Our Natural Right

That was absolutely fascinating.

Our Natural Right brings together the grandchildren of the founders who signed the Declaration of Independence, establishing the nation of Israel. It takes them through the document and asks whether the vision enshrined within it has been achieved, or if it has been let down, or if it contained within it the seeds of its own conflicts.

I had a bit of trepidation about watching this film, just from the synopsis and the title. I guess I thought it would be like an American thing, where everyone gets their dick hard over a piece of paper, and no one questions anything, and as they sing the national anthem, misty-eyed, the credits roll, with a tiny asterix saying three-fifths of a person were harmed in the making of this nation state.

But it’s actually nothing like that. Which I thought would be unlikely. Because even if you did have criticisms about how your country was formed, the last people to badmouth it are gonna be the nearest and dearest of the folk that did the job. You’re not gonna be like, “Grampa, great man, wonderful person, legislated like an idiot.”

But this documentary has people give very frank opinions from a wide variety of viewpoints, touching on the most sensitive topics in Israeli society. And I think that’s always important to remember. States like to present their people as a monolith in order to claim to act in their name, but there is actually a huge diversity of experiences and worldviews. And I think we don’t get to see that very much about Israel especially, so this made the film very compelling.

Another myth I think it exposes is the idea that it was inevitable that Israel ended up in the form we see it today. That it was almost predestined to be a state of endless war, apartheid and occupation. There are a lot of parts of the Declaration which are explicitly working against that kind of progression, and a lot of wiggle room to build protections in place. In fact the final document was not intended to be a tablet from on high, as it were, but guidance for a future constitution. Except a constitution never got written.

From a Scottish perspective, the State of Israel is about half as old as the building I went to school in. To me, the ink is still wet on that Declaration. So it’s good to see people check in and say, “How is this project going?” Because you are not inheriting a calcified social machine, you are inheriting a dream. And it is still very much up to you in what form you bring it forth.