This week Australians watched on TV a ‘story about fear, hate, blood and hope’ in Tod Sampson’s Body Hack documentary on extraordinary people under extreme conditions that was filmed in Gaza over 3 days from the 25th February 2019.
It opens in the midst of the Great March of Return with Israeli bullets whizzing past Sampson’s and protestors’ heads. Nevertheless Sampson is quick to assert that ‘Both sides are right and wrong’. This reference to ‘Both sides’ triggers alarm bells heralding the hackneyed Israeli propaganda, misinformation and deceit by omission, (interspersed with some facts and concern) underpinning the so-called ‘not a political show’.
Throughout, both in person and in his voice-over, Sampson regurgitates the stock hasbara [propaganda] script you’d reasonably assume came direct from Netanyahu’s office: Even-sided conflict, Hamas as terrorist using human shields, Israel the most moral army in the world, Israel the Victim- provoked to violence – is defending itself, Threat of Hamas rockets, Palestinians hate us.
Sampson’s ‘Both sides are right and wrong’ is a Zionist furphy suggesting two equal combatants ignoring Israel is ‘one of the most advanced militaries in the world’ versing kids throwing rocks. Palestinians don’t have an airforce, army or navy. Israel is the colonial occupier daily perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity against the indigenous Palestinians.
Hamas as terrorist using human shields
On cue, Hamas cops the T word – ‘Hamas is considered as terrorists by Israel and the USA.’ Plus ‘Israel argues that Hamas has co-opted these protestors and is using its citizens as human shields’ – this charge slyly shifts the blame for the slaughter to Hamas. Then there is this idiocy; ‘There’s certainly a Hamas narrative here and it would be easy to blame Israel for everything, but that would be masking the truth. You could argue the democratic election of Hamas in 2006 has done more to hurt the people of Palestine than Israel’. Sampson omits that Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the West successfully conspired to overthrow Hamas which upholds the legitimate resistance against the occupation. The truth unmasked is that Jewish state terrorism rules Palestine.
Israel the most moral army in the world
Sampson underrates the brutality of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), ‘they are not shooting to kill, their policy is to shoot the legs. They consider this a form of restraint.’ Unmentioned is deliberate maiming of unarmed peaceful protestors violates international law. Crack sharpshooters intentionally load their rifles with prohibited dum dum or butterfly bullets that, as we see on screen, destroy ‘muscles, nerves and vessels’ rendering the person disabled for life. ‘Restrained’ snipers have been caught on video boasting and cheering their illegal hits which over a year has amounted to 29,000 injured averaging 558 protestors per week, not 130 as Sampson claims.
Israel the Victim- provoked to violence – is defending itself
Sampson affirms Israeli blamelessness; ‘They argue that were there no terrorist attacks there would be no blockade and therefore no protests’. Poor Israel is provoked, according to Sampson, into violence by children who ‘get right in the face of Israeli soldiers’ – ‘protestors taunt the Israeli soldiers’, ‘I can’t say the Israelis showed restraint but I can say there was definite provocation.’
The carnage of unarmed protestors is exonerated because poor victim Israel is fearful of the legal return of Palestinian refugees- ‘They’re clearly not afraid of kids throwing rocks.What is concerning is what they represent. What happens when 2 million Palestinians leave Gaza and walk into Jerusalem. For them this fear is real and worth defending.’ Sampson never mentions the Palestinian Right of Return under international law that has been denied by Israel while it allows any Jew anywhere Israeli citizenship on stolen Palestinian land.
Threat of Hamas rockets
Sampson’s apologetics for Israel’s atrocities is explained by ‘Israel has been the ‘sworn enemy of Hamas since 1967 and for good reason, more than 12,000 rockets have been fired into Israel often provoking swift and brutal retribution.’ Omitted is the fact that these rockets, which Norman Finkelstein describes as ‘enhanced fireworks’ are mainly homemade. In the 2014 Israel bombardment of Gaza, one Israeli civilian was killed by a Hamas rocket compared to 2,104 Palestinians killed.
Palestinians hate us and want to destroy Israel
Sampson backs this up with a statement by an injured protestor who wants to ‘take revenge on the Jews’ (Palestinians use yahud – ‘Jew’ to describe Israelis) and comments by children who want to kill Israeli children because they are the enemy. This is not counterbalanced by Israeli children wanting to kill Arabs.
Reference to ‘hate’ is only linked to Palestinians and their learning to hate is supposedly demonstrated in a scene where boys are playing violent video games. Sampson ignorantly states- ‘Hate is learned and at the heart of it is fear of the unknown’. Hate is not unknown in Gaza; hate falls in Jewish bombs, hate cracks in Jewish bullets, it stings in Jewish teargas, hate incessantly hovers in Jewish drones that harbinger death- see Atef Abu Saif.
There is a grubby taste of betrayal permeating the programme. Sampson is a wolf dressed in PRESS clothing (he is not a journalist) which gains him the trust of Palestinians. There is a disturbing scene where he kneels in questionable empathy before the grieving mother of Ehab Etab, 25 who was killed the day before leaving behind his little son, Mohammed and a pregnant wife. Ehab’s mother describes her son as ‘the life and joy of our house’ ‘who sings all the time and likes go out’. Outside, Sampson denigrates Ehab’s martyrdom with this slur; ‘Martyrs may live forever but his 3 year old son ..and unborn child will..most likely gain a life full of hate.’
Ehab didn’t sacrifice his life for hate, but for a free Palestine for his family.
Sampson informs us that over 50% of Gaza’s population is under 18. He betrays the youthful protestors by crudely viewing their commitment to return to their lands as ‘mindless’ provocation and ‘meaningful entertainment’.
Sampson’s background is advertising and he is masterful at selling ideas. To demonise Hamas, Sampson craftily sets up segues from a generous Israel to a dying baby to blaming Hamas for the baby’s imminent death all the while ‘not pointing fingers and not taking sides’ ( alarm bells). At Al Shifa’s neo-natal intensive ward, he raises the problem of Gaza’s severe electricity restrictions pointing out that ‘Israel is the only country that sells electricity to an enemy focused on its destruction’ omitting Israel has repeatedly bombed Gaza’s power, water and sewage plants. Then comes the segue to the imminent death of a baby for whom there is only 3 days of medication available which segues to Hamas rejecting, in May 2018, a medical shipment from Israel.
Conveniently omitted is 8 trucks of medical aid had arrived and Hamas rejected only the two trucks from the IOF which Sampson shamefully intimates 9 months later doomed the baby to be ‘collateral damage’. No reminder is forthcoming that Israel controls the shipments in and out of Gaza and regularly refuses medical transfers for Gaza patients to be treated in Israel and if children are treated in Israel their parents are refused the right to accompany them.
Images don’t lie. Viewers do get powerful insights into the tragedy of Gaza life, into the horror and heroism of Gaza’s protestors and doctors. Had Body Hack framed the not happy story of Gaza around Palestinian aspirations and rights under international law then Sampson could have left Gaza sans guilt and with hope.
Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters and editor of a volume of Palestinian poetry, I remember my name. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was convenor of Australia East Timor Association and coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.