Recollective Resistance

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Recollective Resistance The idea for this collection of essays emerged from a trio of films made by Kamal Aljafari about the city of Jaffa, Palestine: The Roof (2006), Port of Memory (2009), and Recollection (2015). In advance of his later two films being presented at the London Short Film Festival (19 January 2020), I asked six activists, writers and filmmakers to reflect on systematic erasure, colonial violence, and the interactions between memory and resistance in historical and present day Palestine.

It all began in 1948. In May.

These screenings and publication should be contextualised within the stories of Jaffa and of Palestine as a whole. Up until 1947, Jaffa was a thriving city, hailed as the most important economic and cultural centre of Palestine. But in the months leading up to 15 May 1948 – when Israel declared itself a new-born state – Zionist military forces expelled 95% of Jaffa’s Palestinian population from their homes. The mass destruction and ethnic cleansing continues in Jaffa to this day, through more gradual processes of eviction, repopulation and gentrification. The Nakba – catastrophe – is, without question, ongoing. Many Palestinian cities have similar stories to tell. Since its birth, the state of Israel has implemented a violent settler-colonial and apartheid regime, aimed explicitly at the displacement, fragmentation and erasure of Palestinians. Its early leaders knew that a wide range of ethnic cleansing strategies would be needed for the Zionist project to achieve its demographic goal – namely, a majority Jewish state on territory with a small Jewish minority. Even today, Israel’s military strategies are typically underpinned by the creation of discriminatory new laws, carefully designed to legitimise and ‘legalise’ its settler-colonial agenda. Among many, one major legal instrument of displacement has been highlighted in this collection – the Absentee Property Law (1950), referred to in Aljafari’s films. The first two essays explain the function of this law in 48 territory and in East Jerusalem.

5 ...after their city of Jaffa has been bombed. Over those few days the waves got too big. So they were forced to return. But when they came back, Palestine was already gone. Their homes were gone as well. The people who remained were forced to live in one neighbourhood and they were given the houses of other Palestinians. This was the case of my mother’s family in Jaffa, and the same happened to my father’s family in Ramle. In 1948, the owners of this house were still building the second floor. Today the house is still the same:...

Systematic erasure Aljafari’s films highlight how settler-colonial erasure operates at different levels through space and time. Physical, material forms of erasure include collective punishments, ongoing forcible expulsions, routine home demolitions, and the levelling of entire villages. Simultaneously, Palestine’s history, language, and identity have been under threat from a deliberate programme of cultural erasure. The very existence of Palestinians is seen to threaten the Israeli nation’s premise as a majority Jewish state, and its leaders have turned to cultural as well as demographic engineering to maintain their majority. Throughout its history, ethno-nationalist mythologies have been used to catalyse the state of Israel’s settler-colonial land theft and to endorse illegal territorial claims. Slogans of the Zionist project are laden with colonial overtones (‘a land without people for a people without a land’). Some Israeli politicians have even publicly stated that Palestinians did not exist. The logic of fragmentation Israel’s settler-colonial and apartheid regime rests on a violent “divide and conquer” logic, aimed to sap Palestinians of purpose, strategy and unity, in their struggle for selfdetermination and return. Territorial fragmentation serves to cripple the economy and to undermine efforts at large-scale political organisation. Palestinians have been splintered into distinct territorial zones, subject to different sets of laws and practices - 48 territory, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and, of course, a vast, scattered global diaspora. In a small act of resistance to this colonial policy, this collection of essays aims to contradict that fragmentation. It brings together five people, spanning each of these fragments, and asks them to reflect on their material reality within the broader colonial project. The sixth and final contribution is written by Kamal Aljafari, a springboard between these essays and his films.


Recollective Resistance

Recollective Resistance

Remembering and resistance Though this collection bears witness to the material realities of settler-colonialism and apartheid, it is just as much a space to reflect on Palestinian resistance to these structures. This framing was inspired by my reading of Aljafari’s films. They reflect the gradual, creeping, indefinite realities of dispossession, allowing space to explore the psychic traumas that result. However, his films resist the colonial grammar of what he describes as a ‘cinematic occupation’. Recollection repurposes footage from high-budget Zionist musicals and Orientalist action films spanning the 60s to the 90s, reconfiguring their intended meanings. Unshackled from their original ideologies, new characters emerge – or rather, characters that were always present, but ignored and marginalised, literally, in the margins of the photographic frame. Port of Memory and Recollection both refer to the act of remembering in their titles. Kamal Aljafari, writing about Recollection in this publication, reflects on how memory itself implies the inseparability of past, present and future, and the particular sensation that “memory itself, [is] filming”. The “someone-filming”, that he refers to, scrutinises every corner of the image, sometimes many times, looking for something. They have purpose.


