Hidden History: The 2014 Israeli Bombardment of Gaza

Killing Gaza: A Documentary About Life Under Siege

Directed by Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal (2018)

Film Review

Dan Cohen has made this documentary free-to-view on Vimeo in light of the most recent Israeli air bombardment of Gaza. It was filmed immediately after the ceasefire in the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. The latter was triggered by Operation Brother’s Keeper, a one-sided Israeli military raid following the murder of three Israeli teenagers by Gaza militants. Then, as now, the resistance by Gazan militants to the Israeli invasion resulted in the wholesale bombing and shelling of Gazan infrastructure and civilian homes.*

In 2014 2.500 Gazan civilians were killed (including 3400 children). In contrast, Israel lost 7 soldiers, 5 civilians (including one child) and one Thai civilian. The UN estimated that more than 7,000 buildings housing 10,000 Gazan families were razed. An additional 89,000 homes were severely damaged.

The film largely consists of interviews with Gazan civilians who lost homes and loved ones as a result of Israeli bombardment. Those made homeless during the war were still homeless a year later.

The film includes scenes of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) members jubilantly celebrating the carnage caused by their shells and bombs. Along with a very troubling account of an incident in which the IDF deliberately ambushed two Red Crescent ambulance drivers sent to rescue a Gazan civilian they tied to a tree after breaking both his legs. One of Red Crescent workers would be fatally wounded.

*Deliberately targeting civilians in this way is a war crime under international law.


The History of Algorithms: From Choosing Basketball Teams to Reducing Pilot Error

The Undoing Project: The Friendship that Changed Our Minds

By Michael Lewis

WW Norton (2016)

Book Review

This is a book about the pioneers in the movement to improve human decision making with data collection and statistical methods. It focuses on the work of Daryl Morey, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. Morey was a math nerd who taught the sports world to rely on data collected on prospective players to facilitate their selection by professional teams. Morey first brought this process to public attention in the late eighties as the general manager of the Houston Rockets baseball team. This approach would quickly be adopted to predict performance in basketball, football, banking, political campaigns, movie production, and farming. At present, the use of data-based “algorithms”* extends to nearly every area of human endeavor.

Most of the book focuses on the unique 15-year partnership between Israeli psychologist Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. As with most of his books, Lewis’s forte is unraveling the intricacy of interpersonal relationship. In The Undoing Project, his main focus is to explore the unique creative relationship behind their revolutionary work.

Tversky, a giant in the field of mathematical psychology, had a special interest in ascertaining how people make choices and decisions. In their initial work at Hebrew University, he and Kahneman assisted the Israeli Defense Force in identifying objective data to determine which troops would perform best in combat.

Their research probably had the most impact on so-called free market economics. Prior to their ground breaking work, most economists believed consumers had rational reasons for the purchases they make.

The work of Tversky and Kahneman also challenged the notion of “expert judgement” in many fields, eg the inability of psychologists/psychiatrists to predict dangerous in patients and of radiologists to accurately diagnose cancer from x-rays. In both areas, Tversky’s and Kahneman’s work facilitated the development of algorithms that were far more reliable than human experts, whose judgement is often impaired by boredom, fatigue, stress, and unconscious biases.

In addition to advising the National Basketball Association, NATO, and the US Secret Service on reducing the fallibility of human decision making, the pair also played a role in reducing pilot error on commercial aircraft.

Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics. Tversky was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 2996 but died of melanoma before it could be awarded.

*By definition an “algorithm” is a set of mathematical instructions that are followed in precise order to solve a problem.

Hidden History: Former IDF Member Talks Frankly About Palestinian Repression

The Hundred Million Dollar Home

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

This film provides an interesting snapshot of daily in Hebron. The latter is a city in the occupied West Bank 30 km south of Jerusalem. Owing to the presence of illegal Israeli settlements in Hebron, the movements of Palestinians are severely restricted with checkpoints and curfews.

Hebron is most famous for its combination mosque/synagogue at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where the prophet Abraham (revered in both religions) is buried.

Much of the documentary focuses on the Israeli peace movement that frequently conducts tours in Hebron to give Israeli and international visitors the opportunity to meet face-to-face with real life Palestinians.

The most interesting part of the documentary features a former member of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) who helps lead these tours. He talks quite frankly about his superiors ordering him to conduct arbitrary midnight home searches, surveillance and other forms of intimidation against Hebron’s Palestinian residents.

Teenagers in the First Intifada


(More from my research for A Rebel Comes of Age and the role of youth in sparking revolution)

Like the 1976 Soweto uprising, the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987 was instigated by teenagers experiencing a breakdown in family life and parental authority.

From 1967, when Israel first seized the Gaza strip from Egypt, until 1987, Gaza, which has always been much poorer than the West Bank, was little more than a cluster of refugee camps. This meant the only central authority Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers, who maintained order. According to a study by EuroMed Youth, this lack of central authority led to the breakdown of parental authority. With a breakdown in civil society, it was only among young people, who freely intermingled in schools, universities and the streets, that intellectual debate could occur. In 1987, Yasar Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization were still in exile.

The Breakdown of Parental Authority

Demographic factors played a major role in the empowerment of Palestinian youth in the late eighties. Approximately 65% of Palestinians were under 25 (with short life expectancy older age groups are underrepresented). In 1987, this group had a 37% unemployment rate.

As in Soweto, the breakdown of parental authority was a major factor. Although some Palestinian adults crossed into Israel to work, their wages were extremely low. Many children and teenagers worked as street vendors to contribute to family income. In some households, they were the sole source of support. Watching Israeli soldiers routinely humiliate their parents also tended to undermine their authority.

Children take on the Israel Defense Force

The first Palestinian Intifada started spontaneously when Palestinian children, teenagers and college students rioted in response to the IDF murder of six Palestinian students. Initially Palestinian youth were armed only with rocks, bottles and slingshots. The insurrection quickly spread to the West Bank and was joined by underground Palestinian resistance organizations, such as Fatah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. They taught the youths how to make Molotov cocktails and sophisticated tactics, such as burning tires or constructing barricades to protect themselves from retaliation.

The response by the IDF was massive brutality, with random killings, arbitrary detention and torture of Palestinian children and teenagers. By 1989, 13,000 Palestinian teenagers were in Israeli jails.

The Creation of the Palestinian Authority

The first Intifada ended in 1993. Under the Oslo agreement, Israel agreed to establish the Palestinian Authority, and Yasar Arafat and other PLO leaders returned from exile to run it.

photo credit: Robert Croma via photopin cc


Rebel cover

In A Rebel Comes of Age, seventeen-year-old Angela Jones and four other homeless teenagers occupy a vacant commercial building owned by Bank of America. The adventure turns deadly serious when the bank obtains a court order evicting them. Ange faces the most serious crisis of her life when the other residents decide to use firearms against the police SWAT team.

$3.99 ebook available (in all formats) from Smashwords: