Nina Paley's history of the Holy Land: "This Land Is Mine"

Nina Paley's new "potential-possible-maybe-feature film" project is Seder-Masochism, and she's posted a clip called "This Land Is Mine," which she envisions as the final scene of the movie. "This Land Is Mine" is a history of the Holy Land and all the blood spilled over the years by various parties who laid claim to it. Her web page for the short features a full cast of characters, with historical notes, and, of course, the wonderful video itself.


  1. May she properly manage the music permissions on this one so she doesn’t have to give it away.

    But watching that to the end I get the sense that’s not happening.

    1. Yeah, I didn’t think I did either. But there are folks in the world who are determined to make sure as many people as possible have a stake in it, which was brought home to me about 11 years ago as I was showering skyscraper dust off my body in my apartment.

      Time was you could set out on a religious war, and maybe your army carved a twenty-mile wide swath as it scavenged provisions on its way to defeat the heathens or die of the bloody flux. A big deal in its context, but nothing that spanned oceans.

      These days…well, count the dead, and the treasure spent in that blasted land and its environs. It’s a wretched scrap of earth that is the physical expression of the concept of a Chosen People, no matter who lays claim to it, or which nation supports those who lay claim to it.

      I believe it’s likely that I’ll see a nuclear detonation in my lifetime, and–through roundabout chains of faith and politics–it’ll be because of that land. It’s an ancient desert flashpoint for all the Peoples of the Book, whether they believe or not.

      If you don’t think so: the world’s current nuclear superpower is still debating about whether to display 3,500-year-old commandments written in that scrap of land in its public spaces. A major claimant to that land, and the principle regional ally of that superpower, is embroiled in debates of even greater depth and fervor, and is similarly armed. The main regional challenger to that claimant is completely hemmed in by the military bases of the superpower, and is pursuing the development of the same weapons. It’s a goddamned catastrophe. Almost literally, except for the god existing part.  

      Paley’s work is a pithy summation of the whole stupid mess and where it’s headed. There are very few who will be unaffected.

        1.  1.  No, no, no, no, no.  I will NOT be fatigued into allowing 9/11 truther nuttiness to sit around unchallenged on the internet.

          2. The Mossad is going to detonate a nuclear weapon in Israel in order to blame someone else?  Do you know where the Mossad is located?  Are you aware of the relative sizes of a the blast radius of a modern nuclear weapon vs. the width of the state of Israel in its most populous region? (If not, click here to find out.)

    1. I think that about Northern Ireland sometimes. Why are they so sure that either the Republic or the UK really wants them?

      1. There was an economist who pointed out, back around 2004 I think it was, that there was a point in time, recently, where it would have made everybody’s life better for Belfast to reunite with Ireland, at the peak of the “Celtic Tiger” bubble. Ireland needed the land and the workers, the people of Belfast needed the jobs, and England needed to cut the expense of maintaining Belfast in its current poverty. If they couldn’t get the deal done then, it apparently can’t get done.

        But to me, Belfast isn’t the canonical example of “why do we care,” and neither is Jerusalem. Nobody has EVER explained to me what there is in the Malvinas/Falklands that’s worth one dollar or one drop of blood. Why does either Argentina OR Britain care about a sheep station in the south Atlantic that has no natural resources to speak of and is barely bigger than a dinner plate?

        “Sovereignty.” Go figure. *sigh*

        1. My understanding was the Falklands war was more about prestige. Argentina’s dictatorship thought a victory would give some needed popularity, and banked on Britain letting them have it. And Britain considered it, but decided it would be better not to pass up an easy win.

          They do have some special value to Britain, though, since they are a base on the opposite end of the Atlantic. It’s hard real estate to get these days.

          1.  And nobody had ever tested the newest doctrines and weapons of naval warfare (aluminum -hulled warships, exocet missiles, etc.)

        2. That sheep station in the South Atlantic has a 200 km exclusive economic zone which is now know to contain some large gas reserves.

          1. And these 3140 colonists–or rather, the 3140 descendants of such colonists– subsist on a GDP per capita of about $55,000.

          2.  Isn’t that rather weak claim still the /strongest/ claim though? I was under the impression Argentina’s basically amounted to “It’s ours because we want it.” Only difference between the two countries seems to be that the UK has a (weak) justification.

