The Humber Mouth
Hull Literature
Festival 2003

{ Hull Literature Festival 2003 6th - 16th November 2003
 the humber mouth }


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Festival Critic

{ Festival Critic: Steven Hall }

Renegade Soundwave

Writers Day

Ibsen vs. Strindberg

Jeremy Hardy vs the Israeli Army

An Audience with Joan Bakewell

Woza Albert!

Imetexture

Pooh Bear Reading Workshop

Readers Day

Theatre Test Tube

Jeremy Hardy vs the Israeli Army
Reviewed by James Russell

This review of Jeremy Hardy vs the Israeli Army has been produced by James Russell, one of Humber Mouth’s special guest critics. I’d just like to say thanks to James for his time and for his thoughts on such an important film – Steven Hall

About James Russell

Originally from Leicestershire, James moved to Hull in 1997 to attend Hull University, graduating four years later with a BA in British Politics & Legislative Studies.

A member of the Green Party since the age of sixteen, James has stood as a candidate for Hull City Council for the last two years, and next year will also, subject to selection, be standing as a Green Party candidate in the elections for the European Parliament.

James is also keenly interested in film and, especially, theatre, having taken acting, writing or directing roles in a number of amateur and semi-professional stage productions.

Jeremy Hardy vs the Israeli Army
Dir: Leila Sansour, 2002
Hull Screen, Tuesday 11th November 2003

Leila Sansour is a Palestinian. Her parents’ home was destroyed during an operation carried out by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). Jeremy Hardy is a stand-up comedian, and a long-time supporter of left-wing causes. A film of the latter shot by the former was not going to bring any huge surprises in terms of viewpoint, but that is not the point of this film. This film is meant to show a side of the Israeli – Palestine conflict we rarely get to see.

When Jeremy Hardy was invited by Leila Sansour to come to Palestine to see the work of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), he could have been going on holiday to Florida, to see his in-laws. Palestine won.

The ISM is a Palestinian-led group of international peace activists who aim to confront the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and aid the Palestinians themselves, through the use of non-violent direct action. When Hardy arrived to meet them for the first time, the IDF were invading Ramallah. It was Good Friday.

Hardy stayed at the Star Hotel in Bethlehem. “At least the room’s OK”, he commented. But during his first full day there, as he is shown around the city by its mayor, he begins to have reservations. He visits a maternity hospital, where a statue of the Virgin Mary is peppered with bullet holes. He is aware of the promise he made to his daughter to keep himself safe.

IDF tanks and jeeps are seen on the outskirts of the city, and a curfew is announced. Walking back to the hotel, Jeremy says, “Some of them [the ISM] are crazy … living out a vainglorious fantasy about their lives”. That evening, the ISM activists march through Bethlehem, deliberately breaking curfew. A standoff with an Israeli armoured personnel carrier ensues. Soldiers fire live rounds into the ground in front of the activists, who carry nothing more than banners or cameras. Many have their hands raised. Shrapnel injures some, including one man we see later with his head wrapped in bandages. “I’m fine, thanks. No problem,” he says.

That night, the IDF seize Bethlehem, and the British press begin to call some of the activists for comment. Hardy is aware that the conflict, and not the involvement of a few foreign nationals, should remain the story. He still believes some of the activists are crazy, but now he says it “with respect”.

The next day the US and UK nationals are whisked away by their respective consulates. Hardy maintains, in an inserted clip from a later stand-up routine, that the US drivers were all hard hats and flak jackets; the British ones wore driving gloves.

Back in the UK, Hardy keeps in touch with events in Palestine and gives media interviews. We see a clip of his appearance on The Richard & Judy Show, the soft focus and pastel colours of the set a striking counterpoint to Bethlehem’s dust and violence.

Hardy cannot stay away for long. He flies to Tel-Aviv with some of the activists he met on his first visit, and eventually makes it to Bethlehem. Many foreign nationals are being turned away at Israel’s borders. Bethlehem, under 24-hour curfew, is a ghost town, but while visiting the refugee camp he meets a group of children playing in the street. He takes their photograph, and they return to practising stone-throwing techniques. “Will we ever succeed in bringing peace to the lives of these people?” he asks.

Later, a group of 400 European and Israeli activists attempt to take supplies to a village isolated for over a year. Israelis could face three years in prison for breaking an IDF roadblock. Sheer weight of numbers forces the IDF to let them through. The joy is all over the faces of the villagers, but some of the activists seem a little lost, having trained for confrontation and met none, this time at least.

Sansour and Hardy have given us a powerful document; Sansour’s gritty camera work tempered by Hardy’s humour. It deserves a wider and larger audience than the assortment of peace activists, students and Guardian readers I recognised in the auditorium, for it shows us part of the real story of a conflict that has repercussions for us all.

The most important message here is not the work that the activists in groups such as the ISM are carrying out, although Hardy makes it clear he considers this important – “they have saved lives” – and would like to return. The real story here lies in the continual presence of the Israelis in Palestine. Conversations are interrupted by the roar of tanks and personnel carriers. Nighttime views from a hotel window show tracer fire and explosions caused by IDF rocket attacks. A man trying to put out a fire caused by an Israeli flare is shot. Cities languish under 24-hour curfew, and IDF soldiers arrest every man aged 18-50 in a refugee camp.

Normality is impossible for the Palestinians. The invading force of a foreign country permanently disrupts their lives. This is, of course, not to say that the conflict in this part of the world is a completely one-sided affair, but neither Hardy, nor any of the people he meets, ever attempts to justify violence against Israelis. They are concerned with the injustices that happen when a country with enormous military might and the backing of the world’s only superpower illegally occupies a country that has nothing.

They are trying to redress the balance, and they have hope and humour despite the odds. In a hotel bedroom Hardy, before returning to Britain for the second time, talks with Chris Dunham, one of the ISM activists. Chris is listing where he might go the next morning. They realise his reason for going to any of the places he lists is because “it could be targeted by the Israeli army”. For some reason, they find this hilarious.

Links

Leila Sansour: http://tv.oneworld.net/tapestry?person=1130

Jeremy Hardy (unofficial site): http://www.totalcress.co.uk/jeremyhardy/

International Solidarity Movement: http://www.palsolidarity.org/

Tuesday November 11
Jeremy Hardy vs Israeli Army
Hull Screen


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