Erasure and memory Erasure and memory, the two main themes of this collection, emerge through each essay in unique and manifold ways. Saeed Taji Farouky details a deeply personal account encompassing trauma, fragmented memory, and his relationship to cinema. Yara Hawari reflects on collective silence after a violent military campaign, and the revival of Palestinian resistance through the commemoration of Land Day. Rana Shubair shares a personal account of the first ‘Great March of Return’. Although originally intended to take place only from Land Day to Nakba Day (30 March-15 May 2018), its popularity led to an extension, and it continues today. Raya Ziada contributes a piece about the annual olive-season celebrations of ancient agricultural traditions, set against a backdrop of Palestine’s political economy. Fayrouz Sharqawi, writing on the challenges faced by Palestinian Jerusalamites, ends her piece with a call to solidarity, advocating the power of grassroots movements such as BDS (boycott-divestment-sanctions). It is in this spirit – one of solidarity and resistance – that these screenings and essays came about. The deliberate conflation of narratives around anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism serves as a silencing mechanism, poisoning discourse on a global scale and leaving Palestinians unable to criticise those responsible for their erasure. Recollective Resistance counteracts this silencing, amplifying what Palestinians have to say about their own dispossession. International pro-Palestinian activists are also routinely attacked in reactionary responses to any criticism of the Israeli state. Days after the UK’s December 2019 elections, the far-right Tory leader announced new laws to criminalise the BDS movement. In these circumstances, the amplification of Palestinian voices is all the more imperative. An early slogan of the Zionist project – ‘the old will die, and the young will forget’ – reminds us of the inextricable bonds between memory and erasure. But such slogans reveal a twisted settler-colonial logic and nationalistic fantasy, underestimating the capacity of others to create, remind, and resist. Recollective Resistance hopes to make sure that we never forget.

Faye Harvey


Dr. Yara Hawari

Remembering all that was and all that is left. Reflections on the 48 Palestinian Territories.

In 1948, the Zionist settler colonial project ethnically cleansed Palestine, destroying and depopulating over 400 villages. In the process around 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homeland. For a multitude of reasons and circumstances approximately 150,000 Palestinians survived and managed to stay on their land or at least within the borders of the newly established ‘Israel’. These Palestinians that remained found themselves in a completely new state, frightened and traumatised. Indeed they were ripped of their society, both the infrastructure and the people, going from a majority population to a minority one in a self-proclaimed ethnically Jewish state.


This community of indigenous survivors, who were given nominal Israeli citizenship, were mostly concentrated in the Galilee, the central Triangle area and a few Bedouin populations in the Naqab. In the mixed cities such as Haifa, they were rounded up into ghettos to be kept under watchful eyes. There were also those who were internally displaced, the muhajareen, who often ended up not too far from their villages of origin. In the initial years following the Nakba, many Palestinians attempted to cross back into Palestine and return to their lands. The Zionist forces stationed along the border were given shoot to kill orders for what they described as “infiltration” by enemies, rather than an indigenous people attempting to reverse their displacement. Immediately the new Jewish state established a military rule regime to watch over the Palestinians. This was based on the Emergency Regulations initially introduced by the British Mandate authorities in 1945. This military rule lasted from 1948-1966 and dictated every aspect

of their lives. They had to obtain permits to leave their villages, they were prevented from any kind of political activity and most cultural activities and they were surveilled constantly by the secret services. The state exercised a form of control so intimately repressive that many scholars consider it worse than the military regime imposed on the West Bank today. It was also during this period that the Israeli state secured Jewish spatial hegemony. This main legal instrument for this was the Law of Absentee Property (1950) which among several other legal criterions, allowed the state to confiscate property from those who had temporarily left their ordinary place of residence which included the muhajareen. The property would then be placed under the custody of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). This terrorising period left many feeling too afraid to talk let alone write about what had happened to them. Their communal silence, in addition to the deliberate focus on Palestinians as a refugee population rather than an indigenous liberation struggle, contributed to a historiographical gap on scholarship of the Palestinians inside the Israeli State for many decades. They were not free to write and study their own community, and in general academia and global media were not interested in them. This situation left some scholars to call them the “Forgotten Palestinians”. As was the case for many other Palestinians, they relied upon oral testimonies to inform themselves of not only what Palestine was but also the ruins that were left around them. Silent no more Despite attempts to suppress them, these Palestinians became increasingly assertive in their nationality and indigeneity. The first


major collective act of civil disobedience against the state from the Palestinian citizens was in 1976, in an event that has become known as Yom el Ard (Land Day). Thousands of Palestinians protested the theft of indigenous land by the state resulting in a brutal crackdown by Israeli police who killed six and injured hundreds. This date continues to be marked annually by Palestinians everywhere as an important event in the collective narrative of the Palestinian people. Indeed, it was the date chosen to mark the beginning of the Great March of Return in Gaza in March 2018. The period during the First intifada saw increased connections and coordinated political action between those across the ‘Green Line’. Unfortunately these links would be weakened by the subsequent and continuous marginalisation of the Palestinians in the 48 Territory from the Palestinian National movement following the Oslo Accords in 1993. Today the Palestinians in the 48 Territory number approximately 1.6 million, making up 20% of the population of the State of Israel. They have had a distinct experience of settler colonial invasion; indeed, unlike many of their brethren, they have remained

