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Boys sing at Israeli rally. Woman standing at wall. Two young men sit against wall. Young boy.

Rough Cut
Occupied Minds
A Palestinian and Israeli on the road
 

 

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Length: 20:07

David Michaelis and Jamal Dajani.

David Michaelis (left) is a veteran producer for Israeli television. He moved to the United States in 2000 to co-found Link TV, where he is director of current affairs. Jamal Dajani (right) is director of Middle Eastern programming at Link TV, where he produces the Peabody Award-winning daily newscast Mosaic: World News From the Middle East.

There is an old, deeply cynical joke about the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A scorpion wants to cross the Jordan River, but can't swim. He asks a frog if he can hitch a ride on his back. "Of course not," replies the frog. "You might sting me."

"Why would I do that?" the scorpion counters. "If I hurt you, I would drown. It would be irrational." The frog considers the scorpion's logic and agrees. Halfway across the water, the scorpion suddenly seizes the frog in its pincers and injects his deadly venom. The stunned, bewildered frog asks, "Why did you sting me? Now we will both die." With his last breath the scorpion says, "I couldn't help it. That's the Middle East for you."

Not everyone in the Middle East is that pessimistic. Certainly some believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is never-ending, but others keep seeking pragmatic solutions. Despite decades of violence, betrayals and false hopes, change does happen, sometimes with unexpected suddenness.

After almost 40 years of occupation, nearly 9,000 Jewish settlers were removed from Gaza by the Israeli army last week -- efficiently, quickly and with less resistance than many predicted. It was a historic withdrawal, and after all the anguish and threats, it took less than six days.

Map of the region.

This week on Rough Cut we present the story of two men who are committed to finding a peaceful settlement to the dilemmas of the Middle East. Occupied Minds is the personal odyssey of two journalists -- Jamal Dajani, a Palestinian American, and David Michaelis, an Israeli citizen -- who travel together to Jerusalem, where they were both born, "to face the hard realities of our shared land." Their journey is a road trip across a grim and divided landscape, but it is leavened by gallows humor and a heartfelt desire to find solutions.

"I'm the optimist of the two of us," Dajani declares in the video. "I believe that rather than creating two separate states, one Israeli and one Palestinian, we should have a one-state solution, where everyone shares in the same land and has equal rights. I know that I am in the minority with this idea."

Michaelis is less sanguine about the prospects for a shared country, arguing that a two-state settlement is more realistic. A veteran Israeli television news producer, Michaelis came to San Francisco five years ago to help establish Link TV, a satellite network dedicated to global news coverage and specializing in the Middle East. "After some time of working here with Jamal, I said definitely Jews and Arabs can coexist in California," says the 59-year-old Michaelis. But Jerusalem is not the Bay Area. "In San Francisco, you only have to choose what kind of latte you want to have in the mornings."

What you will see here is a 20-minute excerpt of their hour-long documentary, Occupied Minds, released this summer. The full-length film is available on DVD from Link TV, which this year won a Peabody Award -- one of broadcasting's highest honors -- for its signature program, Mosaic, a daily digest of news from Middle East broadcasters produced by Dajani.

Don't expect any easy answers here, but at least Dajani and Michaelis are asking the hard questions -- together.

Stephen Talbot
Series Editor

REACTIONS

Anne Beckett - Austin, Texas
I have to say I am disappointed with Frontline that there have been no follow-up stories in Palestine, especially given the latest "cast-lead" massacre of so many Palestinian people. What is happening there is available all over the world (even in Israel), yet the U.S. news shows seem to want nothing to do with it. Why is that? I count on Frontline to pass on word of this world's problems. Why is Israel being treated with kid gloves?

David Shayne - Seattle, WA
This documentary was blatant anti-Israel (and in some parts actually anti-Jewish) propaganda. The film's makers recruited an anti-Israel "Israeli"(Michaelis-he is really an American living in San Francisco) to give the film a false patina of objectivity. There is nothing fair, balanced or objective about this film. It opens up with the primary Arab protagonist (Dajani-also an American) complaining about the horrible things that happened to Arabs in 1948, including his family--while blithely omitting the apparently unimportant fact that the Arabs, not the Jews, launched the war that caused his family's problems. Ditto the occupation itself, which began when 3 Arab States tried to destroy Israel in 1967, forcing Israel to occupy the territories. This is just one of many examples the distortions and half-truths through which this film only sows confusion instead of shedding light on a complex political and social problem. Dajani berates his Jewish targets (he really angers Meron Ben Vineste, who is actually very moderate in views and generally sympathetic to the Palestinian plight), he obscenely compares Israel's anti-Terrorist barrier to the Nazi-built wall around the Warsaw Ghetto (A prelude to the holocaust), he equates suicide bombings with military operations intend to prevent suicide bombings, while Michaelis never utters a word of protest or disagreement with Dajani's distortions but mostly is seen nodding sagely. The very unfairness and imbalance is proven by the other comments I read--including one writer who compares Israel to the Nazis, which should be obviously absurd to anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of WWI history. There are also some serious production flaws--for example, an Arab terrorist makes numerous remarks in Arabic that are not translated (but when he speaks in Hebrew it is.)This is a great movie for any one who hates Israel and does not care about truth or fairness. Otherwise, its garbage. Feel free to us my name. I am certainly not afraid or embarrassed to voicing my strong protest publicly to what is nothing less than the defamation of an entire people.

