Guernica: Palestine’s Great Book Robbery

benny-brunner-great-book-robbery-palestineAfter speaking to the Dutch Israeli film-maker Benny Brunner about his documentary ‘The Great Book Robbery’ and realising that there was so little written about him,  I was determined to sit him down for a very long chat.  I did and we spoke about everything from his upbringing, the need to reclaim Palestinian books looted by Israeli forces in 1948, his previous documentaries, going to war in 1973 and Israel’s internal conflict. Here’s a snippet from the published piece at Guernica.

Like many living in the midst of conflict, politics colored Brunner’s entire upbringing. One of his earliest memories is of heated political arguments between his father and uncle reaching crescendos of shouts. Brunner would go on to face his own political battle with Zionism. A turning point came after his participation in the destructive war of 1973 (in which Syria and Egypt attacked Israel in order to regain territories lost in the battle of 1967). “I began to realize that a lot of what we were taught at high school—the history and the Zionist narrative—was made up,” he explains. “These were just legends of nation building.” As a result, something changed for Brunner; in 1997, he went on to make one of the first known films documenting the Palestinian expulsion during the establishment of Israel—known as the Nakba—and openly admits he will always stand with Palestinians against injustices done to them by Israel. Al Nakba was praised by the renowned Israeli historian Tom Segev for acknowledging the complexities surrounding the expulsion of Palestinians during the creation of Israel and urging that Israelis accept some responsibility for what happened. No one could face such controversy untainted; Israeli cabinet minister Uzi Landau accuses Brunner of being part of an Israeli left fanning the flames of “Jew-hatred” in Europe.

Guernica: Your film Al Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe 1948 was arguably one of the first documentaries on the Nakba. How did you come across the history of the Palestinian expulsion and why did you decide to make a documentary on it?

Benny Brunner: Benny Morris published his book about the Nakba in 1988 [The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949] and it was a watershed moment for me, as it challenged the entire Zionist narrative [claiming] that we hadn’t expelled anyone, that they fled because their leaders told them to leave and were told that they would be able to come back in a few weeks “when we had drowned the Jews in the sea.” The book put an end to that and the questions weren’t about whether we expelled Palestinians or not any more. They were now about how many were expelled…

Read the full piece here.

One response to “Guernica: Palestine’s Great Book Robbery

  1. Pingback: Palestine article about ignoring the voices of Palestinians | ikners.com

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