Went last night to see To Shoot An Elephant shot by independent journalists embedded (and pretty much trapped) in The Gaza Strip, December 27th 2008. If anyone were still in any doubt  about the situation, it’s necessary viewing. I’ve seen some harrowing documentaries before, but it’s very hard to watch. Images/sounds of injured and dying children are obviously very distressing, and unfortunately not a new thing, but what struck me about this film is that it documents the daily stress, not just the terror, but the mundane grind and exhaustion, and the coping mechanisms developed, by those living under siege. Burying the dead, for example is nearly impossible because of sniper fire. Rescuing the injured, also means risk of death from snipers, who openly fire  at ambulance workers and hospitals, blow up aid vehicles and UN aid depots. At least one ambulance driver was shot dead, during filming, others wounded (live, on camera) by gunfire and shrapnel from deliberately aimed rockets.

At immense risk to themselves, the documentary makers approached and filmed leftover explosives in shelled houses, coming across a strange kind of debris which, when agitated, continues to burn brightly and emit choking gas, even when doused repeatedly with water. The same chemical weaponry described by medics during this time – thought to be white phosphorous. Designed to destroy flesh and organs and thoroughly illegal.

So, it’s a stressful film to watch. But it’s information bought at a high price of suffering and needs to be seen. The events it documents are only a tiny portion of the fuller picture/history. It’s a good start point, (not the only one) for anyone beginning to wake up to the reality.

To Shoot An Elephant is made by Alberto Arce and Mohammad Rujailah.

A range of more excellent underground documentaries can be viewed at Rock Around the Blockade’s film club. Regular screenings are held at The Compass, 58 Penton St, London N1 9PZ. (nearest tube, Angel.) Rock Around the Blockade is associated with The Revolutionary Communist Group – these folk do a lot of work in solidarity with Palestine and Cuba. For the last 10 years they’ve maintained a weekly picket outside Marks and Spencer’s, on Oxford St, which helps to raise awareness of the complicit role that British business and government plays in the ongoing oppression of Palestine.

It’s good to get informed – there is always more to know. What one then does, is maybe an individual call. During the 2008 onslaught, I went down to the Israeli Embassy (or as close as we were allowed) to join the official demo. I yelled my head off – and it didn’t change anything. I’m not sure at which point things do change, but I believe it has something to do with a critical mass of public opinion concerning what is acceptable. So more and constant information and education is needed, including historical context.

Check these websites for more updates on demos, political actions, gatherings, free film screenings etc. A great way to meet people and discuss things – sometimes to disagree, but certainly to broaden and expand.

Rock Around the Blockade. Tel: 020 7837 1688

Revolutionary Communist Group. Tel: 020 7837 1688