On November 8 the occupation army stormed Ramallah, deploying outside the West Bank city’s cultural center, where the closing ceremony for the annual Palestinian film festival was taking place. Social media blew up, with photos of Israeli soldiers using tear gas to prove this was more than a routine attack. That was exactly what made me wonder what was behind this “drama.” Aren’t you fed up with flexing your muscles and puffing up your chests like roosters?
The army didn’t just surround Palestine Cinema Days without reason. This measure, like others taken by the Zionist entity, was meant to remind people and to emphasize that it is the master, its power incontestable. This was not the first time, nor will it be the last, that the occupation has had Palestinian culture, intellectuals and cultural institutions in its sights, since it knows with certainty that Palestinian culture is one of the most powerful and effective tools of resistance and struggle. After all, this is how the Palestinian people relate its narrative, locally and on the international stage.
'Biggest change since COVID started': What's Omicron and how to beat it. LISTEN
As you know, the purpose of cultural institutions, film, music and art festivals, conferences and concerts, is to revive Palestinian culture. Moreover, they allow the Palestinian people to create, conduct a dialogue and break their silence in light of the ongoing suppression of the occupation. As such, they have an important role to play in shaming the occupation and challenging its power. After all, through them the Palestinian people transmits its perspectives, its historical narrative and its visual heritage, and thereby connect to its land and its homeland. The topics presented in Palestinian films expose the cruelty of the occupation, shedding light on acts of plunder, oppression and racism it employs against Palestinians in their daily lives, in prisons and in city squares.
Over the course of the six days of the eighth edition of the Palestinian film festival, features and documentaries made here and abroad by Palestinians were screened. Most of them, of course, dealt with Palestinian issues. The festival emphasized the importance of film as a daily tool in the struggle for representation of the Palestinian narrative and identity. I repeat the question I asked above: Why? What was behind the choice of the occupation forces to place themselves across from the cultural center and conduct searches on that site?
The answer is very simple. The visual and artistic representation of the Palestinian narrative confuses and disrupts the occupation’s intention of dominating us physically and intellectually. It does everything it can in order to convert our Palestinian mindset into an Israeli one, thereby thwarting the Palestinian vision. The occupation assails the Palestinian’s body and mind every day, at checkpoints, in prisons and even in his home, namely, in the private and intimate space in which he lives. Thus, this circus constituted some sort of “intimidation,” with which the Zionist entity tried to strike at and restrict Palestinian cultural endeavors. Films bring Palestinians together, turning people into a collective, which is why they are deemed dangerous.
Palestinian cultural festivals, particularly those related to film, will engender a widespread artistic-creative struggle while preserving Palestinian national heritage and cultural identity. Furthermore, art will become a strong and effective tool in the younger generation’s struggle, which will use art to tell its story. In the words of the late author and political activist Ghassan Kanafani, “bodies fall, the idea remains.” We are carrying the idea forward.
- The problem with ‘Palestinian Stories’ on Netflix
- Israel denies entry to German students who 'tried hiding' plans to visit Palestinian university
- Palestinians decry Herzog's 'embrace of settlements' in Hebron Hanukkah event
Finally, as a Palestinian and filmmaker, the brutal invasion of the Palestinian cultural space I’ve described angered me. The occupation has not left us a single corner it hasn’t attacked or defiled, trying repeatedly to break our spirits. But here I proclaim that film is my language, my field which I control, it is my weapon.
Zena Abo Zrka, who has a degree in communication and film studies from Tel Aviv University, is a strategic adviser in marketing and public relations. A native of Arara in the so-called Triangle region, she is a participant in the Haaretz 21 initiative to promote voices and stories from Israel’s Arab community.