on the physical site of the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of 1948. This fact is an important and defining one, one that makes them distinct from other Palestinian communities. This physical presence on their land has heavily influenced their identity and their collective narrative. Moreover their subsequent exclusion and segregation from the Israeli Jewish settler population whilst creating spatial and temporal limitations, has at the same time allowed for an assertive Palestinian identity and narrative to develop without being assimilated into the settler structure. Challenging both the epistemic and physical erasure of Palestine they are creating new forms of political and cultural agency to recreate Palestinian space deep within the settler state ranging from cultural institutions, underground music scenes and political movements. There are also attempts to reverse displacement and ethnic cleansing through returning to destroyed Palestinian villages and reviving the narratives of these spaces. All of this agency is hugely significant. Indeed it challenges the impetus of the settler project to replace and erase the indigenous past, present and future.


Fayrouz Sharqawi

Jerusalem: The Systematic Erasure of Palestinian Presence

“This is my grandfather’s house’, a friend once told me, pointing at a picture of a Palestinian house in the German Colony neighborhood in the western part of AlQuds (Jerusalem). The picture accompanies a virtual tour of the neighborhood, featured on an Israeli website. The description of the building says that after the Nakba (the text refers to it as the “War of Independence”) it became an [Israeli] police station. Later, it became a residential building and two police officers moved in with their families, and so it got the name: “The Officer’s House”.


The Palestinian house, which belonged to my friend Jihad’s family, now belongs to an Israeli, seized through the “Absentee Property Law”. The 1950 law was legislated by the Israeli authorities to legalize the robbery of property – movable and immovable – belonging to Palestinian refugees who were expelled during the Nakba. Jihad, who lives in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina in the eastern part of Jerusalem, mere kilometers from his grandfather’s house, is considered an “absentee” who cannot legally claim his property. It is as if adding insult to injury that Jihad has to pass by the house twice a day, going to and from work in the neighbourhood of Al-Qatamon. The occupation of Palestinian land in 1948, followed by laws like the Absentee Property Law, was part of the establishment of the settler colonialist state of Israel. By definition, settler colonialism is the replacement of indigenous populations with an invasive settler society through genocide and repression. In Jerusalem, and after the ethnic cleansing of the western part in 1948, the Zionist settler colonial state continues to dispossess Palestinians in the eastern part, occupied in 1967, with a “demographic goal of 70% Jewish and 30%

East Jerusalem

non-Jewish” population in the city. With the purpose of ensuring a Jewish majority in Jerusalem, the Israeli occupation authorities have designed a collection of policies that aim to displace as many Palestinians as possible from Al-Quds. The first tool of displacement was the imposition of an immigrant legal status on the indigenous Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. This status, held by around 350,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites, is misleadingly called a “permanent residency”; it is not permanent, and can be easily lost if one fails to fulfil the long list of criteria for keeping it. These criteria include living in Jerusalem without leaving its borders for an extended amount of time, proving the use of water and electricity in Jerusalem, receiving medical care in Jerusalem, among other requirements. This means that if Jihad moves to a different city, for studies, for work or simply to live even if just a few years – he will lose his permit to return to his birthplace. Since 1967, the Israeli occupation authorities have revoked the residency status of around 15,000 Palestinians. Another direct tool of displacement against Palestinians in Jerusalem is the policy of land confiscation. At the core of any settlercolonialist project is the question of who owns and controls the land; in Jerusalem, the systematic robbery of Palestinian land characterizes Israeli policies. To begin with, the Israeli occupation authorities allocate only around 9% of the land in Jerusalem for Palestinian residential construction, even though Palestinians make up 40% of the population. In addition, Palestinian privately owned land is confiscated – legally according to Israeli law – for various purposes, including the construction of colonies around and inside Palestnian neighborhoods. Out of almost 650,000

settlers in the West Bank, 220,000 live in the Eastern part of Jerusalem alone. “Open scenic spaces” are another routine target of land theft by Israeli policies. These include national and municipal parks, forests and other types of green zones that aim to prevent the natural growth of Palestinian communities. What the occupation authorities define as “open scenic areas” – where construction is prohibited – take up more than 30% of land in Palestinian neighborhoods, where trees and plants are used to stop Palestinians from striking roots in Jerusalem. Uprooting Palestinians is further achieved by routine demolitions of their homes. The occupation authorities justify these demolitions with the claim that they were built illegally, without building permits. These very same authorities refuse Palestinians those building permits in the first place, a systematic policy that is proven by the 94% rejection rate of building permit applications submitted by Palestinians in Jerusalem. The lack of permits then leads to high fines and eventually the demolition of homes, the costs of which are covered by the

owners. Costing a Palestinian family up to 1 million shekels, the process leaves families homeless and bankrupt in the unaffordable city of Jerusalem. Many of these families end up moving out of the city in pursuit of available or affordable housing. Planning policies in Jerusalem also include the intentional underdevelopment of infrastructure in the Palestinian neighborhoods, and the construction of the Annexation and Expansion Wall, that cuts off political, social and economic ties between Jerusalem and the West Bank, and contributes highly to the drastic rise in unemployment and poverty rates among Palestinians in Jerusalem. Palestinians in Jerusalem face a well-oiled displacement machine, which markets itself as a democratic state merely applying the rule of law. The demographic goal for Jerusalem and the aforementioned policies illustrate that a settler-colonialist state – by definition – cannot be democratic, and that the rule of law hardly means justice for all. Therefore, speaking out loud for justice for Palestinians is needed, especially in these days of persecution of activism and anti free speech/BDS legislation.


