Friday, February 04, 2011

Reviewing #LouisTheoroux and the Ultra Zionists with the aid of FoR USA

Last night saw a stunning documentary transmitted. Louis Theoux and the Ultra-Zionists was a 50-odd minute chance to look at a core problem in the Middle East.  Louis embedded himself with ultra-fundamentalist, religiously inspired, individuals who felt they had a religious calling, or prophecy to fulfill, by living in Jerusalem.  This embedding paid-off as individuals opened up to Louis, and then the viewer, about the reason they want to live in the West Bank.

It is difficult to put into words my reaction to the program.  Whereas the usual Theroux programme features high comedy, visual bright moments and Theroux gurning at a graphic description, this was something much darker.  From the outset, where settled-Australian explained how Palestinians had no right to live in Israel because this was Jewish land, to watching settlers fire guns in the air to scare off children, it was an intense and thrilling hour.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the program was the lack of response from Theroux.  By acting as passive observer, the ludicrous situation was highlighted even better.  A particular highlight of the approach occurred when his ever affable guide, and 'ultra zionist' guide, refused to comment on the circumstances under which palestinians had left property, and the morality of foreign supporters purchasing homes in the Arab part of Palestine.

Watching the programme I was reminded of 'The Montgomery Method', a style of non-violent direct action promoted by Fellowship of Reconciliation (USA) as a way of explaining the power of the civil rights movement in the USA. The first two steps (pictured left) challenged individuals to realise they were called to take action, the second is to imagine yourself in your oppositions place. Consider why they were there and what they felt they were doing.  This centring was very true of Theroux's programe.

But this comic book has life outside of one television program.  FoRUSA are suggesting that an Arabic re-print of the document has helped support revolutionaries in Egypt as the state turned on its people. It is certainly an inspiring document and one you can read in full via a different website.

Back to the program.  While there was much violence on screen, Theroux's usual 'cat in headlights' look was invaluable as settlers spoke freely. No longer was it possible for anyone to claim bias in a program. Instead, it was clear that there is an element within the society who would stay there regardless of the situation and who almost relish the potential to be agent-provocater.  

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