Award-winning film 5 Broken Cameras is now available on Amazon, much to the excitement of those interested in owning their own copy of this extraordinary account of life under occupation. With people capitalizing on the momentum of its Oscar nomination, the film has become the most popular foreign film and the fifth most popular documentary film sold on Amazon.
At this moment, 5 Broken Camera’s Amazon page has registered 18 reviews to give a very favorable average of 4.7 out of 5 stars. But this number would be closer to 4.9 stars if it weren’t for J. J. Surbeck, Amazon’s resident one-starer who is convinced Palestinians are figments of our wildest imaginations.
Surbeck’s review begins with a gross generalization about how “all pro-Palestinian films” present “emotionally charged images” without providing any explanation. His immediate gripe is that audience members are led to believe that Israel is “stealing” — yes, he puts quotation marks around the word — Palestinian land, as if to imply Palestinians generously offer their land to Israel for settlement expansion already deemed illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Surbeck then plays the numbers game by citing the “wave” of suicide bombings that allegedly killed over 1,000. The number is actually 804 deaths over a span of 20 years. But since Surbeck finds it appropriate to bring up statistics, let us remember that in just 22 days — not years but days — starting at the end of 2008, Israel killed over 1,400 Palestinians with missiles, heavy machine-gun fire, and white phosphorous shells haphazardly launched at schools, homes, and other civilian centers.
He then questions the nonviolent protests organized by Palestinians specifically in Bil’in for so many years now. He blames the activists who come “armed with videocams” to film reactions by “impressively stoic Israeli soldiers” who he neglects to mention regularly abuse Palestinians without provocation.
But Surbeck’s rotten review isn’t exclusive to just 5 Broken Cameras. His Amazon review profile presents nine total reviews, of which six received just one star, two received two stars, and only one received five stars. He labels this one as the “[b]est resource ever”, a short reference guide on what to do “when your best friend joins an anti-Israel protest” written by a former AIPAC newsletter editor. Go figure.
In his reviews, he characterizes Palestinians as “murderious”, “aggressive and provocative”, bitter complainers, propagandists, and fictional. It’s mind-boggling how in one sentence Surbeck says Palestinians don’t exist and how in the next he blames Palestinians for inflicting on Israel “the exact same treatment” they are facing today. What.
Some basic research reveals that Surbeck is the Executive Director of Training and Education About the Middle East, an outdated mouthpiece non-profit organization that spends its time countering the Palestinian narrative by denying it ever existed. To get a sense of where he stands, he discloses in a recent interview his belief that Israel does not commit war crimes, that Israel is held to too high of a standard, that the Palestinian narrative “irritate[s]” him, that Israel can’t possibly be accused of being an Apartheid state, and that Iran threatens the Sunni Arab world as much as it threatens Israel, suggesting that Sunnis should do Israel’s dirty work instead. Surbeck’s offensive and blatant fact-twisting leaves so many holes in his arguments that it’s no wonder his Amazon reviews are as empty and as troll-like as they are.
Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions and Amazon is one of many forums available for us to present our views to the public. This is a privilege for which we must be grateful. But it is a total shame that people waste this privilege on absurd claims, dehumanizing slurs, and a set of politics meant to erase the identities and histories of millions. It’s even worse when people let it slide.