Raya Ziada

The Palestinian olive tree harvest: The Canaanite Wedding

The olive harvest in Palestine has festive ceremonies. It lasts for one month throughout October each year. All family members take part in the harvest – official institutions declare a few days as a national holiday, so students and workers can take part in the harvest. Such a method revives the sense of community and collective solidarity. For Palestinians, the olive tree is not just a tree – it is a symbol of national identity and connection to the land. Around 48% of the agricultural land in the West Bank and Gaza is planted with olive trees. As the cultivation of olive trees is a significant aspect of Palestinian farming, this has led to the systematic uprooting of olive trees by Israeli settlers.


These soldiers, these modern soldiers. Besiege her with bulldozers and uproot her from her lineage of earth. They vanquished our grandmother who foundered, her branches on the ground, her roots in the sky. – Mahmoud Darwish

Since the occupation of Palestine in 1948, Palestinians have been living a continuous and ongoing catastrophe, al Nakba. In 2018, the number of registered Palestinian refugees with UNRWA was 6 million1 out of 13 million Palestinians worldwide, which means that 46.15% of Palestinians are refugees. Furthermore, since the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested, that is 20% of the total population. 40% of the male population had been imprisoned by Israel at one point in time2 and 70% of Palestinian families have had one or more family members sentenced to jail terms in Israeli prisons.3 Palestinian land, animals, and trees are also subjected to direct attacks by the Israeli military and illegal Israeli settlers. Today, 60% of the West Bank (Area C) is under Israeli control.4 Most of Area C has been allocated for the benefit of Israeli settlements or the military, at the expense of Palestinian communities. The majority of agricultural lands are located in Area C.

West Bank In addition to Israeli colonial practices such as land theft, Palestinians face enormous challenges to their economy. These include, firstly, the neoliberal policies applied by the Palestinian Authority (PA), through the adaptation of peace processes that are based on neoliberal economic approaches as a tool to “conflict resolution” rather than the political rights of the Palestinian people. Secondly, the complete Israeli control over the Palestinian economy, which was clearly emphasized in the Oslo Accords and Paris Protocol of 1994. These included (but were not limited to) taxation, importing and exporting policies and laws. Finally, the “economic-peace” imposed by the international community on the Palestinian people, focusing on humanitarian aid rather than addressing the root, structural causes of the socio-economic challenges that the Palestinians face due to the Israeli occupation. Neoliberalism in the OPT is about politics: securing the western ally of Israel, pacifying the rebellious Palestinian question (economically, and militarily if need be, via Israel) and allowing for “business as usual” throughout the rest of the Arab world (mainly oil extraction, and smooth passage along trade routes), and if possible expanding across the region into Arab markets.5 Palestinians had a strong economy before the Israeli occupation (1948). The economy was mainly dependent on agriculture and its strategic geographic location. Today Palestinians are still capable of having an independent strong economy without colonial and neoliberal policies imposed on them. The systematic colonial control over the Palestinian economy is embodied by the economic policies adapted by the PA, Israel and the international community. Control is also embodied through violent systematic military interventions, such the restriction of movement on Palestinian people and products inside and outside

A Palestinian woman holding to her olive tree which was destroyed by Israeli soldiers. Photo by via Frank M.Rafik

Palestine, and the Israeli siege on Gaza. The siege started in 2007 and led to a humanitarian and economic catastrophe in Gaza. 64% of Gazans are refugees and today 80% of Gazans depend on humanitarian aid and 60% are unemployed. In total, around half a million Palestinians are unemployed in the West Bank and Gaza, the majority of them are women and youth, and the percentage of unemployment rates among Palestinian youth has reached 60%. Furthermore, 150,000 Palestinians from the West Bank work in the Israeli market, 50% without work permits. The other 50% with permits do not have any rights; they do not choose the type of work, their place of living, or their salaries. It is an iteration of modern slavery. These factors have created four main socio-economic challenges for the Palestinians: poverty, unemployment, dependency on the Israeli economy, and the complete absence of social security. One of the main sectors that has been influenced severely by colonial-economic policies is the agricultural sector. Since the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Israeli forces and illegal settlers have burned and uprooted Palestinian trees, particularly olive trees, as a primary form of land acquisition. An estimated 830,000 olive trees were uprooted between 1967 and 2009. Now in 2020, we are closer to one million uprooted Palestinian trees. In short, the political and economic practices imposed by the Israeli occupation of Palestine range from land confiscation to absolute control of natural resources such as water. The policies are a combination of colonisation and apartheid. Palestinian people practice many agricultural traditions, as a tool to preserve their political and cultural identities. These include the culture of volunteering in the Palestinian villages, (“owna”), to help each other in cultivating olives and other harvests. This culture of community and solidarity is all the more important in the


West Bank areas where there are direct attacks by the Israeli occupation forces and settlers. These attacks frequently occur close to the Israeli colonies and near the apartheid and segregation wall.


