September 11, 2009


Execution Chronicles is one year  old  and growing.  The film project  that   helped to launch the site is entering  post production while we  are  still continuing to shoot  . Our commitment was to accompany Mark Stroman till  the end  and we will honor it. We  are hoping to develop a sister site that will be more tightly focused on  immigration and its  relationship with Hate crime.   Most of us are  oblivious to what is happening on our  border with Mexico  or to   the growing anti  immigrant entiment around the country  but a quick read through our past stories will give you  a sense of the growing crisis. So at this jnuction for all of us  I   re read  my inital blog  which I wrote on the occasion of  the launching of this site.  I feel it is relevant today as it was a year ago .

September 11th 2008 The launch of this website is, for me, one more step in a life-long journey to understand violence and hate. Growing up the son of a Holocaust refugee in Israel, I learned from a young age to view the world through particular lenses. My father did not tell me horror stories when I was little – those came later – but he spoke of his family who had been killed as if they still were alive and with us. So real were they, that when I learned of their murders, I felt a great loss. Later, when I fought in some of Israel’s wars, I was introduced to violence firsthand. Given these experiences, I feel that every film I have made has been part of a personal investigation into the impact of violence and hate, two frighteningly powerful forces that have shaped my life and the lives of millions of others. Now I assume most people would understand this description of my work. That might change, however, after visiting this site. I can almost hear some of the reactions: How do you dare to place the victims and their tormentor on the same page? How can you allow a confessed murderer to have a blog to communicate his fear, rage and frustrations while the families of his victims struggle to reconstruct lives shattered by his crimes? Am I some wide-eyed liberal with a distorted sense of fairness? This is not the first time I have been subjected to such questions. During 1994 and ’95, I filmed in Bosnia and Serbia investigating the war crimes of a Serbian paramilitary group. It was a demanding period, during which I hung around with the most despicable human beings I have ever met, and tracked down their victims in refugee camps throughout Europe. The documentary, Yellow Wasps: Anatomy of a War Crime, participated in many human rights film festivals and aired on television networks around the world. During appearances I had to explain and defend myself against charges of giving voice to individuals whom the international community condemned as war criminals. Three yeas ago, I produced another film, The Junction, the story of the first Israeli soldier and the first Palestinian killed in the beginning days of the second “Indifida” at an obscure road junction in the Gaza strip. Critics wondered how could I place victims (Palestinians) and their occupiers (Israelis) on the same level, “drawing moral parallels between them.” Although all my films are different, they share the same focus and belief. I feel the complexities of hate crimes, personal violence or political violence gripping Bosnia or Israel can’t begin to be comprehended without trying to understand the participants and what drives them. How were the members of the Yellow Wasp recruited and what were they after? How did they commit such heinous crimes? Why did young Israelis volunteer to serve in a military unit to guard isolated Jewish settlements in a sea of Palestinian-Arab population — settlements, which by their very existence, generated violence and resentment? I have come to realize is that criminals are as human as we are. The majority of killers are not demented psychopaths, and if we hope to understand the inner forces that create hate crimes, we need to explore the criminal as much as his/her victims. It is this realization that guides this web site. At the trial of Mark Stroman, the prosecutor in asking the jury to sentence Stroman to death, referred to him as “cancer,” for which the only cure was amputation of the infected limb. This sentiment impressed Nadeem Akhtar, the brother of Duri Hasan whose husband was Stroman’s first victim. (Duri appears on Victims’ Voices this week) Nadeem, a devout Muslim who opposed the death penalty on religious grounds, was swayed by the prosecutor’s argument to believe Stroman’s punishment is right. “Cancer” is what Nazis called Jews in order to remove them from the human experience. In Nazi films, books, newspapers articles and endless speeches, Jews were labeled a disease that threatened the “volt” – the people. This prolonged propaganda campaign was essential to the success of the Final Solution in deporting and killing millions with minimal protest from the rest of the society. Prof. Rick Halperin of Southern Methodist University, who will be featured on this site in the coming weeks, actually made a study comparing the language the Nazis used against those the party wanted to eliminate with the language used by proponents of the death penalty. Now I know many might disagree, but on the level of the human experience, I do not see much difference between the prosecutor of Mark Stroman labeling him “cancer” or Stroman lumping poor Asian migrants as ” Arabs” and thus “responsible ” for the September 11 attacks. Both needed to reject the individuality of their victims as a first step in seeking their death. — Ilan Ziv