PALESTINE: A Palestinian filmmaker has created an important documentary about his people’s troubled past by finding old footage considered lost.
Hans Henrik Fafner
Fafner is a regular critic in Modern Times Review.
Published date: November 18, 2019

The Palestinians? Who are they? Such a people do not exist. This is the essence of what Israeli premier minister Golda Meir said back in the 1970s. Actually, she just expressed what much of the Western world felt. In those days, Palestinians were associated with plane hijackings and terror. Very few saw them as a legitimate national movement.

That, of course, has changed. The Palestine Liberation Movement, founded back in 1964, has gained international recognition. Now, though still living under occupation and scattered around the Middle East in refugee camps, few question the Palestinians’ claim to peoplehood. But the thing is, this has not come due to a sudden change of mind on the Palestinian side. Since they were evicted from their homeland in 1948, they have considered themselves a people. In spite of all allegations, they have always seen their fight as a legitimate struggle for freedom and justice. A fight for love and dignity.

That is a hard one to prove if you lack the documentation. Palestinian filmmaker Mohanad Yaqubi, one of the founders of the Ramallah-based outfit, Idioms Films, set out to do exactly that. When the Israelis invaded Lebanon in 1982 most of the films made by the Palestinian revolution, as he calls it, were lost. So he took upon himself the painstaking effort to collect the bits and pieces, copies sent to international film festivals before 1982 and left there. What that material on hand, he rebuilt the collective memory of the Palestinian people. Yaqubi has created a marvelous documentary painting a picture of Palestinian feelings and thoughts, and one very different than the usual narrative.

Understanding the guerilla fighters

A newsreel from Jerusalem in 1930 tells us that there are three quarters of a million Arabs and 160,000 Jews in the country. The next clip is from February 1933. Hitler has come to power. The Jews of Eastern Europe have always been persecuted, but not in Germany. Under Hitler, however, antisemitism became institutionalized. Fast …

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