Palestinian farmers have to get special permits from the Israeli occupation coordination offices to get to their lands. This year a lot of Palestinian farmers who have lands near the Israeli colonies did not receive permits. Duha Asous is one of those farmers. Duha is from Burin-Nablus, a village in Area C. This village is well known due to Israeli settlers’ attacks both on its people and on its trees. Hundreds of trees were burnt this year. Duha insisted on going to her land, risking her life to check on her olive trees. She lost tens of trees after they were burnt, and the olives were stolen and cultivated by the Israeli settlers. She expressed her agony and sadness over her olive trees and her determination to go back to her land: “as long as I am alive and there is one breath left inside of me, I will keep going to my land, because it is the land of my ancestors and my grandparents, and it is my heritage and there is no way that I would leave it, and I hope that the illegal Israeli colonial settlers will leave my land one day”. A Canaanite Wedding The olive season is still considered as a Canaanite wedding where people enjoy their talks and celebrations and the melody of olives falling to the ground. The Levant region was inhabited by people who themselves referred to the land as ‘ca-nana-um’ as early as the mid-third millennium BCE. Palestinians through the olive harvest also revisit their Canaanite ancestors and practices. Palestine has some of the world’s oldest olive trees, dating back to 4,000 years. Until today Palestinians carry the old traditions of their Canaanites roots and of the Canaanite God Ba’al who was designated the universal god of fertility. in that capacity his title was Prince, Lord

of the Earth; he was also called the Lord of Rain and Dew, the two forms of moisture that were indispensable for fertile soil in Canaan. During the olive harvest season every small detail is unique and special. In the fields, the farmers prepare a special tea which is heated on the firewood, which reminds us of the way our ancestors used to live in this season, away from modernity. When they cook their food, it has a special taste from firewood, between the trees. Israeli settlers systematically destroy Palestinian olive trees as a tool to dismember Palestinian farmers from their land. Olives and olive oil are key products of the Palestinian economy, making up 25% of the total agricultural production in the West Bank. Around 10,000 olive trees are planted in the West Bank every year, and olive oil is the second highest export product for Palestine, after stone and marble. In the West Bank of Palestine, just like Duha Asous, Palestinian farmers would risk their lives to reach their olive trees and cultivate them. As Mahmoud Darwish said: “If the Olive Trees knew the hands that planted them, Their Oil would become Tears.” 1 Palestinian Bureau of Statistics - these figures represented the minimum number of Palestinian refugees. 2 Mar’i, Mohammed (12 December 2012). “Israeli forces arrested 800,000 Palestinians since 1967”. Saudi Gazette. 3 Hass, Amira (27 July 2015). “For Israel, it seems Goliath was the victim”. Haaretz. 4 The Oslo II Accord divided the West Bank into three administrative divisions, Areas A, B and C. The distinct areas were given different statuses, according to the amount of self-government. Area C is still under Israeli control. 5 Tawfic Hadad (2012), “Neoliberalism and Palestinian Development: Assessment and Alternatives”.

Rana Shubair

A Day of Protest in Gaza

On Land Day, March 30, I set out with my three, 12-year-old children, husband and other family members to join an estimated 60,000 other Gazan Palestinians for the first day of the Great Return March by the border with occupied Palestine [Israel]. Each Friday, until May 15, the anniversary of the Nakba, we will camp by the border to remind the world that we have a right to return home. It took me 45 minutes to get to the eastern border of Gaza City. We passed through the densely populated neighborhood of al-Shijaea, where a terrible massacre took place during the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza. The streets were congested with Friday morning vendors whose faces reflected the miseries and toils of Gaza life. Mule and horse-pulled carts dominated al-Mansoura Street as I rode in the car. When we reached the Israeli border area, tents and areas where people were to sit were placed about 700 meters from the fence that separates Gaza from the rest of occupied Palestine. My heart raced and pounded in the same way it had when I went to Jerusalem in 2000 and visited al-Aqsa Mosque. Families sat on the ground with their kids, who wore the national Palestinian dress or camouflage uniforms. When I asked them to pose for a picture, each kid held up the name of the town his/ her family originally came from and a sign that read, “We will return.” For a fanciful moment, I imagined that today was actually the day of return. All of the people gathered there greeted each other with, “Inshallah, we will all return.” Gaza happens to be my native homeland, but I was envious, so I said to my friends there: “I’m going back, too. All of Palestine is my country.” I pointed to the closed border area, where the barbed fence and armed watchtowers were located, and said to my kids with a half-cracked voice, “See, that is Palestine.