            Although… haven’t they had it for a while? Can that really be called a “grab”?

          3. Replying to Antinous’ “look at a globe” comment- in that case parts of Scotland should belong to Norway, but parts of mainland France should belong to England. “It’s nearby” is not justification for claiming land against the wishes of its inhabitants.

          4. Ridiculous. Scotland, Norway, England and France are all in the same area. The Malvinas are 8,000 miles from London. As to Scotland “belonging” to Norway, Scotland is an actual nation. The Malvinas are a little outpost which exists solely to make a territorial claim. The UK’s position is a disgraceful remnant of its colonial past.

          5.  So you’re saying that… Canada has a better claim on Alaska than the US? The Dominican Republic should get control of Puerto Rico? Since when is “it’s nearby” a valid justification for “so now I own it”?

            Do you honestly think “only a few hundred miles away from us” is is really any stronger a claim than “because we want it”?

          6. Absurd argument. The UK retaining the Falklands is as if the US were retaining one of the Greek islands so that we could claim a quarter of the Mediterranean as our territory.

            And Puerto Rico, Guam, etc. should NOT belong to the US.

          7.  Yeah, sorry, I’m not really buying it. If there was a “Greek Island” that hadn’t been party of Greece in recent history, and contained solely American citizens who would have no desire to be a part of Greece, I don’t see how on earth Greece would have a claim over them. Even if they DID have a problem with being ruled by the US, I /still/ don’t see a claim for Greece being allowed to absorb them against their will just because the island is nearby.

            “And Puerto Rico, Guam, etc. should NOT belong to the US.”
            So who do you think they should belong to?

          8. So who do you think they should belong to?

            Themselves. They’re colonies. We OWN them. It’s a vile leftover of an Imperialist past in which White people owned the nations that rightfully belonged to people of color.

          9. So you’ll give these places “freedom”, whether they want it or not? (And they don’t, since the system we have doesn’t make it difficult if they want to nowadays) Do you also support forcing independence on other places the US owns, like Hawaii and Alaska?

            And you method of forcing this freedom on the Falkland Isles is… by making them a colony of Argentina, who only wants them to exploit their resources.

            I’m not sure I’m following the logic here.

          10.  I’m sorry, then, because if that’s nothing but strawmen, I can’t actually tell if you’ve got an argument at all. If I’ve been disagreeing with things that aren’t your argument, it’s because your argument is awfully hard to pin down here.

            Your only actual argument has been to the tune of “It’s obvious” and then sprouting irrelevancies about how people should govern themselves (do you apply that to the Falkland islands or not? Because that still doesn’t support Argentina gaining control of them). If anything, YOU’VE been the one strawmanning – I question your proximity justification with several territories and question whether they to should go to their closest neighbor – and you argue we shouldn’t control. That’s got nothing to to with the bloody question, but your desire they should control themselves stands in sharp contrast to your initial claim that proximity alone was a enough to justify claim. I will quote you here:
            “Look at a globe.”

            This was your ONLY argument thus far as to why Argentina should control the Falklands.

            This is obviously a worthless conversation – until and unless you decide to either say what you mean, or provide an actual coherent and consistent rational for your decisions, it’s not really worth discussing further.

          11. Unclear. Irrelevant. Acts of colonialism by an imperial power deserve absolutely zero consideration. The people who live on the Malvinas are real-life anchor babies. They were settled there in order to establish a claim, just as empires have done across the globe and throughout history.

          12. “which one put a flag on the islands first?”

            You can’t claim us. We live here! There’s five hundred million of us! What do you mean “do we have a flag?”

          13.  So you believe in a right to self-determination but not if your ancestors got there within historical memory?

            The Falklands never had an indigenous population, so they weren’t stolen from anyone- unless you believe that the Fuegians, who never set foot on the Falklands and have now been largely exterminated by the Argentinians, have a claim…

            Also, “white people bad, brown people good”, which seems to be a key part of your argument, is completely irrelevant here- the population of Argentina is *overwhelmingly* descended from white Spanish colonisers.

          14. The desperation with which Brits will attempt to stuff the guts back into their eviscerated empire is sad, yet horrifying. The Malvinas are under UK rule solely as an artifact of colonialism. Colonialism is dead; people should stop trying to make out with its corpse.

