“The Junction” is a documentary focusing on the lives and deaths of David Biri and Fahmi Abou Ammouneh, who were respectively the first Israeli soldier and the first Palestinian civilian killed at the start of the second intifada that erupted in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip in 2000. Both men are recalled by their families and friends in a mixture of bitterness, irony and religious fanaticism which suggests that the lessons of their untimely deaths has not quite been absorbed. Although directed by Israeli filmmaker Ilan Zvi, “The Junction” is not a pro-Israeli production and many supporters of the Jewish state may have problems with its political point of view.
Biri’s final weeks were captured on video by his army buddies and he comes across in the footage as being a somewhat arrogant and smug young man. Whether this is a case of subjective editing or whether he genuinely was a boor is not clear, but it becomes somewhat difficult to feel sympathetic for someone who gives the impression of being obnoxious. Strangely, Biri openly complained to the video camera about the stupidity of their assignment: guarding an isolated community of Israeli fanatics who insist that their occupation of Palestinian territory was ordained in the Bible. Biri was killed when in an attack on his military convoy as it was providing an armed escort for a busload of these settlers (or squatters, depending how you view the situation) from their barbed wire-enclosed housing to a barbed wire-enclosed educational facility some ten minutes away.
There is no video footage of Ammouneh, but his family is on camera to constantly remind everyone that he was a martyr who served God’s will. In this case, God’s will was defined as launching a rock and Molotov cocktail attack on an Israeli military outpost at Netzarim Junction in Gaza. Ammouneh was fatally shot by Israeli forces and the area where he was killed (once a neighborhood with Palestinian homes and orange groves) was later razed by the Israeli military. The film makes it clear from both the Palestinians and selected Israelis interviewed by Zvi that this destruction was an atrocity.
“The Junction” clearly presents an agenda that decries the continued Israeli presence in Gaza and questions how the Israeli culture creates a supposedly undeserved heroic aura around its military. Yet the Palestinians are hardly the poor little saintly victims – in one miserable scene, Ammouneh’s sister, when prodded by an interviewer to acknowledge that Israelis have been killed in the intifada, shrugs and spits out a statement that people everywhere die every day. Nice sentiment, sister. The fact that terrorism has brought the Palestinian people nothing but continued misery and poverty is never addressed in this film. Ariel Sharon’s government is roundly criticized, but no rebuke is leveled against a Palestinian leadership which has constantly failed its people.
Lost in the shuffle are David Biri and Fahmi Abou Ammouneh. Nobody seems to have realized the true pointless nature of their deaths. Biri’s family and friends sheepishly acknowledge the problem with the current political situation, but they have done absolutely nothing to ensure that other Israeli families do not share their heartache of losing a loved one to Palestinian bombs and bullets. Ammouneh’s family wrap themselves in a severe misreading of the Koran, mistaking violence with divine will. They believe he served God while being carried away to a cemetery. Sadly, it seems both men truly died in vain. The stupidity on both sides makes it painfully obvious why the Middle Eastern conflict has yet to be resolved peacefully, and this makes “The Junction” a thoroughly depressing experience to endure.