See how beautiful it is.” As the sirens of ambulances intermingled with the vociferous speeches and national songs, I realized there would always be martyrs. As long as Palestine is not free, and as long as we are locked up in the big cage that is Gaza and denied the right to live like other ordinary humans around the world, there will always be young people willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the sacred soil of Palestine. At that moment, we were all one. Everyone there was united under one flag and one motto: We have a right to return to Palestinians’ historic homeland. This overwhelming feeling of unity has long been missing, especially in Gaza. As I pondered the faces of my people there with me, one fact was clear to me more than ever: None of us had anything more valuable to lose than what we already had— our home. The toll at the end of the day was 16 martyrs and more than 1,500 wounded. But being a Palestinian and standing up for our rights has meant sacrifice since our first displacement in 1948. My family and I will not back down. Originally published by We Are Not Numbers.


Saeed Taji Farouky


Photographs Taken From The Pocket of a Dead Arab


Saeed, looking tired, sinks deeper into the familiar chair. His shoulders hang listlessly. SAEED Do you know what the homeland is, Safiyya? The homeland is where none of this can happen. SAFIYYA (distraught) What happened to you, Saeed? SAEED Nothing. Nothing at all. I was just asking. I’m looking for the true Palestine, the Palestine that’s more than memories...


Memory is a burden, and painful. Memory is deceitful and falsely comforting. At the same time, memory is history, and nation. There is no true Palestine. The Palestine of memories is often the only Palestine we have. Memory is a bitch. But it’s also necessary. Like other cultures that have experienced collective trauma, we remember as a duty, though we would rather forget. It’s a duty because our culture is under threat of genocide, destroyed and looted by colonialism and occupation. In 1982 our cinema archive was stolen by the Israeli army as they retreated from Beirut, and every so often a shot appears in an Israeli documentary or a news piece, or a reel of film is discovered in the basement of the Italian Communist Party. Then it’s like recognising an old friend: a familiar but imperfectly rendered face, the crucial details still blurry, the edges undefined.



A middle-aged Arab man, in a suit jacket and head covering, walks slowly towards camera with his hands above his head. He looks confused. Slightly scared but compliant. He glances at the camera awkwardly. Behind him, a long line of other men also walking in step. One of them smiles to camera. In the distance loiters a man in military uniform holding a gun.

Diaspora An old black and white photo of the villa of Shukri Taji Farouky. This is my Palestine. I went to visit it but an armed guard stopped me: “I’m not even allowed in there”, he joked with a shrug. The building is now the Israeli Institute of Biological Research, a secret government facility. It’s not on any map. I found it by stitching together pieces from various testimonies and memories. This is why Raed Andoni recreated an Israeli prison from the collective memory of its detainees. Memory is our architecture, both giving us shelter and imprisoning us. And architecture is our memory: we recall the walls of our grandmother’s garden, the view from the top of the staircase in our uncle’s house. We will, perhaps, never see these again. My films are full of fragmented narratives because our narratives are fragmented. The map, too, is in pieces. My story is full of holes: some parts have been generationally forgotten, some parts buried when my Grandmother told me to forget them, not to research them, to ignore them. Then she died. So I revel in these fragments and I ask the questions I’ve been asked not to ask. My memory is also full of holes, the result of 20 years of violence and trauma in my childhood. I found my escape in films. Robert DeNiro hauled me up the side of that mountain with him. I felt his desperate suffering, and his demand to continue suffering. I wanted his redemption. I don’t know if I’d be alive today if it weren’t for cinema. Every film I make, I try to recreate that feeling of first seeing Steve McQueen jump - alone - over the serrated cliffs of Devil’s Island and into the frothing maw of the Atlantic. I’ll never understand why Louis decided to stay behind, and every time I watch that moment, over and over again, I don’t understand it in exactly the same way. Films provide continuity. Then, there is this meaning of “continuity”: The cup should always be in the same position in every shot. If the cup appears somewhere else, viewers will be confused. But we are discontinuous. We often appear somewhere else in the next shot, confusing the viewer. Film provides the technical continuity so that we can explore our discontinuity. And in doing so film provides a cultural continuity of its own, a continuous record of language, movement, experiences. So no one can say “you didn’t exist.” This is why our archive was stolen. This is also why we shoot our poets in the neck and leave them bleeding to death on Ives Street. Or why Israeli assassins shoot a translator 12 times in the lobby of his Rome apartment. Try telling us now that culture isn’t a weapon. Try telling the admirers of Naji El Ali that cartoons are just humour. Try telling the friends of Weal Zuatar that literature is simply entertainment. Try telling the family of Ghassan Kanafani that writing is a distraction from politics. Radical culture is a crowbar with which we can leverage open the


Diaspora prison gate, and smash the car windscreen when our politicians pull up in a limo for the next round of negotiations at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Manama. Walter Murch says editing works because we dream. Our dreams provide us with examples of jump cuts, non-linear sequences, associations, series of images that make no sense, but that we turn into stories. This way they can be stitched together from disparate parts. In the gaps we fit our own experiences, our perspective, we make the story about us. We’ve done the same with our nation and our map exploded into thousands of pieces.