          15. So now your argument is just “I hate British people”- that’s the only reason I can think of for claiming that Spanish/Argentine colonisation of inhabited territory is valid while British colonisation of uninhabited territory is invalid. After all, the EXISTENCE of Argentina is “solely an artefact of colonialism”.

    1. Well, you see, it works like this. There are three major religions, totaling among them something like 1/3rd of the human race, that believe that there is about a 1 square mile area in the middle of that land that they, and they only, must control. If they have to share it with anyone else, those other people will desecrate it, and that would be worse than if the whole human race died. And so they must fight, even if it costs the life of everyone on Earth, to keep those other two groups from even temporarily sharing that single square mile of ground.

      And if we’re very, very lucky, maybe an Israeli-Iranian or Israeli-Pakistani nuclear war will some day mean that that one square mile will become so irradiated that nobody can have it, and maybe then we’ll get a few moments’ peace. Hence the happy ending: the Angel of Death will finally be able to claim it as its own, and not just as the shrine to Death that it’s been for the last 4,000 years or so.

          1. And yet, people who suggest it seem to have the fantasy that the phenomenon wouldn’t spread.

      1. occasionally i’ve had notion for a short-story where some Illuminati-oid shadow group sent out a message that in one month’s time a nasty dirty nuclear bomb would go off near the center of Jerusalem and there’s no way it can be stopped and the UN should make room for transferring the entire populace to safety.  the notion being “since you can’t play with it nicely…”  -sigh-  but i’m sure any such story would have to have a depressing end… it’s just in the nature of all religion that it would be so.

        1. There’s a great short story by Joe Halderman called “To Howard Hughes” A Modest Proposal” that has elements of what you’re describing.  Great read.   

      2. I like the last bit.. lets just hope the bombs stay local, ok? Cause that would kinda suck to have nuclear winter worldwide.

        -Sent from my iSammich

      3. There have been days when I wished somebody would evac all the nearby folks, and then intentionally nuke the holy land until it becomes a featureless sea of green glass with nothing at all left to fight over. That or just build a wall around them, and and let nobody and nothing in or out until they’ve got things settled.

        1. I’m sure the sea of green glass would be considered “sanctified” by the destruction, and the cycle would begin again…

    2. I believe the crux of the matter is that God oversold the place, much like the plot line of “The Producers.”  It didn’t seem like a big deal to him at the time, offering it to multiple groups as their own personal Holy Land.  Who knew it would ever be a hit?  

      I guess even omnipotence has an occasional blind spot or oversight.  Many years later, the same type of little glitch brought us a phenomenon we call the Kardashians.

  2. HAHAHAHA that was just pure awesome! Is it wrong to laugh non-stop through the whole thing? Okay I didn’t start laughing until the second killing. A brutal history lesson to be sure. If this is the direction for the creator of SITA SINGS THE BLUES I’m all for it. Seriously made my crappy day tolerable. I swear I’m not a horrible human being, only sometimes on Tuesdays.

    1.  the animation looked so immediately familiar that i had to go and confirm that it was the genius that made “Sita Sings the Blues”  (check it out folks, it’s magnificent! )

      Ms Paley should be given every possible encouragement to make this “full length”.  this is a message we desperately need… the sooner the better.

  3. What is it about humans that it’s so hard to take a few steps back and see that we’re all in this thing together? 

  4. An interesting footnote to this bit of geography is that at one point, Nazi Germany considered creating a state for Europe’s Jews in Uganda. It was a pipe dream of course, but imagine how different history might have been. 

    1. They could’ve ended up in Utah, too. Look at what Judah Leib (Leon) Pinsker, a Russian proto-Zionist, wrote in his 1882 tract, “Auto-Emancipation, An Appeal to His People by a Russian Jew:” If we would have a secure home, give up our endless life of wandering and rise to the dignity of a nation in our own eyes and in the eyes of the world, we must, above all, not dream of restoring ancient Judaea. We must not attach ourselves to the place where our political life was once violently interrupted and destroyed. The goal of our present endeavors must be not the ‘Holy Land,’ but a land of our own. We need nothing but a large tract of land for our poor brothers, which shall remain our property and from which no foreign power can expel us.”