(anonymous)
The settlements must be removed and the occupation is shameful but I urge the other readers to listen carefully to what groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad want. They say a Palestinian state but they mean on ALL of the land - to them there is no sharing. Any two state division would simply be a Hudnah or a temporary truce until they can take it all back.

Mindy Haverland - Danville, Ca
It is amazing to read the response from anonymous, because that is the sad truth. Israel created the suicide bombers when they closed down the schools and handed the Palestinian children into the hands of the clerics who influenced their minds into a bastardization of the true intent of religion. Shame on Israel, apologize and make your amends to your neighbors, ask their forgiveness and have them ask for yours because we are way beyond who threw the first stone. The parallels between what happened with the Nazi's and how the Israelis have treated the Palestinians are both appalling. Please publish my name , for I am not afraid to speak the truth. It always speaks for itself.

Spring, TX
I just watched 'Occupied Minds' on LinkTV and found it very enlightening. Even though an answer was not readily evident from the conversations and discussion, more such discussion and enlightenment will only be helpful. I think this show needs broader distribution, so that more people understand what's happening in the Middle East.

Parkland, FL
I thought this was a wonderful story; it showed a more human side to individuals fighting on each side of the cause in the Middle East. I worry more about some of the comments by the blind people who cannot see that it is the Palestinians creating havoc in the Middle East. We often hear stories of Palestinians who walked into a bar and set off a suicide bomb.

John Hadjisky - Leland, MI
Remarkable that none of the commenters have mentioned, or even noticed apparently, the Israeli Doctor, who as such treated not just Palestinians, but actual terrorists the same as anyone else under his care. That Doctor's attitude was amazing! Filled with love and grace, and politely hinting several times during the interview that there could be a way to forgive or at least set aside the horrible thing that happened to him. What an amazing, courageous man of peace. As far as I could see, none of the Palestinians interviewed expressed any sense of regret or shame that their side might have even once, gone too far. For them, apparently every single suicide bombing is justified. Where are the Palestinian pacifists, besides possibly Mr. Dajani? Will the Palestinian side own up to any mistakes at all?

Elaine Meyrial - Providence, RI
Very painful to see the despair and suffering of the Palestinian people--the ultimate victims of WWII--and to know that the US government enables Israel to continue its illegal occupation of territory taken in 1967. May justice prevail one day for Palestinians.

Russell Romick - High Prairie, Alberta
I disagree with Sara Amed. The historical land of Palestine was populated with Muslims and Jews and Christians. These lands were governed by Saladin, and it was he who rebuilt Christian, Jewish and Muslim temples. He knew of Christian massacres of Muslims and Jews. It was he who respected the rights of all denominations.

(anonymous)
Excellent movie. The Israelis are nothing but an oppresseive occupitional force. As a Jew I am a shamed and appauled that my fellow Jews could treat any human being with such disdain. What this movie did is prove to my family and friends how our Jewish bretheren have been treating Palestinians for over three decades as occupiers.

N D - Norman, OK
Jamal's closing statement is the only valid argument -- the only way a solution will be met is from steps taken on the Israeli side . How can it be time for "Arabs and Muslims alike" to change what is going on? The farmer who had his land bisected told the story of the Israeli soldiers who take every chance they can to humiliate him and make themselves superior. Who's pride is it that must be given up? Finally it is impossible to forgive and forget when the shining reminder of your humiliation are destroyed homes and split neighborhoods.

Adriana Nassrallah - San Jose, CA
This is an amazing film where both Palestinian and Israeli points of views are treated with respect. Jamal Dajani is a strong Palestinian who is not afraid to be honest about the truth in Palestine.

Sam - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
This is a very unfortunate conflict with many victims on both sides. However, the media usually twists the truth and makes it look as if Israel's actions are of a defensive nature; but how could one be defending one's self while they're occupiers on someone else's land? The West Bank and Gaza are occupied lands and, therefore, any Israeli action on these lands is not a defensive one but rather is an offensive action. The Palestinians are human beings and as long as they're treated as non-equal "gentiles", then the conflict will continue. Unless the destruction of all the Palestinians is what Israel has in mind, they must change their behaviour and actions in order for peace to be possible.

(anonymous)
Shame on the Jews of Israel. It may not be on the same scale (yet) but they are treating and viewing the Palestinians much like the Germans treated and viewed the Jews back in the late 1930's. Above all SHAME on the United States for continuing to turn a blind eye! I am most appalled by the Kahanists; they wield the bible to suit thier own purpose. If they were true believers in God they would put their trust in him to resolve this conflict. Isn't it in thier bible/torah that tells the story of how God delivered them from the Pharaoh(Exodus). It is sad to see Jerusalem, the sacred city for 3 major religions, a place that should be resonating with Peace, tolerance and benediction being flooded by the blood of hate! It is no longer Holy; it has been turned into Hell on earth.

Sara Ahmed - Bakersfield, California
I would never agree with both opinions. The land belongs to Palestinians who die every day in order to try to live a peaceful life.

Bloomington, Indiana
It would be nice if both countries could live in peace in the same country, but I don't think that is possible. The U.S. has given way too much support to Israel. (Jewish lobby very strong.) I think this has caused lots of hatred among the Arab countries. Palestinians deserve to have their own country.

Bill Ricevuto - New York, NY
I loved "Occupied Minds", please show the entire film!

Net - Windsor, Montana
I think this is not a question about who needs to give up what land, but I think it's time for Arabs and Muslims alike to give up their pride and get along with others -- including the Jews.You can't change the past, people need to forgive and forget.