In the last few years of her life, my mother’s memory became fragmented. She had false memories, and would forget real events. The cast of Law & Order SVU were her only friends. Once an archaeologist, she collected sherds of pottery from her digs and brought them home. My sister and I felt their smoothed edges, wondered how they fit together, where the missing pieces were. Once my dog ate a broken flower pot, cutting his mouth. Blood stained the pottery. I kept it for years as a memento, another fragment of history, a relic of his suffering like the prophet I believed him to be. I often fell asleep on his stomach, inhaling his fur, whispering to him that he was the only sane one in the family. This I remember. Eventually that image will become a scene in a screenplay, no doubt. This is how I invite audiences to sympathise with a young boy with whom they have nothing else in common but an unshakable sense of melancholy. Not because he lost his homeland, but because he misses his dog.



A film by Kamal Aljafari

The Background Dreams It’s not a film from there. He is dreaming; and, in his dream, he is filming. The someone-filming is returning to Jaffa, as he might to any catastrophized place. He knows some places; perhaps even some people. Perhaps everything. He is myself, my grandfather who was on his way to Beirut and returned because there was a storm; a photographer, a composite of every figure in the margins. Memory itself, filming; the memory of all the background it rescues from the screen.


We hear his footfall. Later, he begins to hear voices. He sees: where the quarter on the sea used to be, the life buried there speaking to itself. Or overhearing, no wiser than we as to where snatches of voices or music are coming from. It is the sound after catastrophe, nothing more. Yet it sounds, still. At times he loses himself. He hears the rain, but doesn’t see it. He is jetlagged, by some 70 years: a jetlag he will never overcome, nor will anyone. But: in time. When he arrives from the port, he is walking around, filming the way he’s filming— filming everything—because he knows that none of this exists. This character has the ability to film the past. He is the ability of cinema to dissolve borders, to re-collect, to recreate a city, to tease out life. The origin of photography. I removed the Israeli actors simply because they stood in my way—

technically speaking. They cannot both be there and allow me to focus on my subject: that would be another’s film. The subjects of this film smuggled themselves into the image that didn’t want them to be there; into films whose point was to make them not be there. There they are. They have stories, eventually; the moment when you realize that the ghost is not a ghost.

It’s not a film from there. It is a postcatastrophe film, a Sebaldian film, what this image requires to be freed from its mooring in Palestine. A film about any of the ruined cities: Aleppo, Detroit. Berlin, where one can live now. Let it be any catastrophized place: any place where fiction films were shot, and where the camera ate the place that it shot, alive. They were there, waiting for me to film them all these years. The first sign of life: a line: electricity; washing. A car. The someone does other things. Why does he slide into photography? I suppose the importance of what’s he’s doing begins to dawn upon him. He takes pictures to freeze time. He walks over the ruins, as he might over the ruins of any other “natural” destruction of our time.

So the fact that I removed the actors is very minor. It is not

Recollection the subject of the film. Not even close. That’s why he’s having this dream: the absence of what I absented is not even noticeable. It is entirely beside the point. This film is about us, all of us margins—not them. Even to the end credits. He’s having his own dream.

Why would filmmakers persist in filming Jaffa and not Tel Aviv, their icon of modernity, even in the 70s? To re-collect the Jaffa as-backdrop of these films, I had to watch almost every film of the period. For them to have shot Tel Aviv would have been to acknowledge the unthinkable of their imaginary: “we are new here.” Film needed Jaffa to make the point that Israelis have a history there, too. But they could only show it as they left it: ruined, neglected, abandoned, destroyed—and with not a word on

how or why it came to be that way. Their actors walked down the street and past the dreadful ruins. As if nothing had happened; as if the streets had always looked that way. The city was gradually torn down by the Tel Aviv municipality: thousands of houses, decade on decade, ongoing to this day. And yet: I found everything I needed in these films to re-narrate the city—down to my own uncle wandering, out of focus, across the background of a scene of Jaffa (2009). The Manshiyya neighbourhood, where my grandparents were raised, was entirely bulldozed, now replaced by a grassy seaside promenade. When I first came across the 1962 B-movie featuring it as backdrop, I felt stunned to be able to wander it onscreen. 18 Background I had nearly finished editing this film when I made a final discovery, that became the last element I appropriated

Recollection for this project; the last piece of the collage in this re-collection. An early 1970s propaganda film, a quasi-documentary on David BenGurion, Israel’s iconic “founding father”: BG Remembers. My father was ill. I returned to see him, and this film came on the TV. Like most of the fiction films shot in Jaffa, it begins with the arrival at the port, from the sea to the old city, over four minutes of credits.


I removed Ben-Gurion from the image. He didn’t want to be there. He says as much in the film: “They wanted me to stay in Jaffa a couple of days. But I told them: no. Jaffa is worse than Plonsk,” his birthplace in Poland, of whose Jewish experience his Israel was to be the negation. “I’m going to Petakh Tikva,” the first Zionist colony in Palestine. So, in a way: I did him a favor. As we watched the film, my father said something like: “67 years. The longer you live: the more you count.” A month later, he was gone.

