist the viewer to move right into the setting.  The film includes a study guide and includes an interview with Noam Chomsky.  For more preliminary information watch the film Trailer.  The website indicates that it provides a complimentary Guidebook.  Although no active guidebook link was located the site does provide contact information.  To make institutional or personal purchases visit MiddleEastDocs.

Review by: Malcolm L. Rigsby, J.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Criminal Justice. Department of Sociology Human Services and Criminal Justice, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas,

Produced By: Ophelias Media Productions.

Directed by: Ellie Bernstein

Distributed By: Rhizome Intermedia

Format: DVD, English

Running Time: 85 minutes

Color/B&W: Color

Rating: Highly Recommended.

Audience Level: Jr. High, High School, College and General Adult.


Tags: Palestine, occupation, Hebron, settlers, Jewish settlers, Israel.

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