The international discourse that remains prevalent in some of the Palestine solidarity movement is still rooted within the framework of ‘occupation’. This discourse is commonly used to refer to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights that began in 1967. So what of the bigger picture, what of the political realities that began a long, long time before then?
To understand Palestine’s realties, it is essential to look into the root causes of what is happening today. Today’s realities must be contextualized through the historic and contemporary development of the Zionist colonial project. It is Zionism, not the so-called ‘occupation’ or West Bank ‘settlements’, that lies at the heart of Palestine’s injustices. Fundamental to the Zionist colonial project is the need for the displacement of the indigenous Palestinian population. Zionist colonialism cannot develop without displacement. Although this process was established even before the Nakba, the period between 1947-49 was the most intensive period of Palestinian displacement, during which between 750-800,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced.
The Nakba is not merely an historical event. It has been taking place since the late 1940s. Displacement is not merely aimed at Palestinians within the so-called Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt), it is perpetuated against the Palestinian people wherever they may live: currently in the Naqab region, in the south of 1948 occupied Palestine, up to 70,000 Palestinians are struggling against displacement as Israeli implements the Prawer Plan. A few kilometres away across the Green Line (in the West Bank), 1500 Palestinians are facing displacement as a result of Israel’s plans to create ‘Firing Zone 918’ in the South Hebron Hills. In Jerusalem, plans released only a few days ago will lead to the displacement of 15,000 Palestinians once implemented. Whole villages have been destroyed recently in the Jordan Valley. Displacement of Palestinians is being implemented from the Galilee to Jenin, from Gaza to Jaffa and in all other areas, and it is being carried out by various means – from land confiscation and house demolitions to residency revocation.
Creating a clear understanding of this process is essential to the global solidarity movement, and this was the motivation behind the development of a series of short films that I have been producing with BADIL’s Ongoing Nakba Education Center (www.ongoingnakba.org). Through these films and other multi-media tools, we created platforms from which Palestinian voices can emanate. Collectively, they begin to portray the reality of Palestinian struggle against the Zionist colonial project, in both historic and contemporary terms, painting a clearer picture of the root causes of these injustices.
Film is an important medium that that is able to help previously unheard voices resonate widely. It is essential within this ongoing body of work to have focus on Palestinian voices at the grassroots. International activists who visit Palestine may have the pleasure of beginning to understand Palestinian ‘sumoud’ (steadfastness) firsthand, but for the vast majority of people around the world visiting Palestine is not an option. Because of this, film becomes a vehicle through which people can be given the opportunity to ‘meet’ people living at the brunt of the struggle. Palestinians are not ‘voiceless’ people, but as long as ‘the West’ chooses to remain deaf to their voices, it will never truly understand what is happening on a daily basis to Palestinians everywhere; neither will it understand why it really happens.
*BADIL’s Ongoing Nakba Education Center is one of many projects implemented by BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (www.badil.org). BADIL works not just to document Palestinian voices, but to pave visionary paths towards the end of Palestinian displacement and the realisation of the full return of all refugees and internally displaced Palestinians. Many multi-media advocacy tools, including films, photo-essays and interviews can be found on the Ongoing Nakba Education Center’s website – www.ongoingnakba.org
Rich Wiles in a freelance photographer, film-maker and author based in Palestine. His most recent book is ‘Generation Palestine: Voices from the BDS Movement’ (Pluto, 2013). More of his work can be seen on his website