      Isn’t Mr. Pinsker sensible? He knew that, however symbolically important Jerusalem and the ancient lands of Israel were to his people, the area was crowded with incompatible histories, rife with turmoil, and soaked in blood. Only after forming a Jewish directorate and carefully weighing all of their options should the Jewish people…

      “…acquire a tract of land sufficient for the settlement, in the course of time, of several million Jews. This tract might form a small territory in North America, or a sovereign Pashalik in Asiatic Turkey recognized by the Porte and the other Powers as neutral.”

      If Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, Arthur Ruppin, and the rest of the early Zionist leadership had listened to Pinsker, the Jewish homeland might be somewhere out in the Midwest, or even in Canada:

      “If the experts find in favor of Palestine or Syria, the decision would not be based on the assumption that the country could be transformed in time by labor and industry into a quite productive one. In this event the price of land would rise in proportion. But should they prefer North America, however, we must hasten. If one considers that in the last thirty-eight years the population of the United States of America has risen from seventeen millions to fifty millions, and that the increase in population for the next forty years will probably continue in the same proportion, it is evident that immediate action is necessary, if we do not desire to eliminate for all time the possibility of establishing in the New World a secure refuge for our unhappy brethren.”

    2.  And the Japanese wanted to create a refuge for Jews and the idea was similarly thrown out due to it’s obviously transparent conflict of interests.

  5. Ugh ugh ugh. I like Nina Paley’s work a lot but “it’s an endless cycle of violence! religious people are all crazy! it’s nobody’s land! nuke ’em all!” really really disturbs me. There are a great many people for whom it is not a religious matter or a holy book or a crazy obsession with real estate it is a question living in a land all your life, owning a home, having a family, having grandparents, deeds to your land, etc., and then all of a sudden 64 years ago being uprooted at gunpoint and with violence or the threat of violence and never being allowed back home because you aren’t Jewish. Most of those people have never taken up arms against anyone. Most of those people have never claimed God gave them the land, they just want to be able to return to their homes.

    1. Where does the film say “nuke ’em all”?  The point of that apocalyptic image at the end is that they’re nuking each other.  And the point of the whole piece is that it’s impossible to “just” want to return to your home there, even if you didn’t claim God gave it to you: someone else who *did* make that claim would be waiting around the corner to take it away from you.  I don’t think there’s really disagreement between you and Paley on this point.

    2.  Exactly! It’s yet another version of ‘Dignity as a zero-sum game’- for one people to feel secure in their homes and lives, another people must be disposessed.

       Until WW1, this land had Arabs and Jews pretty much living together without too much trouble. It’s only since Zionism took off that Palestine has been sold as a place forever in turmoil.

       By way of analogy, you could pitch North America as a place of constant, chronic warfare long before the white folks came and joined the fray. Implying that when those colonists did it, they weren’t doing anything different from the historical standard.

      If ethnic cleansing is considered standard practice, then it’s not such a bad thing when its done by our allies.

  6. I thought the US and Iran would appear at the end, but I guess the Angel of Death will do when political correctness won’t allow.
    Thankfully, after the nuclear winter the conflict will move elsewhere and the people in that place will live peacefully, for as long as the impression of total anhiliation allows.

  7. In Sherri Tepper’s book “the Fresco” the aliens make those square miles of land disappear and won’t bring them back until things get settled. And all the conservative preachers get pregnant with alien babies.  For some reason, this made me think of that.

  8.   Ya know?  That is almost always how I’d imagine it.  I was even trying to guess the next costume. Achean, Egytian, Hyksos, Canaanite… the Maccabee was excellent.  

  9. If the modern day claimants can’t figure out how to play nice with each other, I say we just give it back to Baʿal already.

  10. “This Land Is Mine” sums up one of many reasons why I don’t fight wars for corporatists..  If you STILL don’t fucking get it, then watch this, please.

    What are we fighting for?  Freedom?  That’s a LIE.

  11. Apart from an excellent visual historical record of the various occupations of Canin, Judea, Palestine, Israel, “Happy Valley” or whatever the real estate agent in the sky wants to call it, this clip is a reminder of what a great piece of music the Theme form Exodus by Ernest Gold is, what a wonderful voice the recently departed Andy Williams had and how cringe worthy Pat Boon could be. Those lyrics are a fine example of libretto as musical desecration. And I thought his version of Tutty-Futti was bad enough.

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