“The Arrest”: Palestine Defense Force & Occupied Israelis

A new short film screening at the Tribeca Film Festival later this month subverts the reality of occupier and occupied.

Israeli artist Yair Agmon directs “The Arrest,” which portrays a squad of Palestinian occupation soldiers entering an Israeli home in search of a wanted suspect. The family is awakened in the middle of the night and terrified as the soldiers roam the house.

The reality is well-known for Palestinians, who are frequently assaulted in their homes by soldiers of the Israel Defense Force. Last week, human rights organization B’Tselem released footage of IDF soldiers entering a Palestinian home in Hebron around 2:00 A.M.,

“The soldiers spent about half an hour there, during which time they searched the house, awoke the children, and photographed the children and the parents’ identity cards. The soldiers devoted most of their time to watching video footage, which was filmed by ‘Imad and Fayzeh Abu Shamsiyeh, on the family’s computer. The footage was saved on an external hard disk, which the soldiers connected to the computer. When they left, the soldiers took the hard disk and a memory card with them,” B’Tselem reports. (Watch the video)

“The Arrest” subverts the asymmetrical relationship between Israelis and Palestinians to convey the indignities of life under occupation through the eyes of an Israeli family: audiences witness the Palestinian lived experience through an imagined Israeli one. As an Israeli, Agmon may be attempting reach his fellow countrymen and women, who may sympathize with the Palestinian experience if it is told through an Israeli lens.

Agmon conveys a sharp eye for social criticism in the film’s opening scene when a Palestinian soldier speaks over the phone to his mother about mundane house chores right before he heads into the Israeli home. The semblance of domestic normality that Israelis strive to maintain just miles from the brutal reality of occupation is collapsed into one scene: the is no escape from the occupation, Israelis exist within it, the aspiration for normality represented in a phone call – remote and intangible – is subsumed by the present and concrete world of occupation, where an Israeli soldier does his chores by violating the domestic normality of another mother and child.

Agmon takes another jab: “In an alternative reality the Palestinian army is the occupier, and Palestinian directors make leftist and successful action films to deal with the trauma they experienced in the army.

In recent years, former IDF soldiers have directed films about their combat experience: most notably Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir and Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon, both set during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon with the former about the Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinian refugees under the gaze of Israeli soldiers.

Both films dramatize sympathetic portraits of Israeli soldiers while Lebanese and Palestinian victims barely appear on screen.

Watch “The Arrest” clip below:

For those in the New York City area, times and locations, along with advanced ticket sales, may be found here.