May 19, 2024
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‘Bearing Witness’ Film Depicts Organized, Heartless Murder

It was like a film I had seen before, because I already knew how it ended.

“Bearing Witness,” the 47-minute film prepared by the Israeli Defense Forces containing footage of the Oct. 7 attacks, was screened on Sunday at Teaneck Cinemas to a group of about 30 municipal and political leaders as well as law enforcement personnel. The screening was sponsored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, with support by Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes and Congressman Josh Gottheimer. Introducing the film and answering questions afterwards was Israel Nitzan, former consul general of Israel in New York.

“Video of the Oct. 7 atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists is difficult to watch, but we can’t look away,” said Gottheimer. “Less than one day after the unprecedented attack from Iran on our key democratic ally, Israel, it’s more important than ever that we remember Hamas terrorists brutally murdered, raped, burned alive, and beheaded, men, women, children and the elderly — including Americans. Hamas has held Americans, including my constituent, Edan Alexander of Tenafly, hostage for more than six months,” he said. “I’ll never be able to unsee this video. It reminds us of the profound evil that we’re up against and reaffirms the urgency of our mission: bring the hostages home, crush the terrorists, and deliver humanitarian aid to civilians.”

What was likely most shocking about the film was the professionalism and cool-headed execution of the coordinated attacks and the calm it shattered as terrorists reached each location. With CCTV footage, dashcam and body cameras, the film brought viewers to that surreal morning in Israel’s south, to the porches of small bungalow homes cluttered with plants, children’s toys and outdoor picnic tables; the detritus of normal, messy, intergenerational daily lives. First, strategic gunshots were not returned. No one other than the Hamas terrorists seemed to have had guns, and no one is seen fighting back. Each “before” image was coordinated with an “after” image; a moving body, then a still one, riddled with bullets, bloodied and collapsed at an awkward angle.

A man is seen running out of his home, carrying one young son with another son in his wake, trying to reach a safe room. Moments later, a Hamas terrorist throws a grenade inside the safe room, causing the man to collapse, dead, having placed his body between the grenade and his sons. The boys, one unable to see out of one eye, are seen being pulled out of the shelter, trying to make sense of having just seen their father die, while a Hamas terrorist roots through their fridge looking for something to drink. Moments later, we see the children run to safety.

Body camera footage from a Hamas terrorist’s perspective showed an automatic weapon being shot methodically into a row of portable toilets at the Nova music festival. Accompanying footage showed where his indiscriminate bullets had made contact with bodies. We see those horrifying first moments as the festival attendees realize what is happening and try to flee, and see many of them shot as they are running away from terrorists.

Later, a first responder’s video is seen with a man shouting for someone, anyone, who might need rescuing, as his phone camera panned across the music festival’s refreshments pavilion. On the ground, seemingly dropped where they had been standing, were dozens of bloodied bodies riddled with bullets. “Sign of life, can anyone make a sign of life? All dead, oy vavoy,” he said, essentially to himself.

Scores of people were also seen murdered on roads as they tried to escape locations in their cars. Footage showed already injured civilians pulled from their vehicles and executed where they lay. Burned remains of human flesh, reminiscent of the Holocaust, were seen inside many vehicles.

A total of 139 people were seen murdered as part of the film. According to a caption on the screen, what we had seen represented only 10% of the total number of people killed that day.

The sense of the film was of Israeli citizens being caught off guard. No soldiers were seen returning fire, and no civilians shot back at their murderers. Not even an entire roomful of female IDF soldiers, who were screaming in fright, whispering harshly at one another to stay quiet. Moments later, they were seen as corpses on the screen. Many images were of scenes I had already seen making rounds on social media, particularly of Arab civilians screaming at, spitting, kicking and otherwise mutilating dead Jews as they were brought into Gaza. Are these the “innocent” civilians for which our United Nations is fighting so hard?

I also had previously heard some of the phone conversations included in the film, between Hamas militants and their parents and commanders back home, crowing about the number of Jews they had killed. They didn’t say “Zionists,” they said Jews. Their goal was to murder and mutilate Jews. More than once the terrorists described their prey as “dogs,” as they cheerfully went about their day. These were not scenes of murderous rage, but of calm and calculated killing. Their morale was self-described as high, when a phone caller asked how he and his colleagues were doing.

Aside from some particularly gruesome mutilation scenes, there were groans but few if any audible sobs or gasps heard from the audience, as was reported from the screening when the film was first shown in Los Angeles. I was surprised at my own muted response, which essentially felt like a confirmation of “visuals,” after having read about the massacre over and over for the past six months.

From my perspective, I guess I already knew what I would see, and I suppose I wasn’t surprised by the barbarism of the murders. And as I said, I already knew the ending. I think the film is important, however, to show local political leaders and educators why America’s Jewish community continues to be so upset and how it is hyper focused on bringing back the innocent hostages taken that day. The factual way in which the material is presented makes revisionism difficult.

One concern remained after the film screening, which several people mentioned in the Q&A. Why was this video being held back from the public and screened in such a limited fashion, because it so clearly showed the murder of defenseless civilians, including the elderly and children, in their homes? Nitzan explained that the families of the victims, who had agreed to have the footage shown to select audiences, did not want to dishonor their family members by having the videos released on a broader scale, and they also feared that the images would be altered or misrepresented. He explained that much of the video’s contents were already public, and that various websites, both sponsored by the government and independent, were dedicated to showing and telling victim stories. Websites such as october7.org, www.hamas-massacre.net, and oct7map.com all show the images to those who wish to seek it out.

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