I spent many years collecting the Israeli and American fiction films shot in Jaffa, most of them the so-called Israeli “Burekas Films” on the impossible Ashkenazi/Mizrahi (“Western”/ “Oriental”) relationship in Israel’s first decades. Jaffa is overwhelmingly the most present set for these. They are, ironically, the only films to document the city before its destruction—even while they were the actors of its destruction, film after


film, box-office hits molding not only the Israeli, but also the US imaginary. Now, I’m glad they were made: they are what allowed me to make my own film. Without them, mine couldn’t exist: the city that no longer exists would not exist even as image. The process is not about claiming: reclamation can be territorial. This is not that kind of claim; not a national film. It aspires to lay claim to a cinematic territory, not a country. To reset, not the thing lost—but the image of it. I felt as if I was being told what I should do. It would have felt wrong to overlay my own memories or voice over the image. These are memories of images so endless that I had to keep them unmoored, to respect the film’s relation to language. So: a city narrating itself. In the background, those who are not, who could not be, the subject of any film, condemned to be the background to the films of others. I removed the actors because they stood in the way of the city, of the background that composes it. They were blocking the background. They are not the subject of this camera. Its holder films everything he encounters, reawakening all the ghosts-thatare-not-ghosts, ineradicably present in the margins: who were, in every sense, always there. Towards the end, the camera even lets them march together, as if they had all gathered together to arrive to the foreground. Not to return: to arrive, where they always were.


Acknowledgements Kamal Aljafari, born in Palestine in 1972, lives in Berlin. He works with moving and still images, interweaving between fiction, non-fiction, and art. Kamal’s films include THE ROOF (2006), PORT OF MEMORY (2009), RECOLLECTION (2015). He was a featured artist at the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar (NYC) and was a Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute and Film Study Center. His most recent short film IT’S A LONG WAY FROM AMPHIOXUS (2019) premiered at Berlinale. Saeed Taji Farouky is a Palestinian-British filmmaker, artist and educator who has been producing work around themes of conflict, human rights and colonialism since 1998. His latest documentary, Tell Spring Not to Come This Year, premiered at the Berlinale 2015 where it won the Audience Choice Panorama award. His short fiction films have been commissioned and broadcast by Channel 4, supported by the BFI and the Arab Fund for Art & Culture, and won a Royal Television Society award for best short fiction. Since 2006, he has worked with the Arab British Centre. He co-founded and continues to consult for Safar, the UK’s Arab film festival.


Yara Hawari is an academic and activist, and the Senior Palestine Policy Fellow of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. She completed her PhD in Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter. Her research focused on oral history projects and memory politics, framed more widely within Indigenous Studies. She writes for various media outlets, including Al Jazeera English, Middle East Eye and the Independent. Fayrouz Sharqawi is the Global Mobilisation Coordinator at Grassroots Al-Quds, a platform for Palestinian organisations and grassroots movements in Jerusalem. Grassroots Al-Quds seeks to strengthen a Palestinian community mobilisation and networking that builds Palestinian long term strategies for Jerusalem.

Rana Shubair is a Gaza-based activist and writer. She is the author of “In Gaza, I Dare to Dream” and “My Lover is a Freedom Fighter.” She has published works on WeAreNotNumbers and Mondoweiss. Raya Ziada works on integrating agriculture and cultural awareness towards the concept of “land”. Co-founder of Manjala (agroecological and cultural initiative) that focuses on re-establishing the relationship with soil as a political, economic, and social discourse. Ziada, has a MA degree in international law and popular resistance (Alquds university) and MSc in Global politics (London School of Economics). – Edited and curated by Faye Harvey Faye Harvey is a researcher, curator and editor, focusing on state violence. She is currently researching the use of prisons for immigration detention in the UK, for the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees. Previously, she co-curated the film season Poetry in Motion: Contemporary Iranian Cinema, Barbican Centre, London, April 2019. Publication Design Rebecca Glyn-Blanco – Image Credits All images by Kamal Aljafari: The Roof (2006): p.1; p.12 Port of Memory (2009): p.4; p.6; p.8; p.16 Recollection (2015): cover; p.8; pp17-20; p.22. Frank M.Rafik ( p.12

With warmest thanks to all the contributors who have put so much time, dedication and care into their writing for this collection. I would like to thank Diana Alzeer, from Al-Haq, who kindly recommended and put me in touch with three of the contributors. I am deeply grateful to the London Short Film Festival team, for believing in and supporting the programme, and the Goethe-Institut, for generously providing accommodation and travel for Kamal Aljafari to present his films in London. I would like to thank all friends who gave advice and feedback on my introduction. Rebecca Glyn-Blanco, for her outstanding design of this publication. And finally, Kamal Aljafari, whose unforgettable films inspired the creation of this programme and whose images populate the pages of this zine.