As the 1948 war which led to the creation of Israel was in full gear, a campaign was under way to steal Palestinians’ cultural patrimony. Israeli forces entered vacant Palestinian homes and removed over seventy thousand books, newspapers, and manuscripts which ultimately led to the premature death of a Palestinian literary and cultural movement. When Benny Brunner, a Dutch-Israeli filmmaker, discovered this hidden chapter of history and its implications, he decided the story must be told, the books a heritage that must be returned. In a war which led to the creation of seven hundred and fifty thousand refugees and a simmering conflict running for over sixty years, stolen books may seem like a trifle compared to other kinds of loss—lost homes, lost lives. But books, as the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges illustrated so well in his stories, almost literally contain the world. Brunner’s film The Great Book Robbery is the latest in a line of documentaries in which he challenges the Zionist narrative, a narrative he sees as dangerous and counterproductive. Where better to find a counter-narrative if not in the lost books of Palestine?
more from Benny Brunner at Guernica here.